Jun 06 2008

McCain and the Republican Panic

One of our favorite things in life is to test our forecast models, because they’re based on patterns in long-term trends in the economy, technology, and society over the last 200 years. In this case we project the November presidential election to discern if there is good reason for “The Republican Panic,” as the Wall Street Journal recently (5/15/08) called it. Please remember that our forecasts are based on what we believe the last 200 years suggest will occur, not necessarily on what we individually prefer. Our major interest, of course, is how the political season plays into our space forecast models.

Earlier (“I like IKE…One More Time?”) we highlighted similarities between John McCain and Dwight Eisenhower. In the spirit of the 56-year energy/economics cycle documented in this blog and elsewhere, compelling parallels can also be identified in the pre-Eisenhower era.

Truman’s and “Dubya” Bush’s first terms tantalizingly are 56 years apart (1945 and 2001), which suggests the economic, political, and military framework of each administration should have had similarities, although Bush did not have an analog for W.W. II. In fact, each president governed during times of unpopular conflicts – Truman in Korea, and Bush in Iraq. The Truman years saw the birth of the Cold War. Today, Russian President Putin is seen by some as launching the same cold war tensions (See “A New Cold War?”). After WWII, the Truman era featured a wave of anti-communism and international tensions. Bush’s administration, in response to international terrorist attacks, introduced the Patriot Act. Thus both presidents governed in an environment of controversy where national security and civil liberties seemed to compete.

In terms of their public persona, both Truman and Bush were/are perceived by many as being “rough around the edges,” and as somewhat unenlightened. Their public approval ratings plummeted during their terms of office with record lows (20s – 30s), although both presidents presided over significant economic gowth.

The stiking similarities between the Truman and Bush periods suggest our long-term approach has forecast value for the post-Bush era. Specifically — to make a long story very short — our model suggests the public will respond to today’s military and economic uncertainties by electing someone with the experience and “father-figure” image of General Eisenhower. McCain fits the bill here. Obviously there are many wildcards (e.g., Obama’s “associations”; McCain’s “temperment”) that could nudge the election in another direction, much like too many fumbles can cause a favored football team to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

However, the longer-term picture favors Democrats. As the U.S. approached the economic boom of the 1960s, Americans resonated with John F. Kennedy, a Democrat who became wildly popular due to his personal charisma, youth, and verbal facility, and who initiated the Apollo Moon program. Therefore, after the next president’s term, we expect a Democratic president in 2012 or 2016 with the personal image and leadership style of JFK. This individual will be The One to propel the U.S. into the extraordinary confluence of affluence and ebullience known as the 2015 Maslow Window.

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