15 September, 2005

Public Perception Is King

Eric Seymour in response to a comment of mine:
I'm completely amazed at how people are talking doom and gloom for the GOP for an election that is 14 months from now, based on the perception that the federal response to a hurricane was slow by a couple days. Seems to me like a case of wishful thinking on the left.
It's very possible, Eric. Think about this bit of political history.
  • In December, 1995, the GOP-run Congress pressed the government shutdown into effect due to a veto by President Clinton against the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 1996. This was a factor in the Election Day loss of their majority 10 months later, not to mention Clinton's victory over Dole..
  • In 1988, after the full scope of the 1985 Iran-Contra Affair was explored, the Democrats increased their majority. (For the sake of honesty, a good chunk of those were due to retirements and those seeking other offices.) That was almost 3 years after the initial events, and no Americans not themselves involved in the Affair lost anything.
  • In 1980, Ronald Reagan and the rest of the Republicans rode a wave of popular sentiment and disgust at the perception of Carter's incompetence all the way into the White House. With the Iran Hostage Crisis beginning just under 12 months before the election, the embassy in Tehran was the albatross that dragged Carter down.
  • In 1973, Nixon resigned rather than face possible impeachment, leaving Gerald Ford to suffer the brunt of the voter's wrath 3 years later.
  • And in 1968, the albatross known as Vietnam was the significant factor in the utter defeat of LBJ. Whether Vietnam was his albatross all on his own or if it was entirely inherited from Kennedy is still a debate in some historical circles. But what is not in the debate is that it was a direct cause of his literal whoopin' in '68.
In other words, over the last 8 Presidents, 6 of them experienced events that were maintained in the eyes of the average voter for at minimum 10 months.

Which puts Bush and the Republican Party right back into the danger zone for 2006, doesn't it. This is about the perception of the events, and all it will take is the uprising (and possibly resurgant) Demo noise machine to make sure that it stays out there.

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