Day of Prayer

Our governor has declared today, March 29, to be a special day of prayer for our state and for our nation, particularly in regard to the current virus pandemic. In response, I offer three timely prayers as written in The Lutheran Hymnal (published in 1941). I considered modernizing the pronouns and verbs, but chose to leave them as written.

Prayer for the sick: “Almighty, everlasting God, the eternal Salvation of them that believe, hear our prayers in behalf of Thy servants who are sick, for whom we implore the aid of Thy mercy, that, being restored to health, they may render thanks to Thee in Thy Church; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.”

A second prayer for the sick: “O Lord, look down from heaven, behold, visit, and relieve Thy servants for whom we offer our supplications; look upon them with the eyes of Thy mercy; give them comfort and sure confidence in Thee, defend them from the danger of the enemy, and keep them in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.”

This third prayer might spark some thought and conversation: In time of great sickness: “Almighty and most merciful God, our heavenly Father, we, Thine erring children, humbly confess unto Thee that we have justly deserved the chastening which for our sins Thou hast sent upon us; but we entreat Thee, of Thy boundless goodness to grant us true repentance, graciously to forgive our sins, to remove from us, or to lighten, our merited punishment, and so to strengthen us by Thy grace that as obedient children we may be subject to Thy will and bear our afflictions in patience; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord.”

I posted these on Facebook an hour ago. It will be interesting to gauge the reactions. J.

The Beatles

In April 1973, Apple Records released two double albums (eight sides in all) containing fifty-four songs that had been recorded and released by the Beatles between 1962 and 1970. Officially named The Beatles 1962-1966 and The Beatles 1967-1970, the recordings quickly became known as “The Red Album” and “The Blue Album” because of the color of the album covers. (A double album of new material from the Beatles, released in November 1968, had been named The Beatles but is usually called “The White Album.”)

Other compilations of Beatle music had been released before 1973 and have been released since 1973, but for many Beatles fans the Red Album and Blue Album are the definitive collection of Beatle songs. Fans can easily debate the selections. I, for example, would have included “If I Fell,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “I Will,” and “Sexy Sadie,” among others.  With the coming and going of compact discs and the current availability of digital recordings, the red and blue albums are likely irrelevant to newer fans of the Beatles. But in the history of Beatle fandom, those albums have an important place.

A few days ago I tested my memory to see if I could recall all fifty-four songs included on the red and blue albums, as well as the order in which they appeared. Some sides I remembered easily; others were dimmer in my memory. Finally I had to pull them out of my collection and fill the gaps. (Yes, I still have my vinyl albums that I bought in the Seventies and Eighties.)  Interestingly (to me if to no one else), the songs I had forgotten were largely from the Rubber Soul and Magical Mystery Tour eras. “In My Life” and “Hello, Good-bye” are both songs that I like, but for some reason I had forgotten that they are included on the Red Album and the Blue Album, respectively.

Last year’s movie Yesterday imagined a world in which the Beatles had never existed and almost no one had ever heard their music. One man could remember and reproduce the songs of the Beatles, and he introduced them into the world. At first he found it difficult to get people to listen, but eventually the songs made a big impact. The first time I saw the movie, I didn’t like how the Beatle music was scrambled together, not showing the development of their musical styles and interests. But I then realized that younger Beatle fans know the music of the Beatles exactly in that fashion—all one package, without context of years and albums and formative influences. My children grew up hearing the Beatles music at home, and they probably remember some songs by album—Abbey Road, for example, or A Hard Day’s Night. But even for them, hearing “And I Love Her” side by side with “Oh, Darling” would probably not strike them as essentially different songs—just two of the many great songs written and recorded by the Beatles. J.

Explaining cousins

From time to time I’ve noticed fellow bloggers expressing confusion about distant cousins. They will write something like “my second cousin twice removed (whatever that means).” As a professional historian who also assists with genealogical research, I am here to end your confusion.

People who share the same mother and/or father are brothers and sisters. People who do not share a parent but share at least one grandparent are first cousins. (Often, when we say “cousins,” we are referring to first cousins.) People who do not share any grandparents but share at least one great-grandparent are second cousins. People who do not share any great-grandparents but share at least one great-great-grandparent are third cousins. Tracing the human line back to Adam and Eve (or at least as far back as Noah), all people on earth are cousins to some degree, whether they are first cousins or thousandth cousins.

