Bourgeois Deviant

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clinton is the new Humphrey

Hillary Clinton was 20 years old in 1968 when the Democratic National Convention took place in Chicago Illinois. Barring amnesia or dementia, she should have some distinct, clear memories of the scar that event left on the American political psyche. I have no idea where she physically was at the time. My guess is that she was attending university and, as most young people were then, intensely aware of current events and the stark choices at hand.

For those whose history is a bit fuzzy, the Democratic Party was to nominate its candidate for the Presidency that would run against the Republican’s nominee, Richard Nixon, and determine how the United States would conduct itself in the Vietnam War. The Democrats’ options were Lyndon Johnson's Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, and Eugene McCarthy. Mr. Humphrey did not participate in any primaries but controlled enough delegates to secure the nomination. The popular vote, however, belonged to McCarthy. From what I glean in speaking with the boomer generation, he was the anti-war candidate and the young person's favorite for those inclined to vote for a Democrat.

Vice President Humphrey sought to continue President Johnson's policies regarding the war. Mr. McCarthy campaigned for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. History tells us that relations between the two sides of the argument were not rosy. Humphrey, through despotic maneuvering, got the nomination. Rioting followed that got very ugly. Moreover, it fractured and more or less ruined the Democratic Party for years to follow. If the nomination had gone the other way, no one can say for sure what would have happened or where we would be today. What is certain is that Communism in Asia was a red herring that cost too much American blood and treasure.

The cyclical nature of history is awesome. Once again, our nation is involved in an unpopular war abroad and a majority of Americans want to withdraw our forces from the Iraqi theatre. Once again, we have two Democratic candidates who are on either side of this issue. While Hillary Clinton, unlike Humphrey, is running a competitive primary campaign to win the Party's nomination, it is very much like 1968 in that as of this writing, she has, arguably, enough super delegates to take the nomination despite not controlling a majority of elected delegates. She falls well short of an appreciable majority in the popular vote as well. May history write that when you’ve said “Wisconsin, you’ve said it all.”

Barack Obama probably has more momentum than Eugene McCarthy did in '68. We can certainly hope so. Polls and general observation suggest that he is the young people's candidate for change and ending the war. The Clintons embody the Boomer generation’s last, definitive grasp on power. While the contest is far from over, the political weather vein is suggesting that Hillary’s campaign is gradually spiraling into failure. Still, there is a lingering fear that she may attempt to clinch the party’s nomination through the use of super delegates. It would be her first step on an imperiously laden road to hell paved with “good” intentions.

It is surely a common human quality to, once invested in something, be reluctant to let it go. This is certainly the case when a presidential candidate such as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Call it the fog of war or not seeing the forest through the trees. The bigger picture here is that the Clinton campaign sits on the cusp of both history and hubris. From here to the Convention will show which she will follow more truly.

What is clear is that if Hillary attempts to grab the nomination without the support of the popular vote, there will almost certainly be riots again. Obama is clearly the youth candidate and that is the future of the Democratic Party. Be Obama the right or wrong choice, Hillary Clinton must abide by that choice or whatever ill comes down the road for the Democrats rests completely and solely on her shoulders. Until the Convention, progressives can only hope for a well situated, nearly altruistic moment of clarity for Senator Clinton or a total avalanche victory for Obama in the upcoming primary contests. Fingers crossed.

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  • So.... you're saying that Obama is like McCarthy? A friendly guy who doesn't stand a chance in a general election? Why would Democrats want to nominate someone like that?

    Why are people so willing to accept another four years of Republican rule just to prove a point? Whatever happened to trying to win the election?

    By Blogger Marky Narc, at Wednesday, February 20, 2008 12:43:00 PM  

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