It’s often noted that Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, just as Democrats had lost five of six before that. Dems snapped out of it thanks to a Bill Clinton-led tack towards the center, but Daily Beast columnist Michael Tomasky predicts that the GOP will stay to the right in 2016, thereby extending its slump.
After Michael Dukakis’s defeat in 1988, observed Tomasky in a Tuesday piece, Democrats at last could “say to themselves, OK, we’re screwed unless we change. Welfare reform? Free trade?...Whatever, man…The question for the Republicans is, is this 1988 or 1992? I think it’s 1988, because they haven’t yet lost that third one [in a row]. It’s the third one that drives it home. Especially if it’s to you know who.”
Tomasky added that if next year is like ’88, “then that brings up another question. Do [Republicans] choose their Mike Dukakis” -- probably Marco Rubio -- “or their Jesse Jackson? This analogy is to my mind unfair to Jackson, because at least he’d spent a lifetime in politics and knew the issues, whereas [Donald] Trump is a blowhard and [Ben] Carson is an idiot, er, excuse me, a yes-he’s-a-brilliant-surgeon-what-I-mean-when-I-say-idiot-is-political-idiot.”
From Tomasky’s column (bolding added):
[A]t the level of presidential politics, the Republican Party of 2016 is where the Democratic Party was in 1988. They’ve lost two in a row…not as badly as the Democrats lost to Reagan, but allowing for today’s greater polarization, the electoral college results of the last two elections have been pretty lousy for the GOP...
But…Democrats of 1988 and Republicans of today were and are able to say to themselves: Ah, but those two losses, they were an aberration. We lost to an unusually charismatic man, for whom the media was in the tank (yes, Democrats said this about the press and Ronald Reagan, and not to start a whole ’nother argument, but there was something to it). On the level of pure ideas, the people are still with us!
The Democrats were fooling themselves when they said it in ’88, and the Republicans are being equally delusional today. The national electorate had turned on the Democrats by then, and it is against this extreme GOP of today, at least in terms of handing the White House over to the party…
[A]fter the third straight loss, the Democrats were finally able to…say to themselves, OK, we’re screwed unless we change. Welfare reform? Free trade? Death penalty for a guy who left his pecan pie in his cell because he thought he could eat it later? Whatever, man…
So the question for the Republicans is, is this 1988 or 1992? I think it’s 1988, because they haven’t yet lost that third one. It’s the third one that drives it home. Especially if it’s to you know who.
But if it’s 1988, then that brings up another question. Do they choose their Mike Dukakis, or their Jesse Jackson? This analogy is to my mind unfair to Jackson, because at least he’d spent a lifetime in politics and knew the issues, whereas Trump is a blowhard and Carson is an idiot, er, excuse me, a yes-he’s-a-brilliant-surgeon-what-I-mean-when-I-say-idiot-is-political-idiot. But it’s close enough for present purposes: Will the GOP nominate a Dukakis-esque regular-track pol (Marco Rubio, everyone seems to think) or will it roll the dice on an insurgent?
…The Republicans probably will go with their Dukakis at the end of the day, and he could win…If the Dukakis of 1988 had been willing [to] shed just a little more Democratic orthodoxy, maybe that would have helped him. The Rubio of 2015 certainly hasn’t shed much orthodoxy. Indeed, he’s acquired it: He’s moved hard [right] on the minimum wage…abortion rights…and of course immigration reform…And he’s got a tax plan that is…just another Republican giveaway to the top .1 percent.