This election cycle reminds me of 1988.
Voters almost always want a change after one party has controlled the White House for eight years. It’s rare for the party controlling the White House to get a third term. Since 1952, it has only happened once, in 1988. And one could argue that voters that year did not just choose continuity with George H.W. Bush following Reagan. The Democrats, with Michael Dukakis, did not offer a good alternative.
The Republicans this year seem to be in the same position of the Democrats in 1988: the things a candidate has to say to get nominated make it more difficult to win a general election. To be successful, Republicans must embrace immigrants and not actively offend women, gays, the disabled and minorities, and promise not to take health care away from 14 million people who benefited from Obamacare. Yet to get nominated, one has to rail against immigration reform and Obamacare, and apparently say harsh things offensive to women, gays, the disabled and minorities. Like 1988, the party has not articulated a confident vision for where it practically wants to take the country because the party is divided. Maybe Rubio can do so, can thread the needle, put a coalition together, and tame the far right, but I’m doubtful, as time for him is running out.
Dukakis, the Massachusetts liberal, could not appeal beyond the base, probably like Cruz today. Al Gore then reminds me of Rubio today, too young and premature. Remember in 1988 Jesse Jackson was the only candidate who engendered enthusiasm among the base, and yet was viewed as an anti-establishment civil rights activist, not widely seen as presidential calibre acceptable to the establishment. Rather like Trump today.
At this stage, I believe the Republicans will either nominate Trump or Cruz and go down to overwhelming defeat, or nominate Bush or Kasich and go down to narrow defeat. Then after four more years in the wilderness, Republicans will realize they have to take different positions on immigration, Obamacare, gay rights, and not scapegoat minorities, and they’ll come roaring back to win the 2020 election, probably with someone like Marco Rubio.