Carter vs. Reagan: The Last Semi-Intelligent Presidential Race
Presidential campaigns in the United States tend to be discouraging affairs, even if one is not a libertarian who has zero expectations that anything good can come from American elections. The old saw that insanity consists of doing the same thing repeatedly and somehow expecting different results applies to presidential campaigns as well as to anything else.
For whatever reason, Americans (and especially the American media) seem to believe that the process by which voters select presidential candidates some day will produce a Marcus Aurelius (or some other philosopher king) as opposed to the final race we have between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, neither of whom will resurrect memories of orators like Daniel Webster or Frederick Douglass. Instead, it will be a race in which observers watch to see who commits the most malapropisms.
Recent presidential campaigns have not been assuring when it comes to actual content being discussed on the campaign trail. Part of that problem is that no matter how “intelligent” or sound a policy initiative may seem to be, in the end government agents are not caretakers of an economy or possessors of great powers; instead, they tend to be hacks, and no matter how much adoring media (on all sides of the ideological spectrum) tries to make their favored candidates out to be philosopher kings, in the end the best outcome we can hope to have is that they not do too much economic and social damage.
The last election gave us the forgettable lines of “Lock her up” and “Why am I not 50 points ahead?” Before then, we had Bill Clinton asking voters to “help me build a bridge to the twenty-first century” and saying “We’re going to invest in education and the environment.” In other words, we hear slogans devoid of content, and we realize that one of the persons uttering something inane actually will occupy the White House.
The last presidential campaign in my memory that produced anything close to having substance happened four decades ago when incumbent Jimmy Carter ran against Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, the media had written off Reagan, a former governor of California known better for his B-movie acting career in Hollywood, as an intellectual lightweight, someone lacking an intellect worthy of the presidency. (Perhaps one should ask the question of whether the modern American presidency is worthy of someone with intellect in the first place.)
While it is not difficult to find the telltale gaffes and wrongheaded statements in any presidential campaign, nonetheless the Carter-Reagan race stood out,
Article from Mises Wire