It’s a contentious election year. The Republican party is deeply divided. An insurgent conservative is trying desperately to become the Republican nominee for President, but the odds are long against him. In a late, some say desperate move, and at any rate an unusual one, he’s named his preferred Vice Presidential running mate before he has secured the nomination. His opponent’s point man on stopping that insurgent campaign is Kremlin stooge and career criminal Paul Manafort. Does this all sound familiar?
I am, in fact, describing 1976.
If I were the sort of religious man who didn’t believe in coincidences, I’d be one hundred percent convinced that if this isn’t Ted Cruz’s year, then in 2020, he will be elected President of the United States, just as Reagan was four years after narrowly losing the nomination to Gerald Ford. The circumstances are all strikingly similar. Indeed, I wonder if Cruz is evoking the circumstances of 1976 on purpose, since he is I think the sort of guy less inclined than I am to believe in coincidences.
As it stands, I am not yet ready to write this election year off. I still hope that Hillary Clinton isn’t elected President of the United States, and I especially hope that she is not elected President of the United States in July, by just under thirteen hundred Republicans. But on the unlikely chance Donald Trump, the likely nominee, somehow defeats Clinton, he will do so without my help or my vote. Or indeed the votes of any of my immediate family members. The Republican party is not entitled to my vote, and I will never be brow-beaten into voting for an unacceptable nominee again. I hated Mitt Romney and John McCain, but they were at least Republicans. It was often hard to understand why but they were, of a sort anyway. Donald Trump defies ideological description, indeed he has contempt for the idea of having ideas-that’s not what “winners” do you see. Winners “make deals.” More over, he has clearly signaled that he will not work with conservatives. He will however work with the Mitch McConnells of the world to continue screwing over the American people. But that’s mostly moot. Donald Trump will not be President, and you should probably bet money on that, to anyone who will take you up on the offer.
I do, however, feel that even when we are ready to write this election off, we should not abandon all hope. Reagan’s comeback after 1976 just for years later provides a useful model for the potential future of the conservative movement. Twelve straight years of bad left wing policies will inevitably produce disastrous results. But what really finished Carter in 1980 was a combination of a weakening economy and the Iranian hostage crisis. That Hillary Clinton will continue the sort of feckless interventionism in foreign policy of Obama, that has all the negatives of both adventurism-neoconservatism and none of the countervailing positives of actual direction and purpose and, you know, that quaint notion of American interest, is basically beyond doubt. That style of foreign policy was invented by the Clinton administration. So that she will likely have equivalent problems to the hostage crisis tp deal with, is fairly easy to see. An increasingly isolationist American public may find arguments from a Rand Paul type Republican more amenable on those issues, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that less libertarian Republicans can credibly attack her on those issues in 2020. More importantly, there are good reasons to think Hillary Clinton may contend with a bad recession in the middle of her Presidency, and she will certainly not pursue policies that will actually be helpful in alleviating it. Even if she did, getting reelected in the near immediate aftermath of a bad recession, without the ability to credibly blame the economic crisis on the opposition, is a tall order. If there is a recession in 2018 or there abouts, I expect 2020 to be a Republican year.
For many of you, this message that we must remain in the political wilderness a bit longer, will be a bitter pill to swallow. But during that time, we may begin to regard this as strong, hopeful medicine.