Some Reminders from 1980

As we’ve argued here before, this election campaign has many important differences from the Reagan-Carter race of 1980.  But there are some important similarities, including the volatile polls, and the media’s tilt toward the Democratic Party narrative. In this regard, recall the Washington Post‘s editorial after the election (“Tidal Wave”), which said something they may well have to reprint this year:

Something of gigantic proportions happened—must have been happening for a long while—and the capital and the political wise men were taken by surprise. . .  an ‘anti-Washington,’ ‘anti-establishment’ political storm warning was missed by Washington and the establishment.”

Funny how good Washington is at missing the anti-Washington moods that build periodically in the country.

You can expect a repeat of these kind of stories in the media, as recalled in my Age of Reagan:

Pollster Burns Roper admitted that “The Press, political analysts and political strategists all missed the magnitude and breadth of the sweep.”  A week before the election, the New Republic’s Morton Kondracke wrote that “it seems more likely by the day that Ronald Reagan is not going to execute a massive electoral sweep.  In fact, the movement of the presidential campaign suggests a Carter victory.”  David Broder had written: “There is no evidence of a dramatic upsurge in Republican strength or a massive turnover in Congress.”  Though polls in the days leading up to the election showed Reagan ahead of Carter, most were near or within the margin of error, and everyone was predicting a late-night nail-biter.  The New York Times poll three days out had Reagan ahead by a single point; veteran California pollster Mervin Field said “At the moment there is a slight movement toward Carter.”  George Gallup said “This election could very well be a cliffhanger just like 1948.”

By the way, there’s an interesting tidbit from my narrative about the 1980 election that Romney ought to have absorbed before forming his thoughts about the notorious 47%. It was this: “McGovern later said he knew his reelection was lost when two elderly women in the grocery store told him they would vote against him because he is too liberal, and then paid for their groceries with food stamps.”  The point is, even people taking advantage of entitlement programs may not be fond of liberal dependency, and might respond to better arguments about the future.