December 27, 2017

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2018: The beginning of the end of the Fourth Turning in America

Regardless of its ideology, that new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation’s attention.

—William Strauss and Neil Howe: The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny

Donald Trump can’t stand festering problems. Trump forces problems to the surface, into the daylight, where they can be fought and settled. So he can move on.

Trump seems less concerned with the outcome than with getting an outcome. A loss is better than a tie to our president.

And William Strauss and Neil Howe prophesied just such a leader in their 1997 book The Fourth Turning. You should read it. Again. Especially chapter 10: A Fourth Turning Prophecy.

Soon after the catalyst, a national election will produce a sweeping political realignment, as one faction or coalition capitalizes on a new public demand for decisive action.

The old Republican Party is dead. The new GOP is a populist-conservative coalition. Establishment Republicans cannot win without their populist wing, just as the GOP of the 1970s and 1980s could not win without its Evangelical Christian wing. We will never see that old establishment return in our lifetimes.

And The Fourth Turning saw all of this coming.

In foreign affairs, 2018 will see larger swaths of the American public, academia, and media turn against globalization and toward nationalism. They won’t call it “nationalism,” but the results will be nationalistic. Just as Strauss and Howe predicted:

In foreign affairs, America’s initial Fourth Turning instinct will be to look away from other countries and focus total energy on the domestic birth of a new order. Later, provoked by real or imagined outside provocations, the society will turn newly martial. America will become more isolationist than today in its unwillingness to coordinate its affairs with other countries but less isolationist in its insistence that vital national interests not be compromised.

The US economy, as we saw yesterday, will surge. Just as Strauss and Howe predicted:

The economy will in time recover from its early and vertiginous reversals. Late in the Crisis, with trust and hope and urgency growing fast, it may even achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and production. But, by then, the economy will have changed fundamentally. Compared to today, it will be less globally dependent, with smaller cross-border trade and capital flows. . . .

The Fourth Turning even saw Trump’s massive infrastructure bill coming 21 years ahead of time:

Fourth Turning America will begin to lay out the next saeculum’s infrastructure grid— some higher-tech facsimile of turnpikes, railroads, or highways.

And a shift away from entitlements that benefit individuals over society, toward large projects that benefit society over the individual. I.e., the general welfare:

The economic role of government will shift toward far more spending on survival and future promises (defense, public works) and far less on amenities and past promises (elder care, debt service). The organization of both business and government will be simpler and more centralized, with fewer administrative layers, fewer job titles, and fewer types of goods and services transacted.

We are already seeing this prophecy play out. Globalism is officially in decline. Paul Ryan plans to reform entitlements in 2018. President Trump is promising a huge investment in defense and public works, paid for by growth and entitlement reform.

But these deep cultural changes will create intense conflict in the United States. The society shaped after World War II will be replaced by a new society. Just as Franklin Roosevelt laid the groundwork for the last American era, Donald J. Trump is laying the groundwork for the next.

And one generation will provide the grit and toughness to drive all this change. That generation is the least talked-about generation in history. It’s the generation of slackers. It’s the generation of dangerous children. It’s the generation that grew up with Donald J. Trump: Generation X. The change that’s coming is a direct result of America’s first Gen X Election.

Soon, but not now, we’ll take a deeper look at Generation X’s role in the next era of history.