As for the distinction of “once removed” and so on: my first cousins’ children are my first cousins once removed. My first cousins’ grandchildren are my first cousins twice removed. My second cousins’ children are my second cousins once removed. My second cousins’ grandchildren are my second cousins twice removed. And so on. In other words, the levels of removal are differences in generation, even if (as is the case with me) you are closer in age to your first cousins once removed than you are to their parents, your first cousins.

The generational removal can go the other direction as well, but only if the kinship is not closer. For example, the parents of my first cousins are my uncle and my aunt, not my first cousins once removed. But, since the grandchildren of my first cousins are my first cousins twice removed, I am also their first cousin twice removed.

I hope this information is helpful. J.

Immigration policy

Migration is a constant element of human history. Groups of people continually move in search of a better food supply, greater security from enemies, a more comfortable climate, better jobs, more opportunities for future generations, and various other reasons. The United States was built by immigrants. Even the oldest civilizations of the western hemisphere were established by people whose ancestors crossed over from Asia. The United States is less a melting pot where all newcomers are forced into conformity and more a salad where assorted ingredients each add their distinctive flavor to the whole.

The Bible frequently urges God’s people to be compassionate and helpful to the outsider, the foreigner, the immigrant. The spirit of the poem attached to the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”) can and should continue to be the American attitude toward all the people of the world who want to join our country.

On the other hand, immigrants should enter legally. Those who first entered the United States in defiance of the law can hardly be expected to suddenly respect the law now that they are within our borders. Offering sanctuary to illegal immigrants creates problems without solving problems. The United States needs secure borders for the protection of our citizens, even while it needs to continue welcoming legal immigrants who will contribute to the richness of our combined heritage.

For that reason, I support continued measures to keep our borders secure. I support the government of the United States working with the government of Mexico to combat criminal smugglers of people and of drugs and violent crime into our country. I support projects to welcome immigrants into the United States, particularly from those countries in north Africa, west Asia, and Central America that are torn by war, rebellion, violence, and poverty. At the same time, I support actions of our government to work with other governments in those places to end the violence, reduce the poverty, and improves the lives of the people dwelling in those places.

In 1975, the United States welcomed thousands of Vietnamese immigrants. In 1980, we welcomed thousands of Cuban immigrants. These people were temporarily housed in government facilities (military bases) and given various kinds of support while sponsors arranged to welcome these newcomers into American society. The American government was able to isolate and remove the few troublemakers mixed into these large migrations, as it monitored all the families who were sponsored and helped by American groups and organizations. The same kind of help can be offered today for those fleeing trouble in other parts of the world, those seeking better lives, safety, and a new beginning within the peace, prosperity, and freedom enjoyed in the United States.

During the previous administration, conservatives joked that President Obama was solving immigration problems by making the United States less desirable of a place to live. Although our country is not flawless, it remains a beacon of freedom and hope to the rest of the world, a shining example of what can happen when people are encouraged to live freely rather than oppressed by their government. So long as we believe in the greatness of America, we can expect other people to believe the same and to seek to join us in this land. Welcoming those who come legally with compassion and encouragement remains the best policy for the United States of America. J.

Experiencing technical difficulties (a rambling update for my online friends)

My WordPress presence has been somewhat limited these last few weeks because of assorted (and unrelated) technical difficulties. At times I wonder whether these difficulties are a Sign that I should curtail WordPress activity and focus more attention on other writing.

(On a related note, I am awaiting shipment of my latest book, much of which appeared on this blog as meditations on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. I gave the book the title Blessed with Perfect Righteousness to emphasize the Gospel themes I identified in these meditations.)

As of the beginning of December, my job required me to spend considerably more time than before as a reference librarian in the research room. The new leadership of the library system decided that the department where I work was costing the library too much money, so our budget was cut, some employees lost their jobs, and the rest of us have to replace the missing workers on the schedule. Since I often spend two hours at the reference desk with no one to help, that seemed to be an opportunity to keep up with WordPress, both writing my posts and reading, liking, and commenting upon other posts. For a while that pattern was working. Then, one day, the computer at the desk stopped downloading WordPress correctly. I can still read posts, but all the interactive functions are kaput. Likewise, I can compose posts and publish them, but I cannot interact with readers through that computer. I don’t know what the problem is: it could be a security filter that IT has added, or it could be a fault within that one computer module. In either case, I hate to report the problem to IT since it does not impact the work I am paid to do for the library.

