Labour is repeating the mistakes made by the Democrats half a century agoby Jamie Reed / February 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
After a decade of enormous cultural, social and political change, the US Democratic Party approached the end of the 1960s riven by personal and political animosities. Up until that point, as the US political analyst William Schneider has said: “They were the nation’s majority. They set the agenda.” Then came the infamous 1968 Chicago convention, where the party tore itself apart over the Vietnam war. On one side stood the older, more traditional Democratic Party establishment, on the other the younger anti-war protestors.
Convulsed with internecine strife, the party plunged into a political abyss. In the process it ushered Richard Nixon into office in 1969, only regained the presidency for a single term in the next 24 years following the unprecedented Watergate scandal, and remained electorally uncompetitive as Ronald Reagan established a new consensus in American politics. During this period, the Democrats’ growing distance from much of its traditional base of support—particularly blue-collar voters in the south—changed from a schism to a full-blown separation.
Following Nixon’s narrow victory, the defeated Democrats drew “the wrong lesson,” in the words of political strategist Ted Van Dyk. Van Dyk wrote that the party’s internal reforms “focused on giving young, socially liberal voters greater voice and representation in the party. But they did not do anything to bring middle-American Democrats back home. Those voters would abandon the Democratic Party even more strongly in 1972… and eventually would come to be known as the Reagan Democrats after they cast their lot in huge numbers for the GOP in 1980.”