In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was seeking a second term during awful economic times. The New Deal was making a difference, but on Election Day, America's unemployment rate was 17%.
How in the world could an incumbent president win re-election with a 17% unemployment rate? Actually, it was pretty easy -- voters realized Roosevelt had inherited a brutal economic crisis, and while conditions were still awful, the economy was starting to improve, and Americans weren't willing to give power back to the party that had created the mess in the first place. FDR won that year with 98.5% of the electoral votes, winning 46 of the 48 states.
I wonder what Mitt Romney's campaign would have said if he were running at the time.
"The fact that [the economy] struggled through the last three years is not the fault of Barack Obama's predecessor; it's the fault of this administration and the failure of their policies to really get this economy going again."
I see. So, as far as the Romney campaign is concerned, the Bush/Cheney era has nothing to do with our current economic conditions. The economy is struggling, and it's entirely the fault of the president who inherited the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
I can only imagine Romney and Fehrnstrom barnstorming the country in 1936. "Look at all of these closed factories! Look at the 17% unemployment rate! Look at the widespread poverty and long bread lines! Clearly, Roosevelt failed and the New Deal was a disaster."
Of course, 76 years ago, very few Americans found this perspective persuasive, but that was before modern media and super PACs could manage to get wide swaths of the country to believe strange things.
The facts, for those who still care about them, are not in dispute.
When President Obama was inaugurated, the global economy was in freefall. There was a banking crisis, a housing crisis, a jobs crisis, and an American auto industry -- the backbone of the nation's manufacturing sector -- that was poised to collapse. There were genuine fears that the financial system simply couldn't recover.
Nearly four years later, after a series of steps Obama took with no Republican support, an economy that was shrinking is now growing, an economy that was hemmoraging jobs is now adding jobs, and an auto industry that was crashing is now thriving.
For much of the country, that may not be good enough, just as for some, 17% unemployment in 1936 was a reason not to vote for FDR.
But if the Republicans' Landon/Knox '36 ticket seriously argued at the time, "The fact that the economy struggled through the last three years is not the fault of Franklin Roosevelt's predecessor," my sense is they would have been laughed at.
That few are laughing at Romney and Fehrnstrom today is unfortunate.