For the last thirty years, the Republicans have excelled at winning based on lies: tax cuts will balance budgets, abortion is murder, bombing foreign countries is good for America, Saddam had WMD’s and was linked to 911, gays want to destroy marriage, all regulation is bad.
What is amazing is how effective they were at selling these obvious, laughable lies: Reagan came along with his oily baritone, and waved his hand, and said “these are not the droids you’re looking for”, and everyone believed him. He sang three choruses of “Shining City on a Hill” and Middle America drooled. He even got away with hijacking Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, a song about an angry Vietnam vet, and turned into a shiny happy Disney musical. He lied and lied, and America lapped it up. The narcotic formula was so potent that the Bushes – neither of them with one tenth of Reagan’s political skill – won three elections by reheating the mush served up by the Dear Leader and invoking his name. With a few new flourishes: Atwater, Willie Horton, the illegalities in Florida and Ohio, and the Smearboaters.
So since 1980 they haven’t been able to win an election without titanic lies.
Nixon? One of the most gifted liars of the last century. Without all his lies and campaign skullduggery, he would not have gotten to the White House in 1968. And for that matter he was barely a Republican – he perpetuated the New Deal and Great Society programs. In the 1968 election, Wallace was the real Republican, not Nixon. If Nixon were alive today, the ayatollahs of the GOP leadership woul expel him from their ranks for apostasy.
Eisenhower? Sorry, but he was not a real Republican. He openly and publicly ridiculed the rightwingers who now dominate the GOP, and said that anybody who wanted to dismantle the New Deal was crazy. He didn’t even pick the GOP as his party until shortly before he was nominated – the Democrats were trying to recruit him too. He won because he had just conquered the world – not because he was a rightwinger. Like Nixon, he would not be welcome in today’s GOP.
(For that matter, Reagan reached out to centrists, Democrats, unions – would Reagan be welcome in today’s GOP?)
So that takes us back to....Herbert Hoover. He was the last real Republican to honestly tell America what he intended to do. And even he was nowhere as far to the right as today’s Republicans.
And then FDR beat him by 18 points. Because their ideas had caused a Depression.
In other words, the last time the conservatives honestly purveyed their message to the American people, they ended up being beaten so badly that they almost disappeared for good.
**ADDENDUM** -- Actually the 1928 election had some pretty nasty stuff too -- Al Smith is going to let the pope dictate U.S. policy etc. But Hoover was honest about his own policies, and he would have won even without all the mudslinging. So I'm giving him a mulligan.