BARACK HUSSEIN MCGOVERN
President Barack Hussein Obama is racing down the trail blazed by Sen. George McGovern, who in 1972 was buried by the largest popular vote landslide in American history.
(President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 won a slightly higher percentage of the popular vote than Richard Nixon did in 1972 — 61.1 to 60.7 — but LBJ’s margin over Sen. Barry Goldwater was smaller, because fewer voted for minor party candidates that year.)
Sen. McGovern was too far to the left, swing voters thought, and not very competent — an image reinforced by the shambles his supporters made of the Democrat national convention.
Swing voters are forming the same opinion about President Obama, who sometimes seems as if he’s deliberately trying to dismantle the coalition that elected him in 2008. Here’s how he’s doing it:
*Mr. Obama won the Jewish vote by an astounding 52 percentage points. But — thanks chiefly to his policies toward Israel and Iran — he’s lost more support among Jews than among any other ethnic group, according to a Pew survey in February.
*Mr. Obama won the Catholic vote, 54 percent to 45 percent. Four years earlier, Sen. John Kerry, even though he was a Catholic, got just 47 percent of Catholic votes.
Thanks to the administration’s plans to force Catholic institutions to offer birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance policies, and to Mr. Obama’s embrace of gay marriage, that percentage is sure to shrink. Her concerns about these issues have caused Democrat state committeewoman Jo Ann Nardelli of Pennsylvania to re-register as a Republican, she announced May 23.
It isn’t just Catholics who are upset. In Mississippi this week, 7 local elected officials – citing the president’s gay marriage stance as the reason — switched from the Democrats to the GOP.
*People in upscale suburbs — which have been trending Democrat since 1992 — tend to be more liberal on social issues. Barack Obama won half the votes of voters with household incomes of more than $100,000. But these voters don’t like Mr. Obama’s economic policies, or his class warfare rhetoric. They voted Republican, 58 percent to 40 percent, in 2010.
Moderate Democrats don’t like the class warfare rhetoric either. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is black and an Obama surrogate, described as "nauseating" the president’s attack ads on Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s old firm. Mr. Obama’s rhetoric was criticized also by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and by former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who is black, and was the Democrat nominee for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee in 2006.
Blue collar workers whose jobs are threatened by Obama administration regulatory policies are not assuaged by anti-business rhetoric.
*In 2008, Mr. Obama’s pledge to be a racial healer won him many votes. That pledge — like most of his others — is unfulfilled. Former Rep. Artur Davis, who is black and was the Democrat candidate for governor of Alabama in 2010, revealed Tuesday he is re-registering as a Republican, in large part because the president has "lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured."
*Mr. Obama lost among veterans to war hero John McCain by just 10 percentage points in 2008. This year, vets prefer Mitt Romney by 24 points, according to a Gallup poll Monday (5/28).
In addition to those self-inflicted wounds, the president’s clumsy, hesitant embrace of their causes has muted enthusiasm for him among environmentalists and supporters of gay marriage. The Democrat national convention, to be held in Charlotte, N.C. this year, may become the biggest fiasco since the rowdy McGovern convention in Miami Beach.
Though Americans in 1972 emphatically rejected Sen. McGovern, they didn’t reject the Democrat Party. The GOP gained a paltry 12 seats in the House, leaving Democrats with a post-election majority of 242-192. Democrats gained two seats in the Senate.
But if President Barack Obama goes down this year, he’ll drag lots of Democrats in Congress with him. They’re identified too closely with his policies to avoid sharing blame for their failure.
Americans disapprove of the job House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi is doing, 32 percent to 56 percent, according to a poll by a Democrat pollster May 10. In a poll by the same firm a week later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was underwater, 18-46.
Though few other Democrats suffered, there was much bitterness and recrimination after Sen. McGovern’s landslide defeat. Come November, those may seem to Democrats the salad days.
Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.