Sunday, December 6, 2015

If 2016 is 1972 redux, is Hillary Clinton the Democrats' Richard Nixon?

 - by New Deal democrat

BooMan has had several good articles in the past week analogizing the 2016 election to the Democrats' disastrous 1972 nomination of McGovern, who thereafter was epitomized by the GOP as the personification of "the loony left."   I have long thought that 2008 marked the beginning of a secular political shift in the US electorate. In the past 225 years, the US has had 4 such paradigms:
  1. 1788 -1860: Ascendancy of the Southern and Western planters. Four of the first 6 US Presidents came from Virginia. Beginning with 1828, the Jacksonian democrats were ascendant until the political parties completely fractured in 1860.
  2. 1860 - 1932 The "Grand Old Party."  During this period, the Democrats were the party of "rum, romanism, and rebellion" and were trounced except for the two terms of Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson (who won in 1912 in part courtesy of the fracturing of the GOP with Teddy Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" insurgency).
  3. 1932 - 1980. The New Deal Democrats.  This is self-expanatory.  The New Deal coalition started to fracture massively in 1968, and was completely routed by 1980.
  4. 1980 - 2008. The GOP Southern Strategy.While Nixon claimed that "We are all Keynesians now," Reagan repudiated as much of the New Deal as possible, and Bill Clinton came full circle, declaring that "the era of big government is over" in 1995.
In 2008, Barack Obama began to put together a new coalition that included Latinos and some Rocky Mountain social libertarians in addition to women, blacks, and a new "Solid Northeast" that expanded to include Virginia, with Florida and North Carolina in play as well, courtesy of a critical mass of transplanted Yankees. This coalition was forreshadowed and described in "Whistling Past Dixie," which encouraged democrats to look West rather than try to win back working class whites in Dixie.

Booman's analogy is that, in a mirror image of 1972,  now it is the GOP that appears hopelessly fractured between the right-wing but sane candidates (Jeb Bush, Rubio, Christie, Kasich, Graham, and Potacki) and the right wing and also insane candidates (Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Cruz). As an aside, I think the basic test for which wing a candidate falls within is, Would the modern version of LBJ's "Sunflower" ad against Goldwater, which strongly implied that Goldwater couldn't be trusted with the nuclear arnsenal, be effective against the GOP nominee?  If it's Trump, Carson, Fiorina, or Cruz, I think it would.

But if the GOP candidate is the modern McGovern, it is intriguing to consider whether Hillary Clinton is a modern analogue for Tricky Dick Nixon.  I think a fair case can be made that she is.  She is certainly seen as cold and both overly and overtly calculating.  While nothing she has done may be outright unlawful, there's a lot that looks really sleazy.  Remind you of some 1972-ish candidate? (I am assuming she will be the nominee, although I prefer Sanders).

The important thing to remember is, Nixon won - in a landslide.  This was in part due to a strong economy (almost every economic indicator was solidly positive throughout 1972 despite increasing inflation), and partly due to his being seen as a fundamentally sure hand on the rudder.  While the jury is still out on the economy -- but barring even more strength in the US$, I do not see a recession starting before the election -- I think most voters, even those with a strong distaste for her, are likely to see Hillary Clinton as a fundamentally sure hand on the rudder.

So if 2016 is like 2012 -- a fundamental change ongoing, but not yet at fruition in the electorate -- then the truth is, there are parallels on *both* sides of the aisle.