And again, as Iowans prepare to caucus, we see fresh rounds of political punditry proclaiming that this candidate or that just can’t win – not in the Democratic nominating process, then in November.
You can match examples of this in major outlets and small ones, in a steady stream. And it may go on, as analysts point out the history of candidate types – types along the lines of the current crop – who have failed before.
That history is all there. But consider the history of presidents past who got there by election and, well, apparently shouldn’t have.
2016: Donald Trump can’t win because he has no political background, gaffes and creates uproar everywhere he goes, and isn’t even well supported in his party of choice, to which he’s a newcomer. (And Hillary Clinton was female which, of course, led to a lot of second-guessing, along with the many controversies attached to her.)
2008: Barack Obama’s race was of course a deal-breaker, even if the polls didn’t say so (people could well be lying). And he was an unabashed liberal on top of that, of which none had been elected since either Kennedy or Johnson, depending on how you count.
2000: George W. Bush is a close family member of a recent president – surely a big disability, since no such had been elected in more than a century.
1992: Bill Clinton is enmeshed (even then) in sex scandals and other issues that were of course absolute death blows for a serious presidential candidate (consider Gary Hart only a few years earlier).
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1988: Not since the Democratic run of the 30s and 40s had a party held the presidency for three consecutive terms, and here was a vice president, George H.W. Bush, trying to break that trend – a vice president who had run for president himself eight years earlier and didn’t get far.
1980: Ronald Reagan is way too conservative to be electable, just the kind of extremist voters rejected (see Barry Goldwater) only a few cycles earlier. He had been divorced – he would be the first with that on his record – and a Hollywood type reliant on support from religious conservatives.
1976: Jimmy Carter is a little-known and unlikely prospect from the start, totally different from recent Democratic standard bearers, who were or had been usually senators or at least top party leaders. And as a moderate in the party, he had little strong support base.
1968: Richard Nixon? Really? He’s a has-been, failed in a presidential race eight years earlier and even in a governor’s race after that, after which he said he was giving up on politics, never a wise move for a prospective candidate. Running Mr. Controversy – everyone had a strong opinion about the man – in the middle of one of the hottest political periods in the nation’s history? Ridiculous.
1960: John Kennedy is a Catholic – remember when aco-religionist was badly beaten some cycles back? He’s young and young looking and doesn’t have a very impressive Senate record, and matching him up against people like Vice President Nixon, Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson and highly visible Senator Hubert Humphrey seems like not even a fair fight.
And so on it goes.
Every election cycle we learn new things, and one of them is this: Another thing that can’t be done, until it is.