Ribicoff protesta contra as "táticas da Gestapo" na Convenção de Chicago de 1968

Ribicoff protesta contra as

Quando tumultos sangrentos estouraram entre os manifestantes anti-guerra do Vietnã e a polícia de Chicago fora da Convenção Nacional Democrata de 1968, o senador Abraham Ribicoff abandonou seu discurso de apoio preparado para George McGovern e, em vez disso, criticou o modo como o prefeito Richard Daly lidou com a situação.


'Chicago 1968' a convenção mais controversa de todas

Quando o prefeito de Chicago, Richard Daley, percebeu que grupos dissidentes consideráveis ​​planejavam organizar manifestações altamente visíveis contra a Guerra do Vietnã fora e em torno da convenção de nomeação presidencial democrata de Chicago em 1968, pode-se imaginar que uma paráfrase educada de sua resposta seria: "Não precisamos disso . " Exatamente como os manifestantes se sentiam em relação à guerra, junto com outras políticas do Partido Democrático de Daley que eles consideravam insuficientemente progressistas.

O resultado ficou conhecido em uma abreviatura quase universal como "Chicago 1968", uma convenção política que saiu dos trilhos para se tornar tão tumultuada e inquietante quanto o ano em que ocorreu.

De certa forma, a troca de acusações e insultos de 1968 não foi muito diferente daquela que sempre ocorreu e ainda ocorre diariamente em um país que ao menos teoricamente abraça a liberdade de expressão.

Ligue em qualquer canal de notícias a cabo ou programa de rádio hoje e você ouvirá alguém dizendo por que outra pessoa é um idiota perigoso.

A diferença em 1968 foi que cada lado foi para as ruas, desencadeando o tipo de confronto físico sangrento que uma geração mais tarde estaria mais associado à Sérvia ou à Somália.

Não temos o crédito de que as imagens de confronto doméstico violento eram comuns nas telas de televisão americanas durante os anos 1960, uma década que começou com espancamentos violentos de manifestantes pacíficos pelos direitos civis e mais tarde se transformou em distúrbios e rebeliões urbanas. Mesmo nesse contexto, porém, o que aconteceu na convenção democrata há 40 anos foi intenso o suficiente para parar tudo.

Enquanto os democratas se reuniam dentro do Anfiteatro Internacional para nomear o senador de Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey para presidente e endossar a maior parte do legado do presidente cessante Lyndon B. Johnson, manifestantes do lado de fora procuraram chamar a atenção por todos os meios possíveis para suas críticas à Guerra do Vietnã de Johnson.

Os manifestantes nunca reuniram os números que esperavam trazer para a cidade. Apesar da conversa inicial de 100.000 pessoas, as fileiras eram menos de um quarto disso na hora do show.

Aqueles que compareceram às marchas, comícios e discursos perceberam ainda mais claramente que a atenção que receberiam dependia em parte das autoridades de Chicago, notadamente incluindo Daley e sua polícia, tratando-os como se fossem de fato um exército grande e perigoso.

Era a Estratégia 101: quanto mais atenção recebessem, mais as pessoas ouviriam de alguma forma sua mensagem, que era a urgência com que sentiam que os Estados Unidos deveriam não apenas encerrar a guerra, mas repensar toda a sua direção.

A maior parte do país não concordou com essa segunda parte. A maior parte do país pode ainda não ter concordado com a guerra, embora essa fosse a direção que o pensamento público estava tomando, em um ritmo cada vez mais acelerado.

O objetivo de desafiar os democratas em Chicago era acelerar esse ritmo. Era a velha piada do fazendeiro e da mula, em que o fazendeiro que quer que a mula comece a arar quebra uma tábua na cabeça da mula. Questionado sobre o motivo, ele responde: "Primeiro você precisa chamar a atenção dele."

Puramente como teatro, Chicago 1968 era parte dança de rua e parte Shakespeare. Ele oscilou entre a comédia e a tragédia, tecendo encenações auto-indulgentes em profundas divergências sobre os princípios fundamentais da nação.

Um ramo absurdo dos manifestantes, o partido Yippie do falecido Abbie Hoffman e Jerry Rubin, realizou um evento no qual nomeou um porco (Pigasus, nome emprestado de John Steinbeck e dos livros de Oz) para presidente.

Uma nota mais sombria foi um discurso do senador de Connecticut Abraham Ribicoff na quinta noite da convenção, após o confronto clímax entre a polícia e os manifestantes.

Ribicoff estava nomeando o senador de Dakota do Sul George McGovern como uma alternativa progressiva de "paz" para o presidente - um movimento puramente simbólico, já que a indicação de Humphrey era certa.

Mas Ribicoff aproveitou a ocasião para dar um passo adiante:

"Com George McGovern como presidente dos Estados Unidos, não precisaríamos ter táticas da Gestapo nas ruas de Chicago", disse ele, desencadeando uma tempestade de vivas e vaias pelo chão.

As câmeras de TV cortaram para a reação de Daley e, embora não houvesse áudio, seu movimento labial parecia consistente com a frase, "F-você, Abe."

Daley disse mais tarde que simplesmente chamou Ribicoff de "farsa".

Isso é possível. O que é indiscutível é que, naquela quinta noite, a tensão há muito sugou todo o oxigênio de Chicago e ambos os lados estavam funcionando com pura adrenalina.

Nesse sentido, a convenção democrata de 1968 parecia uma metáfora perfeita para a América de 1968.

Você não diria que 1968 foi o pior ano da história americana. Não corresponde aos anos da Guerra Civil, aos anos da Grande Depressão ou 1941, quando fomos bombardeados para uma guerra mundial.

Mas 1968 teve seus problemas, mesmo depois do surgimento da 1910 Fruitgum Company no top 40 dos rádios. Martin Luther Jr. King foi assassinado. Robert Kennedy foi assassinado. Cidades queimadas. Em uma semana de março, mais de 500 americanos morreram no Vietnã.

