This Isn't Just 1968; It's Also 2008

There have been a lot of commentators in the past few days comparing the present mess to 1968, when there was rioting in the streets of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and general unrest over the Vietnam War. Those are valid comparisons, but there is another year we should remember: 2008.

In 2008, bad economic policy by the Bush administration and the banks had triggered the Great Recession. Barack Obama and John McCain were running to succeed Bush, and McCain for some reason though it would be a smart political move to call a “summit” at the White House including himself and Obama in late September. At that point, McCain was ahead of Obama in some of the polls.

But at the summit, it was quickly clear to all that McCain had no ideas. And to the extent McCain was willing to do something, the GOP-controlled Congress shut him down.

Conventional wisdom holds that John McCain damaged himself by arriving in Washington without anything to contribute. True. It is also true, however, that the dug-in GOP opposition froze McCain between the party's divided factions and their followers. Obama could simply watch; all eyes were on his opponent. www.realclearpolitics.com/…

But Obama also presented ideas at the conference; more than that, his calm demeanor as opposed to McCain’s may have led Bush to realize that in that moment Obama had won the election. (I’m relying on memory of that time, as I can’t locate any stories confirming that.)

If 2020 is anything like 2008, Biden’s demeanor, responses, genuineness, compassion, and platforms will so stand out in contrast to Trump’s bullying, race-baiting, cowardliness, and general malignancy that historians will later say that this was the moment when Biden won the election. (That’s not to say that McCain was anything like Trump, to be sure!)

But that will happen only if we make it so.