December 31, 2006


When Ford lost, so did Dems: Gerald Ford's 1976 defeat may have been among the worst things ever to happen to American liberalism. (Jonathan Chait, December 31, 2006, LA Times)

[F]ord's defeat in the 1976 presidential race may have been one of the worst things that ever happened to American liberalism.

Liberals, of course, detested Ford for his pardon of Richard Nixon, and indeed the pardon was a pretty rotten act. In the light of history, however, Ford comes through as a far more innocuous figure. By the standard of his day, he was a conservative. But by the standard of our times, he's a raging moderate.

In Ford's time, to be a conservative meant to be cautious and prudent. Ford opposed deficits, and he vetoed spending hikes and tax cuts alike. His recently released comments criticizing the Iraq war (made in a 2004 interview but embargoed until after his death) show how alien he found the current president's reckless foreign policy. In his post-presidential career, Ford emerged as a critic of the religious right and an advocate of political reforms, both of which placed him far to the left of today's GOP.

It was Ford's narrow loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976 that enabled the subsequent radicalization of the Republican Party. Carter was a mediocre president, and he came into office under terrible conditions — stagflation, an energy crisis, the wake of a losing war — under which no president could have succeeded.

Yet Ronald Reagan succeeded brilliantly given all the same conditions. The fact is that Nixon and Ford like the Democrats surrounding them got the two important issues of the second half of 20th Century wrong and were therefore just as ineffective as FDR, Truman, LBJ & Carter. These liberal presidents, who accepted the inevitability of socialism at home and Communism abroad, were ridden by events and couldn't help but seem hapless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 31, 2006 9:13 AM

You know Jimmy the Peanut's reputation is about to go into free fall when Lefties start blaming the GOP for giving him to us in the first place.

They can't even point to successes, and their failures are someone else's fault, and usually a vast, dark consipiracy. Is there anything those morally superior people will ever take responsibility for?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 31, 2006 6:01 PM

Reagan was a giant. The rest were pygmies.

Posted by: erp at December 31, 2006 6:04 PM

It's easy to see why even a Jimmy Carter could defeat Gerald Ford.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at January 1, 2007 1:59 AM