Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Re-constructionist?

For years, I have been urging people to read a very interesting book about the American presidency by Rutgers University professor Stephen Skowronek:

The Politics Presidents Make : Leadership from John Adams to Bill Clinton. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997.

Skowronek's thesis is that there are four types of presidencies: re-constructionist, articulating, pre-emptive and disjunctive.

The idea is this: there are presidencies that lay out an agenda for the country that lasts for years after that president is out of office: this is the re-constructionist type. What is important in Skowronek's model is that this applies to the political party as much as the person. The last re-constructionist president was Reagan, who set the agenda since 1980 with his vision of what the presidency and the country should be. The party represented by a re-constructionist president sets the agenda for that period.

An articulating presidency is one where the president comes from the same party as the re-constructionist one. This president doesn't so much set a radically new agenda, as find ways to extend the mandate already delivered. George H.W. Bush was an example of this.

A pre-emptive presidency - Bill Clinton - is where the party out of party wins an election, reacts to the prevailing agenda, but does not succeed in overthrowing it.

A disjunctive presidency - we can now hopefully say George W. Bush - carries the mandate way past its logical conclusion. This is the president most likely to be reviled by historians and contemporaries alike as a "bad" president.

Now: it seems more likely to me that Obama is a re-constructionist than a pre-emptive type: I certainly hope so. Everything which he has said about his vision for America suggests this.

When I first read Skowronek's book in its first edition, I immediately graphed out his classification of presidents and tried to ascertain an astrological cycle. I failed. I suspected that was likely the case from the start, because each one of these cycles is of different length. The last re-constructionist before Reagan was F.D. Roosevelt, and so that one ran from 1932-1980. The latest one, I hope runs from 1980-2008. But in thinking about this, there's no doubt in my mind that the Saturn-Uranus opposition coupled with Pluto's sign change certainly provide enough planetary energy to represent a serious disjunction!

I do think it is incumbant on astrologers to begin to explore more serious models for predicting and understanding the presidency than simplistics impressions of natal charts - often, without even having good birth data, because there is such a temptation to do something. As I have said in my own work, I'm delighted to be wrong this year - but then, I have quantified from the beginning that my method has an error rate - in this case, it was 18%. We must learn to only consider ourselves right when we are right for the right reasons.

I raised in my post yesterday that question of how we should view this fascinating interface between the personal and the mundane. Coming to this understanding is going to require adding more components in than just another astrological technique. I would nominate Skowronek's work as a potentially fruitful addition to our thought process.

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