Em muitos aspectos, a América em 1968 parecia um navio que se soltou de suas amarras e fugiu de uma tempestade. As regras pareciam um pouco mais negociáveis, a improvisação um pouco mais necessária.

No final, ironicamente, a convenção democrata ignorou o calor e a fúria para fazer exatamente o que teria feito se os delegados simplesmente tivessem se encontrado sozinhos para almoçar em um tranquilo restaurante privado.

Eles nomearam Humphrey, o último soldado do partido, por uma margem de 1.759,25 votos a 601 para o senador de Minnesota Eugene McCarthy. Eles reafirmaram seu compromisso de ajudar outros Estados soberanos a resistir à insurgência externa, ou seja, endossaram a guerra.

Eles também admiraram o legado doméstico do partido nos quatro anos anteriores, como deveriam. A Lei dos Direitos Civis e a Lei dos Direitos de Voto foram as coisas certas para os Estados Unidos, embora tenham destruído o Partido Democrata que as fez acontecer.

Dentro de uma geração, os sulistas que herdaram um ódio sangrento pelo Partido Republicano desde os Republicanos Radicais da Reconstrução diziam a si mesmos que abaixo da Linha Mason-Dixon, o Republicano era o novo Democrata.

O fato de Lyndon Johnson ter defendido esses projetos de lei no Congresso, sabendo plenamente de suas consequências políticas, foi um dos atos políticos extraordinários do século XX.

Mas ele não estava ganhando pontos de "perfil em coragem" em 1968, um ano em que quase todos os olhos estavam voltados para a guerra e, secundariamente, a virada na luta pelos direitos civis de manifestações pacíficas para uma militância cada vez mais impaciente.

Ainda no outono de 1967, quando meio milhão de manifestantes marcharam sobre Washington para protestar contra a guerra, presumia-se que Johnson, que em 1964 foi eleito por uma das maiores margens da história, seria renomeado por aclamação.

O movimento anti-guerra tentou recrutar um candidato de alto perfil para se opor a ele, concentrando-se no senador de Nova York Robert Kennedy, depois que ele expressou reservas crescentes sobre a guerra que seu falecido irmão foi fundamental para definir como uma missão americana.

Kennedy se recusou a fazer esse desafio, no entanto, o que deixou uma escassa escolha. Os únicos dois senadores que se opuseram categoricamente à guerra por algum tempo foram Wayne Morse, do Oregon, e Ernest Gruening, do Alasca, estadistas mais velhos com credibilidade, mas não candidatos presidenciais viáveis.

Portanto, foi com pouca fanfarra que o discreto McCarthy declarou sua candidatura em 30 de novembro de 1967.

McCarthy não era um radical anti-guerra de cabelos compridos e impetuoso. Ele era um orador calmo, dado a alusões literárias, argumentos intelectuais, poesia e ironia divertida. Ele era meticulosamente preparado, o que refletia o fato de que, fora de se opor à guerra, ele também era freqüentemente conservador em suas políticas. Ele quase entrou para o clero em sua juventude, e muitas de suas posições estavam em desacordo com as amplamente defendidas no movimento anti-guerra.

Portanto, ele foi considerado o mais simbólico dos candidatos anti-Johnson.

Mas como ele era o único cavalo a cavalgar, grande parte do movimento anti-guerra - excluindo a franja radical - caiu. Os alunos tiraram as aulas do semestre da primavera para "Get Clean for Gene", cortando o cabelo e promovendo educadamente o registro eleitoral e campanhas para votar.

Em 12 de março de 1968, McCarthy obteve 42% dos votos nas primárias de New Hampshire. Johnson, que não fez campanha ativamente, obteve 48%.

Isso não foi necessariamente uma declaração anti-guerra. Na verdade, muitos eleitores conservadores de New Hampshire provavelmente ficaram tão desencantados com os programas da Grande Sociedade de Johnson quanto com a guerra.

No entanto, um candidato desconhecido que mantém um presidente em exercício com menos da metade dos votos disse que outra onda atingiu o navio.

Em 31 de março, Johnson anunciou que não buscaria outro mandato, deixando tacitamente a bola para ser recolhida por seu vice-presidente, Humphrey.

Outrora conhecido como um liberal populista e impetuoso, Humphrey agora era amplamente visto como o cara das festas, aquele que não balançava os barcos.

Isso foi bom para tranquilizar um país que já se sentia abalado o suficiente. Não ajudou em nada a transmitir a mensagem crítica de que ele estava procurando terminar a guerra, em vez de estendê-la.

Portanto, havia uma abertura muito mais ampla para um candidato anti-guerra agora, e logo Robert Kennedy repensou as coisas e anunciou sua própria candidatura.

Ou, como McCarthy observou drasticamente: "Antes de New Hampshire, havia um senador que me apoiava. Acho que não é mais esse o caso."

Ainda assim, Kennedy teve uma batalha difícil contra Humphrey, que tinha o apoio de Daley e de praticamente todo o establishment democrata.

Mas Kennedy tinha o carisma e o nome para levar a bola mais longe do que McCarthy, e depois que ele ganhou as primárias democratas na Califórnia em 5 de junho, parecia possível que o lado anti-guerra pudesse fazer incursões na convenção de Chicago, mesmo que apenas no partido plataforma.

Minutos depois, grande parte dessa esperança foi desferida um golpe mortal na cozinha do Ambassador Hotel em Los Angeles, onde foi assassinado ao deixar o prédio após seu discurso de vitória.

No final de agosto, porém, isso não desencorajou milhares de manifestantes que decidiram que os democratas - o partido no poder, o partido que impulsionou a guerra - precisavam ser confrontados com suas consequências.

Conseqüentemente, Daley colocou 12.000 policiais de Chicago em turnos de 12 horas durante o período. Ele também convocou 7.500 soldados do Exército e 6.000 Guardas Nacionais, dando a ele apenas um pouco menos tropas do que Alexandre, o Grande, comandou quando ele marchou para governar o mundo por volta de 335 a.C.

