In Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen argued that President Obama “should abandon his candidacy for reelection” and step aside for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Their missive was just the latest in their long and productive careers. In fact, recent research has determined that Caddell and Schoen actually have a much larger body of work than anyone previously suspected. Researchers at the Library of Congress have discovered a trove of Caddell and Schoen columns going right back to the founding of the United States. Yesterday, the library graciously allowed me to share some of the choicest excerpts (unedited aside from hyperlinks for context), which share some striking parallels with their Monday column. First, from early 1778, just after the Continental Army spent the winter at Valley Forge:
George Washington should abandon his position as leader of the Continental Army in favor of a clear alternative, one capable not only of leading the army, but more important, of fighting in a way that preserves the most important of General Washington’s accomplishments. He should step aside for the one candidate who, after victory at Saratoga, would become, by acclamation, the new general of the Continental Army: General Horatio Gates.
The second excerpt comes from the summer of 1864:
One year ago, we warned that if President Lincoln continued down his overly warlike road, the nation would be "guaranteed two years of military gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it." The result has been exactly as we predicted: stalemate in Washington (more specifically, just south of Washington), clashes throughout the several states, an inability to tackle the debt and deficit, and paralysis exacerbating market turmoil and economic decline.
If President Lincoln were to withdraw, he would put great pressure on the Confederates to come to the table and negotiate… By going down the re-election road and into partisan mode, the president has effectively guaranteed that the remainder of his term will be marred by the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity, common purpose, and most of all, our economic strength.
The final excerpt is from mid-August 1939:
Certainly, Mr. Roosevelt could still win re-election in 1940. Even with his all-time low job approval ratings, the president could eke out a victory next November. But the kind of campaign required for the president's political survival would make it almost impossible for him to govern — not only during the campaign, but throughout a third term.
Put simply, it seems that the White House has concluded that if the president cannot run on his record, he will need to wage the most negative campaign in history to stand any chance. With his job approval rating at 48 percent overall and unemployment at 17.2 percent — still 0.2 percent above 1936 — the president will not be able to affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He — like everyone else — knows that they are worse off.
Though these columns are still off limits while the Library of Congress finishes archiving the collection, interested readers can find Caddell and Schoen’s tradition of fine punditry on the internet as well, such as the column that made them among the first to recognize Obama’s truly divisive strategy:
Mr. Obama has divided America on the basis of race, class and partisanship. Moreover, his cynical approach to governance has encouraged his allies to pursue a similar strategy of racially divisive politics on his behalf.
Making such a bold claim with so little evidence at the time was brave, to say the least, but I think we can all agree the last eighteen months have seen the president time and again resort to racially divisive politics. The nation is truly lucky to have these two men sharing their wisdom with us.