Every sixteen years (hence, the "teenage" term) since 1944 the American electorate has gone through the mantra of "change." The strong desire for change came in the 1960, 1976, and the 1992 elections. And the desire for change is very strong in 2008. There are similarities in all
these four elections and I will point them out in a very long post. Here goes.
1. All those elected in 1960, 1976 and 1992 were Democrats. I don't think 2008 will be any different. John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were elected.
2. All those elected set a precedent. John Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic to be elected President. Jimmy Carter was the first Deep Southerner to be elected and Bill Clinton was the first out-of-the-Deep-South Southerner to be elected. And it looks like Barack Obama will be the first black elected President.
3. All of them were elected in a time of economic malaise. The 1960 recession helped elect John Kennedy by a very narrow margin. The 1973-1975 recession was quite deep and helped elect Jimmy Carter. The 1990-1991 recession helped elect Bill Clinton. In 2008, there is a lot of economic uncertainty because of high gas prices and rising inflation on food items.
4. The Republican nominees alienated the conservative base and many conservatives did little or sat out the election. When Vice-President Richard Nixon made the agreement with Gov. Nelson Rockefeller on the 1960 Republican Party platform, many conservatives accused Nixon of "selling out" to the liberal Rockefeller. Conservatives called it "The Betrayal of Fifth Avenue." Many conservatives felt betrayed and sat on their hands in the general election.
In 1976, there was a very bitter GOP nomination battle between President Ford and Ronald Reagan (I was there. I can tell you thirty-two years later the bitterness is STILL there. It was the nastiest campaign I've ever been in. I put in mounds of hours for Reagan. Indeed, I kept a diary of that campaign.). Ford won, but conservatives refused to help him.
In 1992, conservatives were fed up with President George H.W. Bush. When he betrayed his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge in 1990, conservatives abandoned Bush. Commentator Pat Buchanan ran against him and hurt Bush in the primaries. In the general election, many of us conservatives sat out the race or voted for Perot.
Fast forward to 2008. Sen. John McCain is an embarrassment to all conservatives. For twenty years he has spat in our faces and rubbed the spittle on our cheeks. He wants open borders, tight environmental controls, tax increases and moderate judges. Many of us voted for Fred Thompson, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo or Ron Paul. When they all faltered, many conservatives switched to Mitt Romney. McCain's "divide and conquer" strategy to split the conservative support and votes worked like a charm. I'll vote for Bob Barr or Charles Baldwin before I vote for McCain.
5. The Democratic victories were narrow victories. John Kennedy won the popular vote by 112803 votes out of 68.8 million. Jimmy Carter won with 50.9% of the vote. Bill Clinton won with 43% of the vote. Obama will win, but it will be with 51% to 52% of the vote.
6. The Democrats made major gains in the prior off-year elections. In 1958, the Democrats gained 13 Senate seats and 48 House seats. In 1974, the Democrats gained five Senate seats and 47 House seats. In 1990, the GOP was expected to pick up some Senate seats. Instead, they lost a Senate seat and nine House seats. But they got creamed in the governors' races. In 2006, the Democrats gained six Senate seats and 35 House seats.
7. The cry for change was overwhelming. In 1960, the mantra was "Time for a Change." John Kennedy campaigned against the GOP's three recessions in eight years (with the 1957-1958 being a crushing recession). In 1976, the cry was for honesty in government because of Watergate. Jimmy Carter preened he would never lie to the American people and would have a government as "good as the American people." He would be an outsider that would change Washington, D.C. In 1992, Clinton railed against "the worst economy in sixty years." He would change that by giving a big middle-class tax cut (instead, he raised taxes). In 2008, Obama's mantra is "Change we can believe in."
8. The Republicans had governed for at least eight years. Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953 to 1961, Republicans Nixon and Ford were Presidents from 1969 to 1977 and Republicans Ronald W. Reagan and Bush 41 were Presidents from 1981 to 1993. President Bush has been President from 2001 and it'll be eight years when he leaves next year.
9. Voter approval of the GOP hit bottoms. In 1960, people were disgusted with the GOP because of the recession and Russian gains in foreign policy. While Eisenhower was personally popular, his party had low approval ratings. In 1976, Ford had low approval ratings because of his wanting to raise taxes in 1974 to fight a recession (Remember, the WIN buttons the White House put out in 1974?) and pardoning Nixon. In 1992, Bush had low approval ratings because of his indifference towards the economy during the recession (He had never seen a checkout scanner before.). In 2008, Bush's approval ratings are in the low 30s or upper 20s. People have soured on the War in Iraq and the high gas prices.
History is a very stern teacher. It looks like the GOP will learn its lesson for abandoning conservative principles and acting like Democrats-lite. Mark my words: The Democrats will win the White House in 2008 by a narrow margin.