(Beginning today, the library computer is no longer an issue. To prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the library has closed its doors, locking out patrons and employees alike. We are being paid, just as if the library was temporarily closed for ice and snow. And some employees are still keeping the system functioning, but not in my department.)

Meanwhile, my home desktop computer is nearly eight years old, and it is very slow, especially connecting to the Internet. I can read a post, then might have to wait a minute or two before I can click the Like button. The frustration level with this computer was so high that my son donated his desktop as a replacement. It took a few days for me to transfer files from the old computer to the newer computer, but I finally got the new system up and running. I left the old computer assembled on a nearby piece of furniture in case any family members remembered something else that hasn’t been transferred. But last week the new computer began to malfunction. For some reason, the main computer is not corresponding with the monitor. When that happened on the old computer, I was able to fix the problem by removing the side panel and blowing out the accumulated dust. I did that this weekend with the new computer, and the first time I reconnected it, things started right away. Since then, it has become increasingly balky, to the point that today the computer system is not working at all. I am considering taking the computer to the nearest ubreakifix location to see if they can identify and fix the problem.

(Since I have competed the Sermon on the Mount book, my next project is to be a twelve chapter book, “Witnesses to the Lord’s Passion.” Each chapter will be the account of Christ in the latter half of Holy Week as seen from one point of view: Peter, Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Barabbas, etc. Years ago I wrote and presented some selections for this book; these I have to find and copy (while editing and improving them), while others I will write from scratch.)

I am doing what I can on this older desktop computer. I am scheduled to teach a college class this spring. Ten students signed up for the class, but only four came to the first session last Tuesday, and only two were there last Thursday. Over the weekend, the school announced that all teaching would be done online, so I have to figure out how to give quizzes and other assignments through the school’s web site. Most teachers do this already, and I have had training sessions for online teaching. But I have always preferred the classroom experience, and it seems that the students who sign up for my classes feel the same.

(Meanwhile, we have had a wet, gray, and gloomy February and March, which is not good for morale. And our family’s fifteen-year-old cat, who was getting more frail, suddenly took a turn for the worse and was essential on hospice care last week. Family members in the area were able to visit her by the end of the week. On Saturday she was taken to the veterinarian, who diagnosed renal failure and recommended euthanasia, which was then done. So yesterday I buried a cat in the growing pet cemetery behind our house.)

My prospects for a new job still seem good, although I have not heard directly from those in charge of a decision. My guess is that they will wait until after Easter before moving to the next step, which would include interviews of prospective workers. That probably means that the position will not be filled until June or July, leaving a few weeks between the retiring worker and the replacement—which probably is healthy for all involved. This delay has not stopped family members from scouting new houses in the neighborhood of the church, while making lists of what has to be done to sell the house we have now.

(And I needed to jumpstart my car after church a week ago, so I stopped by the auto parts store on the way home and bought a new battery, which they installed for me. Plus I’m trying to get my income taxes filed, which has been complicated by these computer problems. Yesterday a lot of churches canceled their services, although I did get to attend the one I had been planning to attend. I’m not sure whether the cancellations will continue for many weeks on Sundays and Wednesdays, or if yesterday was a one-time event.)

So I will try to return to WordPress when I can to continue building my political platform, to comment on current events and on the life of the Church, and to keep up with my friends. God’s blessings to you all: Keep Calm and Stay Healthy. J.

Coronamageddon?

Is the worldwide pandemic called Coronavirus a sign of the impending end of the world? A complete answer would include both “yes” and “no”… or to be more accurate, “Yes, but not in the way most people understand it.”

Addressing a question about the sign of his coming and the close of the age, Jesus responded, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:4-8).

