Thousands of idealists marched door-to-door through the snows and delivered a decisive message that the times were changing. From that moment forward, the establishment and its war policies began disintegrating from within.
The year was 1968. The insurgent campaign was on behalf of Senator Eugene McCarthy.
I am wondering if anyone in New Hampshire even remembered the McCarthy campaign in the blur that was last week in New Hampshire.
Did Senator Hillary Clinton remind voters that she was one of those volunteers who took on President Johnson and his war? Did Senator Barack Obama invoke the memory of that last great youth crusade? Did Senator John Edwards remember that it was principally the Vietnam War, not domestic issues, that aroused those populist passions?
While the Democratic contenders rushed through their ambiguous rhetoric about "ending the war," the actual Iraq War continued as a bleeding reality, safely unchallenged. Clinton promised to end the war "in the right way," not explaining that ominous phrase. Obama and Edwards, when given the chance, noticed no differences from her on Iraq. The mainstream media supported General David Petraeus's rosy depiction of the surge. The bloggers kept up their jihad to exorcize Hillary, leaving the war as background. The anti-war movement never had a voice, marginalized as electoral amateurs in the blizzard of sound bites and soap opera drama.
The war went on, however. As noted in a pro-war op-ed piece in the New York Times, the number of Iraqis in prison doubled in 2007, the number of US air strikes increased seven-fold, and the segregation of Iraqis into sectarian fiefs increased. The number of Americans killed last year was nearly 1,000, but that news went largely unreported.
If either John McCain or Rudolph Guiliani become the Republican nominee, the Iraq War will return to presidential politics full-force, with the Democrats placed on the defensive. Then the independent political committees will need to enter the Iraq debate with a strong counter-message representing the tens of millions of anti-war voters in November. What the counter-message will be is unknown, especially since the Democrats seem to be lessening and blurring their emphasis on Iraq and national security.
Heading into Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is gaining momentum and Barack Obama suddenly finds himself imperiled. The reason is that the primaries ahead are largely confined to Democratic voters, where Clinton holds the margin. Obama's edge has come from independents. He can and must win South Carolina, or face huge odds on February 5. Obama desperately needs the John Edwards voters, but Edwards shows no sign of abandoning the race, despite the fact that he is unlikely to win a single primary. The math is simple: Clinton wins if the anti-Clinton vote is split between Obama and Edwards.
Someone needs to restore Iraq to the center of the Democratic debate rather than waiting for McCain and media to exploit the surge. As I wrote nearly one year ago, the military surge in Iraq would bolster the possibilities of a McCain (and Joe Lieberman) ticket in 2008; and it has. Gen. Petraeus has succeeded in his strategic goal of "setting back the clock" in Washington and buying time for the US occupation to survive the political debates of 2008.