... what today's Democratic restiveness reminds me of is the summer of 1967 when liberal organizer (and later Long Island congressman) Allard Lowenstein tried to find someone – anyone – to challenge Lyndon Johnson for the nomination. Lowenstein and his youthful allies importuned all the leading antiwar senators (Robert Kennedy, George McGovern and Frank Church) before to everyone's amazement the mercurial and elusive Eugene McCarthy volunteered for this quixotic crusade.RTWT, at the link.
The parallels are not exact – history never repeats itself as either farce or tragedy. There is no galvanizing single issue like the Vietnam War. Despite his legislative victories and 1964 landslide, Lyndon Johnson remained an accidental president to many Democrats, the ungainly heir to that which rightly belonged to John Kennedy. Barack Obama, in contrast, electrified Democrats (even many Hillary Clinton supporters) as he romped home with nearly 70 million votes.
But what does feel similar is the combination of growing buyer's remorse among liberals and the fatalistic certainty that Obama will be re-nominated without serious challenge. In their epic political narrative, "American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968," three British journalists (Lewis Chester, Godfrey Hodgson and Bruce Page) write, "There were a few who had realized that the emperor had no clothes . . . Such sentiments, however, swam vainly against the tide of 'expert' opinion."
Barring an economic collapse that makes the September 2008 financial meltdown look like the Good Old Days, Obama cannot be deprived of the nomination. The arithmetic simply does not work for any challenger – including (as unlikely as it seems) Hillary Clinton. The combination of the institutional power of a sitting president, the president's overwhelming support among African-American voters and Democratic memories of the tragic consequences of bitter divisiveness (1968, 1972 and 1980) make a replay of the 50-state struggle of 2008 seem ludicrous. The 2012 Democratic nomination belongs to Barack Obama -- assuming he wants it.
But the same thing was true in 1968: Lyndon Johnson would have been – almost unquestionably – the Democratic nominee had he taken the fight all the way to the Chicago Convention ...
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I still seriously doubt Obama will face a credible challenge for the 2012 nomination, but I love the analogy to Lyndon Johnson in 1968. From Walter Shapiro, at Politics Daily: