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August 7, 2006
Return Of McGovernism

Marty Peretz of the New Republic tells OpinionJournal that he's seen the Connecticut political movement before, and it looks a lot like 1972 all over again. The singleminded and simpleminded peace platform has returned to plague the Democrats once again, and this time the party has no Scoop Jacksons left to rescue the party from its radical-Left activists:

I was there, a partisan, as a graduate student at the beginning, in 1962, when the eminent Harvard historian H. Stuart Hughes (grandson of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes) ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent against George Cabot Lodge and the victor, Ted Kennedy, a trio of what in the Ivies is, somewhat derisively, called "legacies." Hughes's platform fixed on President John F. Kennedy's belligerent policy towards Cuba, which had been crystallized in the "Bay of Pigs" fiasco. The campaign ended, however, with Hughes winning a dreary 1% of the vote when Krushchev capitulated to JFK just before the election and brought the missile crisis to an end, leaving Fidel Castro in power as an annoyance (which he is still, though maybe not much longer), but not as a threat.

Later peace candidates did better. Some were even elected. Vietnam was their card. One was even nominated for president in 1972. George McGovern, a morally imperious isolationist with fellow-traveling habits, never could shake the altogether accurate analogies with Henry Wallace. (Wallace was the slightly dopey vice president, dropped from the ticket by FDR in 1944, who ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket, a creation of Stalin's agents in the U.S.) Mr. McGovern's trouncing by Richard Nixon, a reprobate president if we ever had one, augured the recessional--if not quite the collapse--of such Democratic politics, which insisted our enemy in the Cold War was not the Soviets but us.

It was then that people like Joe Lieberman emerged, muscular on defense, assertive in foreign policy, genuinely liberal on social and economic matters, but not doctrinaire on regulatory issues. He had marched for civil rights and is committed to an equal opportunity agenda with equal opportunity results. He has qualms about affirmative action. But who, in his hearts of hearts, does not? He is appalled by the abysmal standards of our popular culture and our public discourse. Who really loves our popular culture--or, at least, which parent? He is thoroughly a Democrat. But Mr. Lieberman believes that, in an age of communal and global stress, one would do well to speak with the president (even, on rare occasion, speak well of him) and compromise with him on urgent matters of practical law.

Peretz' excellent article shows how the Democratic Left has forgotten lessons of political history and strategy, and appears poised to return their party to national irrelevancy. He drives home the naivete of Ned Lamont in foreign policy, where every crisis appears to Lamont as a failure to provide incentives. For instance, Lamont has stated that the Iranian and Palestinian crises result from a lack of attention by the White House, and that both situations could easily be resolved through incentive packages and multilateral diplomacy. He appears oblivious to the history of both situations, where incentives have been offered through multilateral negotiations (regarding the Palestinians, ad nauseam), to no avail.

Lamont makes the same mistake that plagues his fellow Utopians; he believes that everyone really loves peace and harmony and that disharmony must therefore be the fault of the West. That leads him to keep offering these naive platitudes, unmindful of the efforts already made and the obstinacy of the tyrants and terrorists in charge. This thrills the pacifists, of course, but it leaves us with few options when we face really dangerous people with, as Peretz notes, millenial delusions that drive them towards conflict.

Peretz will win no fresh New Republic subscriptions from the Left with this missive. He eloquently describes the same impulse that led the Democratic Party into a catastrophic loss against Richard Nixon in 1972. One could argue that had Nixon not committed impeachable crimes in office, Democrats may have found themselves on the outside looking in for the next generation. This time the future looks even more bleak, as the Democrats have few national politicians with the credibility on foreign policy and national security to rescue them from disaster -- and the Left is in the middle of pillorying one of them right now in Connecticut.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 7, 2006 5:53 AM

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» The Battle For The Democratic Party from Liberty and Justice
Besides that I oppose them quite strongly myself as well: If the far left takes over the Democratic party and especially if they succeed in their goal to have significant political power, it will be problematic for the world. [Read More]

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» Looks Like 1972 All Over Again from Right Voices
Captain Ed has Return Of McGovernism, in which he features this link alluding to the return of 1972 politics, or George McGovern, for the Democratic Party. I was there, a partisan, as a graduate student at the beginning, in 1962, when the eminent Ha... [Read More]

Tracked on August 7, 2006 12:49 PM


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