It seems that, since 1896, there have been four distinct presidential election cycles during each of which one party remained dominant.
In the nine elections from 1896 to 1928 (inclusive), Republicans won seven with Democrats winning only in 1912 and 1916, neither time with a popular vote majority. In the nine elections from 1932 to 1964, Democrats won seven and Republicans won twice, both times with a war hero at the top of the ticket.
From 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five times, with Democrats winning only once — and then with a narrow majority. From 1992 to 2012, Democrats won four times, Republicans twice, only once with a popular vote majority.
This notion of cycles came to mind in an e-mail exchange with a reader when we compared the most recent presidential campaign to that of 1964. In both years, the Democratic incumbent ran a very negative campaign, effectively demonizing his Republican opponent.
Does that incumbent’s failure to run on ideas suggest that his party is intellectually exhausted — or that its leadership understands the party’s ideas are at odds with those of the American people?
There is a lot of intellectual ferment on the right; we see it even as conservatives begin reconsidering comprehensive immigration reforms. Save for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), it seems the only elected officials in Washington putting forward real ideas for reform are Republicans.
Maybe Obama’s negative campaign of 2012 does indeed signify the end of an era. One can only hope.