Most modern revolutions have not turned out well for their early enthusiasts.
The American experience was different of course, with the original patriots mostly revered in their days and down the decades since.
But things miscarried badly in France, Russia, China, Cuba and Cambodia as risings from the left saw the vanguard first kill off the enemies and then each other.
Of course American has never seen and will likely never see anything like the revolutions which consumed those unfortunate countries. Even our wildest political actors who gain traction are from with the mainstream of democratic tradition even if some of them sit on the left or right banks of that tradition.
But even those of us confident of the fundamental stability of the American political order know that sudden shifts in expectations bring about huge and unexpected changes.
This year the GOP has opted --again-- for the familiar face of the second-place finisher from the last open contest. Senator McCain has his critics on the right, but he also has many friends there as well as a claim of "next-in-line" that has counted for much in the GOP of the post-Ike years. He lost his lead for a while but it came back to him as the fundamental institutional conservatism of the GOP reasserted itself as the field divided and divided again.
The upheaval --genuine, deep-seated upheaval-- is underway within the Democratic Party.
The MSM loves this story, of course, because it is as new as Senator Obama's experience with every federal issue. There is genuine drama here: No one has ever raised S32 million in a month, much less a year after the low hanging fruit began to be harvested.
And the crowds, the celebrities, the passion! All very impressive.
But what else is being swept away by the Obama tide?
The Democratic Party is a party of bosses --union bosses, interest group bosses whether in NOW, the NAACP or Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and even new media bosses like Kos.
There are and always have been "first among equals" in the party that labels itself the friend of the working man or woman. Hollywood has been a fixture since the '60s, and extremely wealthy players are always much in evidence at gathering of the faithful.
This was supposed to be the year that Hillary harnessed all that structure and experience to the frustration of eight years of exile from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and swept the old guard back to power and position.
Now Senator Obama --who wasn't even elected to the Illinois state senate until Bill Clinton had won re-election to the White House-- is sweeping away all the expectations and pushing aside the old guard. Very exciting for the media and the new voters he is bringing along with him. Very unsettling for the folks who have been waiting in line for a long time.
The funny thing about upheavals is that they spread. If Barack Obama can push aside Clinton Inc, why can't young orators in the AFL-CIO do the same to John Sweeney, or rising stars in the civil rights movement topple Julian Bond or Jesse Jackson? Why is Kim Gandy in her second term at NOW when she has been unable to get Hillary over the goal line?
And if a third year senator can be the presidential nominee of the party, why not a third year senator the Majority Leader, or a third year Congressman the Speaker of the House?
The example of Barack Obama is unsettling many Republicans these days, but it has to be deeply disturbing to the old guard of the Democrats as well. After all, he owes them nothing or almost nothing.
He's the new man, with a new team, a new agenda, and very new demands.
And when the convention meets in Denver, he won't be the only new power in the party who thinks the time has come for change.