Flashback

I’m extremely cautiously optimistic about President Biden’s chances in November. I don’t care what the polls currently say. I’m looking at other factors and down the road but I see one huge stumbling block other than the always unpredictable unknown, that worries me and I’d like to write about that today.


I’m flashing back to 1968 – the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago in specific. Most voting age Americans weren’t yet born back then. That was the last election I was too young to vote in. I was still in high school (although very politically aware).

I see a possible parallel with 1968 and it terrifies me. If I wanted to do a good job of outlining the situation and events of 1968 I’d have to write several volumes, not just an article. In fact, many books have been written on the topic.

The convention was marked by violent protests which the TV networks soaked by downplaying convention coverage itself (which had more than its fair share of chaos). At their root the protests were over the Vietnam War. Prior to the convention there had been campus protests. While today’s campus protests over the war in Gaza are surprising to many Americans, to my generation they are taken seriously but viewed through a “been there, done that” lens.

I don’t think that situation will be resolved by the time the Democrats gather again in Chicago in August to nominate Joe Biden. The inside the party dynamics are much different than in ’68 but I fear the outside could look similar. If there are massive and/or violent demonstrations the news media will focus on that instead of the admittedly infomercial that conventions have devolved into. I believe the “if it bleeds, it leads” philosophy dominates our media organizations regardless of political bent.

Going back to the campus actions of today for a bit, I don’t believe either the legitimate demonstrators or school administrators have studied history. They are largely making the same mistakes their predecessors did. The protestors have a legitimate beef when they protest their school’s investments in Israel if those investments are enabling a genocide. Their mistake is in letting their actions cross the line into law breaking beyond peaceful civil disobedience. They are also letting outside trouble makers who don’t care about the cause but just see an opportunity to make trouble to infiltrate their ranks.

The school administrators are escalating the situation by calling in police from outside the campus. I guess it all goes back to adage (I’m paraphrasing) that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. (This applies to Republicans who want to appease Putin rather than aid democracy in Ukraine but that is another topic.)

The unrest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in large part led to the election of Richard Nixon in 1968. I could see a repeat of that with the even more disastrous result of returning Donald Trump to the White House. Nixon was bad enough; the first Trump administration was far worse and it certainly appears that term would look like paradise compared to a second Trump administration.

Politically it’s a long, long way from over but this is a speed bump I hope the Biden forces are looking to avoid if at all possible. Avoidance, while far from an easy task may well prove much more achievable than overcoming.

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