Saturday, February 09, 2008

For Dems, is 2008 like 1968?

In 1968 the United States was in a war that was losing support among Americans. A Senator, Eugene McCarthy, challenged President Johnson and, after almost losing the New Hampshire primary, Johnson dropped out. Before he left, however, but after the NH primary, Senator Robert Kennedy got in the race. That situation created much bitterness toward Kennedy from the Democratic left. Many liberals denounced RFK for what they saw as his political opportunism and for trying to use the connection to his brother, JFK, to elevate himself to the presidency.

Kennedy won the 1968 Indiana primary, lost Oregon, and was winning California when he was killed. Although supporters like to think that he would have won the nomination if he had lived, such a result was far from certain.

Now, what does 1968 have to do with 2008? Well, again we have an unpopular war and we have a challenger, Barack Obama, who was against the war earlier than his Democratic opponent. We have a person who is perceived by many as running on her family member's name and who is perceived as being very opportunistic while the left views her opponent as far more principled.

Obviously, the analogy is not perfect, but the point is that just like in 1968, the issue of war and peace is again dividing the Democratic left. Nothing stirs up bitterness like a fight in the family. That is proving true this year, just like it did in 1968.

The result in 1968 was a very close election in November which was won by Nixon in the popular vote by a shade over 500,000 votes. What Democrats have to wonder is whether history is about to repeat itself?

We already have Obama supporters pledging not to vote for Clinton if she is the nominee. Such Obama supporters cast Democrats supporting Hillary as "traditionalists", whatever the hell that means. (Since Clinton would be the first woman nominated for president by a major political party, it is hard to see how supporting her is being a traditionalist, but maybe I'm missing something.)They see themselves as true progressives upholding the noble principles of the Democratic Party.

This, of course, is similar to what happened in 1968 between McCarthy and Kennedy supporters. Let's hope that the outcome is not another GOP victory in a close election.

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