Ross Douthat’s “Waiting for a Landslide” has received more than a few approving nods from the blogosphere. I am in general agreement with his core thesis except probably much more so. Ross says,

Thus the assumption, on the left and right alike, that every presidential election is the most important in our lifetime — except for the next one, which will be more important still.

Like most commentators, I’ve indulged in these kinds of sentiments myself. American politics really is riven by fundamental divisions. Our recent elections have had dramatic consequences. It will make a tremendous difference whether the next enduring majority owes more to Barack Obama’s liberalism, Tea Party conservatism, or some other worldview still.

Have they and will it? It doesn’t seem so to me.

Its not fashionable for economics bloggers to show their entire political hand but I think it helps to make my point to let you know who I supported for President since I started closely following politics. This is for both the Primary and the General. The letter indicates my personal party affiliation at the time.

In some cases I didn’t actually get to cast a vote for this person because either they didn’t make it far enough or I was not old enough to vote.


1992   Primary: George HW Bush (R)          General: George HW Bush (R)

1996   Primary: Richard Lugar (R)               General: Bob Dole (R)

2000   Primary: John McCain (R)                 General: Al Gore (R)

2004:  Primary: Anybody But Dean (I)        General: John Kerry (D)

2008:  Primary: Hillary Clinton (D)               General: Barack Obama (D)


I’ve backed the winning primary candidate once – twice if you consider Anyone But Dean – and that was an incumbent President. I backed the winning general election candidate once and that was a decidedly unusual election.

So, as you can see, I am always disappointed. My primary candidate has never won the general election. And, that’s to say nothing about the selection of candidates to begin with. The men and women I would most want to see in the White House have never even run.

Yet, with only one Commander-and-Chief and primarily during only one of his terms did I ever feel like the country was being poorly presided over.

This is made, perhaps, even more significant by the fact that I have almost always voted against the transformational candidate. I voted against the one who wanted to remake America. You’ll notice the change in support during the 2000 campaign. Al Gore had me at “lockbox.”

The only exception was Barack Obama, whose “change you can believe in”, I took to mean drawing down US troop levels in Iraq and ending the Bush Tax Cuts. That is to say changing things back to the way they were before they were changed the first time.

Still, I think we’ve had mostly decent administrations.  Unfortunate choices were made in the wake of 9/11. Given their permanence, however, I am not even sure how much of that can be laid at the feet of the President at the time.

So I am hard pressed to see how any of these elections could be confidently called the most important in our lifetime. Looking back, one will likely emerge – if only by weak comparison – as the most important. But, none are big enough to make that pronouncement now.