It's 1976. No, it's 1968. No, it's ...
Mr. Liebers is an HNN intern.Mark Twain said that history doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes. As campaign 2008 has gone on and on the pundits have increasingly turned to history for insights. The most familiar strategy has been to compare the present against some year in the past. One historian famously said that the chief duty of historians is to save us from analogies. Do these analogies work? You decide.
Eric Rauchway: It’s 1912
As Sen. Obama began to run away with the delegate count, winning eleven contests after Super Tuesday, Rauchway considered the case of a Republican showdown between Theodore Roosevelt (the candidate of “change”) and William Howard Taft, the incumbent.
Taft's strategy to stop Roosevelt's momentum bears striking resemblance to those employed by Clinton in her race against Obama. Taft tried to reckon with the Roosevelt insurgency by claiming America had no real need for change, and suggested demands for reform were unpatriotic: He did not understand "the continued iteration and reiteration of the proposition, 'Let the people rule,' " saying, "I do not hesitate to say that the history of the last 135 years shows that the people have ruled ... [U]nder our present constitution and our present laws we have had a really popular government." Taft also criticized the rules that made Roosevelt's challenge possible, saying they were "unfair," especially the open primaries.
James S. Robbins: It’s 1960
Sen. Obama’s speech on race on March, 18th in Philadelphia elicited comparisons to a speech made on religion by John F. Kennedy in 1960. Both eloquently dealt with issues most would rather not touch in politics, but key distinctions ought to be made.
(3-24-08)National Review Online
That raises one important point of contrast to the Obama speech. Kennedy went before an audience that he knew could be hostile, and was at best neutral. Some newspaper headlines invoked the image of Daniel in the lion’s den. Obama, on the other hand, spoke to a small group of invited supporters. Both received applause during their appearances, but that was not exactly the achievement for Obama that it was for Kennedy.
John B. Judis: It’s 1960 (again)
John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, represented a group formerly on the fringes of the American political scene. Sen. Obama, too, represents such a group. Does his success have larger implications for the role of African-Americans in politics?
In 1928, Democrats nominated the Catholic Governor of New York, Al Smith, but he lost to Herbert Hoover. Then, in 1960, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to be president. Kennedy's success removed a political stigma from Catholics, to the extent that it is no longer a serious question whether a Catholic can win the presidency, and a Catholic candidate like John Kerry is seen (except by his most fanatical co-religionists) as first and foremost an American politician rather than a representative of his faith.
The question of Obama's prospects can be framed in this manner: Is Obama, the first African American nominee of a major party, going to repeat Al Smith's sorry experience, or will he enjoy John Kennedy's success? The answer is by no means clear yet, but by looking at the historical parallels, one can begin to appreciate the enormous obstacles that Obama faces this November.
James Ridgeway: It’s 1968
The message of hope, a strong vision of social improvement, and the prophetic element of leadership—these tenants of Sen. Obama’s campaign make the parallel to Bobby Kennedy’s presidential bid in 1968 rather obvious. Ridgeway offered reflections on the roots of seeing one candidate in the other, particular with respect to the notion of a politics of hope.
Hope, like greatness, is a thing some men have thrust upon them. They emerge as repositories for the finer yearnings of a confused and bitter nation, a mirror in which we see ourselves reflected not as the people we are, but as the people we would like to be—and may, because of them, inch slightly closer to becoming. Whether or not they are worthy of such faith is, in the end, less important than the fact that they inspire us to be more worthy ourselves.
Dick Morris: It’s 1968 (again)
After Clinton began winning primaries by winning over white working class voters, Morris claimed she was following in the footsteps of George Wallace in 1968.
Like Clinton, Wallace as a candidate stalked the Northeast exploiting white anger. Like her, he bypassed the nation's more educated and liberal parts to focus squarely on those who felt left behind, rallying animosity against elites.
But behind the mask of populism, it was race that fueled Wallace's campaign from the start. And it is race that has brought new life to Clinton's campaign in its final days.
Lou Cannon: It’s 1976
Has Sen. Clinton’s formidable challenge for the nomination made Sen. Obama a better candidate for President? The Republican race for the nomination in 1976 offers some insight, claimed Cannon.
Gerald Ford went to his grave believing that Ronald Reagan's challenge for the Republican presidential nomination cost him the White House in 1976. In truth, Reagan sharpened Ford as a candidate, much as Hillary Clinton's campaign has sharpened Barack Obama in 2008. What damaged Ford in his effort to overtake Democrat Jimmy Carter was not what Reagan did to him in the spring of 1976 but what he failed to do in the fall. Similarly, the question now is what role Clinton will play after Obama has formally secured the nomination.s
Con Coughlin: It’s 1976 (again)
Few candidates would want to be compared to Jimmy Carter. But that's the parallel Coughlin drew in this piece in which he highlighted the promise and hope both Carter and Obama offered following a Republican regime sullied by war and corruption.
Americans have, of course, been here before: in 1976, sickened by Watergate, they elected a naïve and inexperienced peanut farmer from Georgia to clear away the cynicism that came to define the Nixon era. From the moment he took office in January 1977, President Jimmy Carter made it clear that he wanted to make a new start in America's relations with the rest of the world. Gone was the hard-nosed Realpolitik of Henry Kissinger. Mr Carter transformed US policy by insisting that human rights be placed at the top of the agenda - with disastrous results.
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R.R. Hamilton - 6/16/2008
With a "progressive" Republican (Hoover/McCain) running against a "first of his kind" -- now, the first black; then, the first Roman Catholic.