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Mon Apr 29, 2024, 11:17 AM Apr 29

When Moral Hygiene Becomes a Lethal Mistake By Joe Conason [View all]

Historical analogies rarely carry much weight, especially in a time when so much about politics has changed so rapidly. To compare what is happening in 2024 to events that occurred over half a century earlier hardly seems useful.

It mostly isn't. And yet the election of 1968, whose outcome proved disastrous for America and the world, looms over the coming months like a foreboding specter.

Despite all the obvious differences in personalities, issues, technologies and ideologies, there is a haunting parallel between then and now in the increasingly fraught debate among Democrats and progressives over a divisive war — and the alienation of younger and minority voters from the party they would otherwise support.

By the spring of 1968, the movement against the Vietnam War had sparked a sense of furious frustration among young Americans who saw it causing tens of thousands of pointless deaths with no justification or end in sight. Massive antiwar protests swept across the nation's universities and colleges, sometimes resulting in conflict with authorities. Dissent within his own party had inspired not one but two insurgent candidacies against President Lyndon B. Johnson, who declared in late March that he wouldn't seek a second term.

The assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy snuffed hopes for a fresh Democratic ticket. The nomination fell to Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Johnson's personally anointed successor, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While the antiwar movement was generally peaceful and orderly, the student left had spawned a revolutionary wing whose leaders aimed for confrontation in the streets. The Windy City's conservative mayor, Richard J. Daley, was only too eager to answer them with billy clubs and tear gas.

Chaos and violence outside the convention, instigated by a rampaging police force, deepened the party's split and left millions of young voters vowing to support a third-party candidate or simply abstain.

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