Dave Weigel, at Slate, with an interesting bit of historical trivia explaining “Why the ‘Liberals Can Mount Primary Challenge to Obama’ Talk Makes No Sense“:
Beware, liberals! Beware the specter of John Ashbrook. As you “murmur” and “bubble” about the bright idea of challenging Barack Obama in the 2012 Democratic presidential primary, remember that there are worse fates than opposing a president and losing. You could always oppose a president and lose so badly that people wonder why they took you seriously in the first place…
In July 1971, staffers from the American Conservative Union, Human Events, and National Review met at William F. Buckley’s town house to coordinate a conservative break with President Nixon. This was after the president cut defense spending and announced a trip to China. That meeting spun off into anti-Nixon essays, like one from Buckley in the New York Times magazine (“how long… before the American right comes to the conclusion that he is not one of us?”), and eventually it spun off into a movement to draft Ashbrook, an Ohio congressman, into a primary challenge against Nixon.
“Perhaps this is what the American people want,” Ashbrook thundered as he announced his campaign. “Perhaps, even, he is reflecting the wishes and expressing the judgment of the Republican voters throughout the nation. But I for one do not believe it, and I propose to put the matter to the test in the good old-fashioned democratic way.”
He did; he lost. He got 9.7 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary…
Click the link for more details, enjoyably presented.
Give the Republicans this much credit: they are unsurpassable at flushing their failures down the memory hole. Nobody will ever be allowed to forget the PR “failures” of hapless Democratic candidates like Dukakis or Kerry, but my first reaction to seeing John Ashbrook’s name was “What have FDL’s wounded sensibilities got to do with that old Let-the-Eagle-Fly statuary-defacer?”