1990s Politics

Hail to the (new) Chief

January 1993

It was a quirky election season. Three candidates jockied in a race designed for two.

The incumbent was a Republican, representing the moderate wing of his party. He had tried gamely to continue the legacy of his more charismatic predecessor, but he was generating more jokes than admiration. His chief rival was a Democrat from the South, a sitting governor with no experience in Washington, but with big promises to bring change and reform. While the message appealed, the messenger tended to bore, because his very academic abilities were long on information but short on dramatic style.

The third candidate did have charisma. He was an energetic outsider, a well-known character of almost folk dimensions and appeal, who excited the American people more than either of the other two, but who scared many because of his extreme proposals and his erratic personality.

The winner, of course, was Woodrow Wilson. In a close race, he defeated Republican President William Howard Taft and third-party candidate Theodore Roosevelt. The year was 1912, but the dynamics of the race and the personalities could well fit our own recent quirky season of presidential campaigning.

History never does repeat itself, but it can help explain puzzles of the present and even suggest what to expect in the future.

Read the rest of this story here.

1990s Politics, Campaign Watching

Presidential Affairs

February 1992

Dear Mr. Clinton,

Those of us who live beyond the grave do not, unfortunately, get very full news accounts. I just heard about your tabloid troubles—when I last heard, you and your fellow Democrats were accused of being colorless! The problem as I see it is not that you might have had that scandal with Gennifer Flowers, but that you never decided how to handle it. I should know: A scandal put its shadow on my campaign in 1884. It blew over, and I went on to win the election. So, from my experience, I may have a lesson or two for you.

If you are interested in the rest of this sage political advice, click here!

1990s Politics

Put Democrats’ money where mouths are

August 1991

A modest proposal: Imagine a presidential campaign whose funds went not to media blitzes promoting issueless images, but directly to programs dealing with social and environmental problems. Imagine campaigns as patriotic crusades. Instead of spending and shouting to install candidates we hope will act on their promises, turn the campaigns into the actions. Let’s have politicians really walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

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1990s Politics

Somber Democrats must celebrate

September 1989

Democrats are a somber lot these days, and with good reason. They have little chance of breaking the Republican grip on national politics.

The thriving economy of the 1980s and the apparent success of their policy of peace through strength has given Republicans good reason to cheer. Most important, the GOP has translated its success into enduring popularity by mastering the art of politics as celebration.

It’s so important to figure out where the past fits into the present–read the rest of this political think piece here.