Saturday, September 13, 2008

Glossing Over History: Obama as Carter, McCain as Bush 41, or Obama as Nixon?

I actually thought of this post during a dream. Apparently my exciting dreams of being an expert flier (like Superman) have been replaced with dreams of reminiscing about history lessons. For context, this is the 20-year chunk of history that my dream was trying to figure out. Not coincidentally, this is the same piece of history that the US is going to figure out come November:

1993-1997 Bill Clinton (D)
1997-2001 Bill Clinton (D)
2001-2005 George W. Bush (R)
2005-2009 George W. Bush (R)
2009-2013 John McCain (R), Barack Obama (D), or...?

Anyway, in this dream I was cycling over history to see if the 2008 election will follow one of these two options from the late 20th Century:

Barack Obama as Jimmy Carter:

1961-1965 JFK/LBJ Presidency (D)
1965-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
1969-1973 Richard Nixon (R)
1973-1977 Nixon/Ford Presidency (R)
1977-1981 Jimmy Carter (D)
1981-1985 Ronald Reagan (R)

Obviously, if history repeats itself in this manner, Obama wins in November. However, this analogy is problematic. The Democrats were in the White House at the start of the Vietnam War, and the Republicans at the time ended the war. In contrast, the Clinton years were relatively a time of Pax Americana (except for some military action in Eastern Europe and other places). Bush 43's administration brought this country to full-on (albeit still undeclared) war...wars, to be exact. The next administration will obviously address both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential diplomatic breakdown with North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, etc.

Of course, if Obama wins the election, his detractors will have several field days constantly comparing him with Jimmy Carter (a good man who builds good houses but with a dubious four years in the White House). If we follow the comparison, then the Obama Administration will only last four years.

John McCain as George H.W. Bush:

1981-1985 Ronald Reagan (R)
1985-1989 Ronald Reagan (R)
1989-1993 George H.W. Bush (R)
1993-1997 Bill Clinton (D)

This is a shorter sequence of years than the previous example, but this situation gives McCain the win and the Republicans a third term of executive power. This is also not a perfect example because Bush 41 was the incumbent (Reagan's VP) and McCain is not. In any case, this example pattern predicts that the McCain Administration will only last one term. Just like Jimmy Carter's infamy to Republicans, Bush 41 was notorious for not keeping his campaign promise of "no new taxes."

After waking up from my political science dream, I thought of a third pattern, which favors Obama:

Obama as Nixon/Ford:

1961-1965 JFK/LBJ Presidency (D)
1965-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
1969-1973 Richard Nixon (R)
1973-1977 Nixon/Ford Presidency (R)
1977-1981 Jimmy Carter (D)

Earlier, I noted that the Democrats were in power during the Vietnam War, and the Republicans were in charge at that war's end. Today, the Republicans were in power for both Afghanistan and Iraq, and we would hope that the next administration would bring both wars to a close. If the above pattern is an accurate predictor (for the sake of argument), Barack Obama's Democratic administration will last two terms.

In conclusion, wait until November for the real results. Polls can be good indicators, but national polls often fail to account for the Electoral College (the real Presidential election). What people do with the non-binding polls amounts to hype.

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