How the Democrats Could Lose in November
Richard Cohen sees a lot of parallels between this year and 1968 and thinks the Democrats could easily lose the presidential election. Mostly, he thinks the bitter fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is hurting the party. But he thinks the Republicans can once again turn the perception that they’re stronger on national security to their advantage.
McCain, of course, owns the surge. He advocated putting additional troops in Iraq way back when President Bush, deep in denial, was proclaiming ultimate faith in Rummy and his merry band of incompetents. McCain, in fact, oozes national security. His weakness is that he has too often advocated using — or bluffing about using — force (North Korea, Iran, the former Yugoslavia). With the deft application of just a little demagoguery, he can be made to look like Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), the deranged Air Force commander in Stanley Kubrick’s always instructional “Dr. Strangelove.”
You can see it all happening again: a Republican charging that the Democrats are defeatist, soft on national security and not to be trusted with the White House. And you can see the Democratic Party heading toward Denver for yet another crackup. This time, instead of McGovern, a genuine war hero (the Distinguished Flying Cross) caricatured as a sissy, the party will put up either a candidate who has been inconsistent on the war or one with almost no foreign policy or military experience.
A year ago, it looked like the party could not lose. This year, it seems determined to try.
He’s right on the larger points. Despite conventional wisdom that the Democratic nominee will be a shoe-in because the country is desperate for a “change” after eight years of Bush, it could well be a close election. Further, if he does manage to win, McCain will almost certainly do it on national security.
Absent a catastrophe at the convention wherein Clinton gets the nomination by employing dubious means that completely alienate Obama’s supporters, however, I believe too much is being made of the bitterness of the infighting. So long as the eventual nominee is considered legitimate, most of the loser’s support will eventually come on board. And it’s not as if McCain is enthusiastically backed by every single Republican, either.