To the list of wars, rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes, we could add many other events: terrorist attacks, powerful storms, raging fires, and the spread of diseases. All these tragedies indicate that the world faces judgment, and they remind us that a final reckoning is coming. But these events are not a countdown to the Last Day. Nowhere does Jesus say—or do the apostles and prophets say—that such events will be more common as the Last Day approaches. They remind us that the Day of the Lord will come—it is seven days closer than it was a week ago. But we cannot make any assumptions about how soon that Day will be. “No one knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36), or even the year, decade, or century. False teachers have predicted the End on a certain date, and so far they have all been wrong.

Instead, we see creation “groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). It seems presumptuous for two men—unmarried men at that—to speak of birth pains and childbirth as if they knew what they were describing. But God created all that exists; he has been present during every pregnancy and every birth. God knows how the female body prepares to give birth to a baby, making internal adjustments that are sometimes called “false labor.” The time for the baby to be born has not yet arrived, but the mother’s body is preparing for that great event. In the same way, wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and widespread diseases remind us that a Great Event is coming. Jesus will be seen in the clouds, all the dead will be raised, God’s faithful people will be welcomed into a new creation, and those who refused his grace will be sent away. Every violent and tragic event in history speaks to us of that final Day when the entire earth will be shaken and everything will be changed. Today sinners battle sinners, and all creation works against the sinners who occupy its dwellings. In a sense, we sinners are the infection and viruses are the antibodies trying to protect the world from our harmful presence. But Jesus is the great Physician who will heal creation and also who heals sinners, making us fit to live in the new world without pain and sorrow and death.

Every crisis is an opportunity. As we strive to protect our health and the health of our neighbors, we can be servants of love rather than isolated selfish sinners. We can bring groceries and other supplies to those who are quarantined for their own safety or to keep the rest of us safe. We can support those who are losing income to the shut-downs of society. (Every canceled concert, sports event, and gathering means loss of income, not merely to the performers and athletes, but to the many other people whose careers depend upon these happenings—most of whom do not have savings to carry them through this time of hardship.) We can pray to the Lord to strengthen the healers, support the suffering, comfort the sorrowing, and relieve the fears of ourselves and our neighbors. We can be shining examples of faith and love in a world that easily loses hope and gives way to fear and worry. God remains in control, and his promises never fail. Between today and the Day of the Lord, we have countless opportunities to do the work of his kingdom. Through all that happens, God’s plan will be accomplished. J.

Social Security

For as long as I can recall, every candidate for federal office has spoken about the need to rescue Social Security. I remember one Presidential debate, at least twenty years ago, in which one of the candidates referred to two unrelated opinion polls. One had asked young adult Americans whether they believed Social Security would still exist when they were ready to retire. The other had asked a similar demographic whether they believed that space aliens were visiting the Earth in UFOs. The result of the comparison was that more Americans believed in space aliens on UFOs than believed in Social Security.

Social Security was part of the New Deal enacted by Congress under President Franklin Roosevelt. Contrary to its name and to popular perceptions of the program, Social Security is a tax on working people used to pay other people—mostly the elderly and the disabled—not to work. The goal of the program, when it was created in 1935, was to open jobs for more workers and reduce unemployment by giving incentives to certain workers to leave the work force.

In 1935, the median average lifespan of Americans was seventy years. Today it is more than eighty years. This means that, when Social Security began, roughly half of the Americans who retired at age sixty-five could be expected to draw from the program for five years or less. Now, given better nutrition and health care than existed in the 1930s, more than half the Americans who retire at age sixty-five will draw from the program for fifteen years or more. No wonder many Americans doubt that Social Security can survive for another generation!

In 1935, each working American was taxed two percent of his or her income, but only up to $3000; money earned above that amount was untaxed. The tax was further hidden by requiring employers to match employee contributions, making the apparent tax only one percent. Today, the tax (including Medicare, which was added in the 1960s) is 15.3%, although it still seems less because employers are still matching employee contributions, making the tax appear to be less than eight percent (except for people who are self-employed). The ceiling of taxable income has risen from $3000 to $137,700.

Employment rates, salaries, longevity figures, and other numbers vary from year to year. Each year projections are offered to guess how long Social Security can continue to fund disabled and retired persons given current numbers. The dire prospect of running out of money for Social Security usually projects only a few more years of survival for the program, but somehow Social Security has continued to remain solvent even as some of the early years for its projected failure have passed.

