When I was young, it was always 1932 for the Democrats. They were always running against Herbert Hoover. It was fun for Democrats and brought back warm memories. Finally, an ex-FDR Democrat, Ronald Reagan, fully exploited his opponents' frozen-in-time aspect, convincing the Democrats after Mondale's big loss that they had to modernize.
Not surprisingly, it's always 1980 for the Republicans. Mansized Target notes:
Romney’s W-Esque Foreign Policy
Romney gave a big foreign policy speech at VMI. In it, he shows he has basically been living in a cave since 1980. Bottom line for him: America must be strong and America must lead. ...
He wants to be the next Reagan, but his written-by-others foreign policy neglects to remember that Reagan was a creature of time and place: a diminished economy, much like what we face today, but also a world where American faced a sui generis and aggressive foreign policy threat in the form of the Soviet Union. Likewise, Reagan inherited a demoralized military gutted by the post-Vietnam malaise of the 1970s. Today we have a strong and capable, if small, military, that is state of the art in every way. Whereas in 1980 out-in-front leadership and universal engagement made sense, today we are in a period of forced austerity, overcommitment, and failed nation-building.
Boosting military spending in the 1980s turned out to be colossally successful. The Red Army gave up without a fight. But because there's no more Red Army, the upside of more defense spending is small. What's the best that can happen now?
Historically successful policies can't help but run into diminishing returns.