In ’88, a Lesson on Using Symbols as Bludgeons





Sometimes, as Senator Barack Obama seemed to argue earlier this year, a flag pin is just a flag pin.

But it can never be that simple for anyone with direct experience of the 1988 presidential campaign. That year, the Republicans used the symbols of nationhood (notably, whether schoolchildren should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance) to bludgeon the Democrats, challenge their patriotism and utterly redefine their nominee, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.

The memory of that campaign — reinforced, for many, by the attacks on Senator John Kerry’s Vietnam war record in the 2004 election — haunts Democrats of a certain generation.

The 1988 campaign was, in many ways, the crucible that helped create Bill Clinton’s centrist philosophy and his fierce commitment to attack and counterattack, which drove the politics of the 1990s.



comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list