Os manifestantes que queriam permissão para montar foram arrastados para Lincoln Park e Grant Park, a quilômetros do centro de convenções. A maioria dos pedidos para marchar em direção ao Anfiteatro foi negada. 23h00 o toque de recolher foi declarado.

Daley não tinha intenção de deixar sua cidade parecer desordenada.

Nas ruas e nos parques, as primeiras noites da convenção foram marcadas por desafios esporádicos à polícia e respostas esporádicas da polícia, muitas envolvendo aquele problemático 23h. regredir.

Os dois lados circulavam um ao outro, figurativa e literalmente. Dentro da convenção, as forças anti-guerra falaram bravamente enquanto os tradicionalistas, aqueles que pensavam que seria uma loucura e um suicídio político para os democratas repudiar tudo o que seus líderes haviam dito e feito nos últimos seis anos, gradualmente confirmaram sua maioria.

Nesse buraco caiu toda a esperança realista de uma plataforma de paz.

Lá fora, os manifestantes estavam conseguindo alguma mídia e irritando as pessoas em posição de autoridade, que era um poder diferente, menos tangível e menos imediato do que Daley exercia.

Mas era um poder próprio.

No quinto dia, os democratas rejeitaram formalmente a plataforma de paz e algo em torno de 6.000 manifestantes se reuniram em Grant Park.

A rejeição da plataforma de paz foi quase imediatamente seguida pela nomeação de Humphrey, um golpe duplo que, embora esperado, ainda fez com que as frustrações dos manifestantes fervessem.

Embora não tivessem permissão para marchar em qualquer lugar e fosse altamente improvável que marchassem 16 quilômetros por alguns dos bairros mais violentos de Chicago até o Anfiteatro, eles decidiram sair do parque e ir a algum lugar, mesmo que fosse apenas para o Hilton Hotel do outro lado da rua, onde muitos funcionários e assessores da convenção estavam hospedados.

Então, eles começaram a abrir caminho para sair, mesmo com a polícia se preparando para impor mais um às 23h. regredir. Foi aí que começou o trecho mais famoso do feio.

Alguns observadores disseram que tudo começou quando a polícia espancou um homem que tentava baixar uma bandeira americana. Mas esse tipo de "incidente" logo explodiu em todos os lugares.

As autoridades de Chicago disseram à polícia para limpar a área em frente ao Hilton, aparentemente sem perceber que a maioria das pessoas não eram manifestantes, mas sim pessoas presentes na convenção, bem como turistas e outros civis.

A polícia, com suas próprias frustrações tão agudas quanto as dos manifestantes, interferiu. Os médicos que tentaram ajudar os feridos foram espancados. Assessores de altos funcionários democratas foram espancados. Todo mundo estava com gás lacrimogêneo.

Houve relatos de que a polícia aplaudiu um soldado que atacou um cinegrafista que filmava os acontecimentos.

Mas muitos filmes sobreviveram e, em uma hora, estavam em rede nacional. Foi quando Ribicoff invocou a Gestapo. Na televisão ABC, o conservador William F. Buckley e o liberal Gore Vidal debateram as mesmas questões, com Gore Vidal dizendo: "o único cripto-nazista em que consigo pensar é você mesmo", e Buckley respondendo: "Agora escute, sua bicha, pare de ligar sou um cripto-nazista, ou vou socar você na sua cara e você vai ficar engessado. "

Como sempre acontece na batalha, a atenção voltada para os lados beligerantes era desproporcional aos seus números reais, o que não importava de forma alguma. Na televisão, parecia que o Chicago de Daley havia se transformado no que ele mais detestava e temia: desordem.

As consequências de Chicago em 1968 foram várias. Oito manifestantes foram presos sob a acusação de conspiração e incitação à rebelião: David Dellinger, Abbie Hoffman, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner e Tom Hayden.

Eles se tornaram o Chicago Seven quando o abuso de Seale ao juiz Julius Hoffman, depois que Hoffman ordenou que ele fosse algemado e amordaçado, fez com que fosse expulso. Depois de um dos grandes exercícios de absurdo judicial da América, vários foram condenados por várias acusações, incluindo desacato ao tribunal. As condenações foram todas rejeitadas.

Dellinger, Rubin, Hoffman e o advogado William Kunstler foram julgados e condenados por outro juiz, que os condenou a nada.

Todos seguiram carreiras públicas. Hayden tornou-se um deputado da Califórnia, Seale escreve livros de receitas. Hoffman cometeu suicídio.


Nascido na Nova Grã-Bretanha, Connecticut, filho de imigrantes judeus Ashkenazi da Polônia, Samuel Ribicoff, um operário de fábrica, e Rose Sable Ribicoff, ele estudou em escolas públicas locais. Os pais relativamente pobres de Ribicoff valorizavam a educação e insistiam que todos os seus ganhos com os empregos de meio período da infância fossem para seus futuros estudos. Após o colegial, ele trabalhou por um ano em uma fábrica próxima da G. E. Prentice Company para ganhar fundos adicionais para a faculdade. Ribicoff matriculou-se na Universidade de Nova York em 1928 e, em seguida, foi transferido para a Universidade de Chicago depois que a Prentice Company o tornou gerente do escritório de Chicago. Enquanto estava em Chicago, Ribicoff lidou com os horários escolares e de trabalho e foi autorizado a entrar na faculdade de direito da universidade antes de terminar seu curso de graduação. Ainda estudante, ele se casou com Ruth Siegel em 28 de junho de 1931 e eles teriam dois filhos. Ribicoff atuou como editor do University of Chicago Law Review em seu terceiro ano e recebeu um LLB cum laude em 1933, sendo admitido na ordem dos advogados de Connecticut no mesmo ano. Depois de praticar a advocacia no escritório de um advogado de Hartford, Ribicoff estabeleceu sua prática, primeiro em Kensington e depois em Hartford.

Tendo se interessado por política, Ribicoff começou como membro da Câmara dos Representantes de Connecticut, servindo nesse órgão de 1938 a 1942. De 1941 a 1943 e novamente de 1945 a 1947 foi juiz do Tribunal de Polícia de Hartford. Durante sua carreira política, Ribicoff foi protegido de John Moran Bailey, o poderoso presidente do Partido Democrata de Connecticut.

Edição de representante dos EUA

Ele foi eleito um democrata para o 81º e 82º Congressos, servindo de 1949 até 1953. Durante esse tempo, ele serviu no Comitê de Relações Exteriores, uma posição geralmente reservada para membros com mais antiguidade, e era um apoiador leal do estrangeiro e políticas internas da administração do presidente Harry S. Truman. Geralmente liberal em sua perspectiva, ele surpreendeu muitos ao se opor a uma dotação de US $ 32 milhões para a construção de uma barragem em Enfield, Connecticut, argumentando que o dinheiro seria melhor gasto em necessidades militares e iniciativas de política externa, como o Plano Marshall.

Em 1952, ele fez uma tentativa malsucedida de eleição para preencher uma vaga no Senado dos Estados Unidos, perdendo para Prescott Bush.

Governador de Connecticut Editar

Depois de retornar à sua prática jurídica por dois anos, ele concorreu para governador contra o republicano John Davis Lodge, vencendo a eleição por pouco mais de três mil votos. Como governador (1955-1961), Ribicoff logo enfrentou o desafio de reconstruir seu estado após as inundações devastadoras que ocorreram no final do verão e no outono de 1955, e ele liderou com sucesso esforços bipartidários para ajudar as áreas danificadas. Ribicoff então defendeu com sucesso o aumento dos gastos do estado em escolas e programas de bem-estar. Ele também apoiou uma emenda à constituição estadual que reforçou os poderes de governo dos municípios locais. Facilmente reeleito em 1958, Ribicoff já havia se tornado ativo na cena política nacional. Amigo de longa data do senador de Massachusetts John F. Kennedy, Ribicoff indicou seu colega da Nova Inglaterra para vice-presidente na Convenção Nacional Democrata de 1956 e foi um dos primeiros funcionários públicos a endossar a campanha presidencial de Kennedy.

Edição da Secretaria de Saúde, Educação e Bem-Estar

Quando Kennedy se tornou presidente em 1961, ele ofereceu a Ribicoff sua escolha de cargos de gabinete na nova administração. Ele alegadamente recusou o cargo de procurador-geral, temendo que pudesse criar controvérsias desnecessárias dentro do movimento emergente dos direitos civis porque ele era judeu, e em vez disso escolheu ser secretário de saúde, educação e bem-estar (HEW). Embora ele tenha conseguido garantir uma revisão da Lei de Previdência Social de 1935 que liberalizou os requisitos para fundos de ajuda a crianças dependentes do Congresso, Ribicoff não conseguiu obter a aprovação para os projetos de lei do governo sobre o Medicare e o auxílio escolar. Eventualmente, ele se cansou de tentar gerenciar HEW, cujo tamanho o tornava, em sua opinião, incontrolável.

Ribicoff refletiu que buscou o cargo de secretário do HEW principalmente por preocupação com a educação e "percebeu que os problemas de saúde e bem-estar eram tão graves que a educação foi relegada para segundo plano" durante seu mandato. [1]

Ele foi finalmente eleito para o Senado dos Estados Unidos em 1962, substituindo Prescott Bush, que se aposentava, ao derrotar o candidato republicano Horace Seely-Brown com 51% dos votos. Ele serviu no Senado de 3 de janeiro de 1963 até 3 de janeiro de 1981.

Lyndon B. Johnson sucedeu Kennedy como presidente quando este foi assassinado em 1963. Ribicoff apoiou Johnson no início, mas acabou se voltando contra a Guerra do Vietnã e a gestão do presidente, acreditando que ela drenava recursos extremamente necessários dos programas domésticos.

Ribicoff aliou-se ao defensor do consumidor Ralph Nader na criação da Lei de Segurança de Rodovias de Veículos Motorizados de 1966, que criou a Administração Nacional de Segurança de Tráfego Rodoviário. A agência foi responsável por muitos novos padrões de segurança para carros. Esses padrões eram questionáveis ​​porque, até então, a ênfase sempre foi colocada no driver. Em resposta, Ribicoff afirmou que:

O driver tem muitos defeitos. Ele é negligente, ele é descuidado, ele é imprudente. Nós entendemos isso. Acho que será o milênio se você chegar a uma situação em que os milhões e milhões de motoristas serão perfeitos. Eles sempre estarão cometendo erros e cometendo erros.

Na Convenção Nacional Democrata de 1968, durante um discurso nomeando George McGovern, seu colega senatorial de Dakota do Sul, ele saiu do roteiro, dizendo: "E com George McGovern como presidente dos Estados Unidos, não precisaríamos ter táticas da Gestapo nas ruas de Chicago. " Muitos congressistas, tendo ficado chocados com a resposta da polícia de Chicago às manifestações anti-guerra que ocorriam simultaneamente, irromperam prontamente em aplausos extáticos. Câmeras de televisão prontamente focaram na reação indignada do prefeito de Chicago, Richard J. Daley. Ribicoff passou os anos restantes de sua carreira no Senado lutando por questões como integração escolar, bem-estar e reforma tributária e proteção ao consumidor.

Durante a Convenção Nacional Democrata de 1972, o candidato à presidência George McGovern ofereceu a Ribicoff a indicação democrata para vice-presidente, mas ele recusou e acabou indo para o senador Thomas Eagleton. [2] Depois que Eagleton se retirou, McGovern pediu a Ribicoff (entre outros) para tomar o lugar de Eagleton. Ele recusou, declarando publicamente que não tinha mais ambições para um cargo mais alto. McGovern acabou escolhendo Sargent Shriver como seu companheiro de chapa. Mais tarde, em 1972, após a morte de sua esposa, Ribicoff casou-se com Lois Mell Mathes, que ficou conhecida como "Casey". [3]

O futuro senador dos EUA Joe Lieberman trabalhou no gabinete do Senado de Ribicoff como estagiário de verão e conheceu sua primeira esposa, Betty Haas, lá.

