Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

2008 and 1980

This comparison--which is really a comparison of Obama and Reagan--is showing up on the web. President Carter was almost as unpopular as President Bush, the economy stunk, and we we’re demoralized by our failure to prevail against a Middle Eastern country beginning with I. But Jimmy’s reelection still looked possible because of the perception that Reagan is just too extreme (just as McCain’s victory looks possible now because Obama seems too extreme [too scary, Wrighty liberal]). Reagan helped himself by seeming like a calm and reasonable guy in the debates, and we have to admit that Barack might well end up being EVEN better at that. Still, the polls showed the 1980 election to be close until Carter’s collapse in the last 10 days. Lots of voters seemed to have concluded: What the heck, let’s go for the CHANGE, anything will be better than... I don’t know what to make of this necessarily imperfect comparison. That’s up to you to discuss. (One obvious difference, of course: McCain is not actually the incumbent held in contempt.)

Discussions - 9 Comments

I don't believe the analogy to be apt and it is not due to just 1 difference, there are plenty more.

i guess my question is this: is bush as big of a failure as carter was? the relevant comparisons are these: (1) was Carter's incompetence and weakness in the face of the iranian hostage crisis as disastrous as bush's war on terror generally and the iraq policy in particular supposedly is? (2) was carter's somewhat underrated, yet also somewhat inept grasp of economics (he did give us paul volker and deregulation, after all) worse than bush's? approach to the economy? (3) is the economy right now objectively in worse shape than it was during the carter administration?(4) was carter's response to the energy crisis of the 70s worse than bush's response to the rise in gas prices? and (5) was carter's party in worse shape than the republican party is after bush?

i guess what i am interested in is whether the implicit comparison suggested by mccain is apt or if it is kind of a nasty jab at gwb.

Dear Professor Lawler,

One more similarity between 1980 and 2008 - Carter sharply attacked Reagan from the left (for Reagan's proposed tax cuts, defense build up, deregulation of oil and demands for a more assertave foreign policy), but Carter was distrusted and despised by the Democrat's liberal activist base. McCain attacks Obama from the right (as a big spending, big taxing, cut and run liberal) while conservatives are at best ambivalent about McCain.

Pete, Another good point.

Take a look at old issues of Time and Newsweek for a month or so before the 1980 election. The conventional wisdom at the time (among media elites) was that the Republicans had made a terrible blunder by nominating Reagan. He was deemed too extreme to get elected and polls, in the days leading up to the election, seemed to show Carter gaining with a good chance of winning. That's why the Reagan landslide was such a shocker.

I'm not sure this analogy really has much force, but I will say that this is likely to be a very close election. It's easy to see McCain winning all southern states including Florida with good chances in the crucial borderline states (Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania).

Dear Professor Lawler,

One potential difference - Reagan did not win the debate just by seeming calm and reasonable. At points he just demolished Carter on the issues. When Carter argued that Reagan's tax cuts would be inflationary, Reagan pointed out that it can be no more inflationary for people to keep and spend their own money than for the government to take their money and spend it for them. Thats a shot to Carter's head that should rank up there with "There you go again." All the more so since it shows Reagan's mastery of the issues and his way explaining them in clear, short and powerful prose.

Reagan's love for America and the essential sanity of his platform were clear to many people who wouldn't normally vote Republican. Obama is a globalist with insanely leftist positions. Quite a difference. While he superficially has Reaganite abilities as a messenger, OBAMA is selling PUTRID GARBAGE. Let's not forget that for a moment. Let's not allow the American people to forget it either. Stupid historical parallels are worse than misleading.

I still don't see what the analogy is.

Carter is to Bush as Obama is to McCain?

Carter is to Obama as to Reagan is to McCain?

I don't get it. Come on. Carter was running for re-election, Bush is not. There are some similarities, but not much. The differences, are much more.

And Peter, go check out Powerline's take on an interview the President recently gave on Air Force One.

Go and check out Powerline, and after reading it, ------------- a question comes to mind, ---------- which is why it took Powerline so long to figure it out, to see what the rest of us saw years ago, and sensed prior to that , before the hard evidence came to light.

The only thing to be said about it, about a President groveling for approval, is that it's pathetic, absolutely pathetic.

And now his support for global warming, Harriet Meirs and immigration "reform" comes into a whole new light. We said that it was clear that he was looking for media approval. And after that interview, there's no way to conclude otherwise.

He's become the first President suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

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