There is an old saying about watching out what you wish for. You might get it.
Very often, new presidents are elected, not because people vote for a candidate, rather, they vote against a candidate. I fear that’s what will happen in 2008.
Those of us over fifty will well remember. By the time 1976 came around, the national electorate had become so mired with negativity within the Nixon administration, we were ready for a change at any cost. Decent as he was, Gerald Ford’s two year stint did nothing to alleviate the image of the Republican party which had sunk to its lowest of depths following the Watergate scandal, the embarrassment of Spiro Agnew, the administration jailbirds and the whole Nixon enchilada. “Out with the Republicans, those dirty bastards.”
In 1976, we desperately sought honesty. We wanted morality. We wanted a new squeaky clean image. We wanted pacification, not aggression. We wanted compassion not intolerance. We wanted a uniter, not a divider. The nation was ready for a “change.” (Hmm…that word sounds familiar)
We got what we wanted. Jimmy Carter.
Now, 2008 is a mirror image of 1976. Americans are fed up with G.W. Bush and his lot, including Dick Cheney and the Republican party in general. Corrupt officials. A sagging economy. Immigration crises. Radical Islam rooting in. Questionable motives for the Iraq war. Our credibility around the world is at an all-time low. By all means, we should demand “change.” Again, people will be going to the polls, not necessarily voting for, but voting against.
Watch out, you might get what you wish for.
During the four years following Carter’s election, he would show the world how the Republicans had it all wrong. He’d fix it. Well, we certainly got a moral man in the White House. Blinded by passion and frustration, the voters also got an inept president whose policies plunged the nation into new depths of economic instability and an international image that was damaging to say the least.
Hand-out programs flourished. Taxpayers suffered. Inflation soared from 4.8 percent in 1976 to nearly 12 percent in 1980. The deficit jumped from $27.7 billion to $59 billion. Unemployment rose to 7.7 percent. People were out of work, and the cost of living spiraled out of control. By the end of his term, Gallup Polls has his approval rating hovering at 21 percent.
While Carter brokered a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, little else was accomplished on the international front. His cutbacks in military spending helped embolden the Soviet Union to become an even mightier foe. The Ayatollah ousted the Shah of Iran and ushered in a new wave of Islamic extremism throughout the world, which the non-Islamic world is dealing with to this very day. The hostage crisis brought the U.S. to its knees, showing the world we were a paper tiger. Fidel Castro pulled off a coup, opening the doors to Cuban jails, prisons, mental institutions, hospitals and the handicapped and sending them all off to the shores of Florida for the U.S. to deal with. Carter — Mr. Nice Guy — welcomed 125,000 Cuban refugees via the Mariel Boatlift of 1980, creating an unprecedented economic and social crisis, not to mention a crime wave that saw murders and rapes double and triple in certain parts of the country. I know. I was there.
What a guy.
Volumes have been written about Carter’s failure in office. Suffice to say, he was elected as a backlash against a political party Americans desperately wanted out of power. The same is about to happen in 2008.
I’m as disappointed as the next person with the final choices in this campaign. There were other candidates with substance on both sides of the aisle that I preferred over these three. Be that as it may, we must choose smartly. History teaches us to avoid emotion when making such serious decisions. Rather, we must use common sense and heed the lessons we’ve learned over time.
This coming election may well be the most vital of all time for the survival of America. We can’t afford to get it wrong — again.