The Corner

Niall Ferguson

Did you all catch his article last week arguing that a Bush defeat would be good for conservatives?

Ferguson says that a second term of hawkishness, big spending, and social conservatism will further divide the party rather than unify it. He also makes a comparison to 1956. Eisenhower had pursued regime change in the Middle East in his first term; he won re-election and had a disastrous second term; that led to the Democrats’ owning the 1960s.

We are supposed to believe that the party will be more unified if it has no leader. Maybe, but it’s not the way to bet. The Eisenhower comparison is a total failure. Ferguson’s own recitation of Eisenhower’s foreign-policy record undermines his claim that “President Bush can be relied upon to press on with a foreign policy based on pre-emptive military force”–on his telling, Eisenhower had switched gears by the end of his first term. (Ferguson blasts him for “incoherence,” without noticing he’s making his own argument incoherent.)

And Eisenhower’s second term wasn’t the prelude to a Democratic majority–it was an interruption of a Democratic majority. The Democrats had won the five presidential elections before Eisenhower, and won the two following him. Eisenhower’s massive popularity allowed the Republicans to hold on to national power during a time of Democratic ascendancy. Cutting the Eisenhower interregnum short would not have improved Republicans’ prospects in the following decade. It’s bad enough when predictions about the future are far-fetched; predictions about the past should be more solid.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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