In the summer of 1964, between my junior and senior years in high school, I sent my first paycheck as a bagboy at the A&P as a contribution to the Barry Goldwater campaign.
I was making $1.10 an hour, had worked about 20 hours and sent $19 and some odd cents to the campaign. I was very excited about that election.
But Sen. Goldwater lost in a landslide and the GOP lost a big majority of races across the country. There were not even enough seats for all the Democrats on their side of the U.S. House after they ended with a 295-140 majority.
Many pundits said then that the Republican Party was dead or at least on its way out. But two years later, the Republicans picked up 47 seats in the House, eight governorships, including Ronald Reagan in California, and six in the Senate, including Howard Baker in my home state of Tennessee.
Fast forward to 1990, my second year in Congress, when President H.W. Bush went back on his no-new-taxes pledge. A few days later, in a panicky late-night meeting of the House Republican Conference, Ed Rollins, then-head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told us Republican candidates had lost 10 points almost overnight. He advised us to run “as far away from the president” as we could. He was very quickly fired.
Before that, polls had predicted the Republicans would gain 20 to 30 seats in the House. Instead we lost nine seats, going down from 175 to 166.
Then Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992. Once again, I heard and read “experts” say the Republican Party was dead, or at least on its way out.
So what happened? In 1994, we took control of the House for the first time since the 1952 election and Newt Gingrich became speaker.
Then in 2006 and 2008, Republicans had two more bad elections primarily due to the unpopularity of the Iraq War. Nancy Pelosi became speaker, and in 2008, Sen. Barack Obama won the presidency.
Once again, pundits said the Republican Party was dead or at least on its way out. But, a few weeks after the 2008 election, former Sen. Baker wrote a column for The Washington Post in which he said those who were saying the party was dead were wrong and that the Republicans would come back stronger than ever because the Obama administration would “either over reach or under achieve, or both.”
He was right, and in 2010 Republicans regained the House and Senate and John Boehner became speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell majority leader of the Senate. And Republicans won huge numbers of state legislature races.
Now, once again, the pundits and experts are telling us the Republican Party is dead or at least on its way out because women and minorities are against us.
I realize we could have another tough election in 2020, especially if the economy weakens. But the Democrats should not celebrate too soon.
Having grown up in a political family and having spent a lifetime in politics, the only certain thing I can tell you about politics is that the pendulum swings. And sometimes it swings for you, and sometimes it swings against you.
Democrats at the national level have now gone so far to the left that there is little to distinguish them from socialists. And it does worry me that so many college students seem attracted to socialism today due to the left-wing indoctrination they are receiving on so many college campuses.
I wish they would look at what socialism has done to the standard of living in places like Cuba, North Korea, most African countries and the Soviet Union when it called itself a union of socialist republics, where people sometimes had to line up for hours to get a pound of sausage or something else we take for granted.
The poster child of socialist countries, of course, is Venezuela, where in spite of the largest proven oil reserves in the world, a recent Reuters story said: “The once-rich OPEC country is in the midst of an economic crisis in which millions earn just a couple of dollars per month, suffer food and medicine shortages and battle soaring inflation.”
I believe everyone, including women and minorities, will at some point realize that socialist policies will greatly reduce our standard of living and will just about destroy the middle class.
They will turn (or return) to the Republican Party, and it will come back as strong or stronger than ever. We should all hope it is sooner rather than later.
• John James Duncan Jr. is a Republican U.S. representative from Tennessee.
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