Two of my favorite subjects are music and politics. The two might not seem
to go together in an obvious way, but in my case, I grew up in a household
where music was often played, and politics often discussed. My father was a
beloved family physician and my late brother became an important physicist.
My contributions, compared to theirs, can only viewed as much more modest,
but being an inveterate scrivener (some might argue that a better word is
"scribbler"), and getting on in years, I feel an impulse to make some of the
musical, political and scientific components of my life into something a bit
more orderly and conscious.
In the current political environment, I have decided therefore to codify an
underlying principle to much of my political writing in terms of a rule that
can be applied by any reader to American politics. I make no claim that
this rule is wholly and originally mine, or not previously recorded in other
forms by others, but I offer it as a little tool to my readers, be they of the left,
right or center, who understandably are preoccupied with the present tense
I call it Casselman's Contrapuntal Political Wave Rule. Simply put, it states
that whatever the present circumstances that exist in a democratic capitalist
republic (the United States, as a notable example, but not limited to it),
the hands and fortunes of power will be reversed in relatively shorter and
shorter order as the nation and its society grows older.
The key here is the duration of the change (the wave) of power. I use the
musical term "contrapuntal" because, as it is defined, counterpoint is when
two different musical lines move independently of each other, but when
played together, produce a harmony of sound, either tonal or atonal. I use
the scientific term "wave" because through the system of large numbers of
citizens voting in periodic elections, the movement is like a wave (rather than
the abrupt and sudden movements that take place in totalitarian nations and
societies of the far left and the far right. The experience of the recently
completed 20th century, I might add, demonstrates that the terms"left" and "
right" have become increasingly meaningless.)
Taking the American republic as an example, its indigenous and original
two-party system did produce over time reversals in political power,
especially after the two parties emerged in the late 1850's. Republicans
dominated most of U.S. national politics from the 1860's through the1920's;
Democrats dominated U.S. politics from the1930's through the 1980's.
Control of the White House and the Congress would occasionally change
for a term or two, but the philosophy of one party actually dominated the
The election of Ronald Reagan changed the New Deal Democratic Party
dominance in 1980, but the new "conservative" wave was overturned in
2008 by a president who was not only a Democrat and a liberal, but
someone who has wished to change the basic paradigm of U.S. government.
I am guessing at this, but I suspect that the relatively lengthy waves of political
dominance enjoyed by the two major U.S. parties in the past were a function of
the nation's long and continual growth as an economic and military world power.
I suggest that a reversal of this growth, becoming increasingly evident at the
beginning of the 21st century when the American republic as the world's sole
"superpower" (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) has seemed to wane.
China and India, much more populous, and a new Russia as well as Brazil, have
each abandoned socialist or other non-truly capitalist economies. Each have
considerable natural resources, land and maturing societies. Other nations and
other regions also have increasingly complicates the role of the U.S. in the
I think many conservatives today believe that the Obama era will end in 2017
with the election of a conservative (and Republican) president. After all, they
might argue, the Bill Clinton era was ended after two terms. But that argument
ignores the reality that, in spite of being a partisan Democrat, President
Clinton operated under the economic principles established by Ronald Reagan.
Many conservatives were surprised by the 2012 election, and now ascribe
the Republican failure to weak candidates and poor technology, but there is
no evidence yet that this explanation is sufficient. The election of Hillary
Clinton in 2016, now clearly indicated by (admittedly early) polls would
indicate that the current wave has not been spent.
Many Democrats, on the other hand, believe they are now riding a new wave
in American politics, a wave in which larger and larger public entitlements,
and more and more redistribution of wealth takes place. Public opinion, as
now measured, tends to support this view (although it is always important to
point out that polling is inherently short-term).
Casselman's Contrapuntal Political Wave Rule tends to favor the conservative's
view as President Obama begins his second term (as it strongly favored the
liberal and Democratic view when President George W. Bush began his second
term in 2005). But it might be unnerving to conservatives to consider that
the Rule does not simply obey economic facts and statistics (the 2012 election
clearly indicated this), but that some deeper and organic impulses determine
voter choice and behavior.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casseman. All rights reserved.