Sunday, February 19, 2006

Shades Of 1968

Last week's efforts by Democratic Party regulars who cut off funding to antiwar Iraq vet Paul Hackett in his Ohio senate race bid to support only a candidate supported by the party regulars highlighted a rift within the Democratic Party not seen since 1968.

Just like in 1968, when Hubert Humphrey who had not entered a single Democratic Party primary was handed the party's nomination over antiwar candidate, Eugene McCarthy, a giant party rift is being created between party moderates and left wing antiwar Democrats in 2006. Just like 1968 when divided Democrats failed to win the White House they won by a landslide in 1964, Democrats may be placing themselves in the same position where a disatisfied public weary of Bush Administration and much Republican rule may yet allow continued Republican rule but only because of a divided Democratic Party opposition.

Historically Democrats have lost elections even when a majority of voters due to party divisions. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln became President and the first Republican elected to that office with a mere 39% of the vote when the Democratic Party was split into three groups, each fielding a candidate and dividing up the losing 61% of voters. The main Democratic candidate, Stephen Douglas had no chance with so much party division and draining of votes with two other Democratic factions.

Once again, just like 1968's Vietnam War debate, Iraq is proving to mirror the same party divisions that defeated the party that year. For whatever major differences that Democratic Party moderates and the more liberal antiwar left in the Democratic Party have over Iraq war policy, unless they paper over these differences within the next few months before the primary and general election season, then the same divisive war differences that sunk the Democrats in 1968 will likely blunt any real chances to retake Congress or the Senate in 2006, despite voter anger that could be easily translated into broad Democratic gains, if only harnessed far better.