In the Long Run, Americans Reject a Liberal Agenda

In the Long Run, Americans Reject a Liberal Agenda


Walter D. (Wally) Wilkerson, Jr., MD

May 2010

During the presidential campaign of 2008, I was often reminded of the similarities between that campaign and the presidential campaign of 1976. Obama promised us “change you can believe in” and an end to business as usual in Washington D. C. In 1976, an attractive newcomer and a folksy candidate on the Democrat side, appeared to be a perfect fit for the political climate of the times. His name was Jimmy Carter. He was a peanut farmer and a former Governor from the state of Georgia who promised to change Washington D. C as we knew it. A number of Democrats in Montgomery County actively supported Carter during the nomination process. It seemed like his chance of winning the nomination was remote, but his message appealed to many Democrats and even some Republicans. The country had endured the spectacle of the Watergate scandal and the resignation of a sitting President, Richard Nixon, in 1974. Republican Vice-President, Gerald Ford, had replaced Nixon. The Republican Party was trounced in the 1974 mid-term elections, and Ford’s approval ratings were very low.

At the 1976 Republican National Convention, Ford eked out a win over the Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter later won the Democrat nomination for President. It appeared Carter would win in a landslide, because the voters began to respond to his message as a Washington outsider and a candidate for change. Ford made it close at the end, but Carter prevailed. The Carter presidency did not bring the change he promised, and the nation had to endure record high interest rates and unemployment, gasoline shortages and the Iranian hostage crisis. Carter told us we must accept the fact that we were a nation in decline. In the 1978 mid-term elections, Republicans bounced back from what many thought was political oblivion. In Texas William P. Clements was elected the first Republican governor in over 100 years, setting the stage for Ronald Reagan’s election as President in 1980.

I recently read an article by one my favorite journalists, Michael Barone, which reminded me of the history above. It was entitled “What 1946 Can Tell Us About 2010”.  Barone wrote: “Recent polls tell me the Democratic Party is in the worse shape I have seen during the 50 years of following politics closely. So I thought it would be interesting to look back at the biggest Republican victory of the last 80 years, the off-year election of 1946. Republicans in that election gained 13 seats in the U. S. Senate and emerged with a 51—45 majority there, the largest majority that they enjoyed between 1930 and 1980. And they gained 55 seats in the House of Representatives, giving them 246-188 majority in that body, the largest majority they have held since 1930. The popular vote for the House was 53% Republican and 44% Democratic, a bigger margin than Republicans have won ever since.”

Barone noted that in 1946 the Democrats were promising and threatening to vastly increase the size and scope of government. In President Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union message he called for “steeply graduated taxes, government controls on crop prices and food prices and continued controls on wages….Government should guarantee everyone a job, an education, and clothing , housing, medical care (my emphasis), and financial security against the risks of old age and sickness.” “True individual freedom,” Roosevelt said, “cannot exist without economic security and independence.” These same views about America are constantly repeated by President Obama and the Democrats today. There is no doubt that Roosevelt intended to reactivate the New Deal as soon as WW II was won. His successor, Democrat Harry Truman, took the same view. He called for continued price controls, a full employment bill, a higher minimum wage, a public and private housing bill, and only limited cuts in the high wartime income tax rates. In December 1945 he called for national health insurance, a fact that Obama reminded us about many times during the healthcare debate.

Barone wrote: “Opposition to Democrats rose and support of Republicans increased during the electoral cycle, but those increases came later in the cycle in 1945-1946 than they have in 2009-2010. In Gallup’s poll, Republicans did not lead Democrats in the generic vote for Congress until late June and early July, and then by only 51%-49%. In Gallup’s last poll from March 2010, Republicans led 47%-44%.” Six months from the 2010 mid-term election, Republicans and conservative groups are optimistic; Democrats are pushing on with their liberal agenda while ignoring the mounting opposition to this agenda.

Barone concluded that in 1946 the big government policies advocated by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman were clearly rejected by the voters. While Great Britain opted for the welfare state in 1946, America moved in the opposite direction. Will history repeat itself? My answer is yes! But conservatives must remain active and united if we are to ultimately defeat and remove Democrats and liberals from offices wherever they serve.

Ronald Reagan once said: “When you start talking about government as ‘we’ instead of ‘they’, you have been in office too long.”