It’s tempting to compare this year’s presidential slugfest with the Carter/Reagan contest of 1980. Obama, like Jimbo, is a stubborn man who’s used to getting his way. He intially impressed people with his command of language and positive outlook on the future. (I remember how blown away I was with Carter’s Law Day speech in Georgia back in ’74. ) But a few years into his presidency things got ugly: the economy refused to recover, the Iranians gave us the finger, taxes were becoming unacceptably high, and real estate was in freefall.
I remember there was much anger in the hinterlands during the period of ’78 to ’80. You could see it coming when California passed prop 13 in the mid-terms. While Jimmy promised an end to oil dependency with solar panels and syn-fuels, the thirsty nation complained about the price of gas. (A dollar a gallon! Outrageous!) There was malaise and misery indexes while politicians proclaimed we were in an “era of limits.” Get used to it, they told us.
There are some important differences, though. When Carter sent the military to rescue the hostages and America’s honor, the result was death, defeat and disgrace. When Obama gave the seals the job of taking down public enemy number one, they dumped his carcass into the sea like yesterday’s chum. As a Chicago mafioso might say, “he sleeps with the fishes.” Even with the proposed cuts, the US is still three laps ahead of the competition.
Today’s economy is sluggish, but interest rates are nothing compared to the 21% of 1979. Still, there is a mountain of debt that is incomprehensible to the average person. We would be cheering if we only had to pay the bills of yesteryear.
People still like Obama for all his failed policies, and there is the gut-wrenching fear that if the current Republican crew takes over, the few victories the Dems managed to pull off will bite the dust. Even worse is the Elephant Party’s goal of returning the nation to some kind of Puritan era with scarlet letters and stocks in the town square. Alley Oop will replace Darwin in the classrooms, at least for the children lucky enough to be in school instead of working for a dollar an hour in the coal mines. That’s what the Dems and the press keep telling us anyway.
Tonight at the coronation of Mitt Romney, the anger and frustration with the ruling party looked a lot like 1980. There was a feeling of giddy optimism among the faithful, and a steady stream of testimonials from regular folks who were the beneficiaries of Romney kindness. No, he is not the monster portrayed by desperate Democrats. The line up went off without a hitch, except for a few long minutes when a stuttering Clint Eastwood argued with a chair.
The Grand Old Party is hoping for another upset like the one that Reagan pulled off back in 1980. But even Jeb, the one Bush that’s still allowed in the building, warned that the GOP can’t just depend on the angry white vote that carried the day in elections past. If the red, white and blue doesn’t add some brown, it’s not going to last much longer.
Romney now has the reins of the wild pachyderm, and it’s up to him to keep the rest of the herd in line for the next two months. If he can keep them from going rogue and scaring the bejesus out of the electorate, they might pull off another upset. A tall order indeed.