Hillary as Muskie
Posted on June 6, 2008
This originally appeared in The Hill on December 4, 2007
Is Hillary Clinton becoming Ed Muskie?
Her faltering campaign and the resurgence of Barack Obama bring back echoes of Democratic primaries past. There are some interesting similarities between now and 1972.
There’s an unpopular war.
As during Vietnam, the Iraq war has radicalized the Democratic left. Anti-war Democrats are in no mood to compromise, and don’t want to see their party’s standard-bearers compromise.
Second, there’s the crushing burden of high expectations. Everyone inside the Beltway has expected Hillary to get the nomination, just as everyone expected Ed Muskie to run away with the Democratic nomination. Being a front-runner is dangerous business in the world of Democratic politics.
Finally, the left has fallen in love with one of their own, Barack Obama. Is he another George McGovern? Perhaps not, because unlike Obama, McGovern had some extensive experience in the Senate, having served 10 years before getting the nomination. But like Obama, McGovern has a Chicago connection, having attended Northwestern University.
But Obama and McGovern share a liberal vision that is far outside the mainstream of most voters.
Many Republicans relish the opportunity to run against Hillary, because she comes with built-in negatives that make a final sprint to the finish easier for whoever the GOP candidate will be. But Obama’s very liberal record in Illinois and in Congress could make it even easier for the Republican candidate.
History never repeats itself exactly the same way. But if the Democrats dump Hillary in favor of Obama, they will be following a familiar path of ditching one liberal for a more liberal liberal.