Sunday, April 20, 2008

McCain's realistic hope - Democrats blow it

By Rick Morris

The domestic economy is circling the drain and the global economy could well be on the way to following it. The country is at war and 3 1/2 years of George W. Bush trying to apply the "Dean Smith Four Corners Defense" to a bogged-down situation where outclassed terrorists are killing us with IEDs had left him, in the words of one insolent commentator, as less popular than gonorrhea.

Plus, this country doesn't elect politicians of the same party for three consecutive terms even in good times; aside from George Herbert Walker Bush gravy-training Reagan's third term in 1988 (was there even one person in America who voted for that clueless dipstick because they were psyched to have his penny loafers shuffling through the Oval Office every day?), it hasn't happened since FDR was winning like 47 elections in a row back in the day. So even under ideal circumstances, John McCain would probably be screwed this year, right?

Probably. But not necessarily.

There is ample precedent in this country for one political party being pronounced dead and buried only to be revived by the complete and utter incompetence of the other. Granted, things are looking so bad right now that even the Seventies are pointing and laughing and saying, "Man, what an f'd up decade!" But to deny that the Democrats could screw up badly enough to hand it to McCain is to ignore several such precedents in the last few decades:

^ 1964: LBJ massacres Barry Goldwater in the presidential election, and pundits are righting off the Republican party forever for nominating a "right-wing nut." Two years, later, Vietnam and a domestic civil war manifesting itself in the form of riots and anti-war extremism almost costs the Democrats control of Congress and in 1968, Richard Nixon of all people is elected president under the Republican banner.

^ 1972: Nixon is riding high, thrashing George McGovern in a mirror image of the curb stomping the GOP got from LBJ eight years before. He is invincible, King of the World, and the Democrats are a hapless mess. Until, uh, that Watergate thing. He resigns in disgrace in '74 and the Republicans get wiped out in the midterm elections that fall.

^ 1974: If Dubya is less popular than gonorrhea right now, Nixon was trailing jock itch in the polls that year after resigning in disgrace and seeing his party get buried that year in Congressional elections. But then Gerald Ford rallied in '76 to almost win re-election (El Klutzo shouldn't have checked off "Yes" on the "Debate RSVP" that year, though) and Reagan put a huge beatdown on Jimmah Carter in 1980.

^ 1992: The walking coma known as the first Bush Administration ended in ignominy, as a shyster country lawyer from Arkansas won over a nation and came in with much momentum. Having seen Carter get hamstrung by bad relations with Bob Byrd and Tip O'Neill, however, Bill Clinton loudly proclaimed himself the huckleberry for Democratic Congressional leaders and his party got drilled in the '94 midterms, losing both houses of Congress in a historic rout.

^ 2004: George W. Bush was headed for the same one-term status as his mediocre father. The war was being perceived as a mistake, Abu Ghraib gave the America-haters in the domestic and world media with enough rope to hang us and the economy was still largely perceived as sluggish. But in an example of the Feiler Faster Thesis and in a supreme example of good luck, his many deficiencies were overshadowed by the national disaster that was the John Kerry campaign. Dubya became the first president since his father 16 years ago to be elected with an outright majority of the popular vote.

So there you have it. Numerous examples in our recent history of how one political party blew it badly enough to be down forever only to be revived by the mistakes and foibles of the opposition. As a matter of fact, the majority of recent reversals of fortune in this country have resulted in unforced errors being exploited successfully by the other side. So while others may be quick to minimize the effects of an increasingly bloody and bitter battle between Hillary and Obama for the Democratic nomination, I see the chaos for what it is: John McCain's greatest -- and only -- chance.

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