Em 3 de maio de 1979, Ribicoff anunciou sua intenção de se aposentar ao final do terceiro mandato. O presidente Jimmy Carter divulgou um comunicado que credita Ribicoff por ter "compilado uma carreira distinta no serviço público que pode servir como um modelo de decência, compaixão e habilidade". [4]

Em 1981, Ribicoff cumpriu sua promessa de se aposentar do Senado e assumiu o cargo de advogado especial no escritório de advocacia Kaye Scholer LLP de Nova York e dividiu seu tempo entre casas em Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut e Manhattan. Ele foi co-presidente da Comissão de Realinhamento e Fechamento de Base de 1988.

Tendo sofrido nos últimos anos com os efeitos da doença de Alzheimer, ele morreu em 1998 na Casa Hebraica para Idosos em Riverdale no Bronx, Nova York, e está enterrado no Cemitério Cornwall em Cornwall, Connecticut.


A Convenção Nacional Democrática de 1968

Em todo o país e em Chicago, as tensões já eram altas quando os delegados da Convenção Nacional Democrata chegaram para a sessão de abertura nesta data. A destruição dos tumultos do rei nos lados oeste e sul em abril ainda era uma memória vívida. Em junho, as palavras finais do senador Robert F. Kennedy incluíram a frase, & quotOn to Chicago & quot, quando sua candidatura presidencial foi interrompida pela bala de um assassino na Califórnia.

Jovens ativistas como Abbie Hoffman e Jerry Rubin prometeram liderar os manifestantes da Guerra do Vietnã a Chicago para interromper a convenção. A polícia de Chicago alimentou a paranóia ao divulgar relatos de que os manifestantes planejavam aumentar o abastecimento de água da cidade com LSD. O prefeito Richard J. Daley deixou claro que não toleraria tentativas de interromper a convenção ou manchar o nome da cidade. A Guarda Nacional de Illinois foi convocada e as estradas para o Anfiteatro Internacional foram cercadas por uma segurança tão pesada que o Tribune chamou o local da convenção e cota de verdadeira paliçada.

Enquanto os delegados lotavam os hotéis do centro de Chicago, milhares de jovens manifestantes se mudaram para Lincoln Park. As tentativas de obter licenças municipais para passar as noites no parque falharam. Portanto, a cada noite, a polícia entrava, às vezes usando gás lacrimogêneo e força física para retirá-los. No início, a mídia se concentrou nos eventos do Anfiteatro, onde os ânimos explodiram durante o debate sobre a Guerra do Vietnã. Os jornalistas da CBS Mike Wallace e Dan Rather foram agredidos pelas câmeras por guardas de segurança, fazendo com que o âncora Walter Cronkite entoasse para uma audiência nacional: "Acho que temos um bando de bandidos aqui, se me permite dizer isso."

Os confrontos chegaram ao auge na quarta-feira, 28 de agosto. Os cinegrafistas da TV no Conrad Hilton Hotel (o antigo Stevens Hotel) viraram suas câmeras para a multidão, que gritava "O mundo inteiro está assistindo". Alguém jogou uma lata de cerveja. A polícia atacou e arrastou os manifestantes, espancando-os com cassetetes e punhos. & quotMuitos visitantes da convenção. . . ficaram chocados com o que consideraram um entusiasmo anormal da polícia pelo trabalho de prender manifestantes ”, relatou o Tribune no dia seguinte. Mais tarde, seria chamado de "motim policial". Naquela noite, em seu discurso de nomeação de George McGovern, o senador de Connecticut Abraham Ribicoff criticou as "táticas de Gestapo nas ruas de Chicago". Câmeras de televisão focaram em Daley enfurecido, gritando de volta na tribuna.

Só em agosto de 1996, com outro prefeito Daley no comando de Chicago, os democratas retornaram. Essa convenção, na qual o presidente Bill Clinton foi nomeado para um segundo mandato, foi um assunto cuidadosamente administrado. Mas o mundo inteiro não estava assistindo.


'68 MOMENT SE DESTACA NOS TRIBUTOS DE RIBICOFF

O ex-senador George S. McGovern estava se lembrando na segunda-feira de como ficou surpreso quando seu velho amigo e colega Abe Ribicoff confrontou o prefeito de Chicago, Richard J. Daley, na Convenção Nacional Democrata de 1968.

Afinal, esta não era apenas a cidade onde Daley governava, mas também a convenção onde Daley era o senhor e executor, o comandante de fato da polícia fora do salão de convenções que estava travando o que a mídia chamaria de "batalha travada" com os manifestantes.

McGovern foi uma entrada presidencial de última hora, tentando manter juntos os delegados que haviam sido leais ao assassinado Robert F. Kennedy. Ele observou Ribicoff, falando do pódio, tirar os óculos, elogiar McGovern e acusar Daley e seus tenentes de "táticas de Gestapo".

“Era algo fora do comum”, lembrou McGovern em uma entrevista na segunda-feira. & quotMas com certeza galvanizou a convenção. & quot

Ribicoff morreu no domingo, aos 87 anos, e em cada homenagem, em cada obituário, ele está sendo lembrado como o homem que se levantou não apenas para Daley, mas também para o establishment democrata. Era algo que pessoas de dentro de Washington, especialmente senadores dos EUA, simplesmente não faziam em lugar nenhum, muito menos na televisão nacional na frente do criador de reis residente do partido.

Ribicoff claramente tem um lugar importante na história política de Connecticut como ex-governador e senador. Mas fora do estado, ele é mais lembrado por aquele momento em Chicago.

Ribicoff fazia parte do sistema de Washington que os manifestantes anti-guerra rotularam de inimigo no final dos anos 1960.

