I've been musing in recent weeks on how Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in the 1968 presidential election, plus the '60s Vietnam quagmire and Kennedy assassinations, shifted power momentum toward the Republican party of Nixon, Reagan, Gingrich and both Bushes. And we've been at Advantage: GOP since Nixon's win in '68, a 36-year period. Prior to this, an era of Democratic advantage lasted from 1932 (FDR's first win) to 1968, also 36 years.
In those two 36-year periods, there were two presidents who ran against the historical tide and had repeated electoral success: Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton.
Eisenhower, running on his WWII heroism and pragmatism, played a big role in giving us Nixon, who later helped issue in a new era of GOP political strength. Clinton, running on his "Elvis Kennedy" charisma and a split in the heartland over economic policy, gave us...Kerry?
Well, I'd say that Clinton's campaigning for Kerry this year, plus his record of economic success (at least in relation to Presidents 41 and 43), has helped to make people feel better about the Dem nominee, but that's not exactly the level of help that Ike provided Nixon by putting him on the '52 ticket. So I suppose one should call Kerry's ascension to a pivotal role more of a "team effort" on the part of Democrats.
My point (and I do have one) is that we're truly at the dawning of a new era here, one way or another. If Bush is able to hold onto power, it's a clear signal that a large bloc of voters are willing to accept a quasi-fascist state, and that's different from the 1968-2004 GOP era. In 2000, Bush voters though they were getting no more than a genial hybrid of Poppy Bush and Dutch Reagan. Not now: a majority of Bush voters are okaying the possibility, if not probability, of a violent Pax Americana in the Middle East and strident one-party rule at home.
If Kerry wins? It's less clear what it means for Dems, in terms of how a new era of political advantage would play out. All I can think of, is that when Nixon won in '68, it still took a good 12 years for Repubs, with Reagan, to really establish a "dominance" meme in the media bloodstream. So it may mean that Dem partisans are in for a long slog to fully get back their groove...perhaps with a Barack Obama presidential candidacy in 2012 or 2016.