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The 'Teach-the-Dems-a-Lesson' Myth

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The thinking seems to be that the loss of the congressional majorities will punish the Democrats for accepting half-measures and compromises on issues from health care and financial reform to job stimulus and war. The Left's hope apparently is that the chastened Democrats will then shift toward more progressive positions and be more assertive.

However, modern American political history tells us that this strategy never works. After the four key elections in which many progressives abandoned the governing Democrats in 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 not only did Republicans take U.S. politics further to the right, but the surviving Democrats tacked more to the center and grew more timid.

All four elections also were marred by GOP dirty tricks that drew little or no reaction from either the governing Democrats or the progressives, emboldening the slash-and-burn Republicans to operate in an ever more audacious style.

Tragically, too, the Left's sideline-sitting contributed to the unnecessary deaths of millions of people in wars from Vietnam and Central America to Iraq and Afghanistan. Arguably even worse, U.S. inaction on global warming a neglect surely to be continued if Republicans and Tea Partiers are victorious in Election 2010 may doom the future of a livable planet.

In other words, the "teach-the-Dems-a-lesson" strategy not only doesn't work, it's extremely dangerous.

The Vietnam Precedent

Take, for instance, the pivotal election of 1968. The Left was furious with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam War and with the Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, for the bloody Chicago convention.

Many on the Left refused to support Humphrey, even though they knew that would help the election chances of the divisive and disreputable Richard Nixon. Some anti-war activists voted for minor third-party candidates while others simply sat out Election Day, allowing Nixon to win one of the closest elections in U.S. history by less than one percentage point.

However, we now know based on declassified information from Johnson's presidential library that Johnson was on the verge of a peace settlement with the North Vietnamese in Paris and that Humphrey's election likely would have led to a rapid end of the Vietnam War.

Nixon, who was getting briefings on the progress in Paris, knew that a breakthrough was imminent. The evidence is also now clear that Nixon, possessing that knowledge, let his campaign make contacts with the South Vietnamese government behind Johnson's back, promising President Nguyen van Thieu a better deal if he boycotted the Paris talks.

Thieu did as Nixon's campaign wished, refusing to attend the peace talks, thus torpedoing hopes for a quick end to U.S. participation in the war. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "The Significance of Nixon's "Treason.'"]

After taking office, President Nixon had no choice but to continue and to expand the war in pursuit of a better outcome for Thieu, who after all knew of Nixon's treachery.

The additional four years of war resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers and millions of Indochinese in Vietnam and Cambodia, yet the final peace agreement mirrored what had been available to the United States in 1968.

Nixon's nasty, take-no-prisoners style also shook the political foundations of the United States. The nation grew bitterly divided; parents turned against their own children; war-fueled inflation ate away at incomes; hopes for alleviating poverty vanished; and Americans came to doubt their government could accomplish anything good.

The national wounds inflicted by that ugly era have never fully healed. Much of that, however, might have been avoided if disaffected progressives had swallowed their anger and cast their ballots for Humphrey.

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http://www.consortiumnews.com

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at more...)
 
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Robert Parry, as usual, goes right to the heart of... by Sheila Samples on Friday, Oct 15, 2010 at 12:33:01 PM
Anybody expecting the Democrats to learn either wa... by B. Ross Ashley on Friday, Oct 15, 2010 at 1:02:16 PM
Until that wondrous day when the new Labor Party ... by Paul Cohen on Friday, Oct 15, 2010 at 1:34:32 PM
When you look at the "Republican" Party, you see t... by Sheila Samples on Friday, Oct 15, 2010 at 2:28:14 PM
The latest pandering to the colossally stupid idea... by Miriam Callaghan on Friday, Oct 15, 2010 at 3:07:07 PM
this a fight for the USA and most of it's people,a... by Lynne Kringler on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 6:54:17 PM
You are the problem. Willingly accepting crumbs fr... by David Weaver on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 10:28:44 AM
and big Pharma + health insurance and oil cartels.... by crispy on Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010 at 4:57:25 AM
Perhaps our Democratic leaders are simply slow lea... by Perry Logan on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 5:59:40 AM
Citizens are becoming aware that both a Republican... by Philip Pease on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 10:16:27 AM
and most of those who are determined to impose the... by John Sanchez Jr. on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 10:52:46 AM
I will not argue with you because it would not res... by Blaine Kinsey on Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 at 10:44:29 PM
So, we are going to go down more slowly by voting ... by Helen on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 11:57:50 AM
I fine this to be a very interesting angle to look... by Michael Hayes on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 12:19:23 PM
The Democrats and Republicans both serve the corpo... by Philip Dennany on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 2:16:46 PM
Joey "baby face" Stalin, family man, strong leader... by Joe Giambrone on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 2:26:54 PM
Name the Democrats giving Bush 70 standing ovati... by Joe Giambrone on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 2:46:30 PM
What's different about this comparison than what t... by patricia win on Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 at 1:25:10 PM
"What's different about this comparison than what ... by Joe Giambrone on Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 at 3:09:11 PM
I understand where you're coming from. To have on... by Taylor on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 8:55:08 AM
I'm wondering where you came by the notion that th... by John Sanchez Jr. on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 10:08:08 AM
From where does the idea of punishment come? When... by Robert P. Philipps on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 at 6:27:35 PM
Masterful!I've been saying many of the same things... by Don Smith on Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 at 11:22:44 AM
.........to some of the points you made in your co... by Robert P. Philipps on Sunday, Oct 17, 2010 at 2:37:56 PM
So once again we are expected to support "Democrat... by Randy Moor on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 9:53:12 AM
" I'm wondering where you came by the notion that ... by Joe Giambrone on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 12:27:57 PM
that you won't get anything that you don't work fo... by John Sanchez Jr. on Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010 at 8:26:27 AM
And you only focus on the: we have no choice but t... by Joe Giambrone on Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010 at 1:44:17 PM
I didn't say you have no choice. I said you have s... by John Sanchez Jr. on Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010 at 2:28:36 PM
" I'm wondering where you came by the notion that ... by Joe Giambrone on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 12:29:52 PM
Well, just what lesson have the American voters le... by Kattmanduu on Monday, Oct 18, 2010 at 1:32:06 PM
it doesn't change the fact that the Democrats are ... by Adam Smith on Tuesday, Oct 19, 2010 at 3:48:39 PM
In the first two examples (1968 and 1980) Parry po... by toddboyle on Friday, Oct 22, 2010 at 12:31:56 PM