"Ele era um político liberal a moderado, próximo dos Kennedys", disse Stephen J. Wayne, professor de governo da Universidade de Georgetown.

Ribicoff foi o primeiro secretário de saúde, educação e bem-estar do presidente Kennedy em 1961. Ele deixou o Gabinete no ano seguinte, optando por uma vaga no Senado dos EUA de Connecticut em 1962.

"Eles foram provavelmente seus anos menos satisfatórios", disse o senador Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., em sua homenagem ao plenário do Senado na segunda-feira, referindo-se ao tempo de Ribicoff no gabinete. “Ele dizia: 'Estou acostumado a ser meu próprio homem'. & quot

Ele ganhou a cadeira no Senado e rapidamente se tornou conhecido como um democrata leal, com laços notavelmente estreitos com membros regulares do partido, como John M. Bailey, o presidente estadual e nacional do partido. Ele era um lutador por questões progressistas como meio ambiente, segurança rodoviária e Medicare.

Ribicoff enfrentou a reeleição em 1968 e queria fazer parte do que chamou de "novas forças políticas". Dois de seus colegas no Senado, Robert Kennedy e Eugene J. McCarthy, de Minnesota, estavam recebendo forte apoio presidencial em Connecticut, e depois que Kennedy foi assassinado em junho, Ribicoff alinhou-se com McGovern.

Ele concordou em fazer o discurso de indicação do senador de Dakota do Sul na terceira noite da convenção.

Foi uma noite em que os americanos viram uma estranha justaposição de Chicago "correndo em sangue", como escreveria o autor Theodore H. White, enquanto a convenção conduzia serenamente seus negócios cuidadosamente planejados.

Ribicoff preparou comentários prontos no TelePrompTer. Sentado a cerca de 15 pés de distância estava Daley e sua delegação de Illinois, um séquito de White rotulando uma coleção de "políticos matraquilhos e fumantes de charuto".

Ribicoff tirou os óculos e olhou para Daley. & quotCom George McGovern como presidente dos Estados Unidos, não teríamos essas táticas da Gestapo nas ruas de Chicago. Com George McGovern, não teríamos Guarda Nacional. & Quot

O corredor entrou em erupção. Daley gesticulou rudemente para Ribicoff e proferiu uma obscenidade, a formulação da qual ainda é uma fonte de debate.

"Como é difícil", disse Ribicoff, com a voz trêmula. & quotComo é difícil aceitar a verdade, quando conhecemos os problemas que nossa nação enfrenta. & quot

Ribicoff continuaria, mas ninguém se lembrava de mais nada.

Embora existam segundos atos e além na vida política americana, as pessoas geralmente são lembradas pelo evento que primeiro atrai a atenção do público.

Por exemplo, embora John Glenn tenha uma longa carreira no Senado, inclusive sendo o principal democrata no comitê que investiga o financiamento de campanhas, os livros de história provavelmente o citarão como o primeiro americano a orbitar a Terra, em 1962, e depois retornar ao espaço como septuagenário.

Ribicoff serviu mais 12 anos no Senado depois de Chicago, mas naquela noite de agosto de 1968 iria marcá-lo para sempre como uma figura estabelecida que os forasteiros poderiam abraçar.

"O que ele fez motivou todas as pessoas naquela convenção a voltar para casa e começar a trabalhar em sua campanha", lembrou Anne Wexler, consultora de Washington e delegada estadual de 1968. & quotTodos os quartéis-generais McCarthy e Kennedy imediatamente foram convertidos em quartéis-generais da Ribicoff. & quot

Quatro anos depois, McGovern surpreendeu a política americana ao ganhar a indicação democrata. Ele disse na segunda-feira que queria Ribicoff em sua chapa e ofereceu-lhe a vaga de vice-presidente antes de escolher o senador Thomas F. Eagleton, do Missouri. Eagleton retirou-se mais tarde após relatos de que ele havia sido tratado para depressão.

Ribicoff disse não à oferta. “Ele me disse que estava para se casar”, lembrou McGovern, “e [disse] 'A última coisa de que precisamos é uma campanha presidencial.' & quot

Ribicoff voltou ao Senado, onde, como membro sênior, teve papéis importantes na elaboração de projetos de lei.

"All the government reorganization that Jimmy Carter wanted went through Sen. Ribicoff's committee," recalled Claudia Weicker, a professional committee staff member in the late 1970s. "He was particularly proud that he helped create the Department of Education."

Monday, though, the road of remembrance wound through Chicago.

"I don't think he ever expected to explode like that, and I don't think it was aimed at Mayor Daley," said McGovern. "Remember, when you're speaking from that podium, you don't really see individuals in the audience. I'm sure Abe was speaking to 50 million Americans."


In a book-lined living room in Longmeadow, John Fitzgerald — a retired high-school history teacher — leafed through a stack of papers from his trip to Chicago in 1968, as a Massachusetts delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

“This was something I wrote up back then — ‘Journal of a Delegate,’” Fitgerald said, and began reading aloud. “Thursday, left Bradley [Airport] 8 a.m., arrived Chicago 9:30 a.m. Polluted air over Chicago. Very hot and humid. . Stifling monoxide stench.”

That sickly atmosphere fit the nation’s mood. The country was still reeling from the recent assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., while in Vietnam, more than 1,000 Americans were dying every month.

Fitzgerald was a Vietnam vet — a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient who’d decided the war was wrong.

“If they asked me, what do you really want to see us do, I would’ve said, I want to see you take all the troops out of there tomorrow,” Fitzgerald recalled.

Hence, his desire to nominate Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, whose anti-war campaign had prompted President Lyndon Johnson’s stunning decision not to seek re-election.

Also traveling to Chicago that August was Michael Kazin, who is now a history professor at Georgetown. Back then, he was a Harvard undergrad and member of the radical group Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS.

