(Providence, Rhode Island) – So last week’s election was a big win for the GOP on the national stage. Or was it? Elections are funny things, and they aren’t always what they seem. Yes, they can be short-term successes, but they can also bite you and set up long-term failure. So what seemed like a Republican slam dunk on Election Day could be short-lived. Let’s brunch on how “losers become winners” this week:
“Herbert Hoover” – The bit of trivia being passed on in the Republicans' landslide victory on November 4 is that the party will have the largest membership in the House of Representatives since Herbert Hoover was elected President in 1928. That may be true, but when the Great Depression hit in 1929, that was the end of Hoover and the GOP. Hoover was defeated in 1932, and the Republicans did not win the White House again for another 20 years. Over the next 58 years, Democrats ruled the House all but four years.
Now I am not predicting a repeat of history; I am only pointing out how quickly fortunes can turn.
“Hillary Clinton” – A backlash against the GOP can only help Hillary Clinton, should she run for President. If things go bad over the next two years, people can blame a) the Republican-led Congress; b) President Obama; or c) both! Since Clinton has been out of public office since 2012, her fingerprints have disappeared from public policy and politics, though there will still be lingering questions about her role (or lack of one) in the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Still, politics remains a “What have you done for me lately?” arena, and since she has been out for four years, Hillary can deflect a lot of the critics. Caution: Trying to run as a complete “outsider” might be tempting for her, but would seem ridiculous.
“Buddy Cianci” – I was covering the two-time Providence Mayor – and two-time convicted felon - on Election Day, as he came close to winning an unprecedented third stint in the Mayor’s office. People have asked me: “Was he sad? Was he depressed when he realized he lost?” Quite the contrary! I think he felt relieved and redeemed that nearly half the city voted for him. He was back on the radio the next day and back on his TV show this past Monday. Many thought he would take a long vacation, but the 73-year-old cancer patient was back doing “combat” on the airwaves. People love him or hate him, but he remains a voice of political influence – if not in elective office, then on the air. He didn’t lose a beat, and his opinion carries weight, even if not from a political office. Fascinating!
“Bill Clinton ‘96” – Maybe the craftiest politician I have ever seen in my life is Bill Clinton. He upset incumbent George H.W. Bush in 1992, only to have a disastrous legislative agenda his first two years in office. The backlash against him was so strong that Republicans swept both chambers of Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. Instead of being a beaten dog, Clinton co-opted much of the Republican agenda with which he agreed and passed a crime bill; passed welfare reform; passed the Telecommunications Act; and joined with the GOP in balancing the first federal budgets in decades. The political “Kumbaya” ended with his impeachment, but his success after the crushing defeat his party had suffered was one of the great political “Houdini” acts of my lifetime. Well played, and people love him for it to this day!
“Immigration Reform” – This may be the issue with which political losers may try to transform into winners. It’s also where compromise and accommodation have to meet and create strange political bedfellows. Look for a patchwork bill that is seemingly at odds with itself. It will need tough border fences and deportation requirements to appease conservatives; and it will need genuine and - in some cases - generous amnesty for certain groups (i.e. the “Dream Act” kids), to gain citizenship, to help appease liberals. The bill will simultaneously have to make Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) look like a hero (boosting his White House chances) while, at the same time, it makes President Obama look like King Solomon as the “Compromiser-in-Chief!” Hillary Clinton – as an outsider without a vote - like Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) – will have to spin their own likes and dislikes. Campaign 2016 is in full swing right now!
“Jimmy Carter vs. Richard Nixon” – There have been ten U.S. Presidents in my lifetime, but these two probably rank at the bottom in popularity and public approval for their respective parties. Both left office under very unpopular circumstances and public records – one through a landslide defeat and the other through a looming impeachment scandal. Yet, both repaired their public images and are remembered substantially more favorably these days. How? Both did it through painful political candor, authoring numerous books, and through revealing public interviews that gave us a deep insight into their minds and their public administrations - for good and for ill. You have to remember: In 238 years, only 43 men have occupied the Oval Office. What they tell us in candor is insightful and instructive. The world holds these two in much higher esteem today than on the days each left office.
“Gerald Ford” – In between Nixon and Carter, there was President Gerald Ford (all three seen in a rare joint photo above). Ford is the only President not directly elected by the people. He was wildly unpopular after succeeding and then pardoning Nixon. He then lost his reelection bid against Carter in a close 1976 Presidential campaign. But public opinion would later turn toward Ford. While many objected to his pardon of Nixon in 1974, by the time of his death in 2006, most Americans felt he spared the nation an agonizing and paralyzing impeachment of Nixon. Ford died a hero - not a goat!
What are your predictions? Can this year’s political losers be tomorrow’s political winners? Anything can happen in the wacky world of politics! Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
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Photo courtesy: National Archives