Playing With Fire

The concept of “recreating 68” seems at once a misunderstanding of what really happened at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968, and at the same time, an astute understanding of the reasons those events occurred.

In the seemingly bipolar world of the two-party United States of America, a true repeat of such rioting and anarchy in Denver, in 2008, would almost certainly revive the Republican backlash that took hold in 1968 and persisted, arguably, until George W. Bush’s ratings plummeted after the WMD were not found in Iraq and his excessive cronyism was exposed beyond doubt by the federal government’s inability to make any reasonable response to the hurricanes that battered Louisiana and Texas in 2004.

This loss of confidence – both at home and abroad – coupled with the subsequent economic dive has provided even the moderate McCain a steep uphill climb toward the presidency. Thus, with the independent vote of crucial importance to both parties, radicalism on either side only plays to the opponent’s hand.

In an interview with Colorado Public Radio’s “Colorado Matters”, Mark Cohen, one of the organizers of “Recreate 68”, a coalition of over one hundred different organization and protest groups, seems to get this, claiming that there is no “direct action” to be taken in Denver, because the convention is only a “show”, and therefore, only symbolic action is on the agenda.

But the name alone is subject to interpretation, subject to misunderstanding. Because it is not qualified to exclude the kind of violent confrontation experienced in Chicago, it may be a significant source of concern on the part of the Denver’s city government, as well as encourage some, who like so many at the political rallies in Berkeley, as characterized by Tom Wolfe in the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, are only looking for kicks, or are out to disrupt for non-political reasons. These two results could make “Recreate 68” a self fulfilling prophesy that its founders clearly did not intend. The Blog, Liberal Jackass Quotes, may not be off base to declare that “…If Cohen has any inclinations to “Re-Create 68” he is full of crap about any intention of having “innocent protesters.”

Larry Hales, representing Troops Out Now, shows a good understanding of why anyone might want to turn back the clock “…neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are fulfilling the needs of the American people.” When the interviewer asks why not show up in Minneapolis instead, as the Democrat platform seems closer to fulfilling American his perception of needs than the Republican, he responds that the Republican convention is important too. The underlying thrust of this coalition seems to be to communicate to the Democrats that they have a large, growing constituency which is not satisfied with them either.

In spite of the fact that these groups emphasize peaceful protest in both their words and on their web sites, they could be playing with fire. No organization has the ability to manage large numbers of people, in an uncertain environment, when they are actively demonstrating dissatisfaction with government. It is clear that the name they chose has increased mobilization on the part of the state, and may have incited counter movements to act. It is also clear that their real motives stand to lose substantial ground if things go wrong in Denver next week, not to mention the personal injury and physical damage that could result. This coalition’s choice of name has them playing with fire, let’s hope we don’t all get burnt.


Filed under Democratic Party, Party Conventions

3 responses to “Playing With Fire

  1. sapopp

    “Thus, with the independent vote of crucial importance to both parties, radicalism on either side only plays to the opponent’s hand.”

    I absolutely agree with that quote. If the protests are peaceful and don’t have catastrophic results, it may be okay. However, if any of the protests lead to property destruction or turn violent, it will likely hurt the Democratic Party. To much of America, any radical demonstration could look terrible, and since those displays are taking place during the DNC, that dissention shown in Denver could easily play into the Republicans hands, especially if their convention is met with less dissention.

  2. Stephen Noriega

    It is hard to say if the hope of the DNC and Obama short-circuited any large-scale protests or if everyone just said a big “Nevermind” to the whole process. I was surprised that the protests did not materialize in the way Recreate ’68 planned. I agree that a group can get out of hand no matter what the intention and that could have happened here. No amount of police and no amount of peaceful organizers can stem the energy of a mob if the conditions become right.

  3. Tony Robinson

    Very insightful commentary, Matt. I agree that the Recreate 68 name was very poorly chosen. Even though I have a romantic understanding of the events of that year, any political analysis would tell you that you are hurting your cause by giving yourself that name. And it’s also right that the recreate68 folks tried to play it both ways–suggesting possible violence and anarchy might happen, while also saying they were all about peaceful protest.

    The entry would be better if it were filled with good links to outside sources, so readers can explore this issue further through the doors you open to them.

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