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Di Leo: Repeating History Doesn’t HAVE to be a Bad Thing…



By John F. Di Leo – 

On November 4, 1980, there was a tidal wave in American politics. Former California Governor Ronald W. Reagan won 44 states, trouncing incumbent President Jimmy Carter with a thrilling 489-49 Electoral College drubbing.

That’s what we remember.  44 states voted to throw out an incompetent liberal incumbent, electing the first conservative to the White House since Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

But there are some other statistics about that day that we may have forgotten. The Republican Party also picked up a net of four more governorships that night… the Republican Party picked up a net of 34 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  State houses were flipped and state senates were flipped,.

And when the dust cleared on Wednesday morning, the papers reported that the Republican party had picked up a net of twelve – yes, twelve! – more seats in the U.S. Senate.

That was the real shocker.  Polls were beginning to show that the GOP would have a good night.  Inflation, mortgage rates, job creation, all the economic numbers were bad during the Carter years.  Everything Carter, O’Neill and Byrd did – every measure, every choice, every policy – made things infinitely worse.

By election day – November 4 – it was obvious to any onlooker that the Republicans would pick up the White House and a decent number of seats in Congress.

But even though polling was good in those days – less intentionally biased than today, and free of some of today’s technical challenges (everyone had a landline back then, for example, making accurate polling much easier – they couldn’t anticipate the nature and depth of that wave.

Nobody expected twelve U.S. Senate seats. Gaylord Nelson, Frank Church, Birch Bayh, even a recent Democrat presidential candidate, George McGovern – all went down to a well-deserved defeat after spending decades in Washington building the mess that President Reagan was now going to tackle.

There are assumptions you make, whether you’re a voter, a pollster, or a campaign consultant.  The power of incumbency is huge. The power of a party registration advantage is enormous.  Even in a good year, you assume that some states are just out of reach.

And the difference in media coverage from state to state takes that into account.  If the big newspapers, TV and radio stations in a market assume that a US Senator is unbeatable, they will usually minimize their coverage of the race, in order to be able to spend more time on the known swing seats (and that’s even before accounting for newsmedia bias, which reinforces this choice in Democrat states like Illinois and California). This means that in many states, a Republican doesn’t even get coverage, making his victory, if it ever happens, that much more of a surprise.

Things have changed since 1980.  Demographics and education have given us a population in which a shrinking percentage understands or appreciates our Framers’ design.  Immigration, especially illegal immigration, has given us a body of non-English speaking people – green card holders and illegal aliens – who are not allowed to vote, but who often do anyway. And vote fraud, in general, is infinitely easier than it was in 1980.  Mail-in ballots, a month-long early voting season, touchscreens where your impression may register for the opposite candidate instead of the one you chose, nursing homes used as ballot-harvesting farms, and so many more.

These challenges affect the election results, and they affect the polls.

So, we cannot say that 2022 can be an exact repeat of 1980.

But what we can do, and should do, is to recognize the value of 1980, and learn its lessons…

The American people could tell, in 1980, that their economic crises – and foreign policy disasters – and social decay – were largely the fault of Democratic Party policies and choices. 

They knew that it wasn’t just Jimmy Carter doing it by himself, but the House under Tip O’Neill and the Senate under Robert Byrd.  The American public didn’t just blame one person then; they rightly held it against that whole party.

And in the same way, today, the American people are recognizing that our foreign policy debacles, social decay and economic horror story are not solely the result of the incompetence, corruption and bad judgment of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

The American people know that it took the House majority under Nancy Pelosi and the Senate majority under Chuck Schumer (frequently trotting out Kamala Harris as tie-breaker for the worst measures), to engineer the magnitude of disaster that we see all around us today.

Tens of billions of dollars in military equipment – and countless allies and even American soldiers – left behind in Afghanistan.  North Korea feeling empowered to fire rockets at its neighbors again. China feeling empowered to threaten Taiwan and other neighbors around the South China Sea.  Russia reopening its Obama-era war on Ukraine. And it gets worse.

