'80 vs. '08?

Looking at the current Presidential election, I can’t help thinking of parallels with the 1980 Presidential election. Not that I remember a whole lot, since I was 12 years old at the time and more caught up in other interests besides politics, but I’ve read some history on line and I do have some memories. Consider:

  • In both years the incumbent party was saddled with a major international crisis involving the Middle East; Carter and the Democrats were facing scorn for their handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, and this year Bush and the Republicans can’t seem to get out from under the shadow of the Iraq war.
  • In both years, the main challenger to the incumbent party had a well-run and well-executed campaign, while the incumbent party’s campaign was disorganized and shoddy.
  • In both years, the main challenger was an unlikely candidate. Ronald Reagan was an actor, for crying out loud, and even though he’d served as governor of California, he was still better known as an actor, not a politician. And Barack Obama will very likely go down in history as the nation’s first African American president.
  • In both years, the incumbent party was reduced to nothing but negative campaigning. I seem to recall that Carter’s ads toward the end of the campaign focused pretty much on the fact that Reagan was an actor, not a politician. I’ve seen ads from that period and they’re pretty nasty. In 1980 this tactic arguably led to a landslide victory for Reagan, and McCain’s negative advertising will very likely lead to a landslide victory for Obama (according to many sources and in my own humble opinion).
  • Reagan seemed to be made of Teflon, and Obama does as well. And not just Teflon, but Teflon infused with heavy amounts of rubber. Not only are McCain’s charges against Obama not sticking, but they’re bouncing back and sticking to McCain himself.
  • Finally, in both years the challenger brought with them a positive message about change and renewal. Reagan’s slogan was “It’s morning in America”, and Obama’s is the inspiring “Change we can believe in”.

I’m not a political scientist or analyst by any means. These are just some random thoughts I had, and I’m interested in some feedback.

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