When the 2012 election returns came in, I was in Sydney, Australia. The view was high level and from afar. This reminded me of a forecast I made far back in 2007 about this election. The specifics of the outcome were, in fact, what I had suggested might occur.
In early 2007, when the early positioning for and coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign began, I was asked about it. I ventured that it would be an historic election, as either a woman or a black man would become president. [It was pretty clear to me that it would be the Democrats’ election to lose.] What I then ventured was that while 2008 might be historic in that regard, the 2012 election would be of much greater long- term significance for the United States.
The forecast was a simple and straightforward one. The 2012 election would be very contentious and combative, as the forces that would want to “take America back” to where it used to be would fight against those that wanted to face the future of “what America needed to be” in the 21st Century.
This forecast was before Lehman Brothers, the housing bubble collapse, the stock market crash and, of course, the 2008 election. What I saw as a futurist, and in a general form only, was that the forces of change meeting long held status quo beliefs would make this the first election facing 21st Century America. It was clear to me then that long held points of view as to what “reality” was would be threatened by the overwhelming changes, ideas and issues of this new century.
I further forecasted that it would be harsh, dividing and contentious, and that borderlines would be drawn. I certainly didn’t know the particulars, such as the candidates, PACs, and what the specific vote percentages would be, but I thought that the 2012 election would be the first one to recast the direction of America for decades.
In the past two years, I have talked about legacy thinking. We all have legacy thoughts in our minds. Those of us older than 40 have spent our formative years and much of our adult lives in the 20th Century, so much of our thinking is anchored there. Humanity – and particularly the United States, with its 60 year standing as the power of the West and the world – has powered into the 21st Century, with the legacy thought of the 20th. Forward momentum being what it is, carried us well through the first decade of this new century, powered with thoughts and world views of the last.
In my soon-to-be-published book “Entering the Shift Age,” I devote several chapters to this view and state what I see clearly: the Transformation Decade of 2010-2020 is a decade when most of the legacy thinking of the 20th Century and Industrial Age will fall away to be replaced by the Shift Age thinking of the 21st Century. This is the process that has been called “creative destruction.” This passage always brings conflicts, as the old ways of thinking, institutions and morals are challenged by new thoughts, new models and redefined morality.
In 2009 I began to be asked – and these questions continued right up to the election last week – if Obama would be re-elected. I said that he would unless the economy was much worse off than when he took office. I stated that this was based purely on demographics, the demographics that carried him to victory in 2008 – young adults, women, Hispanics and of course African Americans – and were growing in numbers, power and influence. I also based this on the idea that the fundamental core of the Republican party, aging white people, would be declining. This, of course, is exactly what occurred last week.
The challenge is that the new vision is not yet forged. The policies of this new century for America are not fully clear and certainly not universally embraced. The demographic victors and the candidates they voted into office must now face the future and, with certain trial and error, create the vision for America in the 21st Century, in the Shift Age. The defeat of the old guard that held old thoughts has occurred. What is needed now is a new, creative vision of what can and will be, not just a gloating of who has been defeated. Those of us who embrace change and the wonderful future ahead must accept creative responsibility for the incredible opportunity that lies ahead.
Until the end of the year, my columns here will suggest ways of looking at this new world, visions of what is already here but not widely seen, what is just around the corner and what will happen a decade down the road.
It is not only a new political landscape; it is a new dawn, a new decade, a new age and a new century. Time to embrace it!