“I wanted to disrupt the convention, to be quite honest with you,” Kazin said. “The Democratic Party was the party that had prosecuted the war, that escalated the war. And even though I’d worked as a 16-year-old to elect Lyndon Johnson in 1964, by 1968 I was completely done with the Democratic Party.”

Meanwhile, the party itself was on the verge of cracking up. The delegates in Chicago ran an untenable ideological gamut, from old-school Southern segregationists to people who, today, would be labeled “progressive.” Fitzgerald was in the latter group: In addition to an anti-war nominee and an anti-war platform, he wanted the convention to seat racially integrated delegations from the south.

“Alabama, Georgia, they had all white delegations, and were opposed to the Civil Rights movement, and in some cases openly supportive of [George] Wallace,” Fitzgerald said, referring to the ardent segregationist who was making a third-party presidential run.

“[Vice president] Hubert Humphrey and Johnson were counting on those people voting for them,” he added, alluding to the fact that Humphrey was campaigning as Johnson’s ally and heir. “So one of the challenges we had was to stop the pro-Humphrey delegates and elect the challenge delegates [who] were sympathetic to the McCarthy antiwar movement.”

The challenge for Kazin and his fellow SDS members was different. Instead of turning the Democrats against the Vietnam war, they wanted to turn the antiwar movement against the Democrats.

“We had a campaign to go to Chicago and try to convince young antiwar activists who were supporting Eugene McCarthy at the time, and those who had been supporting Robert Kennedy before he was assassinated, to give up on the Democrats and come over to our side, and be involved in a real radical movement,” Kazin said.

One which, among other things, embraced violence as a tactic.

“Some of us went on a sort of mini-riot through the Loop, through downtown Chicago, I think that Saturday night, before the convention began,” Kazin said. “Some people smashed windows, some people smashed — I wasn’t one of them, but some people smashed windows in police cars. . You really [felt] like you’d struck a blow against the American empire, which of course in retrospect was quite ridiculous.”

Inside the convention hall, things felt equally unhinged. In one infamous episode, a young Dan Rather was pushed to the ground as he tried to interview a delegate being escorted out by security, his cries broadcast live to a national audience: “Don’t push me! Take your hands off me unless you intend to arrest me!”

On August 28, the chaos outside and inside the convention converged. Chicago police cracked down hard on 10,000 protesters, swinging billy clubs and spraying tear gas in what was dubbed the Battle of Michigan Avenue and later described, in an outside report, as a police riot.

Meanwhile, on the convention floor, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff decried that violence as he nominated South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who also opposed the Vietnam war. “With George McGovern as president of the United States, we wouldn’t have to have Gestapo tactics on the streets of Chicago,” Ribicoff said.

That enraged Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who shouted back an unprintable response. But ultimately, Ribicoff’s pitch failed. The next day, the Democrats nominated the pro-war Humphrey, even though he hadn’t run in any primaries and the majority of the party’s primary voters had backed anti-war candidates.

“The way the McCarthy campaign ended, in the perception of a lot of young people in America in particular, electoral politics was fixed,” Fitzgerald said. “It was broken. So a lot of people walked away from ’68 with a bad feeling about whether they should ever participate in electoral politics again. That still exists.”

As Fitzgerald sees it, the most recent Democratic contest shows the party still hasn’t learned from history.

“They ignored the lesson of ’68,” he said. “They locked out Bernie Sanders and his supporters. That Democratic National Committee was locked into Hillary Clinton. [But] that wasn’t where the majority of Americans were.”

Michael Kazin’s regrets are different. He was arrested in Chicago, and says after his release, a group of police actually threatened to kill him and his friends.

Still, in hindsight, Kazin thinks he and other radicals pushed their provocation too far.

“To be fair — and at the time, I wasn’t being fair to the police — but they felt under siege, too,” Kazin said. “I mean, after all, people like me, we were talking about revolution. We were calling the police ‘pigs.’”

Kazin notes that a post-convention poll showed most Americans backed the police, not the protesters — and that Richard Nixon’s law-and-order message helped him win the presidency that fall.

“The war in Vietnam made a lot of people a little crazy,” Kazin said. “And I think it pushed the New Left, of which I was a part, to do some things which hurt our cause in the long run, which helped build a conservative movement.”

The divide created by the chaos of 1968 is still with us. While many Democrats see President Trump as a Nixon-esque figure plagued by scandal, many Republicans see a leader who stands with law enforcement, and against crime and illegal immigration. It happened five decades ago, but in the realm of politics, the 1968 Democratic Convention isn’t really history at all.


The Worst Convention in U.S. History?

We asked historians to tell us how the 2016 Republican National Convention stacks up.

Donald Trump is thrilled with how the 2016 Republican National Convention went this week. It was, he said at a campaign event in Cleveland on Friday, “one of the best conventions ever.” The four days were “incredible.” The speakers were “groundsetting.” And the “unity” was “amazing.”

That’s one way to put it. Many other observers have focused on what went wrong, from the delegate walk-outs, floor chants and a plagiarism controversy on Monday, to a conspicuous non-endorsement on Wednesday to a leaked speech on Thursday. And then there were the wild “lock her up” chants throughout, and, of course, the bewildering foreign policy interview in the middle of the whole thing. Before long onlookers were calling it “the worst convention I’ve ever seen” and speculating whether it was the “worst political convention ever.”

Politico Magazine decided to find out. We asked a group of political historians to tell us: What was the worst convention in history—and how does this one stack up?

The agreement was: This one was pretty bad. Whether you measure it by disorganization, by harm to the party or by sheer distastefulness of the message, it ends up on most of our historians' shortlists, if not right at the top. “This Republican convention could certainly be a plausible candidate for, say, the three-to-five worst conventions in American political history,” writes Jack Rakove, though he doesn’t think it will have the lasting negative consequences that, say,1968’s riot-plagued DNC had. And David Greenberg calls it a “hot mess,” though it falls short of Miami’s 1972 DNC in terms of sheer fiasco factor, where “punchy delegates mocked the process, nominating Martha Mitchell (the deranged wife of Nixon’s attorney general), Archie Bunker, the Berrigan Brothers, Mao Tse-tung and other absurdities” and “the circus delayed McGovern’s acceptance speech until almost 3 a.m.—memorably described as ‘prime time in Guam.’”

