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Marianne Williamson looking to make 2020 'do-over' election like 1980

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In voting for Donald Trump for president in 2016, many Americans wanted an outsider with no history in elective office. They wanted a businessperson, not a politician. They wanted somebody whom they recognized from the world of entertainment, not politics. They wanted somebody who spoke the tell-it-like-it is language they spoke, not political rhetoric.

In 2020, will they vote for somebody with those attributes for the second election in a row, but a different candidate than the one they voted for four years before?

Marianne Williamson is running for president because she is betting that they will. Outsider, businessperson, entertainer, and public speaker Williams may win her bet, as history is on her side. Because the 1980 election was simply a do-over of 1976, with Republican Ronald Reagan beating incumbent Jimmy Carter by adopting Carter's own outsider attributes and policies.

Carter in 1976 went after Southerners and white ethnics who didn't want integration, talking about "ethnic purity" and other issues that appealed to those electorates. Reagan in 1980 likewise went after Southerners and white ethnics, and a majority of both groups voted for him and against Carter.

In foreign policy, Carter campaigning in 1976 took a strident anti-Soviet Union stance, positioning himself as the antidote to the policy of de'tente advocated by Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Once in office, Carter began a buildup of the military. Reagan in 1980 was even more strident in opposing what he called the Soviet "Evil Empire," and promised (and delivered) an even bigger military buildup.

Born-again Christian Carter brought evangelicalsnever before an important voting blocinto politics in 1976 and turned them into a potent political force. Reagan grabbed those evangelicals from Carter in 1980 and made them a permanent part of the political landscape.

Carter ran in 1976 as a fiscal conservative, and governed as such. But Reagan grabbed that mantle in 1980 and out-conservatived Carter in his economic rhetoric as well.

When the public thirsts for an outsider to clean up the "mess in Washington," it is tough for the incumbent who was elected president as an outsider to try to keep that label. The public sees what promises the president failed to keep, the compromises he had to make both with the members of his party and with those of the other party, and the failures that are part and parcel of being president.

Sure, Trump's base will stay with him in 2020. Carter's base actually did, too, for the most part. In the Reagan "landslide" of 1980, the Gipper received only 50.7% of the popular vote. Carter garnered 40,831,881 popular votes in 1976 and 35,480,115 in 1980, so his 1980 total was 87% of his 1976 total. Not a bad retention rate. But the swing voters swung over to Reagan.

The swing voters of 2016 swung away from Trump quickly. Jan. 31, 2017only 11 days after Trump's inaugurationmarked the last time that more Americans approved of Trump than disapproved of him.

Swing voters who expected Trump to run the country like a sober businessman didn't get what they wanted. Those who expected Trump to behave more presidentially after taking office didn't either. Coal miners didn't see a return to coal, farmers ended up with a surprise trade war that decimated their economy, and the border wall is mired in political and court battles. Voters who wanted a tell-it-like it is president cannot ignore the perception that President Trump speaks with little concern for the truth.

The pundits will tell you that the way for the Democrats to defeat President Trump is to nominate an anti-Trumpa Washington insider, a candidate with a long political resume who speaks the language of Washington.

Historians familiar with the nuances of the 1976 and 1980 races, however, see that Trump in 2020 could end up like Carter in 1980, and 2020's Williamson could be 1980's Reagan.

Williamson is frequently described as an "outsider" by media outletslike Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016. Originally thought of as a fringe candidate by some, like Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016, Williamson is running a campaign that is getting more traction as time goes on. Williamson received the loudest cheers at the Democratic debates and the most Google searches afterwardsshowing a buzz that Washington pundits just don't understand. Just like they didn't understand Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016.

The Democratic Party establishment doesn't want Williamson as a presidential candidate, just like the Republican Party's establishment didn't want Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016. She does what she wants and doesn't play by the established political rules, just like Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016.

David Brooks in the New York Times wrote that "Marianne Williamson knows how to beat Trump." She sure does. She knows that Reagan rode a strategy of out-outsidering Carter directly into the White House, that 1980 was merely a do-over of 1976 with a different candidate achieving the same result.

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William S. Bike is Senior Vice President of ANB Communications, a communications consulting and political consulting firm based in Chicago. Bike has worked in journalism, public relations, and politics since 1979 and is the former Communications (more...)
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