One of these things is not like the other

repdem

A while back I made reference here to what I call the "battered spouse contingent" of the Republican party. I was subsequently asked what I meant by that, and it's pretty simple—people who continue to vote Republican despite the fact that Republican policies have hurt them repeatedly. That wasn't readily accepted as valid by my questioner, and in the interests of civility I didn't press the point overly much.

This individual reminded me a lot of people I've known over the years that have espoused sentiments like, "it doesn't matter who wins [a presidential election] because they're all the same." Or, "I voted for [third-party candidate] because s/he's the only one that I agree with," or for reasons of protest over the two-party system.

The "they're all the same" garbage seemed to peak (in my lifetime, anyway) in the 2000 campaign between George W. Bush and Al Gore. We can thank Ralph Nader for a lot of that. But regardless of the why, the result of people thinking like that was a GWB administration that began with corruption of the energy industry (Enron, anyone?), then 9/11 shocked the president despite his having been warned well in advance that something like it was being planned, then the response to 9/11 changed the world for the worse for decades.

They were not remotely the same.

While it's not as prevalent as it was in 2000, the idea that there's little to no difference between the parties is still espoused by a not insignificant percentage of Americans. Most of this is out of ignorance, some willful some not, but today the idea is being pushed indirectly by the Republican party—because if everyone is corrupt, then who cares that so many Republicans are? The Trumpification of the GOP has us more polarized than ever, but the parties have been starkly different for a long time. People who are not political junkies like me just don't know it.

So I had this idea to put together a little snapshot of how the country did under the last several presidents, something that would be easy to digest. Kind of like the back of a baseball card, with the important stats and facts laid out in black and white. (While my formal education in American history is limited to some University survey courses, I am a bit of a history nerd and know a thing or two from study and from having lived through time with my eyes and ears open.) And then I heard Buzz Burbank on The Bob Cesca Show joke about how we need a "pamphlet drop" to remind people about everything from 2016-2021, and I started expanding the thought.

In putting that idea into form, I found it isn't practical to just list economic stats and global crises if you want to convey the performance of an administration. You need more information. But I've endeavored to find a middle ground between back-of-the-baseball-card and pages-in-an-encyclopedia to show at a relative glance how the country fared under different administrations.

So, parameters:

Firstly, to my knowledge and judgment, the last Republican president who was worthy of holding the office—that is, who took his oath the the Constitution seriously, who actively worked for the benefit of the people as a whole, who didn't commit or abet crime or corrupt practices, and who wasn't otherwise overtly doing harm for his own purposes—was Dwight Eisenhower, POTUS No. 34, whose term ended in 1961. (One could make an argument for Ford, but he wasn't elected as either POTUS or VP and that pardon... No. The pardon is a disqualifier.) In Ike's time, the Republicans were a centrist party that balanced a belief in free-market capitalism with the needs of the populace, were staunchly anti-Communist and saw the US as a global force for freedom and democracy, and were happy to maintain the social status quo. Since then we can see a steady decline from that to today's autocratic, anti-democracy, isolationist, corruptly fascist Republicans, with mileposts along the way in Richard Nixon, Henry Kissenger, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, all the way to Trump and his Trump Sycophants.

So we begin with Ike's successor, John F. Kennedy, in 1961, and examine several items for each administration: economic indicators, military conflicts, scandals, global or national crises, notable staff, important achievements or policies, and Supreme Court appointments. I wrap each one up with a brief(ish) few paragraphs of context, keeping things to a single page (though I did have to adjust my typesetting format a few times to make that work). It's a remarkably even split between the two parties in power—in those 64 years, there have been six Democratic presidents and six Republican presidents, each covering a total of 32 years (including 2024).

But before getting into the individuals, here's a composite back-of-the-card snapshot.

DEMOCRATS (8 TERMS)

Total budget deficit increase: (–$2.716 trillion)
Avg. inflation rate: 3.25%
Recessions: 2 (15 months; 4% of tenure)

Major wars: 2, 1 inherited
SCOTUS appointments: 9

 
REPUBLICANS (8 TERMS)

Total budget deficit increase: $3.338 trillion
Avg. inflation rate: 4.24%
Recessions: 7 (6 years, 8 months; 21% of tenure)

Major wars: 4, 1 inherited
SCOTUS appointments: 15

 

Republicans added three and a third trillion dollars to the deficit, Democrats recovered over two and two-thirds trillion of it despite the handicap of having to pay all that interest on Republican debt. Republicans gave us almost seven years of recession to the Democrats' one and a quarter (more than half of which was recovering from The Great Recession of G.W. Bush). Tell me again how the Republicans are the fiscally responsible ones.

Anyway, here's the completed project. I plan on distributing it to some podcasters I like in hopes they will make it available to their audiences in hopes that members of those audiences will share it with folks they know and in an ideal world it "goes viral." Not really expecting that, based on my history in trying to promote things on the Internet, but we'll see.

Feel free to spread this around, everybody. 

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Comments

  • Posted by Wth on April 25, 2024 (57 days ago)

    Excellent research and writing, Tim! I think this has publication potential, for sure.

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