After reading The Fourth Turning, I found myself looking at things more in terms of cause and effect, less in terms of party politics. Each party’s claims to be more ethical and virtuous than the other ring hollow in light of decades of dysfunction. The fourth turning destroys the rotten and decayed system and establishes new foundations for government and society. The lesson to be learned is that of letting go of the institutions and beliefs that are holding us back and embracing what will propel us forward. This is the time to challenge and test our belief systems, to find our true priorities.
Is Hillary a Gray Champion?
Well, here we are, deep into the fourth turning, a process that has taken nearly eighty years to unfold. When the next presidential election rolls around, we will be nearly a decade into the crisis. By all accounts, things are bad. More than likely, they will get worse before they get better. In their book, authors Strauss and Howe give us something to look for during these dark times. They offer up a sliver of hope: The rise of the Gray Champion. These ”ancient, priest warrior” figures appear at the depths of the crisis, just when the world seems ready to fall apart, “delivering their fiery sermons” to a society that is finally ready to listen. It’s these elder prophets who will call upon their peers for sacrifice and their offspring for action, who will provide the strength not only to endure but prosper.
But that’s just a story. We need real men and women in Washington who can affect real change. Sadly, politicians today offer little hope and even less inspiration. With approval ratings being the lowest in history, for good reason, it doesn’t seem likely that our leaders will get their act together to inspire anything from anyone. Yet the Fourth Turning prophecy tells us it will not be this way forever. Real people will step out from the fog of rhetoric to become the true leaders of our time. Who are they? Let’s take a look at one of today’s prominent political figures through the lens of the generational cycles and archetypes laid out in The Fourth Turning.
Hillary Clinton, who was born in October of 1947, is a first wave boomer. Her childhood occurred solidly in the new American high of the 50’s and 60’s, and her coming of age young adult years occurred at the height of the consciousness revolution and culture wars. This, combined with her GI parents, conservative and religious, gave her a solid and stable family and the belief in the ability of government to govern that is missing in today’s society. The foundation of the Boomer Prophet was laid. This will be the experience that Hillary and others in her generation will spend a lifetime trying to recreate for everyone.
She regularly communicated with her family minister while growing up and as a teenager she was quite politically active. Big surprise, right? Did you know she was a young republican in college? Yup. She described herself as “a mind conservative and a heart liberal”. Hillary’s college years reveal this dual mindedness, already an activist for a variety of issues and gaining confidence in her moral and ethical positions. By graduation, a career in politics was in the works. This is a classic tale of a young Prophet on a spiritual quest, testing the waters of ideology and discovering the pulpit. The civil rights movement saw the policy tweaking boomers in action, to successful ends. These Prophets were morally right and had incorporated this sense of justice into the system. But there is no end to injustice– there is always another cause. Hillary would be busy.
After marrying Bill and moving to Arkansas she began to take an interest in child rights, health and well being that would continue far into the future. Among other initiatives, she co-founded The Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, chaired the Rural Health Advisory Committee and the Arkansas Education Committee. This is all pretty much straight out of the Prophet’s playbook. The importance of family, the rights and safety of children, the focus on health. These are the priorities of the civic minded Boomer Prophet during the Unraveling. Remember when, contrary to the independent woman themes of earlier decades, Hillary remained married after an affair. Throwing the Awakening era mindset through a loop.
During her long political career as FLOTUS, Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary has continued to work towards the goals of helping and empowering children and women. She went on to help create the Adoption and Safe Families Act, The Foster Care Independence Act and was outspoken on issues regarding abuse against women all over the world. This is the Boomer Prophet in action. Faced with endless injustice and a declining strength of government institutions to address them, the answer has always been the same. Expand the safety net. Expand the role of government. Expand the bureaucracy. Increase obligations. Compassion without true structural reforms only served to overburden the dysfunctional system, as chaos turned to rot and fraud, the stage for the Fourth Turning was set. Now it is too late to prevent the pain of reform, compassion must take on new meaning.
Her connection to the church was maintained and strengthened through exploration of varying faiths, leading to a philosophy that wished “to remold society by redefining what it means to be a human being in the twentieth century, moving into a new millennium”. She really does want to change the world. Right on schedule. She strongly supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the beginning of the last decade, as a chance to further her personal goals of empowering women and children. Not WMDs. Not 9/11. Hillary supported the wars in the middle east to help people, that is, to “spread democracy”. She wanted to go to war because it was “right”. Sound anything like these “priest warriors”, such as Lincoln and FDR, whose “righteous” calls for blood and sacrifice will bring about the new High?
So, we can see by her upbringing and policies that Hillary Clinton has been walking the path of the boomer Prophet almost as if it was written for her. She is a controversial figure because of this, always embodying the cycle of turnings for her generation. Her leadership qualities are unquestionable, no one can deny that. She has firm spiritual beliefs and a strong sense of ethics and justice. She is willing to fight to preserve and spread those beliefs. But will she be a Gray Champion? What does her personality tell us?
The Myers Briggs Personality Indicator is a well known test that is used by psychologists, fortune 500 companies, universities and government agencies as well. A quick Google search finds that Hillary is an ESTJ, known as a “supervisor”. That stands for Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging. According to the test, these types of people are steadfast civic minded individuals, detail oriented and methodical. ESTJ’s are very often organized, self confident and aggressive leaders who follow their own standards to the letter. This personality is likely to preserve the status quo, rather than make large sweeping changes, such as staying in a marriage after a spouse is caught cheating. This might sound counter-intuitive to her possible role as a Gray Champion but I think it speaks more about when she would be most effective. Given the opportunity to maintain the status quo, Hillary will attempt to do so. That said, ESTJ’s are not ones to stick to a losing strategy once it is identified as such.
What we see is a very strong personality who plots her own course, who will not be turned away from it and will demand that others follow, generally with a high degree of success. All of this is sounding very much like the Grey Champion’s “combining the leader and the saint” to represent and fulfill society’s new found desire for authority. Under the right circumstances I believe she has the brains, personality type and the leadership skills do the job: To craft a new safety net, to forge new institutions, to make new alliances and confidently hand a stronger, healthier nation down to the children she has so long cared for. When the bloated and broken system fails, Hillary Clinton stands out among Washington bureaucrats as having the skills and ability to pick up the pieces. However, she must go through her own final transformation to that of an elder prophet before doing so.
As an influential politician Hillary Clinton has had a hand in bringing about the crisis we face. She will have to make her peace with that. The Boomer Prophet generation is the axis around which the current cycle of turnings rotates, bringing the nation to where it is today. Like all of our Prophet leaders Hillary shares the burden of blame along with the responsibility to repair. The lessons of the fourth turning will be hard or maybe even impossible for her to accept personally. Should she fail to do so, I think it would be disastrous for society if she rose to the power of president. The old way of thinking– the tactics and policy tweaking of the last cycle– won’t solve our problems. For her to continue them would mean ruin. But if she is wise and heeds the changing of the seasons, her ability and desire to lead just might be able to bring about Strauss and Howe’s “great transformation”, to combine that mind conservative and heart liberal that first drove her to politics.
The Fourth turning is upon us; there is no escaping its effects. It will bring about the change our nation so desperately needs, though it won’t be pleasant. We all know the nature of the crisis we face. Our society simply cannot afford the “welfare and warfare” government we have promised ourselves, that Hillary promised. Many paths lie ahead, leading to many versions of the next cycle of turnings, some darker than others. We will need our Gray Champions to step to the forefront, to “lead humanity toward a great transformation”. Is Hillary Clinton that leader? Will she join the ranks of other Gray Champions in history? Or will she stand in the way of one who does?
Time will tell.