Tony Blankley

The 2008 election is conventionally believed to be a change election. So far, there is some evidence to suggest that it will be -- although we won't, in fact, know until election night next November -- and perhaps not for many years thereafter.

It is worth considering what a genuine change election is, and what that may mean for the current candidates. It is not a change election just because an incumbent or his party is defeated. A genuine change election not only involves dissatisfaction with a historic national issue or two, but often occurs in the context of shifting cultural values and produces a winning presidential candidate with different skill sets and a different style of communicating.

One could argue that FDR in 1932 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 were the only two genuine change elections in modern times. Maggie Thatcher's 1979 election was also such a change election in Britain. It is noteworthy that in each of those cases, the next time the other party won an election after such a change (Eisenhower, Clinton, Blair), the winner did not contest the shifting principle of the change election -- but merely suggested he might improve on it.

Eisenhower did not reject the New Deal programs. Clinton supported Reagan's market economic orientation and more conservative cultural values (Clinton campaigned as a welfare reforming, churchgoing, choir-singing Baptist). Blair followed Thatcher's lead on market economics and discarding old union and leftist support.

The Nixon elections of 1968 and 1972 were not change elections, I would argue, because Nixon continued the FDR-Truman-Kennedy policies of a muscular foreign policy, mixed economics and cultural conservatism. It was the Democrats, particularly under McGovern, who represented genuine change to isolation, more leftist economics and cultural change -- and he was defeated in a landslide.

So is 2008 likely to be a change election? Certainly, the mere fact that the public may be passionately anti-Iraq war (an event that is fairly likely, remains to be seen a year and a half from now) will not make it a change election. Nineteen fifty-two and 1968 were anti-war elections, but not change elections. Nor will it be a change election merely because a majority of the public has grown to be repulsed (approval ratings under 30 percent) by the incumbent. That was the case in 1952 (Truman) and 1976 (Nixon).


Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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