Deja Vu Again - Is Trump Really Nixon and Are We in Big Trouble? (Watch)
I should not have been surprised. As I was covering/filming/marching up Broad Street Monday with a vast array of protesters in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, the constant chanting was, "We will never vote for Hillary." Diverse issues and marchers, animated and angry, noisy and creative with Cornel West and YahNe Ndgo at the lead, the marchers had a powerful energy that was impossible to deny; yes, they were pro-Bernie, but more so they despised Hillary.
Suddenly I was astrally projected back to 1968 and the Chicago DNC, May Day 1970 in Washington, and many other powerful protests. I was in my early 20s again, feeling the flash of revolutionary determination, the pleasure of rightness. The addiction to purity and principle washed over me. It was temporarily cathartic—deja vu. I felt exhilarated, joyful; I felt like crying. (In fact, I got so carried away that I unconsciously abandoned my backpack and computer, leaving me only with my iPhone.*)
Then I returned to my 2016 reality. I was initially surprised because I thought most people would see the danger of Donald Trump in such bold relief they couldn't possibly not vote for Hillary.
But I am quite wrong about this. Now I know better why. Decades later, older, hopefully wiser, certainly more pragmatic—and for sure a practical advocate for Hillary—I can see clearly what the Berniecrats and the activists are feeling. It is part of the natural evolution of political consciousness. There is no more chance of talking these young activists out of their disdain for Hillary than there is a path to convincing a Trump voter to support Hillary. And looking back on history, this could end badly. Back in 1968, things were tumultuous, and in the end the dilemma quite similar.
Senator Eugene McCarthy challenged Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary and was instrumental in getting the warmonger (who arguably produced more civil rights and social progress legislation than any president) to drop out of the race for reelection. Many young people "got clean for Gene" and pushed the McCarthy campaign.
Then Bobby Kennedy jumped into the race. His passion and charisma immediately overshadowed McCarthy. But then RFK was assassinated. (Martin Luther King Jr. was also assassinated earlier that year, and there were large-scale insurrections in cities across the land, making 1968 one of the most tumultuous years in a century.) And slowly but surely the mainstream candidate, Hubert Humphrey, who was Johnson's VP, emerged as the favorite to be the Democratic nominee. But we radicals—the '60s activists of which there were millions and the Chicago 7 including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Bobby Seale—were all appalled.
Humphrey was no less a war criminal than Johnson. And of course the history of the Mayor Richard Daley-led police riots in Lincoln Park in Chicago in the summer of '68 is one of the most famous moments of lefty youth rebellion in American history. Back then, there was a similar dilemma, as today. Did we want the universally hated "Tricky Dick" in the White House? Or could we swallow our idealism and vote for Humphrey? For many, it was not even close. "Dump the Hump" became the rallying cry. Many young people either dropped out or voted—depending on the state—for one of the alternatives: Eldridge Cleaver, or Dick Gregory for me, since he was on the ballot in New Jersey.
And no spoilers here, Nixon beat Humphrey. Nixon won the popular vote by a narrow margin of 0.7 percentage point, but won easily in the electoral college, 301-191. (The '68 election was also unique in that former Alabama Governor George Wallace ran as a third-party candidate mainly advocating for racial segregation in public schools. Wallace won a few states in the South—the last time a third-party candidate has won any single state.)
I have been a Trump watcher for decades, and I have been appalled by him countless times. He is at the head of a pack of particularly odious operators (Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie are members). The prospect of Trump as president is an astounding thing to contemplate. It means that all of our hopes that the country would mature and be less insane are out the window. Sure, half the American people despise Trump. But if the other half voted for him, that is a very dark portent for the future, because there is no way to bridge that gap. Something cataclysmic is in store for us, if not this year, then look out for 2020.
But for reasons both obvious and mystifying, Hillary Clinton is as much an object of contempt as Trump, or even more for many young people. And I can see why they might think that way, because that is how I thought when I was their age.
*Postcript: The Philadelphia police were very helpful to me, especially Lt. Brian Sprowal of the Real Time Crime Center. And the Philly police were competent overall, as far as I could tell. The lieutenant couldn't save my bag from being slashed by the bomb squad, but he got it back for me with its contents intact, including my computer.
Watch: Jackie from Newsy News gives a brief tour of the early protests and demonstrations at the DNC: