Joe Gandelman brought this new article by the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato to my attention (Thanks,Joe).
[LINK HERE-A LESSON PLAN FROM THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR]
Mr. Sabato's asking if this week's look back upon the Reagan years provided us with any insight about the 2004 Presidential campaign. He focuses on 1980, the year when Ronald Reagan achieved what observers at the time thought unlikely.
As the road to the 1980 election narrowed, Mr. Sabato points to these historical
Foreign policy seemed a mess.
Americans were unhappy about the economy.
Our primary international enemy (the the USSR) appeared to be on the march and achieving major goals.
A sizeable majority of voters said the country was seriously off on the wrong track and
questioned whether the incumbent President and his team were competent enough to handle the myriad challenges before them.
An independent candidate for President added to the confusion of the election.
The country as a whole was uncertain what to do.
In 1980, it was pretty much a dead heat between Carter and Reagan up until October, yet at campaign's end, everything came together for Reagan.
It goes to show us all that you never know what might happen..and this whole 2004 race just might come down to the fates. I think Mr. Sabato is dead-on-target when he comments:
Had Carter managed to free the hostages just forty-eight hours before the election, it is conceivable that he could have managed to win a narrow reelection. Surely, both George Bush and John Kerry are waiting with bated breath to see if certain events in late October (the capture of Osama bin Laden, a terrorist act on American soil, a fresh disaster in Iraq) will swing the election one way or the other.
Though some people may think a happy resolution of the hostage situation wouldn't have quickly erased the public's memory of the long gas-lines and the inflation of Carter's unfortunate political time, I think they would be off-the mark. The public is easily swayed by such events poured out over their TV screens like high drama with heart-wrenching music and happy tears of relieved family members. Levers would have been pulled for Carter had fate smiled upon him.
Fate never smiled on Carter that year. Reagan eventually (boldly and illegally) defied fate and decided to cast his sails with the political winds at his back by selling arms to Iran for the release of those hostages.
If Osama bin Laden is caught in October, CNN and FOX will surely create the 24/7 drumbeat..the sappy movie-quality dramatics, music and all...and the dynamics of Election 2004 could greatly change... leaning toward an easy Bush victory. As long as bin Laden remains at large, however, America is reminded how pointless and unnecessary the violent Iraq war really has been.
Mr. Sabato wonders if John Kerry might not win by a landslide if this set of seven points still holds true on November 2nd.
I happen to think there's going to be a hell of a lot of violence and death in Iraq this summer. I hope I'm wrong, but i don't expect I will be. Bush will lay the blame and responsibility on the Iraqis, since they're now "in charge" (cough-cough). I don't think the public will buy it, but who knows? The public's been fooled many times by the misleading Bushites. They seem to accept many of the lies without question. Will they willingly accept many more troops killed as a civil war rages in Iraq? (A recent LA Times poll indicates that a majority of Americans now thinks it was not worthwhile going to war in Iraq).
Outsourcing was not a major issue in 1980. Have any Americans been watching Lou Dobbs? Will they be patient while their jobs continue to leave their small towns as their state taxes rise? Does Kerry promise them any relief?
There was no fear of E-vote theft in 1980...and there hadn't been a stolen (ahem--Supreme Court-assigned) election in 1976. A lot of 2000-Gore voters are just waiting to prepare their ballots very carefully and correctly this time. Will Diebold be capable of giving us an honest vote-tally? Why should we trust them knowing their CEO promised to "deliver" Ohio to Bush?
What about the Saudi promise to lower those gas prices for Bush just before the election?
I think this country, as a whole today, is more certain of what to do than in 1980. The problem is, there is a Grand Canyon-sized gap between those people.
The irresponsible party-before-country (pig-headed) leadership in Washington is perfectly reflective of the gap. Last summer we saw Rep Bill Thomas call the police on his fellow statesmen. That gave the phrases "beyond the pale" and "over the top" entirely new meanings.
I don't think we're going to see any landslides unless Bush totally screws up.
(I can't believe I'm saying that--because I personlly do think that President Bush has already screwed up--far past my own political tolerance-point....yet I understand he has loyal and fierce supporters who practically live to see skeptics such as myself shut up and/or shut away.)
Note- See Joe's latest--Will the Bush Campaign's Use of Reagan Imagery Prove A Double-Edged Sword?
You can also see Joe over at Dean's World this week.