In the truck just now I managed to catch a few minutes of Alan Colmes’s radio show. His guest, to discuss the 2008 presidential election, was former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. This was a bit of a shock, since I had always assumed, following his catastrophic loss in the ’88 election to George H. W. Bush, that Dukakis had been pulled into an unmarked van and quietly smothered. Not only is he still alive, but now enough time has apparently passed since his pathetic electoral defeat, and the presidency of George W. Bush has been such an epic disaster, that Dukakis is not only allowed out in public once again, but even consulted as a respected expert on politics, as opposed to, say, being poked in the eye with a sharpened broom handle.
For those of you who can’t quite recall the ’88 election – being in 3rd grade at the time, I remember it all in perfect detail – Michael Dukakis ran one of the most inept campaigns since James Buchanan sought the 1860 nomination under the slogan “You wanted a civil war? You got one!” Dukakis was not afraid to take bold stands on the important issues of the day. Unfortunately for him, those stands included a strong pro-furloughed rapist/anti-murdered wife position. Controversial stances like this, and video of him looking like a dorky lame-o riding in a tank – video, incredibly enough, produced by his own campaign – resulted in Republican nominee and two-term Reagan vice president George Bush winning 57 states.
Despite failing on a scale never before thought possible, the Dukakis campaign’s influence can be felt to this day. Candidates are no longer so eager to take definitive positions on controversial issues. In the weeks leading up to the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush spent several minutes during a debate attempting to evade a question asking whether he preferred KFC or Popeye’s; John Kerry once consulted a focus group before giving an authoritative answer to which was his favorite Steven Seagal film.