Vigliotti: Conservative commitment makes 2020 election season feel a lot like 1984

The shadow of 1968 remains long for Democrats, but for Republicans, the morning sunlight of 1984 should illuminate the path toward November.

On Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden dominated Sen. Bernie Sanders in six Democratic primaries. Even Sanders’s earnest advocate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was forced to admit it was a “tough night”.


The ideological struggle for the Democratic Party — between the far Left and “democratic socialists” — has now manifested in the forms of Biden and Sanders, respectively. Sanders has vowed to press on. Just as in 1968, the Democrats have been riven by dissent, so much so that many former Democratic candidates who sought to dismantle Biden have now endorsed him.

This is for any number of reasons, most clearly uniting the party behind someone who is believed can deny President Donald Trump a second term. Biden, for many Democrats, appears a moderate — but this is not the case beyond the confines of the party, and should concern voters at large.


Biden’s gruff style may have an appeal to some, but his policies should not. Biden is indeed very liberal, and his willingness over the course of the primary season to backtrack and repudiate his own positions, stances, and principles — even those recently held — should be alarming. He will be at the whim of the push and pull of the most vocal Democrats, the same ones who are continuing to draw the party to the Left.

And even Biden’s rough demeanor should not be appealing. After four years of bashing the hard-edged Trump, liberals are embracing the combative Biden, perhaps seeing him as a Trump of their own.

But there is a stark difference between the bellicose language of Trump and Biden. Trump’s ire is directed at the Left in defense of the average American. Biden’s is directed from the Left at the average American, as demonstrated by his recent confrontation over gun rights with a factory worker in Detroit.

Biden is not Trump, and American voters should not confuse them. Remember that the liberals continue to disdain normal Americans — liberals that have embraced Biden.

That is not to say Biden can be taken lightly. Against all odds, he has managed to emerge as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary contest. He is formidable, as Sanders supporters must now realize.

Indeed, many liberals are stunned, disenchanted, or furious at how the primaries have so far come to pass. The most diverse candidate field in history, they argue, has come down to two elderly white men.

They blame this on fear and close-mindedness. Never mind that the young did not turn out as expected. Never mind that black voters salvaged Biden’s campaign in South Carolina. Never mind that Tulsi Gabbard is still running. Never mind that rules for debate qualification were changed. Never mind there was no shortage of candidate choices. Never mind even that there were reasons other than fear or close-mindedness (character, platforms, strategy to avoid a repeat of 1968, etc.). It’s all about “woke” optics and moving Left for those liberals in the end.

Meanwhile, Trump and conservatives should be looking to the example of President Ronald Reagan in 1984. 2020 and 1984 bear striking similarities due to conservative commitments: revived and strong economies and national defenses, and a renewed sense of purpose, spirit, and above all, faith — in God and in America herself.

Yet every era has its challenges. America in the 1980s, in some ways similar to today, having dealt with issues ranging from the various manifestations of socialism to pandemics.

Under strong leadership and in a sense of community, the nation pulled together, pushed forward, and carried on. It was not an easy or a simple task, and not without tragedy or heartbreak. It was a long road, but one which both tested and demonstrated the resilience of the United States.

That we have history to rely on — not to mention those who have lived through much of it — to help guide the way should be comforting. The American revival began in 1980, when then-candidate Reagan asked Americans if they were better off than they were four years ago. Americans knew they were not in 1980, but knew by 1984 that it was morning in America once more. They reelected Reagan in a landslide.

If 2016 was an election of promise and potential like 1980, 2020 must be one of achievement and unbounded opportunity like 1984. Americans must be reminded that it is still morning in America, that we must keep America great, as Trump would say. Optimism, coupled with a seriousness about challenges we face, will again demonstrate our American resolve.


Given that Biden is likely to be the Democratic nominee for president, it would do Trump well to ask, as Reagan’s campaign did of Americans in 1980, if they are better off than they were four years ago. As Biden was vice president in 2016, then, what Reagan’s campaign asked in 1984 is all the more relevant for us, now:

“Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”

Joe Vigliotti, a contributor to The Flip Side and a Taneytown city councilman, writes from Taneytown. His column appears every other Friday. Email him through his website at www.jvigliotti.com.

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