“Running against Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis… Bush ran an ugly, negative campaign. In a measure of how much liberalism had become delegitimized during the Reagan years, Bush’s main charge against Dukakis was simply that he was a liberal.”
Managed by Lee Atwater, the 1988 Bush presidential campaign represented the ugliness of American politics. The Willie Horton ad and the so called “southern strategy” played into American’s racial fears. It also shows how American discourse had started to shift to the right during the Reagan administration. This shift is continuing even in today’s world.
By all accounts, Dukakis ran a sloppy campaign. His decision to pose in a tank in order to seem more militarily informed proved to be a huge mistake for Dukakis. Also, running against a candidate manged by Atwater, one of America’s greatest (if morally questionable) campaign managers, proved to be too difficult for “bland” Dukakis. The Bush campaign was aggressive. All in all the failure of Dukakis to gain many votes solidified the idea of the “Reagan revolution” in the American political arena. The lack of public support behind liberal candidates at this time would lead Bill Clinton, a liberal before office, to run an administration that looked closer to a moderate Republican administration.