The worst thing about the coming Democratic victory (if that’s what we’re about to witness) is not that the Democrats will take over power. In a democracy control switches from party to party fairly regularly. It isn’t even that the Democrats seem committed to a hard leftist agenda. We’ve been free from significant leftist experimentation for decades, but one must expect it from time to time.
The worst thing is that the left-wing Dems are poised to take control at a time of apparent economic crisis, or something approaching it. History suggests that under these circumstances, the party that gains control keeps it for longer than normal. FDR’s victory in 1932 was the start of 20 years of Democratic control. After Reagan prevailed in 1980, the Republicans occupied the White House for 12 years. Clinton came to power towards the end of a mild recession. But for a quirk in the electoral process, the Dems would have held the White House for at least 12 years thereafter.
It’s not mysterious why candidates and parties elected in bad times do well in subsequent elections. First, it is natural to give them time to “fix” things. Second, the business cycle, and the underlying strength of our nation, are such that we tend not only to recover fairly quickly from downturns, but to emerge from them stronger than before. Both the law of averages and the laws of economic suggest that our economy will be in significantly better shape in October 2012 than it is today. In that scenario, a President Obama would have a huge advantage over any challenger.
Weighing slightly against this analysis is the fact that voters today are, I believe, much more impatient — i.e., spoiled — than in the past. We certainly are not likely to wait five to ten years for a full recovery, as voters did in FDR’s day. On the other hand, the gang set to take over power this time seems far more prepared to rely on Chicago-style machine politics, voter fraud, and perhaps additional anti-democratic methods than were their counterparts in 1980 and 1992.
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