Friday, December 10, 2010

A Good Point from Peggy Noonan

A lot of people, like Dan Rather, are saying that the tax deal Obama cut with Republicans over extending the Bush tax cuts will provoke a primary challenge against him from the left. Maybe so. But if it does happen, Peggy Noonan reminds us, it will be crucially different from the formidable primary challenges of recent memory:
“[T]he president's position would be without parallel.

“When Pat Buchanan challenged an incumbent president in his party's presidential primary in 1992, he was going at George H.W. Bush from the right. Mr. Bush's base wasn't the right, it was the party's center. His support came from people who said not "I am a conservative," but "I am a Republican." Mr. Bush wasn't challenged from his base.

“When Ted Kennedy challenged a sitting president of his party in 1980, he was going at Jimmy Carter from the left. But Mr. Carter's base wasn't the left, it was more or less in the party's center.

“When Ronald Reagan challenged a sitting president of his party in 1976, he was going at Gerald Ford from the right. Like Mr. Bush, Ford's base wasn't the right, it was the party's establishment. Eugene McCarthy in 1968 the same—he challenged Lyndon Johnson from the left, while Johnson's base within the party was the establishment.

“Modern presidents are never challenged from their base, always by the people who didn't love them going in. You're not supposed to get a serious primary challenge from the people who loved you. But that's the talk of what may happen with Mr. Obama.”
The Reagan, Kennedy and Buchanan challenges each did a lot of political damage to an incumbent president. But they still left the challenged incumbent with a fighting chance of prevailing in the general election. If Noonan’s right, a serious primary challenge from the left will leave Obama dead in the water.


Anonymous said...

Any liberal who runs against Obama in the Democratic primaries is no friend of liberalism.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with anon at 11:41. But if it were to occur, who would it be? I can't even think of a challenger.

Ron Replogle said...

According to Noonan, it doesn't much matter whether we can think of a challenger now: "Russ Feingold and Howard Dean have said they aren't interested, but a challenger can always be found, or can emerge. If anything marks this political age, it's that anyone can emerge."

That was true 40 years ago (not many people had heard of Eugene McCarthy before he knocked LBJ out of the race in 1968). And it's truer today--Sarah Palin was a virtual unknown two weeks before she was exerting a major impact on the 2008 campaign.

Anonymous said...

It matters to me who the challenger(s)might be. I knew, for example, that American Idol would eventually get around to naming a replacement for Simon Cowell, but that didn't stop me from wondering who it would be and following all the chatter about it. Politics is, after all, a spectator sport and I'm waiting for the challenger show to begin. Any ideas?

Yeoman Farmer said...

No one would take a challenge from a guy like Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel seriously. Assuming that the denials of Dean, Feingold and Hillary are sincere, I'd look to someone like Sherrod Brown.