If you stay alive long enough, everything comes around a second time or perhaps even a third, and I’m not talking about necktie widths. There is something eerily familiar about the primary season we are living through: does 1968 come to mind?
The shocker in that case was Eugene McCarthy taking 40% of the New Hampshire primary vote against a sitting president. Lyndon Johnson was presiding over an unpopular war killing hundreds of U.S. soldiers every month and meanwhile had alienated the historic Democratic Party base by breaking with its racist heritage and pushing through the Civil Rights Act.
He saw that it was all over and dropped out in March. That May, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, the last major burst of Southern segregationist violence. Riots erupted in major cities.
A voice of innovation and renewal emerged in the person of Robert Kennedy, but he was then cut down in June.The Democrats staggered to their Chicago convention donnybrook, emerging with hawk-hack Hubert Humphrey. Republican hegemony was born in the wreckage and has been with us ever since, notwithstanding the unconvincingly centrist Carter and Clinton interludes.
The parallels are almost too numerous to enumerate, so I won’t except to mention that the Iraq war similarly drags on with no conceivable end in sight or even a plan beyond ‘saving face’, exactly as occurred with the Vietnam debacle, costing the nation its prestige and its economic well-being. Domestically, gunfire is hardly shocking as a way to resolve disputes any more, and one almost wonders when the bullets will fly to decide our political future once again. In an environment this dysfunctional and unstable, anyone is a target.