Bill Clinton was elected in 1993, at the halfway point in the downstroke of a “Me” cycle* in America, as we moved toward the tipping point (2003) into the upswing of a “We.” His presidency ended in 2001 with a budget surplus. In essence, he was the bridge from “Me” to “We.”
“We don’t want our presidents to be perfect – most important, we don’t want them to consider themselves perfect. As we’ve already seen, Americans have strong apprehensions about perfection. We are culturally adolescent, and we expect our president to be adolescent as well. We expect him to be connected to the American soul, and that means rarely doing things right the first time. Instead, we expect him to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and be better for it. Clinton’s presidency was riddled with mistakes, (from the botched national health plan to Whitewater to the Monica Lewinsky scandal), but, according to an ABC News/
Washington Post poll, his approval ratings at the end of his second term were higher than those of any post-World War II president, including Ronald Reagan. When a president can maintain high approval ratings after an impeachment hearing, it is obvious that we aren’t looking for perfection.”
– The Culture Code, Clotaire Rapaille, p. 187 (2006)
Unfortunately, Clinton wasn’t followed by a “We” president. Remember when George W., a classic “Me” leader, lost the popular vote but won the electoral college because of “hanging chads” in Florida? At the end of his first term he would likely have lost re-election if ballots had an option labeled “Not Bush.” Sadly, there was no “Not Bush” option. The only other option was labeled “John Kerry,” a man who miserably failed our litmus test for “adolescence.”
* The “Me” cycle was 1963 to 2003 with 1983 being the zenith of the upswing.