America in 2020 — Is it 1972 All Over Again?

Sasha Stone
10 min readAug 29, 2020

In their book Pendulum: How Past Generations Shape Our Present and Predict Our Future, Roy Williams and Michael Drew map out how society repeats itself in cycles. In their book, the pendulum shift is a 40 year span. But there are other ways to see how the pendulum can swing in American culture. If John F. Kennedy inspired a cultural renaissance that led to a counter culture revolution, which eventually swung in the opposite direction to Ronald Reagan, one can see how the arc went from the 1960s to the 1980s.

The next big culture quake on the left happened when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. He inspired a renaissance of identity, of shared voice, which then gave rise to the counter culture revolution we’re living through now. What we don’t yet know is where 2020 will fit into this shifting landscape. Which side of the pendulum will the country swing?

Trump’s re-election would be another 1972. If Biden defeats Trump in November, he is either Jimmy Carter in 1976, briefly holding onto the presidency before American culture pulls back towards the right, towards conservatism, or Biden IS Ronald Reagan, and will push American culture fully and completely into the new left that Obama started. A “Woke Utopia” which could hold for as long as Reagan’s did, that’s roughly 28 years if you mark the of it the beginning of Obama’s reign.

If Williams and Drew are right, and that culture swings in the opposite direction every 40 years, we are not even half-way through the cycle of culture shifting. But that doesn’t mean presidential power won’t.

Where we are right now is not yet knowable. We have extremes pulling on both the left and the right. Then we have the middle. Is the middle staying with the Democrats or will it shift over to Trump’s side of things? A bigger question is which way is the pendulum swinging and where will we end up?

JFK’s America

The pendulum started swinging away from the conservatism of the 1950s just before Kennedy’s rise in 1960. That was due to a generation of young people, baby boomers, who started to come of age who were shaking off the confines of the rigid 1950s, which was its own utopian vision of American life after World War II. It was also a time when black activism was rising to demand equal rights in a country that had oppressed them for centuries. Kennedy would give voice to that movement. He would be shot, so would his brother and so would Martin Luther…