Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Imperial Elections

At this point in American history, the odds are permanently stacked against a Democratic presidential candidate. There can be no dispute over that fact that a Democratic president is the exception, while a Republican one is the norm. The differences between two such candidates are usually many, and often include differences on issues such as tax policy, government programs, government spending and the role of government in general. I believe that these differences are usually secondary in a presidential election, and that foreign policy trumps them all.

There is an old theory about the life span of empires that seems to become truer and truer as time goes by. It dictates that the life span of an empire is usually three generations. The first generation is the one that conquers, dominates and actually creates the empire. The second generation is one that solidifies the empire, and comfortably settles in, in their position as rulers of the empire. They are not concerned with further expansion of the empire, but are still committed to glory, tradition and dominance, and are very concerned with not losing their position in the world. The third generation, however, has lost the desire for glory and dominance, and would rather enjoy the wealth that has been created during the course of the empire’s existence. The third generation wants to focus on softer values, on itself, rather than people and countries abroad.

The historical examples of empires that have more or less followed this trend are many. France immediately comes to mind. The country had a very powerful colonial empire not very long ago. However, by the 1950s, voices crying out for French glory and dominance were becoming rarer and rarer as France had reached its third generation in the colonial empire. The French people decided to spend their money on themselves by providing universal healthcare, by taking two months vacation per year and so on. The French started going to the beach instead of going to war in some godforsaken desert. At the same time, the connection to “traditional values” concerning religion and morality was loosened.

The United States emerged as an imperial power of sorts after World War I. The country became the protector of the West and a self-described incarnation of Western values (although I believe that America constitutes an exception within the Western civilization). Prior to becoming an empire, the United States had resisted just that, by focusing on itself, in the desired isolation of the agrarian society that preceded the imperial era. The focus shifted when the imperial period started, to an intentional outward projection of power and an intentional spreading of American values abroad. This included military power, economic, cultural and societal values. This created in the American people a sense of superiority within the trailblazers, the conquerors; the first generation.

The second generation, the boomer generation, created for themselves a proud and prosperous society. They carried on the traditions of their fathers and defended the American empire wherever threats to it or its dominance occurred. This generation truly believed in the idea of America as a force of good everywhere in the world, and that this force must continue to flow and spread for the good of everyone in the world. The word “un-American” is meant to be offensive, while the word “un-French” would at this point just sound strange. The boomer generation still controls this country, and we are still living in the second generation of the American empire. However, this presidential election appears to show a hint of a possible change of guards, from the second to the third generation.

I believe that John McCain represents the second imperial generation and is someone who wants to fiercely defend the American empire and all it stands for. A majority of voters in presidential elections agree with this standpoint, which is why Republicans have been vastly more successful than Democrats in presidential elections over the last six or seven decades. The odds are always stacked against a Democratic presidential candidate because he or she usually does not share all aspects of this philosophy.

However, I believe that Barack Obama and many of his voters represent the third generation of the American empire, which is the one that wants to bring back the focus on domestic issues and enjoy life at home rather than fighting wars in some godforsaken desert. Hence, we are now possibly living in a transformational era, an era in which the third generation takes over after the second. The future of America may be one of intense focus on the homeland and gradual, but major retreat from dominance in the world. It may depend on the election of Barack Obama.

Moreover, I advise that the current electoral system should be destroyed


Anonymous said...

If by third generation, you mean withdrawal and isolation, that doesn't sound like Barack Obama.

He would send more troops into Afghanistan.

He would attack terrorist targets in Pakistan

He has supported the expansion of NATO.

He also has declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable.

Using the model you presented, Sen. Obama fits more into an elightened second generation and Sen. McCain "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" would fit into the first generation.

Jacob said...

Yes, I find that to be an acceptable interpretation of the model. I guess I'm coming at it from the other side, by first and foremost focusing on the importance of the domestic issues. I believe that Obama retains a focus on the foreign policy measures you mention because he has to, not because he wants to.

Anonymous said...

Barrack obama has an international background:

His father was from kenya, a country he visited way before he was famous.

He lived in Indonesia where is mother was an anthropologist who worked for the United Nations.

I think obama has an interest in international affairs both because of his background and because of his exposure and this is a good thing for a president to have.

Presidents should have interests in both domestic and international affairs, especially in this globalized, inter-connected world.

Obama is really a micro-cosim of a new america: diverse, multi-racial, bi-racial, open to new people, new ideas, a new world, etc, etc....

Mccain is just so old world (literally and figuratively)