This year’s election gives us a chance to reclaim our rights

Some right-wing pundits are starting to call 2008 the year of the affirmative-action election. I prefer to think of this as an election of renewal — a rebirth of the struggle for the American conscience outlined so clearly in 1960.

It's true the Democratic nominating process also has overtones of the 1960 campaign. Sen. Hillary Clinton — about as far from Richard Nixon as Saturn is from Earth — has used a Nixonian argument against Sen. Barack Obama.

In the 1960 race, then-Vice President Richard Nixon accused Sen. John F. Kennedy of being too inexperienced to hold the highest office in the land. He really meant Kennedy was too liberal.

Nixon had beaten back the spokesman of the moderate-liberal wing of the Republican Party when Nelson Rockefeller, then governor of New York, was forced out of the nominating process by the national mood created by Nixon's relentless anti-liberal tirades.

Nixon effectively killed off the Eisenhower-Rockefeller Republican establishment. Kennedy represented another kind of establishment, one based more on service than superstition and fear-mongering.

The Democratic Party in 2008 is echoing the promise of the 1960s, which had almost nothing to do with "counterculture politics," but was a time in which barriers to racial and gender inclusion and equality were attacked, if not destroyed.

The Democratic Party in 2008 is a more moderate, centrist version of itself than the social-activist establishment of the Kennedy version of the party.

And, of course, 2008 is not 1960, though there are some similarities. The United States is on the verge of economic hard times brought on by Republican policies, it is stymied in a five-year military occupation it doesn't know how to end, and it finds itself vulnerable to and in danger of being financially overrun by foreign powers.

The Kennedy message, promising to "get American moving again," is certain to be a battle cry for Democrats as November approaches. But what really exercised liberal-minded Democrats in 1960 was the thought that Nixon — a man who, along with Joe McCarthy, accused everyone on the left of being communists or dupes, a man who thrived on congressional witch hunts that ruined the lives of countless good Americans, a man who equated unionism with Stalinism and Maoism — might actually become the president of the United States.

It's the same feeling that many Democrats have today. With the Patriot Act and other Bush administration legislation, the Republican Party has become an anti-Bill of Rights, anti-Constitution party.

As moderate and centrist as the major Democratic candidates are, for most establishment liberals and those of us out of the mainstream of the party the only way to get America moving in a constitutional direction again is to assure that the party of Nixon and Bush has a chance to reform itself — in defeat.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
February 9, 2008