Remembering the Carter-Reagan Race

Barkley Rosser made an interesting comment on one of the threads which is worthy of a separate posting. He is pointing out similarities between Trump and Reagan in saying whatever they want to say, backing away from them (it was just a suggestion), and never being held accountable for making statements devoid of facts. People leap to the unrealistic or untrue commentary and when the statement is challenged, the candidate disavows them while the voters remember what was initially said.

“Trump is pulling something that I think he is going to get away with, which is that he can just say all kinds of things that appeal to certain people, but when people who dislike those things complain, well, he just disavows them or “walks them back,” maybe, for a little while, whatever. So he gains with those who like this stuff, but he manages to avoid being really held accountable seriously for any of it (“that is just a suggestion”). So none of us really know what his positions are on anything, and he in fact may not really have any. It is all about him and his ego and his claim to power, and those who are impressed will vote for him.

What I worry about on this is remembering the Carter-Reagan race. About this time in 1980 Dems were hoping Reagan would be the nominee. He had just said that “trees cause pollution” (which is technically correct if one counts pollen as pollution), which had led to him having very low poll ratings. Oh boy, the Dems were drooling at the prospect of running against this numbskull who would say all kinds of goofy stuff in contrast to more serious candidates like BWH Bush.

Now of course there were other reasons Reagan won, including a bad economy and the embarrassment of the Iran hostage crisis, but I remember all too well the first debate between them, which was universally viewed as a victory by Reagan, with Carter never recovering after that in the polls. I remember that if one was paying close attention, Carter “won on points,” doing well at pointing out the silliness of much of what Reagan was saying. But then there was that magic moment when after Carter criticized him for his warmongering foreign policy statements, Reagan just leaned back and said, “There you go again,” and that was it. He won the debate on a single well-delivered phrase that was in fact devoid of content. But, it sold.

So I fear that whether it is Hillary or Bernie (still has a small chance, much better if HRC gets indicted before the convention), they can win on points showing how nonsensical statement after statement Trump has said is, but then he wins the darned debate with some wisecrack along the lines of what Reagan pulled with Carter.

As it is, both Hillary and Bernie are seriously wonkish, with pretty well developed platforms. We have seen extended discussions and debates about their positions on various issues here, and it is known that Hillary especially has a very long and detailed set of positions, with some charging that she has overdone it going too wonkish. Unlike others I do not think she will just drop all that the minute she gets in, if she gets in, but I do think that both she and Bernie will end up modifying what they advocate when face a GOP-controlled House, which I think is highly likely, even if hopefully the Dems do manage to take the Senate.

But there is a real possibility of a replay of 1980, whichever of them is the Dem candidate.”

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