Mort Kondracke: Can GOP Reform to Avoid 'Kennedy Scenario' for 2008?





Everyone in and around American politics is pulling for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on a personal level. But Republicans have to work very hard to avoid the fulfillment of his political dream.

In an interview in March, Kennedy talked about the difference that the 1964 Democratic landslide meant for the passage of liberal legislation, specifically Medicare. He clearly was hoping for a similar triumph this year.

Kennedy recalled to me how, two years after his arrival in the Senate back in 1962, "we failed with Medicare. But it passed in 1965. The principal difference was the election of 1964. ... We failed in the spring, but it passed in the late winter. Fifteen Senators just absolutely changed their votes on the basis of the election of '64."

Actually, Democrats picked up just one Senate seat in that election, but it gave them a total of 68 votes. And Democrats picked up 37 House seats as President Lyndon Johnson scored a victory over Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), 61 percent to 39 percent.

When I asked him whether it would take a 1964-style landslide to pass his long-sought goal of universal health care, he said, "No, I just think we need additional Democratic votes in the Senate and a Democratic president to lead them."

There is little chance that Kennedy's choice for president, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), will pull an LBJ-sized victory this year, but Kennedy clearly is hoping that Obama's ability to attract new voters to the polls will expand their party's majorities in the House and Senate and make it possible to pass liberal legislation.

And Republicans have every reason to fear that this Kennedy dream might be fulfilled. In the Senate, Democrats can't gain the nine seats they need for a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority, but they can gain as many as seven, and possibly pull moderate Republicans across the line to support Democratic initiatives, much as LBJ pulled conservative Southern Democrats.

In the House, as Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) warned last week, "the political atmosphere facing House Republicans this November is the worst since Watergate," which cost the GOP 49 seats in 1974. Having lost 30 seats in 2006, the GOP could lose 20 more this year....



comments powered by Disqus
History News Network