The easiest way to keep a balance in Social Security are to raise the tax rate and to reduce the benefits paid. Neither of those options are popular in today’s political climate. Other questions can be addressed that might also help preserve Social Security as a government program for the foreseeable future:

  • Why place a ceiling on taxed earnings for Social Security? This practice causes Social Security to be more of a burden on low-income and middle-class taxpayers than on the wealthy. Removing the ceiling would generate more income for Social Security without adding any costs to the program.
  • Social Security earnings have never been taxed, but many recipients of Social Security are drawing more total income from various retirement programs and investments than the average American worker can earn. Replacing the ceiling on taxed earnings with an income above which Social Security is subject to withholding tax would generate income for the government without harming the average disabled or retired recipient of Social Security.
  • Retirement age needs to be reconsidered. Retirement at sixty-five (and early retirement at sixty-two) removes productive workers from their jobs while stressing the Social Security system. I plan to work full-time until I am seventy; I think most people my age are capable of doing the same. (Both my parents and all four of my grandparents lived into their eighties—two of the six into their nineties.)
  • Understand that Social Security never promised to provide a sustainable living income for retirees. Social Security is meant to supplement other investment and retirement income. Unlike life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Social Security is not a God-given right. Social Security is a government program of taxation and payment of benefits which can be adjusted by the government whenever it chooses (remembering that the members of government are subject to replacement by the voters whenever they make and enforce unpopular laws).
  • Understand that currently Social Security is generating more government income than it is costing government expense. Predictions of the collapse of Social Security always depend upon extending current trends. Adjustments made over the years have sustained Social Security well beyond earlier forecasts of shortfalls. Continued adjustments will be more significant than any massive overhaul of the system.

In short, candidates for political office often threaten the end of Social Security as a way of scaring voters. Real assessments of the program show no need for worry or fear. Like other panics over illnesses, environmental changes, technological failures, and political confrontations, news of the collapse of Social Security is largely exaggerated and used to manipulate public opinion. J.

Tertiary education

Education beyond high school was once a luxury for children of wealthy families and for those targeting well-paying careers such as medicine and law. Increasingly, tertiary education (often, puzzlingly, described as “post-secondary education”) and training is essential for a large number of jobs. Yet the cost of tertiary education has grown much faster than the rate of inflation over the past four decades. Every time federal financial aid to college students has increased, colleges and universities have increased their prices to soak up the extra money that has been made available.

Offering free college education to all Americans and forgiving all unpaid student loans sounds like an attractive proposal to many young Americans. The problem with that solution is that nothing is truly free. “Free college” simply means “taking the cost of college education and dividing it among all taxpayers.” This places an undue burden on current taxpayers, and it will also burden those who receive a college education, enter the job field, and then have to support the education of other students.

The federal government should continue to provide help for college students (both incoming and continuing) who demonstrate both academic prowess and financial need. This help includes Pell Grants, guaranteed student loans, and other ways of supporting education costs of needy and capable students. In addition, the federal government should continue its program of reducing or eliminating student loan debt of workers who are contributing to the improvement of their communities and country while earning less than average wages—teachers, other community workers, medical workers providing help to low-income citizens, and the like.

At the same time, the federal government should reduce the cost of tertiary education by rewarding colleges and universities that lower costs to their students rather than constantly raising their costs. Government research grants and other gifts to institutions of higher education should be distributed with preference to those schools that are lowering the cost of education. When schools are no longer rewarded with more money every time they raise their costs, but instead are rewarded for lowering costs, the price of a college education will be made more affordable.

Meanwhile, the government should provide more support for vocational programs in high schools and community colleges. The nation needs carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto repairers, and many other kinds of workers who do not require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree to become adept at their job skills (and who will earn good salaries for their work). Too many programs support the traditional four-year program of tertiary education rather than helping low-income students with interest and skill in other vocations to learn a trade that will benefit them for a lifetime.

Tertiary education in the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level will continue to be important. Teachers should be educated. Workers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) usually need advanced degrees, as do those in the GLAM fields (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). Medicine and law will also continue to need higher education for its workers. Instead of dividing the cost of higher education among all taxpayers, though, the federal government must continue to focus its assistance on the students of greatest need, greatest potential, and largest benefit to the nation as a whole. J.

Updates and promise of a platform

First, I must say that the computer I use to access WordPress during the day seems to be malfunctioning. I am able to see posts but not to interact with them. I’m still out here, folks, but I’m not liking your posts for a reason that has nothing to do with my reaction to your posts.

Second, my analysis of Super Tuesday is this: the Democratic primary voters seem to be backing away from Bernie Sanders and his Socialist policies. But, with other candidates dropping out, the only viable choice to Senator Sanders appears to be Joseph Biden. This puts him in a place like that occupied by Walter Mondale in 1984 and Bob Dole in 1996. All three were long involved in politics (Mondale even being a former Vice President), well-known within their party, but hardly poised to overtake an incumbent President during an election year. Over the next eight months, attention will increasingly turn to the balance of Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. President Trump could win reelection but face an opposition Congress, as did President Nixon in 1972. Or, he could draw voters into the Republican column, as Democratic voters sit out the election, particularly after Candidate Biden embarrasses himself during his debates with President Trump.

Third, this week I took the time to visit the web sites of candidates Sanders, Biden, and Trump. I analyzed the issues each candidate presents, and I am drawing together my own 25-point platform on the major issues of this election. Over the coming weeks, from time to time, I will post portions of that platform. Not that I’m running for anything this year; it’s just good practice to remain informed and poised on all the issues. And, who knows? A platform created this year may be helpful as the 2022 election approaches. J.

Super Tuesday and the Presidential election

Who will win the presidential election this November? How will this week’s Super Tuesday shape the outcome of that November election? What can history tell us about the answer to those two questions?

Knowledge of history cannot provide certainty of the future. One thing history tells us is that things often change. But historic trends are helpful when preparing for future events. And historic trends say a lot about the November general election and this week’s primary elections.

On March 3, fourteen states and American Samoa will engage in selecting preferences for this summer’s national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. Roughly one-third of those delegates for these conventions will be selected by the elections held in these fifteen places. The trend over the past several election cycles has been that the candidate for each party who gains the most delegates on Super Tuesday eventually receives the party’s nomination for president. Therefore, much attention is devoted to the results of this week’s elections.

Since the middle of the twentieth century, seventeen presidential elections have been held. In ten of those elections, the incumbent President was nominated for a second term. Incumbent Presidents have won seven of the ten elections in which they ran. Looking at those ten elections may provide insight into what to expect when votes are casted and counted this November.

1956: In the 1952 election, Republicans nominated General Dwight Eisenhower for President, and Democrats nominated Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. Eisenhower easily beat Stevenson, winning 55 percent of the popular vote and 39 of the 48 states. In 1956, the Republicans nominated President Eisenhower again, and the Democrats nominated Stevenson again. This time, Eisenhower won 57 percent of the popular vote and carried 41 of the 48 states. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE STEVENSON: Hillary Clinton, except that she is not on the ballot. Elizabeth Warren might be the closest candidate on the ballot to another Hillary Clinton.

1964: Lyndon Johnson became President less than a year before the election with the assassination of John Kennedy. With the legacy of Kennedy backing him, Johnson was nominated for a second term. Republicans chose Senator Barry Goldwater, who was a strongly conservative candidate who was unwilling to compromise his positions to attract centrist voters. As a result, Johnson won the election with 61 percent of the popular vote and 44 of 50 states, one of the most one-sided elections in recent history. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE GOLDWATER: Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist.

1972: In 1971, Richard Nixon appeared very defeatable. However, the Democrats nominated liberal Senator George McGovern, and Nixon cruised to victory in the November election, with 60.7 percent of the popular vote and 49 of 50 states, another of the most one-sided elections in recent history. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE MCGOVERN: Again, Bernie Sanders.

1976: Vice-President Agnew and President Nixon both resigned office, and Gerald Ford became President without having been on the previous ballot. He was opposed in the primary campaign by Ronald Reagan but won the nomination. The Democrats countered with Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia, a candidate outside of the national political stream, one who was presented as trustworthy and likeable, and one not as liberal as McGovern. Carter won with 50.1 percent of the popular vote and with 23 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia (giving him 297 electoral votes to Ford’s 240). CANDIDATE MOST LIKE CARTER: Pete Buttigieg, who this past weekend withdrew from the primary race.