These Democrat policies have managed to take America from a position of energy self-sufficiency to an energy deficit in less than two years.  They have taken us from 40 years of minimal inflation to a period of hyperinflation… from massive business growth to business hesitation and an economic recession. 

Most Americans feel it most at the gas station and grocery stores, where official inflation rates pale in comparison to the 200% and even 250% increase in gas prices, and the doubling or tripling of the cost of staples like beef, eggs, and butter.

On top of all this, the public has almost fully absorbed the outrageous excesses of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even those inclined to give the NIH and CDC the benefit of the doubt at the beginning have now learned that Democrat appointees in federal agencies were using US tax dollars to fund gain-of-function research at foreign military labs like the Chinese military’s Wuhan Virology Lab, a form of research so risky that even the WHO forbids it. 

It has been eye-opening at the state level as well:

Democrat mayors, county boards, and governors exceeded their respective authorities to institute illegal lockdowns of factories, schools, hospitals and stores.  The death count from Democrat Covid policies will never be fully known, but as we begin to see reports of people dying of cancer and other illnesses, who would have been treatable if caught early, but they were scared out of checkups for two years, allowing their conditions to progress to the inoperable… we begin to get an idea.  The Democrat policies of lockdowns and solitude – which Republicans screamed against, and Democrats screamed all the louder in favor of – have cost countless families their businesses, their loved ones, their careers, their education, their very lives.

The audacity of these incumbent Democrats – and the impotence of our system’s response – has slowly sunk in. 

Look for example at Gov Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who ordered such harsh lockdowns in 2020 that farmers couldn’t buy seed and fertilizer.  Look at Gov Andrew Cuomo of New York, who ordered the sickest, most contagious Covid-19 patients to move into nursing homes full of the very people who were most vulnerable to the infection.  Look at Gov JB Pritzker of Illinois, whose lockdown orders were so completely unconstitutional that State Senator Darren Bailey sued in court and the court confirmed that Pritzker had no such power… but Pritzker continued to issue these illegal orders anyway, proving that the only way to stop his lawbreaking would be to defeat him on Election Day.

The public wasn’t fully aware of all this by election day in 2020; the jury was still out on some of it.

But in November of 2022, the American public has had time to fully absorb the destruction caused – as they now realize – by an overwhelming number of destructive policy decisions by Democrat politicians…

And the American public intends to make it right, on November 8.

We can’t read all these results in the polls, because polls don’t have a way to forecast it all.  But there is a wave, and that wave makes even the most unlikely pickups possible.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy for anyone, or that Republicans will win every seat.  The GOP will still lose the worst districts, the most impossible districts. No question. 

But the concept of a swing seat or toss-up is redefined when there’s a wave.  Two years ago, the Lee Zeldin campaign for NY governor, the Darren Bailey campaign for IL governor, the Blake Masters campaign for AZ senator, might all have been considered “sacrificial lamb” campaigns; but no longer.  Today they are in striking distance.

It will be a turnout election. If 100% of the Republican base shows up, if demoralized leftists stay home in well-deserved shame, if Democrat converts proudly show up to try out how that elephant pin feels on their lapel for the first time… and if independents continue to break to the right in vast majorities… then almost anything is possible.

Herschel Walker? Kathy Salvi? Mehmet Oz? Don Bolduc? 

Why not?

If everything breaks right… and it could… then a lot of high-taxing, high-spending, over-regulating, anti-Constitutional incumbent Democrats could well be handed their walking papers on Tuesday night. 

And high time, too.

Even when a Republican night was certain in 1980, nobody foresaw the defeats of McGovern, Bayh and Church.

By the same token, we could wake up Wednesday to find that the voters had finally decided – rightly – to send Kelly, Duckworth and Hassan packing.

To finally kick Evers, Prizker and Whitmer out of their executive mansions at last.

And in the words of the late Charles Lichtenstein (my fellow Reaganites will remember this one), more than half the country will be happily standing at dockside, waving them a fond farewell as they sail off into the sunset.

Copyright 2022 John F Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, and former president of the Ethnic American Council, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009.  

 A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

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