Last time we played The 1966 Game we identified Virginia Republican Senator George Allen as being analogous to Bobby Kennedy — the charismatic keeper of the true Reaganite flame.
We left by asking who Nelson Rockefeller might be. Remember the ground rules. Rockefeller in 1966 was the leader of the moderate or "Dewey" wing of the party, of those Republicans who leaned against the Roosevelt Thesis of politics on behalf of the Eisenhower AntiThesis. (The portrait of Rockefeller to the right was originally an Andy Warhol.)
Rockefeller was thought to be the GOP’s best hope for 1968, and he won re-election easily in 1966, but in fact he was a man of the past. His grandiose liberal schemes, dressed up in noblesse oblige, were actually horrors, blights upon the land. And voters were catching on to him.
So who’s today’s Rockefeller? Remember, this is not a liberal Republican. In today’s looking glass you’re looking for a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. It would be someone who believes strongly in the Clinton Anti-Thesis to the Reagan political Thesis, who is expected to do well in the race for the White House in 2008.
But based on this historical analysis, this person will fail miserably.
In 1966, both of the last two contestants were New Yorkers. New York was thought to be a state "in play," one that both parties could win, one important to the outcome.
In identifying Mark Warner (the most conservative candidate in the 2008 race so far) with Rockefeller, we have the same synergy at work. Virginia is now a state in play, its conservative south balanced by an increasingly-liberal north, around Washington, D.C.
Mark Warner is the candidate of this "new Virginia." He won election in 2001, but unlike New York the state of Virginia has a strict one-term limit. So the election of Tim Kaine in 2005 was considered tantamount to Warner’s re-election. He is now running hard for the White House, promising to do the same kind of Clinton-like triangulation Clinton did, only without the bimbo eruptions.
History says it won’t work.
Having fun yet? Now let us go for the big one. Ronald Reagan.
Reagan wound up representing the new Thesis. He’s the positive face of it, as Nixon was its negative face. But in 1966 he was completely untested, an actor who had made only one political speech, nominating Goldwater, but who would run for Governor of California that year.
In 1968 he got into the race too late, and lost the nomination to Nixon. He would make the same mistake 8 years later, losing to President Ford. But when he finally was nominated, and elected, he became a legend, because he was able to ride the Thesis to its greatest perceived triumph, while sowing the seeds of its own destruction through covert actions in Central America, in the Iraq-Iran War, and in Afghanistan.
Look back to other Thesis politicians, those who justified the assumptions under which they were elected and set their destruction in motion. We’re talking here about people like Harry Truman, Warren Harding, Ulysses S. Grant. Harding and Grant were not great Presidents (as Reagan is presumed to be) but they, too, cemented the thesis of their time in the national consciousness, beating the Anti-Thesis candidates of their time (Dewey, Cox, Greeley), and making their assumptions (the New Deal, Normalcy, The Bloody Shirt) assumptions all who lived in their times would take with them, some to the grave.
So who’s Reagan now?