decisive loss


One of the funny things about politics is that people often have a very poor sense of which elections are important and which aren’t. This fact hit me a few years ago when I was watching a “Saturday Night Live” episode from 1976. Jane Curtin was on as the host of “Weekend Update,” and the joke was that SNL’s feelings about the upcoming election could be summed up with a photo of Gerald Ford, defaced with horns and a mustache.

I was only 4 years old in 1976. Seeing this sketch more than 20 years after it first aired, what struck me was the overwhelming strangeness of it. Why would anybody work up a hatred of Ford? And when I thought about it further, it seemed to me that Ford’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.

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