Goin' Down: Obama Meets Reagan

Last Tuesday, Scott Brown won a special election for the Senate seat left open by Edward Kennedy's death. The victory by Republican Brown set the Democrats political hair on fire. Should be be surprised? Yes, if we ignore history. No, if we study history.

Below are some quotes and a link to a Time story from November 1982 when the Republicans got taken to the cleaners in the 1982 mid-term election. I expect the Democrats to suffer the same fate this November...unless of course the economy makes a miraculous about-face and we are all eating rainbow stew and drinking free Bubble-Up. Statistically speaking, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the unemployment rate and a President's popularity...

"I have no interest in sugar coating what happened in Massachusetts. There is a lot of anxiety in the country right now. Americans are understandably impatient. The truth is Democrats understand the economic anger voters feel, that's in large part why we did well in 2006 and 2008."

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez
Democrati (New Jersey) January 2010

"We've listened and learned, and we will take what we've learned back to Washington. There will have to be some adjustments, some modifications in the things we are doing. No question about it."

Robert Michel
Republican Congressman
November 1982

"...If there was a dominant issue in the election it was Reaganomics, not only because the Democrats tried to make it so, but also because Reagan, against the wishes of some G.O.P. candidates, took to the stump to defend his policies. Particularly hi the dispirited Midwest, where Reagan's handling of the economy was a major concern, Democrats racked up large margins in many races for the House, Senate and governorships. According to surveys taken as voters left the polls, 40% said they had been personally hurt by the economy and 70% told pollsters that they saw their congressional votes as a "vote for or against Ronald Reagan." But Republicans drew on a pool of patience among voters who felt that Reagan's programs might work in time, that the blame for current economic problems was not essentially his but went back to Democratic Administrations, and above all, that the Democrats offered no persuasive alternatives. Some 55% of voters held the Democrats responsible for the staggering economy, and they were evenly split on whether Reagan's policies would eventually help restore prosperity..."

Read Election '82: Trimming the Sails @ Time

"It is a disastrous defeat for the President..."There has to be some bending on both sides."

House Speaker Tip O'Neill
November 1982

"We are very pleased with the results...There have been concessions and compromises in both directions on all the major issues and we expect to continue to work with the Congress in that way."

President Ronald Reagan
November 1982


Roadkill said...

Jackson and Polk, T Roosevelt and Wilson, LBJ and Carter; the pundits are always comparing presidents. The thing is, there are always ups and downs in a presidency; let's let this one run its course - and then give it 50 years or so - before we start making comparisions that might not only be premature, but completely wrong.
Like him or not, Reagan achieved things of historical significance, and his record of leadership is being reconsidered in terms far different from that of his contemporary critics and jounalists. Wringing out inflation, reinvigorating a stagflated ecomomy, and winning the Cold War are all to his credit, accomplishments which are being acknowledged - albiet grudgingly - by academics and cultural critics who are engaged in a more honest and sober look at the 1980's.
I do not deign to evaluate the historical impact of the Obama presidency, beyond its obvious import as the first black presidency (apoligies to Clinton, etc, etc). Despite his current setbacks, and my oft-stated opinion that his prescriptions for the country are misguided, I sincerely hope he can right his ship and get back on track; the nation needs him to be successful more than he needs personal or political success.
So lets go easy on the historical analogies; to date, Barack Obama has shown more similarities to the fecklessness of Jimmy Carter than to the steady hand of Ronald Reagan.

Sunny B. said...


I'm not actually comparing Reagan and Obama in the accomplishment sense. I comparing them in the poll sense. They both inherited severe recessions. Interestingly, Reagan inherited stagflation -- slow economic growth, high unemployment and high inflation. Obama inherited slow economic growth, high unemployment and low inflation.

I suppose you could say Reagan inherited the results of Keyensian policies and Obama inherited the results of Friedmanism.

Whatever policy or theories are employed, it seems the economic gets sick every so many years. It's obvious that the political puppets on the right and left who take their marching orders from conservative or liberal TV or radio. I think the Democratic Party is going to lose seats in the Senate and Congress this November and its a result of a bad economy. I don't control Obama's agenda, but I think his focus should have start with the "economy stupid" and stayed there. It's like he came in and got a $800 billion porkulus package run through the Senate and House and said that's taken care of now let's do health care.

The Democratic liberals running the show don't seem to do the math. The majority of 45 million not covered by health care are the least likely to have a voice in the political system. The vast majority of the nation has health care and aren't really that committed to a complete redo on the health care system.

It's like gays in the military. I might be in favor of allowing gays in the military or gay marriage, but I'm probably not going to expend a great deal effort fighting for the those issues that don't impact me...or I precieve that don't impact me.

Global warming would fall into this category. However, the recent snow in Florida and the near-freezing temps in Bombay might have lost some momenteum in the global warming charge. Likewise, the Copenhagen conference is history and there's not any focus point for the global warmers to rally people around.

My guess is that the economy will right itself in time for the 2012 Presidential election and Obama will be creditied with enough things to get people to not vote for change. He will become the anti-change candidate.

Interesting how those things work.