On many occasions former President Bill Clinton has given crowds a simple verbal test to affirm their ideological tendencies. If they believed that life in America got better because of the protests of the sixties then they are likely to be Democrats. If they believed that life got worse because of those struggles they were more likely to have become Republicans.
Unbeknownst to many at the time, our forty-second President was drawing a line in the sand and asking the voters to choose their colors. His call to duty was for citizens to pick their party, pick their preferred constitutional amendments, and stand behind the new guards of these selected liberties.
The question that needed to be asked at the time is this: Why is he asking us to choose sides? Why must citizens of the United States split their loyalties? What would motivate a national leader to dichotomize his constituents into separate warring factions? The answer turned out to be both personal and political. It takes 51% of the electorate to vote a President into power. Politically, Clinton was taking an accurate count of his front line soldiers and knew exactly how many were needed to secure his victories. On the other front, Clinton's father abandoned him at an early age in his life. Personally, his unresolved need to be loved by his father manifested as unpredictable behavior, including several affairs and a begrudging rebellion against the Greatest Generation.
The 1992 and 1996 elections were about us versus them. The blue versus the red, the Democrats versus the Republicans in no holds barred political combat. But underneath the surface it was parent versus child. It was eight years of rehashing Vietnam era grievances about a war that had long been over. It was a national therapy session expressed in winner-take-all legislative fist fights. After Bill Clinton fought those battles he justified the social war by claiming victory on every possible front. The baby boomers had finally taken power and they would hold it for sixteen years. Even his successor George W. Bush had unresolved problems with his father and thusly also used the 51% margin to secure his seat of power. Luckily we can learn from our misgivings and heal our resentments. In 2008 the same winds of change that once fueled partisan flag waving behind centrist Democratic leaders has shifted in a new direction with a new rallying cry and a new leader.