I have always held an inordinate interest in politics, especially Presidential Elections. I have to say, I'm fairly amused when I read and hear how different this election is, when compared to all the ones before it. But I agree, that there seem to be lessons in each of the elections I've seen, and it seems we'll all learn a new one next week.
The first election I was able to participate in, was the 1972 race between Richard Nixon and George McGovern. I remember how bitter everyone was, even at my Junior High School. I also thought it was obvious, that McGovern didn't understand the needs of the country. From the results, I think that was obvious to the voters. The lesson in 1972 was, if you can't explain how you'll protect the nation, you can't be the President.
In 1976, I saw Gerald Ford lose a narrow race to Jimmy Carter. Even though there were serious questions about Carter's ability, President Ford couldn't overcome the curse for Watergate. The lesson in 1976 was, if you cheat the nation as Nixon did, everyone pays for it.
In 1980, I saw the media attack and try to ignore Governor Ronald Reagan, but President Carter's bumbling, matched against Reagan's clear optimism and clarity, proved the course. The lesson in 1980 was, you can try to hide the opinion of the people, but the mood catches hold anyway.
In 1984, Democrats tried very hard to hit Reagan with some kind of scandal, very much as they attack Bush today. When the public figured out it was just dirty tricks from the Left, the result was the biggest landslide in a generation. The lesson in 1984 was, dirty tricks can backfire.
In 1988, VP George Bush trailed Governor Dukakis for most of the early going. But Dukakis' record did not stand up to inspection, and in the end, the man couldn't answer serious questions. The lesson in 1988 was, be true to your convictions for the best result.
In 1992, a manufactured image by the media and the Democrats tore down a President wearied by attacks abroad and at home. The Congress made promises to the President, then broke them, and the media made sure every success was suppressed. The lesson in 1992 was, trusting your enemies gets you a knife in your back.
In 1996, Bill Clinton successfully hid his lies and shortcuts to a second term, largely because the GOP settled on a dull contender. The lesson in 1996 is, style can and does trump substance in elections.
In 2000, Governor George W. Bush trailed Vice-President Al Gore for most of the late summer, then took a late lead, only to see it evaporate with a cheap-shot slander, combined with a very effective Democratic GOTV effort. Bush was able to win the election with the Electoral Vote, but lost the Popular Vote narrowly. The lesson in 2000 is, assume nothing and never let up until the race is over.
My opinion in this election is known, but if somehow I am wrong and Senator Kerry is able to win the election, it will prove that dirty tricks can get anyone elected. If I am right that Bush wins, but only narrowly, it will still give Democrats confidence that more lies and mud is always teh best strategy. If I am right, however, this won't be a problem. It won't be a problem, because Americans are generally smarter than they're given credit for being. They saw the difference between Truman's substance and Dewey's acting in 1948, between Eisenhower's ability and Stevenson's pretense, between Reagan's optimism and Carter's confusion. Yeah, they bought into Slick Willy, but John Kerry is not Bill Clinton. If I'm right, George W, Bush will not only win, he'll stomp Kerry big-time in both the PV and EV. There are many reasons why I expect this, but at its heart, it really comes down to the lesson of 2004: Amercians love this country, and will not forget 9/11 anytime soon.
We will see.