Blogs > HNN > Comparing Connecticut 2006 to New Hampshire 1968

Aug 9, 2006 10:44 am

Comparing Connecticut 2006 to New Hampshire 1968

Historical analogies are always problematic, but challenger Ned Lamont's 51.9 to 48.1 percent victory yesterday over incumbent senator Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary reminds me of the New Hampshire primary of 1968. Even though the New Hampshire contest was not a senatorial but a presidential primary and Democratic challenger Eugene McCarthy lost to incumbent Lyndon Johnson 42.4 to 49.5 percent, the similarities between the two primaries are worth noting, although it remains to be seen how events will unfold in the November 2006 elections in Connecticut and across the nation.

The New Hampshire contest was about the Vietnam war and Johnson's leadership: doves voted for McCarthy because he ran in opposition to both the war and Johnson's role in its escalation; many hawks voted for McCarthy because they were unhappy with Johnson's management of the war. The Connecticut contest was mainly about another misbegotten conflict, the Iraq War and Occupation, with opponents of the war and of Bush's management of it voting for Lamont and against Lieberman, who had not only endorsed the rationale for the invasion of Iraq but had subsequently defended Bush against his critics.

The New Hampshire results contributed to Johnson's decision to withdraw from the presidential race, encouraged antiwar critic Robert Kennedy to throw his hat into the presidential ring, and emboldened other candidates, both Democratic and Republican, to question the wisdom of the war. Even Richard Nixon, who defeated Nelson Rockefeller in the New Hampshire primary, did so in large part because he had recently adopted a position that seemed to indicate to moderate Republicans and independents that he wanted to get the country out of Vietnam and had a "secret plan" to do it.

The political consensus about Lamont's victory is that whether he wins or loses the November election—in which Lieberman will apparently run as an independent—he has shaken up the Democratic establishment. No longer will incumbents in the blue and purple states be able to support the war or straddle the fence without negative political consequences. This may apply to some Republicans as well, because a majority of the American public believes the war to have been a mistake. Nineteen-sixty-eight was a turning-point year in the course of the war in Vietnam and of politics in America. Perhaps 2006 will become a turning-point year in foreign affairs and the political scene at home and an old adage will come true: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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