IN WHICH I AGREE (A LITTLE BIT) WITH BILL KRISTOL
William Kristol has written a post in which he urges Republicans to stop hoping that they can replicate 1980 in this election:
... it seems clear that 2012 isn't going to be another 1980. The reality seems to be that we're not going to have a chance to replay that election, with (at least in the hazy glow of retrospect) a compelling conservative leader of long standing but ever youthful, a man who stood tall and spoke for us and for America, riding gracefully to victory over the GOP establishment in the primaries and over decadent liberalism in the general election. Assuming the presidential field stays as it is, 2012 won't be a repeat of 1980.
Translation: For crissake, people, vote for Romney! He's the only one of these people who can actually win, and we have to win, even if it's with a weathervane instead of an apparatchik!
Kristol then offers a couple of scenarios from the past suggesting that, really, this might not be as bad as the True Believers think it will be. Here's one:
And then there's 1932, when a not particularly distinguished four-year governor who'd zigged and zagged back and forth to be acceptable to large parts of the Democratic party, and whose political career was at first based partly on his last name, defeated another incumbent. Franklin Roosevelt did turn out to be a consequential president--because of the nature of the challenges he faced, because the country was ready for fundamental change, because there was a movement behind him (or ahead of him) that was full of ideas and energy, because there were strong representatives of that movement in Congress and in statehouses, and because he rose to the occasion.
There's a bit of historical truth in this, and, beyond that, an apparent desire to turn FDR into Reagan -- in other words, into an amiable dunce who didn't really know what he was doing going into the presidency. But never mind that.
What I agree with is that little parenthetical phrase: "(or ahead of him)." Whether or not it's fair to say that FDR was an accomplished progressive because committed progressives led him around by by the nose, I think Mitt Romney might actually be an accomplished batshit-crazy wingnut destroyer of America because committed batshit-crazy wingnut destroyers of America lead him around by the nose. Thus, he could be the crazy extremist president of Kristol's dreams, and the stuff of our nightmares, all because he's afraid to alienate the teabaggers and their financiers and their troops in Congress, who will actually be running the country, cooking up the cockamamie Randian schemes, while Mitt meekly wields a rubber stamp as his chosen tool of self-preservation.
Even Kristol, I think, would acknowledge that FDR had an enthusiasm for his progressive policies, even if Kristol thinks Roosevelt came to them late. Romney, if my fears are realized, won't be that way -- he'll just continue to be a weathervane. But the winds will be blowing hard, from one direction. And that may be the sole determinant of the kind of president he'll be.