HOW GEORGE BUSH IS LIKE JIMMY CARTER….For a long time I’ve thought ? or perhaps “hoped” is the better word ? that serious Republicans would start to view George Bush this year the same way a lot of serious Democrats viewed Jimmy Carter in 1980. Yes, he was one of us. Yes, he’d done some good things. And yes, we wanted a Democrat to be president.

But in the end, no. He just wouldn’t do. Enough was enough. Even if it meant turning over the White House to a guy we couldn’t stand, it was time to suck in our guts and cast a vote in favor of reforming our own party.

I was one of them. I voted for John Anderson in 1980, the only Republican I’ve voted for in my entire life. And while I think Carter gets too little credit for some of the good work he did, I don’t regret my vote ? most of the time, anyway. It just had to be done.

I suspect the Republican party is at about the same point this year. George Bush is leading them slowly but inexorably over a cliff, and if serious Republicans don’t stand up this year and ? reluctantly, sadly ? vote him out of office, he’s going to take his party with him.

Of course, voting against Carter was easier for me in 1980 because I had Anderson to vote for. Even though I knew the result was the same, I’m not sure I could have brought myself to mark my ballot for Reagan, and I don’t doubt that a lot of Republicans feel the same way about John Kerry this year. Still: it needs to be done.

Ben Wallace-Wells has a terrific cover story in the current issue of the Washington Monthly on exactly this subject. The similarities between the Republican party of 2004 and the Democratic party of 1980 are both eerie and surprisingly broad, and he lays out the case for Republican reform of their own house with relentless precision. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s well worth spending a few minutes on. And pass it on to a few friends while you’re at it.

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