The politics of going first — from Al Smith to Goldwater. (Does the ‘S’ in MSNBC stand for sexist?)
Is Bachmannia replacing Obamamania?
Has Sarah Palin elected Michele Bachmann?
Have liberals who spent the better part of the last three years scornfully pouring vitriol on Sarah Palin helped Minnesota Congresswoman Bachmann — like Palin an attractive conservative working mother of five (don’t forget the 23 foster kids) from the American working class — to a place on the GOP ticket instead?
In one of the more delicious ironies in the history of presidential politics?
After all this time of insisting Palin was (pick one) “profoundly stupid” (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews), “dumb as a brick” (Young Turk’s Cenk Uygur, now with MSNBC), “ridiculous and dangerous” (Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post) or “ignorant” (Slate) — and this is the printable stuff (the unprintable Bill Maher here) —America is awaking to a vaguely familiar political memory.
He (or she) who goes first — catches all the arrows.
And the next one, or sometimes the one after that — that next person from the same religious or ethnic group, the next one in line in the once always ignored gender or political philosophy — gets the prize.
Here’s the list:
Al Smith and John F. Kennedy: The group trying to rise? Catholics, Irish-Catholics specifically. Smith had worked his way to the top of New York politics, from a patronage job in the New York City office of Commissioner of Jurors to the very top — Governor of New York. He was extremely popular, an urban legend, a “wet” (opposing Prohibition) when the country was starting to buck Prohibition. In a time when radio was just appearing, Smith’s gravelly voice and thick Lower East Side accent was being broadcast well beyond New York. (See and hear Al Smith here to get the flavor.) He was extremely popular, an urban legend, a “wet” (opposing Prohibition) when the country was starting to buck Prohibition. In a time when radio was just appearing, Smith’s gravelly voice and thick Lower East Side accent was being broadcast well beyond New York. And he was as Irish as (so went the contemptuous saying of the day) “Patty’s Pig.” But most of all, Al Smith was Catholic — and no President of the United States had ever been Catholic. Nominated by the Democrats in 1928 to run against the GOP’s progressive Republican Herbert Hoover, the brown-derby wearing, cigar smoking Al Smith was the Sarah Palin of his day in terms of the political abuse directed his way. He was said to be a drunk, corrupt, the owner of brothels, the fact that he kept a photo of the Pope in his office (true) a sure sign he would involve America in foreign religious wars. “Bootleggers and harlots would dance on the White House lawn,” it was said (although, to his vast credit, not by Hoover). Smith was smeared as a gambler, his accent a sign of ignorance and stupidity if not outright pending evil. And on and on in a fashion Sarah Palin could surely appreciate. On election day Smith was clobbered, carrying a mere 8 states.
In 1956, newly nominated Democrat Adlai Stevenson, a second-time nominee to face Dwight Eisenhower, decided to do the unusual. Instead of picking his running mate, he threw the choice for vice president open to the delegates at the Chicago convention. Chaos erupted — and into the televised spotlight stepped a new face, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, seen here. Young (39), Harvard educated, urbane — he was also Irish and Catholic. Democratic bosses hesitated — and then flinched, remembering Al Smith. Kennedy lost to Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver — who went on a losing ticket with Stevenson. But something had changed, thanks to the television coverage of the convention and the young senator’s graceful concession speech. Four years later, JFK turned the tide, winning narrowly but forever dispatching the notion a Catholic could not be nominated or elected president or vice president. Over the years since, JFK’s two surviving brothers Bobby and Ted, plus an assortment that includes Eugene McCarthy, Edmund Muskie, Sargent Shriver, Joe Biden, Bob Kerrey and John Kerry have all run for president, with Catholic Geraldine Ferraro serving as the 1984 vice-presidential running mate for Walter Mondale. In none of these races was their Catholicism raised as an issue, with Biden currently Barack Obama’s vice president. Interestingly, as time moved on, the “Catholic vote” became more identified with conservatives — and the Catholic Kerry lost the Catholic vote to Methodist George W. Bush in 2004.
The group trying to rise? The new American conservative movement. Goldwater, the Senator from Arizona, was the champion — the Al Smith of conservatives. A Westerner, blunt talking (he joked that the answer to the Cold War was to “lob one into the men’s room of the Kremlin”) and freely espousing his conservative ideas, he was pilloried. As noted on a previous occasion, the liberal media of the day treated Goldwater scandalously. Time magazine later recounted how Goldwater was described as “psychologically unfit to be president,” “emotionally unstable,” “immature,” “cowardly,” “grossly psychotic,” “paranoid,” a “mass murderer,” “amoral and immoral,” a “chronic schizophrenic” and “dangerous lunatic.” One psychiatrist breezily announced Goldwater had a “strong identification with the authoritarianism of Hitler, if not identification with Hitler himself.” The Goldwater slogan — “In your heart you know he’s right” — was remade by liberals into “in your guts you know he’s nuts.” Goldwater carried 5 states against liberal champion Lyndon Johnson.
But within the seeds of Goldwater’s defeat was this moment — a decision to pay for television time and allow actor Ronald Reagan 30 minutes to present the conservative case. Reagan quickly became to the conservative movement and Goldwater what JFK had been to Irish Catholics and Al Smith. Two years and a few days after that 1964 speech, Reagan was the governor-elect of California. By 1980 he was president-elect, and the conservative revolution began in earnest. The effort to destroy Reagan by re-playing the slurs against Goldwater failed — miserably.
Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama: The group in question? African-Americans. In 1984, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, never elected to anything, set out on a seemingly quixotic quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was actually the second black to make the race, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm having set out briefly to do the same thing in 1972. Chisholm got nowhere — but she was there. Jackson, dismissed as having no chance and not helping himself by calling New York City “Hymietown,” nonetheless began shocking Democrats as he won five state caucuses or primaries and 21% of the popular vote, finishing a respectable third behind Walter Mondale and Gary Hart. Four years later he was back, this time doing even better. Jackson won eleven races, including the all-important Michigan primary that briefly elevated him to the position of front-runner. Eventually he lost to Michael Dukakis.
Between Jackson’s 1988 victories and 2008, the sight of a prominent African-American in national politics became more and more familiar. Al Sharpton would run in the 2004 presidential primary as a Democrat, Colin Powell, already Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor as Jackson challenged Dukakis, would go on to be the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Gulf War and later Secretary of State for George W. Bush in 2001 — after passing up a race for president in 1996. A race in which the polls of the day had Powell leading the field. Clarence Thomas had become the second black Supreme Court Justice after Thurgood Marshall, in 1991. In 2005, Powell was succeeded at the State Department by Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American woman to hold the job. By 2008, Barack Obama — assuming the JFK and Reagan role for blacks as the controversial Jackson had played the Al Smith and Barry Goldwater roles — became the first black president.
Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann: The group in question? Conservative women. Without doubt, if the category were just “women” the pioneer would be 1984 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. And, in 2008, New York Senator and ex-First Lady Hillary Clinton was the once-presumed front runner to be the first woman president, famously losing the nomination to Obama, whom she serves as Secretary of State.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online