I believe the Democratic Party opened up to its Shadow (Dark Side, a better phrase, and eloquently explained in Star Wars) when Bill Clinton had the affair with Monica Lewinsky – Bill was expressing his personal Shadow, as he had always done. Likely, in Myers-Briggs terms, Bill’s Shadow was made up of the parts of his personality that were/are not expressed in his everyday life and work and were repressed. But what is important here is how this behavior was responded to in his group. Bill’s status went up in a certain part of his age and generation group during the affair (my age as well). He became a folk hero. They felt it was cool and nihilistic and anti-establishment to have oral sex in the Oval Office (and in the generation’s academic venue, the nihilist fashion might have left Marx behind, but Jean Genet who proposed sexual domination of police officers was within the same idiom). When the generation – followed by the rest of the Party - rose to Bill defense in that scandal it entered its Shadow.
From then till now, the Clintons have constantly put the Democrats in the position of defending the indefensible. A President takes a one million dollar bribe to let a lobbyist out of jail? Not a problem. A President makes $109 million giving speeches, trading on his office. Democrats willingly pay. A former President race-baits in New Hampshire and South Carolina? Sends thugs out to draw racist crowds in PA and the rooster-fighting contingency in Appalachia?
I believe this is a good thing in the long run. The Democratic Party is slipping its skin. It is casting off its Shadow. A new party is growing. In my observation, it began with people like Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Mark Warner of Virginia, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia and Governor John Lynch here in New Hampshire. They are a new breed of Democrat and not particularly beholding to the Clintons. Barack and Michelle have since become the catalyst and are awakening this new talent into an actual new movement. And further, the new generation – the all-important fourth post-war generation – is clearly behind Obama.
I’ve been considering for the last few years that our political condition today and in the last three generations in certain ways resembles the political world of the mid-1800s. We have divided into red and blue America in a very modest extension or reenactment of a cultural conflict ("culture wars") that rent us asunder 150 years ago. Today’s circumstances are different: Today we are losing our North/South paradigm entirely and entering into an East/West paradigm. This will take us further and the other was merely prelude.
But we grow into our political and personal character in the same way as conflict rises within us and we grow and mature with those conflicts. The Clinton/Obama conflict today most resembles the disturbance in the Whig Party in the 1800s. The Whigs had become effete, insular, out-of-touch and obsolete. They were cast off and reformulated as the new Republican Party, featuring Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. We are experiencing today the same casting aside – casting aside an old skin; the Clinton formulation – for a new day ahead and a new century with Barack and Michelle.
This may be painful now but consider that the Republicans have no such action. They could well be finished as a party if they don’t experience these conflicts as they are necessary growing pains. If so, the Obama Democrats will begin a providential and historic ride as Grant’s liberal Republicans did for almost 100 years.