Election 2012: "Shame, eternal shame, and nothing but shame!"
As others here have noted, I'm obsessed with recent historical parallels. And to me, the big question is, is 2012 more like 1964, 1980, or 1996?
Here's how it lays out to me:
In 1964 a principled, articulate, but polarizing conservative challenger faced a big government, big spending corrupt liberal president and suffered an historic electoral defeat. It's romantic and sentimental among some of us to think of that drubbing as somehow honorable -- We stood for something! We held to our beliefs! -- but the cold truth is, pretty much everything rotten about the current liberal welfare state -- its political correctness, its obsession with race, its crackpot social engineering -- has its foundations in that terrible election, in that defeat, in that realignment towards big government nanny liberalism. It's not enough to say that Nixon won in 1968, or even that Reagan won in 1980 -- the ship of state had been forcibly and irrevocably turned to the left, and we've been paying for it ever since. Winning matters.
In 1980, a principled, articulate, but polarizing conservative challenger defeated a hapless, dithering liberal and took the helm of a leftward drifting country languishing in economic decline, reinvigorated the private sector, cut taxes, and defeated America's most implacable foe. In the early primary contests, he defeated an east-coast establishment moderate, and his subsequent successes in the Republican primaries prompted snickering in the White House, confidence in the Democratic establishment, fear among DC-based Republicans, and it wasn't until late summer 1980 that this controversial and full-strength figure started to win over the great middle of the electorate.
In 1996, a hapless, dithering, big government Republican mounted a half-hearted and pointless campaign to unseat a clever Democratic president in the midst of an economic recovery. He was successfully linked in the voters' minds to an unpopular and over-reaching Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and went down to a decisive defeat. 1996 wasn't a watershed year for the country. There was no realignment, no shift in the national direction. The leftward drift continued, though the next four years saw economic expansion -- which increased federal revenues and balanced the national budget -- and historic and effective welfare reform.
That's the question I'm asking myself, and I suspect that's the question a lot of us are asking ourselves.
Can Newt Gingrich sew up the nomination and appeal to the center -- as he must -- to win the general? Why not? Isn't that exactly what Reagan did?
Can Mitt Romney sew up the nomination and appeal to the center -- as he must -- to win the general? Why not? There are a lot of contests left to go in the Republican fight. But if he does, will he be able to usher in the realignment we all want? For that matter, can Gingrich?
Or will either of these men go down in defeat? And if they do, let's hope they fail like Bob Dole, and not spectacularly, like Barry Goldwater. 1964 was a very bad year.
In other words: If this is going to be Agincourt, are we the English or the French?