2008 Analysis

Both Republicans and Democrats will be analyzing the results of the 2008 election and trying to learn from it. Gaining any actual, relevant insight will be problematic for at least three reasons. One, people are not nearly as willing to learn something new as they are to have what they already think validated in some way. In other words, people want to reinforce their old beliefs more than they want to adjust their paradigms. In other words, people are stubborn. Two, the next time big elections come up (first in two years, then more so in four years) the circumstances in our country and the world will be different. And three, Americans are fickle about what they really want. In 2003, more than 80% of us wanted to invade Iraq, in 2008—not quite so many feel that way.

So let’s look at previous elections and try to figure out some trends over the long term. From 1968 on Republicans have won the White House when conservatives have run and lost when moderates were the standard bearer.

1968 Richard Nixon—conservative

1972 Richard Nixon—conservative

1976 Gerald Ford—moderate

1980 Ronald Reagan—conservative

1984 Ronald Reagan—conservative

1988 George Bush—pretended to be a Ronald Reagan conservative

1992 George Bush—moderate

1996 Bob Dole—moderate

2000 George W. Bush—kind of a moderate, but he wanted a big tax cut and he was an outspoken Christian, so he looked conservative

2004 George W. Bush—conservative

2008 John McCain—moderate, I mean “maverick,” I mean (let’s be honest) moderate

This might be helpful for Republicans to remember as they hear from some “experts” that they need to expand their base beyond “religious wackos,” which is a term some people use for those who go to church regularly and espouse traditional Christian values.

Democrats have captured an even more commanding lead in Congress. And by winning 52% of the popular vote Barack Obama has received a stronger endorsement from the voting public than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The President-Elect and Democratic leaders in Congress would do well to learn from the example of the Democrats in 1976 and 1992 and the Republicans in 2000. The current leadership needs to not become too extreme in their policies or corrupted by power or the public will treat them the way they treated these other majorities and vote them out.

Whatever happens over the next 4 or 8 years, Barack Obama has already accomplished something special for his country and something special for himself. He has proven that America is not as racist as some people think. And one hundred years from now when students are trying to remember something (anything) about Presidents from this generation, what will come to mind? For Nixon it will be Watergate, for Clinton it will be Monica Lewinsky, and for Barack Obama it will be that he broke the color barrier and became the first African American President of the United States.