According to Morley Winograd and Michael Hais in the Washington Post today, there have been three elections in American history that ushered in an era of dominance by a "Moses" or idealist generation: 1828, 1896, and 1968. "Members of idealist generations embroil the nation in heated debates on divisive social issues as they try to enact their own personal morality and causes through the political process."
Likewise, there have been two elections that ushered in a "Joshua" or civic generation: 1860 and 1932. "Civic generations react against the idealist generations' efforts to use politics to advance their own moral causes and focus instead on reenergizing social, political and government institutions to solve pressing national issues." We're due for another civic generation to take over this year.
Do I buy this? No, I do not. (You can read more about the "saeculum" theory of generational waves here.) But if you're in the market for an abstract and academic sounding argument about historical inevitability to prove that Barack Obama is The One, look no further. Click and read. Or read Obama's own version here.