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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wait Wait, I Know This One!

On Hardball tonight, Pitchfork Pat made a claim I've heard him repeat often before, that "no antiwar candidate has ever won a presidential election during wartime." Errmmm. . . Ike? 1952? Now I know it is hard to imagine a day when the GOP could ever have nominated an "antiwar" candidate, and a decorated general certainly makes an unlikely "dirty hippie," but, remember, Bush is Harry S. Frickin' Truman II: Texas Boogalloo, and Johnny McCain has promised to make Iraq into Korea over the next hundred years, so could we please have just a little historical memory of the GOP from our GOP hacks? Please? And how close was that election? Yeah, that's right. Not close.


At 2:06 PM, Blogger Number Three said...

I think that Ike is as close to a right answer as there is, although he was not "anti-war" in the (exact) sense that Buchanan uses it--since, after all, Pat uses the term in its hippie connotations sense. Because Nixon in 1968 had a "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam, but he wasn't "anti-war." (And it turns out his secret plan was more war! Sort of like McCain's non-secret plan.)

I think that the point Buchanan is making here is kind of a non-starter. The U.S. has rarely been at war during a presidential election year. I guess you would have 1944, 1952, 1968, 1972, and 2004 as your cases.

The U.S. was not at war in 1916 or 1940, but I should add that the incumbents in both of those races were certainly not advertising their willingness to enter the wars then in progress. If either had, they may have lost. And Roosevelt was helped out in 1940 by facing Wilkie, who was not anti-war. Had the GOP nominated an "anti-war" candidate that year, FDR may have lost. I'm less clear on the dynamics in 1916, but Wilson ran, I believe, on a promise to keep the U.S. out.

So, 1944--not much of an anti-war movement in the U.S. 1952--covered by TMcD. 1968--Nixon's "secret plan," and Humphrey certainly didn't distance himself soon enough, or just enough, to beat Nixon. 1972--OK, there was an anti-war candidate! 2004--Kerry supported the war but thought it was being mismanaged.

So Buchanan's argument boils down to one clear case, 1972.

If the GOP wants to run like it's 1972, all over again . . . oh, hell, I'm done concern trolling for

At 12:32 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

There's certainly a "small-N" problem here, as you note. Pitch-Pat's own key examples were 1972 and 1864, although the latter is a wee bit problematic, given that a northern victory was well in hand by the election and that, well, SOUTHERN STATES DIDN'T VOTE!!!!

To be charitable, however, I think we could also give him 1900, since the occupation of the Philippines was still underway in ways that might be comparable to Iraq--although that was a much more popular war. I grant Pat the macro point that antiwar candidates usually lose in wartime; still, his exact point was "always," and that's clearly wrong. The larger problem of the analogy, however, is that Americans aren't used to losing wars, making this case a bit atypical. 1952, 1968, 1972, and 2004 seem the only years that come close in sensibility, and two of those saw a party switch in the White House.


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