Hillary v Trump Three Months to Go - Does History Hold the Key?

03/08/2016 11:09 | Updated 03 August 2016

For the first time since the founding of our nation 240 years ago, with less than three months to go Hillary Clinton made history by becoming the first female nominee of a major political party - the Democrats.

Donald Trump who successfully knocked off sixteen GOP rivals throughout a very long and contentious primary season has secured the nomination of his party - the Republicans.

The battle for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is now fully engaged!

Although both candidates seem to have gotten a bump from their carefully staged convention efforts they are now pretty much locked in a dead heat race and any advantage is within the margin of error.

This assumes that you actually think polls are of any real value in this particular election cycle.

Despite the last two weeks of political showmanship and imagery the real battle in this virtually tied race will be over the "swing" voters in these many battleground states - Arizona,
Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire,
North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin & Maine.

Both candidates will be working full steam ahead to unite their fractured parties and secure their base voters.

Despite all the efforts at her Convention in Philadelphia - "The City of Brotherly Love" - Team Hillary still needs to win the hearts and minds and harness the enthusiasm of the disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters.

Team Trump has a similar challenge. They must convince the rank and file establishment Republicans and true Conservatives - many who skipped the Convention in Cleveland entirely - to get on board the Trump Train and work hard each day for a victory for their party in November.

It is always interesting in presidential politics to look back into history to find possible answers to what the future may hold in store, since there are almost always applicable parallels.

At their Philly Convention the Democrats tried to borrow a page from Ronald Reagan, presenting an optimistic "Shinning City Upon A Hill" approach while extolling Bill Clinton's "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America".

Trump and his Republican supporters on the other hand took a page from former RNC Chair and advisor to both Ronald Reagan and GHW Bush, Lee Atwater by attempting to bet on fear, divisiveness, and not-so 'veiled' racism which has often worked.

While the jury is still out on the damaging effects of the latest Trump Muslim attack, the media has responded with outrage and the voters have become even more entrenched. Attacking Gold Star Parents - whether you are a Democrat or a Republican - is like stepping on the electrified third rail of American politics.

Defining your opponent in the most offensive terms, while insulating and inoculating yourself from their negative attacks are the keys to success in presidential races and have been for decades.

In past the Democrats have done this too. Just look at the 1964 LBJ Daisy Ad which was run by the campaign just once to define Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater as "The Mad Bomber" willing to use nuclear weapons.

The ad featured the voice of Lyndon Baines Johnson as it concluded..."These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die."

At this time in our presidential election cycle it is perhaps wise to note what Spanish born and Harvard educated philosopher George Santayana has said: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Notwithstanding the differences between campaign strategy and media outreach of both Hillary and Trump camps - traditional GOTV and precinct-level tracking efforts versus Social Media and live "splatter shots" of carefully delivered raw meat - in some ways this election is reminiscent of both 1976 and 1980 election cycles.

1976 Presidential Election

On August 8th 1974 Richard Nixon, under pressure from the Watergate scandal and all its consequences, announced his resignation from the presidency and without ever being elected Vice President Gerald Ford became president the very next day proclaiming that "Our long national nightmare is over."

Times were tough in America. And the economy was in terrible shape as a result of both the economic and emotional costs of the War in Vietnam and Watergate.

In the historical sweep of time Gerald Ford, a seasoned politician, made a lot of tough and courageous decisions including pardoning Richard Nixon - a decision which earned him the JFK "Profile in Courage" award decades later in 2001 at the age of eighty-seven.

These decisions were not at all popular at the time and the American people were hungry for a real change in 1976 when Gerald Ford actually stood for election on his own and almost lost his party's nomination to Ronald Reagan.

Enter Democratic Georgia Governor James Earl "Jimmy" Carter - a "Born Again Christian" and very successful peanut farmer who seemed to fit the bill.

Some of this should sound very familiar. The American people were war weary, felt disconnected and thought that government was not working for them so they wanted "real change", a "change agent", a "change maker" and they wanted an "outsider".

As the people cried out for a new kind of president not associated with Nixon's Watergate nor the Viet Nam War which Nixon inherited from LBJ, etc. Jimmy Carter seemed to be that kind of "man of people."

In spite of the Nation's climate, some political missteps and his twice faltering during a televised debate against Carter - refusing to accept the fact that Eastern Europe was still dominated by the Soviet Union's influence - Ford only barley lost his only presidential election actually winning 3 more states than Carter.

True Carter did beat Ford in a very tight race but when the rubber met the road and Carter tried to change Washington in his own way and his lack of real Washington experience became his undoing.

Carter had inherited the worst economic situation in decades. Inflation was out of control, gas shortages and lines were unending, interest rates were sky high... And to top it off one of America's key allies the Shah of Iran was overthrown.

Americans have voted for an "outsider" and for "change" many times in our history but this has rarely resulted in the dramatic change that was promised.

Although electing an outsider might seem very appealing as the public grows impatient with Washington gridlock, the "Trump Train Phenomena" is not something new!

Historically "outsiders" have not been very successful in remaking government because they do not understand how it works or frankly how to get things done in Washington.

The Carter Presidency proved that Washington does not change easily and at the end of Carter's term in office the U.S. seemed to be collapsing under its own weight.

The 1980 Presidential Election

So in 1980, Ronald Reagan a former Governor of California - a handsome actor and once the president of the Screen Actors Guild in his more progressive days - understood how to use media and how exactly to deliver a message.

Reagan entered center stage with an optimistic swagger and can-do smile that embodied the American People's image of themselves.

President Reagan's Secret Service code name became "Rawhide" - so while Jimmy Carter dealt with the highest inflation rate imaginable and Americans still being held hostage in Iran for over 400 days, he simply did not stand a chance in this presidential contest.

Reagan's vision of "Morning in America" was so powerful that it produced a landslide victory for the GOP sweeping Ronald Reagan into the White House by winning 44 States to Carter's 6 plus The District of Columbia... "The Reagan Revolution" had begun.

Fast Forward - Now after two grueling weeks in Cleveland and Philadelphia here we are once again where Americans are faced with an economy that has not fully recovered. The American People's unity is being challenged from all sides and Americans are war weary to the bone even as we continue to face some of the greatest security challenges we have ever known.

The choices in this election cycle are stark. Neither candidate was their party's overwhelming choice. Both have high negatives and a steep hill to climb to victory.

So as we move into the final phase of this 2016 election we will see which one of these two candidates can most effectively:

Emerge from the grueling debate process whole;

Unite and mobilize their entire base behind them;

Move to the middle to appeal to those undecided and swing voters;

Re-invent and re-define themselves in a way that answers their critics and makes them the clear choice to lead the American people; and

Inspire, ignite and empower the American voter to commit time, money, heart & soul to spend each and every day committed to them in a most personal way as if everything they hope and dream for is at stake.

With three months to go before "Opening Night" it is still not clear whether the American people have been paying attention during all these rehearsals.

Faced with all of today's challenges it is still not clear if they will want a well experienced hand or someone untested with yet another promise to make real change!

The choice remains to be seen on November 8.