Monday, June 15, 2015

More than a "Protest Vote"

Ben Shahn's classic McCarthy poster.
The following quotation appeared yesterday in a New York Times piece from Patrick Healy, "Bernie Sanders Can Take Heart From a Broadway Champ."

“Like Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Sanders will offer a way to cast a protest vote in a primary against Hillary Clinton, but I don’t expect him to register much support beyond that.” 

-- Douglas E. Schoen, Democratic Strategist 

A look at the Schoen Consulting website shows that Douglas Schoen has worked for US politicians, including both Clintons, Mike Bloomberg, Jon Corzine, and Evan Bayh; US corporations, including Walmart, P&G, and AT&T; and international politicians Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, and three Israeli Prime Ministers. In other words, he's as Establishment as they come and his thoughts are representative of the "common knowledge" and "conventional wisdom" of the power elites. He's also wrong.

If you look at the support Eugene McCarthy got in 1968, he was far from being a fringe figure or a mere "protest vote." Peace-candidate McCarthy was not expected to do well against Lyndon Johnson in the first primary in New Hampshire, but his strong 42% second-place showing against the sitting President was at least one of the factors that led to LBJ's withdrawal (and RFK's entry into the race). McCarthy won the most popular votes in the 1968 primaries, but it was a time when party machines were able to give the nomination to the candidate who had received the fewest votes, LBJ's VP Hubert Humphrey, who had concentrated on the wheelers and dealers in non-primary states rather than attracting primary voters. There was a reason there was chaos in the streets outside the Democratic convention.

" learn really how strong the Establishment is, not just the political Establishment, but the business Establishment...the business community and the political institutions are all geared to the Establishment, and when they're really tested they're all militarist..." 
--Eugene McCarthy (at the 2-minute mark in the video
I felt I needed to capitalize "Establishment" when transcribing the quote pulled from the video, because that's the way we thought of that word at the time. It's a word that would serve the Bernie 2016 campaign well (I'm sure it's a word Bernie Sanders used very freely in his political past).

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