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Lessons from the debates of the past

Published by The Economist on Sat, 24 Sep 2016


EXPLAINING Ronald Reagan's landslide victory over Jimmy Carter The Economist's issue dated November 8th, 1980 singled out a few big factors. These included a mood of economic 'misery', public angst about American hostages held in Iran and the splintering of the Democratic voting coalition between white southerners and northern workers underway since the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the riot-torn, race-haunted election of 1968. 'This was the election that Watergate postponed', was the pithy verdict of this newspaper's Washington bureau, contemplating Mr Carter's drubbing in 44 states.But in their first take on the Reagan Revolution, this reporter's predecessors highlighted one other big thing, too: a television debate in which the Democrat tried and failed to portray his opponent as a 'simpleton' and hard-right war-monger, offering what Mr Carter deemed 'extremely dangerous' policies. Instead, we noted, Mr Reagan came across as 'calm and reasonable, a decisive achievement for him with many undecided voters.' As a 'controlled, humourless' Mr Carter offered a welter of statistics, he was undercut by his opponent's amiable manner...Continue reading
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