1980: In his second try for the Republican nomination, and with his teams in place from the previous election, Ronald Reagan achieved the nomination, while Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter (although he received a significant challenge in the primaries from Senator Edward Kennedy). Some Republicans feared a repeat of 1964, given Reagan’s conservative leanings. But Carter was faced with international crises (including the hostages in Iran) and a struggling economy. Reagan won the election with 50.7 percent of the popular vote, carrying 44 of the 50 states. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE REAGAN: Bernie Sanders.

1984: Reagan easily won the nomination for reelection from the Republicans. Democrats selected Walter Mondale, who had been Vice-President under Jimmy Carter. With a strong economy and no foreign policy disasters, voters favored President Reagan, giving him 59% of the popular vote and 49 of the 50 states—the third of the most one-sided elections in recent history. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE MONDALE: Joe Biden, who was Vice-President under Barack Obama.

1992: Vice-President George Bush won the Republican nomination and the general election in 1988, only one of four sitting Vice-Presidents who ran for President and won in the modern era. (Vice-Presidents Richard Nixon in 1960, Hubert Humphrey in 1968, and Albert Gore in 2000 all won their party’s nomination but lost in close elections.) After the Persian Gulf War, Bush was seen as unbeatable for reelection, but the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas. Like Carter, Clinton was seen as a Washington outsider, one who was as likeable as Carter if not as trustworthy, and someone who was moderate rather than a liberal like McGovern in 1972. H. Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate. Clinton won the election with 43 percent of the popular vote, carrying 32 states and the District of Columbia. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE CLINTON: Pete Buttigieg (but see above, 1976 campaign)

1996: Clinton won the Democrat’s primary for reelection. He was opposed by Senator Bob Dole, a long-time Republican leader who was expected to appeal to moderates who had preferred Clinton to Bush. Perot also ran again. Dole’s campaign never caught the momentum that had carried candidates like Carter, Reagan, and Clinton into office. Clinton won reelection with 49.2 percent of the popular vote and 31 states plus the District of Columbia. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE DOLE: Joe Biden.

2004: Having won narrowly over Vice-President Gore in 2000, George W. Bush was nominated by the Republicans for a second term. The Democrats countered with Senator John Kerry, a war hero who challenged President Bush’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. The election was close, but Bush won with 50.7 percent of the popular vote and 31 states. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE KERRY: Similarities can be drawn between Kerry and Biden, Sanders, or Warren. Whoever wins the most delegates on Super Tuesday will probably be the best candidate to compare to Kerry.

2012: Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain in the 2008 election, and Republicans felt that President Obama would be easily defeated in his campaign for reelection, viewing him as hampered as Carter had been in 1980. During the primaries, Governor Mitt Romney emerged as the Republican frontrunner, although he was challenged by several conservative candidates. Each conservative candidate prevailed in one state or another under the “anyone but Romney” umbrella, but none of them consolidated support to deny Romney the nomination. President Obama won the election with 51.1 percent of the popular vote and 26 states plus the District of Columbia. CANDIDATE MOST LIKE ROMNEY: Probably Bernie Sanders, given the “anyone but Sanders” feeling of less liberal Democrats.

Conclusion: Presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush all faced difficulties in their first terms that cost them a second term—for the most part, these difficulties involved economic weakness of the United States. The economy in 2020 is strong. While main-stream media has tried to create a sense of crisis regarding President Trump’s foreign policy decisions—most recently regarding the Coronavirus—most voters do not seem to agree with the media assessment of Trump’s performance in office. The impeachment attempt against President Trump only strengthened his support, while further dividing Democratic voters. About the only hopeful sign for the Democratic Party in this election is that Reagan was able to beat Carter in 1980 without making many compromises to capture centrist voters. Aside from that, Sanders and Biden both face uphill battles to overturn incumbent President Donald Trump, when comparing this election to previous elections.

What of Mike Bloomberg? He most resembles H. Ross Perot as a candidate, even though he has entered the Democratic primaries rather than running as a third-party candidate. While it is hard to judge whether his campaign will damage Biden or Sanders more, it is clear that he will not help either of them to win in November, and his chances of beating President Trump are even less than theirs. J.