What will 2014 say about 2016? 1978 offers hints

After 1976, Carl Everett Ladd, the most astute commentator of our time, and no frothing liberal himself, wrote:

“The Republican Party cannot find, outside of the performance of its presidential nominee, a single encouraging indicator of a general sort from its 1976 electoral performance. … What we see here is a secular deterioration of the GOP position.  The Democrats have emerged almost everywhere outside the presidential arena as the ‘everyone party.’”

Nothing from this election alters that conclusion — in fact, the conclusion is reinforced everywhere.  The New Deal coalition has emerged from the Vietnam era intact, and perhaps stronger than ever. President Carter’s job approval ratings have improved regularly since this summer; he has apparently righted the ship, and Democrats no longer run from his name. The Republican frontrunner for 1980 — former Gov. Ronald Reagan of California — seems dedicated to the losing Goldwater formula and destined to split his party in two if he receives the nomination. Unless the party changes radically, it is hard to see how it can emerge from its present state.