There are two kinds of presidential elections: change elections and continuity elections. For many of those who see 2016 as a change election, finding an anti-Obama may seem quite appealing, and Christie fits that bill in style and tone.Obama is "polished and professorial," while Christie is "brash and blunt." Blow doesn't mention it, but Obama's key word in 2008 was "change" (along with "hope") and a lot of people who thought George W. Bush was brash and blunt felt good about the idea of undoing the Bushiness with Obama-style politesse. Enough yang. We need yin. For 2016, do we need yang again? Do we want another "change election"? Or is more yin the thing? That would be a "continuity election."
Speaking of polish and professorishness, there's a hell of a lot of bullshittery in purveying the abstract change-versus-continuity model for the election — as if that's deep — and steering us into the shallows of style and tone... etiquette and rhetoric.
Anyway, will we be hearing this term "continuity election"? I hadn't noticed it before, and Blow may have come up with it himself, but I do see some other instances of it on the web, notably this canada.com article from last week about another Christie/Christy, Canada's Christy Clark:
Premier Christy Clark faces a wide range of woes at the dawn of a new year, but one of the biggest may be the power of a single word: change.What? Obama has another book? "Change We Can Believe In"? Yes!
The power of the change concept was famously harnessed by Barack Obama during his breakthrough 2008 U.S. presidential election victory.
"Change We Can believe In" became a campaign slogan, as well as a book title for Obama....
"Every election comes down to a couple of major questions," observes pollster Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs. "Is this a change or continuity election? It can define and drive any campaign."Here's a story from June 2012, quoting Stu Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, talking about the 2016 presidential election:
"I continue to think the race is going to be a close one.... With past elections, if you had a 'D' behind your name and barely a pulse, you had a good chance of winning. Most elections are either based on continuity, where the majority want to keep things going as they are, or based on change. We had three change elections in a row. Is this a change or a continuity election now?"Going all the way back to 1996, I see Mark Shields — of Shields & Gigot on PBS — using the term. Right after the November elections, Shields was asked (by Jim Lehrer) if we are, in fact, "a deeply divided nation":
How do we know? Rothenberg says it’s simple — just look at the polls.... For some time now, these polls have shown that a majority of Americans are unsatisfied with the current state of the nation. This in itself would presumably signal an upcoming change election....
Deeply divided, ambivalent, Jim. I mean, any time you send a mixed message, as we did, Democratic President overwhelmingly re-elected, and a Republican Congress kept -- it was a continuity election... I don't think it is deeply [divided]. I think the action in the--in the foreseeable future is not on either the left of the Democratic Party or the right of the Republican Party.... The Republican Congress was saved and salvaged by the perception that they were working and cooperating and being productive and non-extremist... Bob Dole wanted to run on change, had to change the presidency, and Democratic challengers in the Congress who wanted to change the Congress, the continuity accommodation consensus folks prevailed and did pretty well at the polls.Even though this term "continuity election" has rarely appeared, it seems as though the concept of change or continuity elections is well entrenched, and I suspect it's used by pollsters and the consulters of pollsters behind the scenes. What's interesting to me, reading the Blow column, is the open effort to appeal to those who would benefit from continuity to polarize the debate in terms of change and continuity, with tips on how to portray change — Obama's buzzword — as bad.
ADDED: The low incidence of the phrase "continuity election" is the only reason Google took me back to 1996, but how lucky! It's fascinating to see that talk of a Republican Congress "saved and salvaged by the perception that they were working and cooperating and being productive and non-extremist." That's exactly what some people today say the Republicans in Congress need to do.
AND: Some of those cooperating, productive, non-extremist Republicans went on to impeach Bill Clinton, but none of the congressional action got under way until after the next mid-term election. Clinton didn't say "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" until January 1998. The Independent Counsel investigation (with Ken Starr), not Congress, was the center of action, and it had been going on since 1994, begun over Whitewater, which had nothing to do with sex.
Do you even remember what that was all about? Your answer might be something like: Um… real estate? It's no more memorable than that real estate thing of Obama's, about which you probably remember nothing more than um… Rezko?
Fortunately for Obama, he hasn't had to operate within the risks of the old Independent Counsel law, or who knows what one thing might have let to another?Poor Bill Clinton had to be pestered by Ken Starr moving on to things like Travelgate, Filegate, and the death of Vince Foster.