Lots of people remember the tank ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988 (particularly Digby, who first noticed this parallel). What very few people remember (because of Survivorship bias) was Dukakis's response. The ad is here.
MICHAEL DUKAKIS: I'm fed up with it. Haven't seen anything like it in 25 years of public life. George Bush's negative TV ads, distorting my record, full of lies and he knows it. I'm on the record for the very weapons systems his ads say I'm against. I want to build a strong defense. I'm sure he wants to build a strong defense. So this isn't about defense issues. It's about dragging the truth into the gutter. And I'm not going to let them do it. This campaign is too important. The stakes are too high for every American family. The real question is, will we have a president who fights for the privileged few, or will we have a president who fights for you? George Bush wants to give the wealthiest one percent of the people in this country a new tax break worth $30,000 a year. I'm fighting for you and your family, for affordable housing and health care, for better jobs, for the best education and opportunity for our children. It's a tough fight, I know that. Uphill all the way, but I'm going to keep on fighting because what I'm fighting for is our future.
So how is Barack Obama responding to McCain's attacks on him as impugning his patriotism?
But one of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.
Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain.
If we win this election, it will be as Chris notes in his terrific Nation article because the demographic groups that voted for McGovern in 1972 and brought us some states in 1988 are now a majority of the electorate. In 1976 and 1992, it was a conservative Southern Democrat who brought us enough 'Bubba's' to pick a slight majority, but it was a conservative majority patched together by liberals and very residual Dixiecrats. The 'new politics' post-partisan line has been used by McGovern, Carter, Dukakis and Clinton, so it's hardly new. Looking at Obama's rhetoric, it sounds eerily similar to that of Dukakis, which isn't to say that Democrats will lose, only that it is hardly new. And if you're frustrated, that's because you've been here before and it didn't end well.