Here’s what I think.... The elections of 1980 and 1984 were actually what they call “deviating elections.” I believe that people (human beings, not Democrats or Republicans) actually favor the typical Democratic, moralistic sociological perspective (people’s theoretical operation). People also tend naturally to be afraid of change or the unknown or “unmet” in general, which creates a natural conservatism (people’s practical operation). Ronald Reagan was very human and yet conservative at the same time, subtly progressive in many ways but nothing “too” risky, and had the Republican/conservative level of organization behind him (a valid preference) that soothes people’s fears of losing control, and not “having enough.”
Reagan was not a Republican like Nixon was a Republican, or even like the Bushes were Republicans. I suspect that has something to do with why Bush Sr. wasn’t reelected to a 2nd term; and the only reason Bush Jr. was reelected was because of that inherent fear of change and a lack of solid evidence that Kerry could do anything notably different, much less better.
It explains the howling over President Obama’s policy implementations to date, even though a quick look back at history shows enormous similarities between his and FDR’s first 100 days in office, which were successful enough and popular enough overall to get him reelected another three times after that.
This shows how right James Madison was in Federalist #10 about the whims of the masses. They (the masses) are generally possessed of good intentions, but filled with fears and there-derived passions that necessitate the need for those smarter, calmer, and more courageous to hold positions of authority. The heads of the governing must always be up, as the heads of the governed are almost always down.