Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Walter Cronkite, Feb. 27, 1968

The war drags on. The Democratic party is fiercely divided. Martin Luther King is killed in April, and Robert Kennedy in June, the night of the California primary. With Kennedy dead, only one peace candidate remains, Eugene McCarthy. President Johnson isn't running, but Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who did not participate in the primaries, has enough spoken-for delegates to secure the nomination. This is his golden moment. To most people opposed to the war, Humphrey promises nothing but a continuation of LBJ's failed policies. The year is 1968.

The Democratic National Convention is held in Chicago. Protesters come from all over. Mayor Daley, the last of the big city bosses, meets them with brute force, Chicago style. Protesters are denied a permit, making them easy targets for Daley's agitated police. The Walker Commission later term what occurs as "a police riot."

Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Aug, 26-29, 1968

As the Chicago streets fill with teargas and bloodied demonstrators, strong-arm tactics invade the convention itself, as you can see from this clip with Dan Rather. America watches this chaotic scene on television, uncertain if the whole shebang is going up in flames.

Norman Mailer wrote extensively about the events in his book, "Miami and the Siege of Chicago." He spoke with Amy Goodman in 2004:

"Most of you, I’m sure, know all about it. For those of you who you don’t, there was a huge march of demonstrators, an essentially peaceful march that went up Michigan Boulevard and at a given moment, given the order by Mayor Daley then, not the present Richard Daley, but his father, the police surged into the marchers and beat them up with canes. It was all on television. It was extraordinary television, one of the incredible moments of network television, and everyone was shocked down to the core. The Cronkites, the Rathers, whoever was there then—I don’t even remember—they all were profoundly shocked. And it looked—at the moment, it looked like: how awful, how awful, the Republicans are going to pay for this. Quite the contrary, the Republicans won..."

-- from the documentary, "1968: The Year That Shaped a Generation."

Democratic Party nominee Humphrey will lose to Republican Richard Nixon, who uses the same talking points Republicans use today. Promising law and order, victory, patriotism, tough guy rhetoric, Nixon wins the general election and immediately escalates the war.
There are parallels. The war drags on. People want change. The Democrats are strongly divided. For some reason they argue endlessly about non-issues like flag lapel pins, instead of uniting against the Republicans and Bush's disastrous policies. Let's hope they wise up.

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