I’m beginning to think the Democratic Convention in 2008 could end up looking and sounding a lot like Chicago, 1968. If the leadership of the Democratic Party (other than Ted Kennedy) continues to resist setting a firm date for withdrawal from Iraq, you can be sure that a Gene McCarthy/Bobby Kennedy will emerge to mobilize a peace bloc determined to get us out. And, quite obviously, we’re not talking about a fringe group. You’ve probably heard by now that the Republican Congressman whose district includes Camp Lejeune came out today for setting a withdrawal date. The other day, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asked its readers if it’s “time to begin the careful but quick withdrawal of American forces from Iraq”. 2,600 readers responded, and more than 90 percent answered in the affirmative. And, of course, polls are already saying that a majority of Americans think the war isn’t worth it. I can’t imagine those numbers turning the other way.
Will Hillary be Hubert?
For those of my readers who weren't alive in 1968, let me recap:
In 1964, civil rights workers from southern states responded to the Jim Crow policies of their state's Democratic parties by forming their own delegations to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. There, they precipitated a crisis by demanding to be seated in place of the delegations selected by the tainted elections process. LBJ, furious that his nomination be overshadowed by what he considered a sideshow, sent his V.P. selection, Hubert Humphrey to deal with the dissidents.
Hubert tried to get the civil rights workers to back off from their challenge and accept a pledge of good faith that the administration would make civil rights a priority. In the end, the delegates were not seated and many felt betrayed.
In 1968 this radicalized segment saw the nomination of Hubert Humphrey as a confirmation of the Democrat's lack of seriousness on civil rights. They joined radical anti-war protestors and filled Chicago's streets with a surging mass of people one step away from riot. The riot was kicked off by Democratic mayor Richard J. Daley when overworked Chicago police charged demonstrators on Michigan avenue and Daley was overheard giving the order, "Shoot to maim."
Chicago was a real landmark of the times, providing a brutal punctuation to the "Summer of Love." It showed a generation of idealistic volunteers how cynical their political bosses were. Young people carried banners that declared, "Keep the Country Hump-free." Nixon won the election.
By 1972, the debacle of Chicago swept in the goo-goo candidacy of George McGovern. Nixon won re-election. But Nixon's own paranoia in that campaign ensured that James Earl Carter would be the next elected president.
So Chicago was something of a "Perfect Storm" of politics. Without 1964 betrayal of the civil rights workers, LBJ would not have placed Humphrey as his vice-presidential choice. Without Humphrey running, the civil right community would not have been so up in arms. Without the civil rights delegates, the anti-war protestors would have stood alone. Without the hard hand of "Boss" Daley, the protests would not have spiraled into a "police riot."
I just don't think that fair-trade mocha-lattes can generate enough energy to get the MoveOn crowd up in arms about Hillary selling them out. I don't think that gay marriage activists will join the black-hood anarchists in a riot. And I don't think that any American mayor will be as stupid as Daley was in that hot August week back in 1968.