Can’t be certain just yet if the future for campaign ’12 will turn out to be as we remember it, I have this nagging feeling that we’ve experienced something resembling this year’s fisticuffs way back when. I’m thinking of the presidential campaigns of 1968, 1972, and 1976 and am not sure which path we are on this election cycle.
In the turbulent and tragic times of 1968, we witnessed an explosive reaction from the progressive side of society targeted at an incumbent Democratic president. The more conservative GOP couldn’t serve as an outlet for the frustration so it spilled onto the street. I’ve noticed that energy pouring out of Occupy Wall Street and see the similarities.
Where does the political energy go when the occupant of the White House is in the middle of the political spectrum between protesters and his conservative GOP electoral challengers? Does the protest end up being bad news for President Obama by sapping the enthusiasm for change he had harnessed in 2008? Maybe… Maybe not.
Then, there’s the 1972 election when a small, highly motivated wing of the Democratic Party captured the nominating process primary by primary, state by state at the exclusion of the party establishment. Its candidate carried one state in the general election in the fall. Now, I’m not going to suggest that the Tea Party movement could wreak this degree of havoc on the GOP in 2012. But, most of the anti-Romney candidates would be welcome opponents to team Obama.
If you don’t buy this scenario, try 1976 and the nomination of Jimmy Carter. Here, the eventual nominee emerged with his party’s nomination by playing off a lengthy field of candidates from the opposite side of his party. He narrowly carried a slew of primaries to emerge under the system of proportional delegate selection to win. This would be the 2012 Mitt Romney model.
Is there a prototype from these three examples that fits 2012? Stay tuned. Clearly, it is always difficult making predictions especially about the future, and hindsight is, after all, always 20/20.