Successful Republican presidential candidates in the modern era have often had experience in business or the military (or both), as well as in government. Dwight Eisenhower, perhaps our greatest military commander, became president of Columbia University after the war until he discarded the scholar’s robe to become president. Richard Nixon served in the Naval Reserve during World War II, while Ronald Reagan was an Army officer from 1942-45. George H.W. Bush was a naval aviator, a successful businessman, a Texas congressman, CIA director and two-term vice president before succeeding Reagan in 1988. His son, George W. Bush, served in the Air National Guard from 1968-74, had a business career that included part ownership of the Texas Rangers and was twice elected Texas governor.
Successful Democratic candidates have also had military and/or business cred. Harry Truman was a World War I veteran and a failed small businessman who refused to declare bankruptcy and paid back all of his creditors, showing that both failure and success in business can illuminate a candidate’s character. Jack Kennedy was a war hero, best-selling author and U.S. senator. In 1940, then-Congressman Lyndon Johnson was appointed a lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve and called to active duty three days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Annapolis graduate and submariner Jimmy Carter was a successful peanut farmer, but Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had neither business nor military experience.
Now? Of the approximately 20 Democratic candidates, only six appear to have serious business chops — Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Tom Steyer and Marianne Williamson. Three are veterans of our 21st century wars: Pete Buttigieg, Seth Moulton and Tulsi Gabbard. Of the nine, only the charismatic Mayor Pete appears to have a shot at the prize, according to these historic metrics.
While Dems respect military experience, they don’t seem to believe it’s particularly helpful to a presidential candidate. And business experience? Forget it.
A month ago, Hickenlooper told 4,500 peoople at California’s state Democratic convention, “If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer.” The crowd erupted in boos. Shaken, Hick departed from his script.
“You know, if we’re not careful, we’re going to end up helping to re-elect the worst president in history,” he said. Booed for supporting capitalism, the lasting foundation of America’s prosperity? Merriam/Webster defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”
To say, as some do, that “Democratic Socialism” is just a natural progression from regulated capitalism is akin to saying that Donald Trump is the natural heir to Abraham Lincoln.
With the laudable exceptions of Biden and Buttigieg, the higher polling candidates have eagerly jumped on the anti-big-business bandwagon.
Take Elizabeth Warren, whose wealth tax has drawn so much support. To determine the actual net worth of the 70,000 taxpayers whom Warren believes are worth $50 million or so, the IRS would essentially have to conduct 70,000 “superaudits” — all skillfully contested. Pass it, and accountants and tax attorneys will benefit hugely. Not so much the U.S. Treasury.
What about Medicare for all? Few of the candidates supporting it appear to have done serious analysis. Insurers are bad! Forget that ending private insurance will throw millions out of work, bankrupt hospitals and may reduce the quality and availability of health care for those whom it’s supposed to help.
Buoyed by transient polls, Dems appear to believe that it doesn’t matter what they say, as long as they’re not Donald Trump. History may not be on their side. Let’s go back to 1948, as recalled by Richard Strout in the Christian Science Monitor on April 27, 1983.
“It was that awful moment at the Ak-Sar-Ben auditorium in Omaha, Neb., when the movie-camera spotlights swung slowly away from the still declaiming President [Harry Truman] on the platform below and, like accusatory fingers, traveled from the 1,500 seats that were filled in front to the 9,500 seats in back that weren’t. The Roper poll had stopped taking samples, because it said it was useless as [Republican nominee Thomas] Dewey had already won. Life magazine showed the empty seats in its June 21 issue under the contemptuous title: “The Truman Train Stumbles West.”
Pre-election polls predicted an easy victory for Dewey. Truman won, capturing 303 electoral votes — one fewer than Trump did in 2016.
Democrats, study history!