Friday, September 17, 2010

Changing an Election

Matthew Rozsa's Status Update:

Here is another question which I encourage anyone who reads my status updates to answer:

If you could snap your fingers and thereby alter the outcome of a single American presidential election, which one would you pick? How would you change the result?

Please take this question seriously and only provide one answer.

Matthew Rozsa
To answer my own question:

I would change the outcome of the 1980 presidential election, in which Republican Ronald Reagan defeated Democrat (and incumbent) Jimmy Carter and third-party challenger John Anderson. There are two reasons for this:

1) The conservative shift in America's political paradigm was brought about by Reagan's presidency. However, as displayed by the fact that Reagan only received 51% of the vote in 1980, his first election was caused NOT by a growth in the popularity of right-wing beliefs but rather by a widespread dissatisfaction with Carter's performance. If Reagan had never served as president, and thus never had the opportunity to take advantage of events so as to cause a fundamental ideological realignment in American politics, the conservative era which we occupy - with its rampant economic, social, and racial inequalities and its bringing to ascendancy a plethora of radically reactionary cultural and religious movements - would not exist.

2) Despite his unpopularity at the time, I believe that Jimmy Carter did not receive credit where it was due during his tenure. After all, this is a man who granted unconditional amnesty for Vietnam War draft evaders; created the Department of Energy and became the first major public figure to advocate energy conservation measures; ended repeated anti-American upheavals in Central America (as well as redressed a grave historic injustice) by returning the Panama Canal to Panama; brought about the only lasting peace treaty ever signed between two nations in the Arab-Israeli conflict, i.e., the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt; put human rights on the forefront of his foreign policy agenda (as opposed to the previous priority of Communist containment at all costs) and made this manifest in areas ranging from opposing South Africa's apartheid regime to helping Jews emigrate from the USSR; and, through painstaking negotiation, was able to free the American hostages being held captive in Tehran (despite the fact that the hostages' release coincided with Reagan's inauguration day, causing Republicans to claim credit for it).

Indeed, a comparison could be made (disturbing though its implications may be) between Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama. Like Carter, Obama has a litany of achievements for which he receives inadequate credit, including ending the war in Iraq; fighting to repeal discrimination against homosexuals in the military and Latinos in Arizona; pushing through a health care reform bill that will extend coverage to 32 million Americans, reduce the budget deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next twenty years, and end such unjust practices as denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or dropping payholders once they become sick; passing an economic stimulus package that prevented the economic catastrophe which he inherited from deteriorating into a second Great Depression; and passing various other progressive economic bills, including providing relief to struggling homeowners, protecting credit card customers from exploitation, and increasing regulations on Wall Street.

Of course, like Barack Obama today, Jimmy Carter's notable achievements couldn't take attention away from the fact that unemployment remained high (along with inflation) during his presidency. This, combined with the subsequent Iranian hostage crisis, caused his popularity to plummet and eventually led to his defeat when seeking re-election (one can only hope that Obama won't suffer the same fate).

Yet had Carter been re-elected, his agenda would have included comprehensive health care reform, energy conservation and fuel independence measures, an Equal Rights Amendment to provide women with the same constitutional protections extended to racial minorities, and strengthened consumer protection regulations, to name only a few. Considering that a victory in 1980 would have armed him with a mandate to govern, he could have very well seen successes in all of these areas, to the benefit of the country as well as his political career. Even had each of these initiatives failed, though, at the very least we wouldn't have had three decades of a Reagan era.

Tiguhs OndaBayou
If I said Gore in 2000 would it matter?

Matthew Rozsa
Why wouldn't it matter?

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Cause Bush would have come jacked it from him regardless

Emily Friedhoff
...I was thinking of 2004 election. That was truly 'fishy' to me in terms of how people were voting. Though I'm not sure how strong a candidate Kerry was, he would have most likely been better than another 4 years of Bush. I guess people figured that Bush started this war and they had to rely on him to finish it? Oy... I don't know...

Matthew Rozsa
To Tom:

Um... Gore DID win in 2000 and Bush DID "come jack" it from him regardless. I guess in this hypothetical scenario, you would be rendering Bush's "jacking" impossible (say by having Nader endorse Gore and thus enabling Gore to win New Hampshire).

Tiguhs OndaBayou
That was my point matt

Tiguhs OndaBayou
Nader voters wouldn't have left the crib to hit the voting booth up for Gore...

Matthew Rozsa
To Tom:

I disagree. Back in 2000, enough liberals were frustrated with Clinton's centrist (understandably so) that they genuinely didn't see much difference between his heir apparent (Al Gore) and Republican George W. Bush. In retrospect, of course, it is obvious that they made a terrible mistake, not only because Bush proved to be so conservative but because Gore himself was much more liberal than Clinton. The larger point, though, is that had Nader not offered them an alternative, I believe they would have sucked it up and supported Gore rather than just sat on their duffs; it was the option of Nader that caused them to issue a "protest vote."

In fact, the Al Gore candidacy in 2000 and the Hubert Humphrey candidacy in 1968 are very similar in one key respect - both nominees lost key support from liberal constituents because they were incorrectly associated with policies from the presidents under whom they served that were unpopular among the left. Considering how close each of those elections wound up turning out (and how one gave us Richard Nixon while the other yielded George W. Bush), it makes you wonder if maybe liberals should be a little less petulant and a little more pragmatic in their voting habits.

Kevin Reagan
Well, the easy answer for me would of course be '08. As unpalatable a candidate as McCain was, I was one of the few who saw the writing on the wall and past the moderate facade of "Hope" and "Change" (the number who didn't is so unbelievably depressing. See the documentary "How Obama Got Elected"). I knew that electing the most liberal senator in the Senate with NO executive experience (and very little political experience) was going to be disastrous. A failed $1,000,000,000,000 stimulus and increasingly unpopular ObamaCare later, Obama's poll numbers are in steady decline (a fact that you attribute to his not being liberal enough, but I attribute to what is really a radical liberal agenda. Hence the success of Republican candidates nationwide who are having success campaigning against it).

Thinking about this has reminded me of the time just after the election when I wrote a satirical piece for the school newspaper titled "If We Hadn't Elected Him."

Matthew Rozsa
Obviously I disagree with your reasoning on that, although I think it wouldn't do either of us much good if we wound up debating on it. lol

Maximilian P. Miller

You know, I don't regret voting for Obama at all. But what I do regret is the level of unreasonable enthusiasm behind a great number of the votes he did get. I knew the moment things started not being near perfect that people would become disillusioned, and that a lot of people were just focusing unreasonably on the numbers when they talked about the dream of a filibuster proof majority. It is no wonder people are disappointed...but honestly, I am not. Do think he's doing a good job? Yes. Do I think he's doing a great job? Hell no. But I don't think things could get much better given the situation we are in, and I definitely don't think we'd be heading in a good direction if it was McCain, or Romney, or god forbid, Giuliani at the helm.

My disappointment stems mainly from the fact that I was for one shining moment entertaining the prospect of a true cultural change in our nation's character that might save us from our self-destructive obsession on consumer culture or at least put us on track for different economic thought as opposed to bowing to the spaghetti-monster god of the Free Market knowing all. But that really had nothing to do with the election and everything to do with the crashes. Now we're just tacking the same course and I won't be terribly surprised when we crash again.

No comments: