Anti-war Activists To Protest Anti-war Party Convention

In January, ColoradoConfidential.com reported on a group of Colorado activists who laid claim to a variety of web sites related to the 2008 Democratic National Convention to be held in Denver.

Monday, as the Boulder Daily Camera reports, this group of activists, the Recreate 68 Alliance, pledged that delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver will be met by thousands of anti-war protesters.

The 1968 Democratic National Convention is famous, of course, for the television coverage of Chicago police, and Illinois National Guardsmen beating protesters and bystanders in the street.

Analysis after the jump…On its website, the Recreate 68 Alliance urges:

Join us in the streets of Denver as we resist a two-party system that allows imperialism and racism to continue unrestrained.  We will demand change by making the Democratic Convention of 1968 look like a small get together in 2008!

This promise of a violent clash in Denver begs the question: Is the political climate today ripe for a 1968 style conflict?

First, let’s go briefly back for a moment to the 1968 Presidential Election and Democratic National Convention.

Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was conducting a War in Vietnam.  He won the New Hampshire Primary, but by a narrow margin, against anti-war Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy from Minnesota. 

Soon after Johnson’s close win, Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) jumped in the race, and also advocated for an end to the Vietnam War.  RFK’s entry into the race was followed by LBJ announcing he would not seek reelection.  Vice President Hubert Humphrey replaced Johnson as the leading candidate supporting a continuation of the war. Hours after RFK won the California Primary on June 4, 1968, he was assassinated.

Despite the fact that RFK and McCarthy won most of the state delegate nominating contests, Humphrey eventually secured the Democratic nomination, in part based on his strong support from party leaders and officials.

During the convention, when Humphrey officially became the Democratic nominee, protests waged outside.  Those protests turned violent, and over 200 people were injured (police, protesters, and bystanders included).

So what are the parallels for Democrats in 2008?

America is obviously at war, this time in Iraq.  President George W. Bush is unpopular and not running for reelection (though he could not run for reelection, even he were popular). The parallels pretty much end there.

Bush is Republican, not a Democrat, so that helps unite the Democrats, not divide them.  Looking at the Democratic candidates, all oppose the war to some degree.  If pressed, one might be able to make the case that Sen. Hillary Clinton has been the least vocal of the leading candidates for a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq.  Sen. Obama also makes the claim to being the only candidate who has opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, though some in the Clinton camp dispute that assertion.  But in the end, none of the Democrats are backing the President and his war fighting efforts.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper would seem to be the parallel figure to 1968 Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, but scooter driving Hickenlooper does not really fit the bill.  He certainly does not have a strong party machine at his control.

What about on the Republican side, though?

The parallels to 1968 are somewhat stronger on right.  First, there is President Bush’s already mentioned lack of popularity. 

Second, the current leader in the polls, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani, does not the fit typical mold for a Republican frontrunner, as Giuliani publicly backed public funding for abortion in the past.  His selection as the GOP nominee would then almost certainly seem to promote a fracturing of the Republican Party.

Further, potential Presidential candidate Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) recently mentioned impeachment as an option for Congress if President Bush does not change his approach to Iraq.  He has also referred to the War in Iraq as a “grinder”.

There is clearly dissention in the Republican ranks.  With Bush’s approval ratings reaching new lows, a social liberal leading in the polls for the Republican nomination, and the Iowa caucuses kicking off the presidential primary season in under 10 months, it is the Republican convention that might provide the right environment for major anti-war protests.

Of course, the Re-create 68 folks will be in Denver, not Minneapolis.

(Thanks to CNN for historical background.)

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Mark Mehringer

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