One of the benefits of becoming older is gaining a broader view of time and events. We may not know who said “history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes,” but we will have lived through many firsthand experiences which prove the value of knowing history.
In most cases, this knowledge can be reassuring. “This too shall pass” is used with more certainty as we mature. When the storm is raging, we are confident that there will be a bright sun eventually.
Both of our current major political parties have seen periods of great popularity and steep decline. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have been immune to times where their party’s existence was in doubt. Nevertheless, announcements of their demise were eventually proven to be premature.
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Republicans’ Present Slump in Approval Ratings
Now it’s the Republicans’ turn. While they made some gains in the 2010 mid-term elections, they have lost the last two presidential elections and do not have control of the Senate. Worse yet, although a recent survey shows that President Obama is not doing well among likely voters, the public’s approval rating for Congress is trying to recover from an abysmal low of 9% last November., While the Democratic-controlled Senate should be held accountable for some of this, the generally left-leaning press has done a marvelous job of associating the problems with the House Republicans.
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This Isn’t the 1980s: Current Conditions Rule Out an “Inevitable Upturn”
So, should the loyal Republican simply take a deep breath and patiently wait for the inevitable upturn in his party’s fortunes? Definitely, not! And here’s why:
The Democrats experienced a tectonic shift in 1978 that led to Reagan’s defeat of Carter in 1980, and the party didn’t right itself until 1992 with Clinton’s victory. The ’78 mid-terms saw a number of prominent Democrats being defeated, including former party standard-bearer George McGovern. After Reagan’s stunningly decisive win, political pundits were contemplating the death of the Democratic Party.
Lucky for the Democrats, during Reagan’s two terms, Speaker Tip O’Neill kept the fires burning for his party. More importantly for our country, the President and the Speaker were able to hammer out some accomplishments despite their strong contrast in ideology. The compromises they were able to achieve maintained the Democrats’ dignity so that with a poorly run campaign by Bush Senior in 1992, they were able to recapture the White House.
[RELATED on OCR: “The Wisdom of Compromise”]
Unfortunately, the present Obama vs. Boehner faceoff is a not the same climate. Oh, the vast differences in ideology are there. However, three reasons why a Republican recovery is not automatic:
1) Speaker John Boehner is not perceived as a strong leader as O’Neill was. Boehner’s rating at the start of this year was 53% disapproving to 28% approving (with an apathetic 19% having “no opinion).3 On the other hand, O’Neill’s approval rating in his final year in office was 67%.5 Contributing to Boehner’s negative image is a pro-Democrat press which effectively shaped public opinion to believe that the necessary consequence of Sequestration was actually caused by a mean and heartless Republican party.
2) President Reagan was The Great Communicator who was able to take his message to the people and to Congress to accomplish things. President Obama is The Great Unconstitutioner who uses a pen and a phone to get his way. Even if Boehner were the Republican equivalent of O’Neill, he would be hard-pressed to keep good things happening in Congress.
3) O’Neill and his party were unified in their approach to regaining political strength. They didn’t have a branch like the Tea Party or a libertarian spirit in the mix with sufficient influence to cloud the party’s focus. The Democrats of the 1980s were confident in their mission and did not have some members who were short-sighted enough to suggest a complete rebuild of the party was required.
Let me be clear. As an independent, I certainly recognize flaws in the Republican strategy of the last few years. I am also convinced that these can and must be fixed without a complete rebuild of the party.
Oscar A. (Tony) Rubio is a writer who merges the lessons of history with current events to suggest a better path. He resides in Cincinnati, Ohio and believes that our national mood would be improved if we listened to more Big Band and Jazz as we look forward to the White House changing occupants on January 20, 2017. Tony blogs at www.cartaremi.wordpress.com and www.sportuoso.wordpress.com.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.
1 – “History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes,” posted on www.QuoteInvestigator.wordpress.com, 1/12/2014
2 – “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 47% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Obama’s job performance. Fifty-two percent (52%) disapprove (see trends). The latest figures include 24% who Strongly Approve of the way Obama is performing as president and 41% who Strongly Disapprove. This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -17.” From “Daily Presidential Tracking Poll” by Rasmussen Reports, 3/29/2014
3 — “Congress Job Approval Starts 2014 at 13%,” GALLUP Politics, 1/14/2014
4 – “Juan Williams: Republicans to blame for the public’s disgust with Congress,” by Juan Williams, www.thehill.com, 12/30/2013. Among his absurd statements: “This Republican strategy is at the heart of why Congress is so unpopular. They will not work on the big issues, beginning with their failure to deal with the number one public priority: creating jobs and boosting the economy.” … trying to deflect responsibility by completely disregarding the negative effects on the economy brought on by Obamacare and other Democratic impositions.
5 – from “The Political Tip A Legislative Giant Comes To Phila. With Yarns, Anecdotes And Musings,” by David O’Reilly, www.articles.philly.com, 9/28/1987