Monday, September 10, 2012

Let's Remember 1980 Correctly

I love history. History is a friend of mine. You, sir, aren't doing real history.

I know I'm the 7,923.696th person to modify that line from 1988. I also know that 1988 is not 1980, but this return to the late 1980 election when disco was dying, new wave was starting, and Ronald Reagan was riding his white horse to the White House frustrates me because it is so inaccurate. I don't know if Romney will successfully buy the election, but if he's not going to win with the claim that he is the next Ronald Reagan whereas Obama is the second coming of  Jimmy Carter.

First, if Americans actually chose Reagan because he was more charismatic that Carter, then Obama will win this election hands down. Romney is robot and robots ain't charismatic.

More importantly, there was a third factor in the election that everyone but David Frum seems to have forgotten.
There is another difference, at least equally crucial and often overlooked today: 1980 was a three-way race. Reagan won a landslide of the electoral vote, but less than 51% of the popular vote. President Carter's support collapsed in the last weeks of the campaign, with dissident liberals breaking off to support the independent candidacy of John Anderson, who scored 6.6% of the vote - the third best performance by an independent since World War II, after Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996.
If Anderson had not run - if Carter had not so alienated his liberal base - what would have happened in November? Who can say - but let's remember the actual events of 1980, not a too-gratifying legend.

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