In this climate, Republicans never had a chance.
In the Watergate election of 1974, the Republicans lost 49 House seats to fall behind the Democrats by 291-144, more than 2 to 1. In the Senate, the Democrats won an edge of 61 to 37. In 1976, the Democrats held on to their 61 Senate seats, and added another one in the House to make 292. Yet, by 1980 Reagan won in a landslide, and the Republicans took control of the Senate 53-46, while gaining 33 seats in the House.
Even in 1982, the early Reagan years, the Democrats won 269 House seats, a 103-seat margin over the Republicans. Along with Clinton’s victory in 1992, the Democrats won 57 Senate seats and a 258-176 margin in the House. Yet, just two years later, the Republicans gained control of the House with a 54-seat gain, winning the Senate as well.
So any political majority can soon fall in the face of the onslaught of better ideas.
The Democrats’ Turn
The September financial crisis destroyed any chance John McCain had of winning this election. The fundamentals were bad enough for Republicans as it was. They had won 5 of the last 7 national elections. The 2 Democrat victories were won by a moderate who went along with the agenda of the 1990s Newt Gingrich Congressional majorities. There hasn’t been a truly liberal President since Jimmy Carter was elected 32 years ago in 1976. Before that was another 8 years of Republicans. Voters were ripe for a change.
Moreover, voters had forgotten how crazy liberals can be, not to mention the left-wing extremism represented by Obama. When we tried to tell them, they thought we were lying. Nobody could be that nuts, they seemed to be thinking. I was writing a column a few weeks ago when it suddenly dawned on me, nobody even remembers any more how badly Jimmy Carter and his liberals had trashed America by 1980. Nor do they remember anymore how Reagan so drastically turned everything around, both foreign and domestic. That is all now a history lesson that has to be painstakingly taught over and over.
Another huge drag was the deep unpopularity of the incumbent Republican President. Let us not deal in cheap shots. George Bush is a good man who did a lot of good things. But he never seemed to understand that an essential role of leadership is communicating to the country and persuading it as to where we need to go and why.
Bush’s popular downfall was rooted in Donald Rumsfeld’s failure to commit enough troops early on to nail down the victory in Iraq quickly. The American people are not going to support a foreign war that drags on for years and years ultimately costing hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives, all the more so when the President is not articulating on a regular basis what we are doing, where we are headed and why. Rumsfeld also failed the President in not committing enough troops to the early attack on Afghanistan to capture Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership. Just think how different the Bush Presidency would have been if Rumsfeld and Bush had handled these issues correctly.
Adding even more to the problem was the 2006 failure of the Republican Congressional majorities, which were thrown out because they stopped advancing still badly needed positive reforms that would further promote American prosperity, freedom, and strength. Instead they had given in to acting like liberal Democrats in trying to buy votes with government spending and maintain their incumbency with simple minded, low road buyoffs. Very difficult for the Republican Party to inspire followers with this record.
On top of all this, the McCain campaign then had to deal with what seemed to be a reenactment of the October 1929 stock market crash leading to the Great Depression. Everyone has been taught in grade school how to respond to that, however wrongly, which is to vote in liberal Democrat majorities for a generation. Note to the public: FDR and his New Deal did not solve the Great Depression. Rather, they trashed the economy over and over, burying it unnecessarily in a decade of deep suffering for the American people.
Bush tried to be responsive and responsible. But he and his transparently confused and panicked economic team of Bernanke and Paulson only served to inspire what has become an unnecessary global economic panic. The oversold $700 billion bailout package added greatly to the political disaster, while failing to stem the economic downturn. Read what economist Robert Higgs wrote for the Independent Institute on September 23 about the supposed credit freeze justifying the bailout which did so much to spread panic:
“In democratic societies, every great surge of the government’s
size, scope, and power rests on a foundation of fear….The
president, the secretary of the treasury, congressional leaders,
and the vultures now swarming Washington to pick the remaining
flesh from the taxpayers’ bones would have us believe that unless
the colossal ripoff now being formulated in Congress is enacted,
the future will be too horrible to contemplate. Reports
characterize the bailout as ‘a bid to unlock the flow of credit’
and make reference to ‘the frozen credit markets.’ It’s
hyperbole, don’t believe it.”
Higgs shows that at the time Congress was voting on the bailout, commercial and industrial loans from all commercial banks had soared by 15.5% over the prior year, and by 30.8% over the prior two years, to an all-time high of $1,514 billion (or $1.5 trillion). Consumer loans at all commercial banks had grown 9.2% over the prior year and 16.2% over the prior two years to an all time high of $845 billion. Even real estate loans at all commercial banks, while not soaring, had grown 4.1% over the prior year, and 15.5% over the prior two years, to $3,642 billion ($3.6 trillion), just slightly below its all time high. What frozen credit were they talking about?
Yes, there was real economic trouble, which is now only going to get worse. But to sell the splashy, spooky, $700 billion bailout, Paulson and Bernanke had to sell the country on the idea that we were on the verge of the Great Depression otherwise. That effectively trashed the McCain campaign and the rest of the GOP. Congress could have been asked only to replenish and slightly extend existing powers at the FDIC, the Fed, and the Treasury. The Bush team should then have interred with measured reserve those firms however large that had overexposed themselves to the risk of declining housing values, and called for pro-growth economic policies to revive the economy. But Paulson seemed focused like a laser beam on bailing out his buddies on Wall Street, heedless of the economic as well as political chaos he was causing.
McCain was not my ideal candidate and he did not run the best campaign. But with everything he had going against him, it is a wonder he kept it as close as he did.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?