Peace and prosperity made it hard for any challenger to run against the Administration this year. But what made it impossible for Michael S. Dukakis was his ideology. Which is why Dukakis started the campaign by declaring that it was not about ideology at all, just competence.
Why not, offer the critics, say this: "Yes, I am a liberal and proud of it. This nation owes Social Security, civil rights, Medicare, deposit insurance, fair labor relations, the Atlantic alliance--all the structures of the safe, prosperous world we now inhabit--to liberalism. Want to make something of it?" Why does Dukakis not do this?
Not because he lacks the courage of his convictions, but because he calculates that an open admission and defense of liberalism--which since 1968 has presented the country a far less popular agenda of racial preferences, countercultural tolerance and retreat abroad--will not sell.
Liberalism as redefined in the post-Vietnam era is finished as a winning national ideology. Which makes blaming the Dukakis campaign for the Democrats' current fate a simple case of scapegoating.