Others do think that this year’s RNC marks a genuine new low for American politics. It “barely edged out the 1868 Democratic National Convention as the worst in American history” for its “disorganization, infighting, racism and apocalyptic language,” writes Heather Cox Richardson. (In 1868, the delegates appropriated “This is a white man’s country. Let a white man rule” as their slogan.) “The 2016 Republican Convention,” writes Jason Sokols, “was remarkable not for its bumbling shows of discord—culminating in Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement—but for the ways in which it illuminated a consistent message: hatred.” And Federico Finchelstein saw the same hatred, as well as its global reach: “For global historians of fascism such as myself, the convention was something entirely new. … It signaled, at the top of the Republican ticket, the new American preeminence—in line with a strain of xenophobic right-wing populism that is developing around the world.”

‘Cleveland convention was a hot mess, but it wasn’t a fiasco.’
David Greenberg, a contributing editor at Politico Magazine, is a professor of history and of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University.

The Republicans’ Cleveland convention was a hot mess, but it wasn’t a fiasco. Our history boasts some far more catastrophic conventions—where whole factions of a party walked out to launch third-party bids, where balloting dragged on for days amid irreconcilable conflicts or where violence broke out in the streets or the convention hall itself.

One of the more comical fiascos was the 1972 convention in Miami at which George McGovern was chosen to lead the Democrats. Thanks to new party rules handed down by a committee that McGovern had himself chaired, the South Dakota Senator parlayed victories in the spring primaries and caucuses—and benefitted from the Nixon White House’s dirty tricks against formidable rivals like Ed Muskie—to sew up the nomination. Like today’s NeverTrumpers, however, a “Stop McGovern” movement (of which Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was a leader) tried to derail the senator’s bid. Even at the roll call vote, 40 percent of the delegates voted for other candidates, including Henry “Scoop” Jackson, George Wallace and Shirley Chisolm.

Platform fights had sown much acrimony and combativeness, but the convention really went awry during the vice presidential balloting. Party panjandrums wanted someone who spoke for the traditional Democratic rank and file they needed to shore up support from the blue-collar, urban and Irish Catholic Democrats who were suspicious of the far-left, wine-track McGovern. But a series of credible contenders, including Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, declined offers, leading to the selection of Missouri’s Thomas Eagleton. During the roll call, punchy delegates mocked the process, nominating Martha Mitchell (the deranged wife of Nixon’s attorney general), Archie Bunker, the Berrigan Brothers, Mao Tse-tung and other absurdities. Extending late into the night, the circus delayed McGovern’s acceptance speech until almost 3 a.m.—memorably described as “prime time in Guam.” Ratings, needless to say, suffered.

News soon emerged that Eagleton had undergone electro-shock therapy for depression. McGovern insisted he would stand by his running-mate “1000 percent”—only to drop him unceremoniously from the ticket days later in favor of Sargent Shriver.

‘I would still hold out for the big Democratic shebang in Chicago 1968’
Jack Rakove is professor of history and political science at Stanford University.

This Republican convention could certainly be a plausible candidate for, say, the three-to-five worst conventions in American political history. But as a native Cook County Democrat, and proud of it, I would still hold out for the big Democratic shebang in Chicago 1968 (which, alas, I missed, because I was called up to military service the week before it started). We will only know the significance of the 2016 GOP convention when we can measure its short- and long-term fallout, in terms of its effects on polls, the ensuing campaign, etc. Mostly it seemed to confirm the existing criticisms, both within the Republican Party and from without, of the underlying, potentially fatal defects of the Trump campaign. The convention was a nice illustration of all that—fourth-rate celebrities, discussions of avocados and Trumpian viticulture, a wholesale reliance on Trump’s status as a breeding male—but how much did it add to the existing story? Jane Mayer’s Nova iorquino article about the drafting of The Art of the Deal, in its own way, was just as interesting!

By contrast, the 1968 convention, per se, did have lasting implications for the Democratic Party that continued to reverberate well into the next decade. While there is no question that the challenge of dealing with “hippies, flippies and dippies,” as Mayor Richard J. Daley once described his antagonists, overwhelmed the administrative talents of the Chicago machine, the specter of wanton police brutality in Grant Park and the occasional chaos on the convention floor, including the famous outburst of Connecticut Senator Abe Ribicoff, did contribute to the fissures that haunted Hubert Humphrey’s campaign thereafter and vexed the party for a longer period.

‘A strong contender would be the Republicans in 1932’
Margaret O’Mara, associate professor of history at the University of Washington.

The 1932 Republican National Convention in Chicago. | AP Photo

Worst convention in history? A strong contender would be the Republicans in 1932. It wasn’t a moment of party implosion like the Democrats’ Chicago inferno in 1968 or the GOP’s Goldwater vs. Rockefeller throwdown in 1964. Nor was there much controversy about who’d be the nominee. Incumbent President Herbert Hoover got the nod on the first ballot (it took the Dems four votes to choose FDR that same year). But it was a failure both in substance and style. Having been in charge of the executive branch during the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history, GOP leaders decided that the best approach to the economy during the convention was to talk about it as little as possible. Instead, all the convention drama focused on the repeal of Prohibition—a hot issue within the Republican Party but one of considerably less importance to Americans standing in bread lines. Even worse, in an era when conventions were turning into major media events—both conventions that year were broadcast on national radio—the RNC was an utter snooze. Reporters pronounced it “singularly colorless.” One dispirited Republican delegate lamented that the convention was so dull that “even the nuts don’t seem to care what goes into the platform.”

With a vague economic program, a stay-the-course message, and not much drama about who’d win the nomination, the convention reinforced the narrative that the party and its president were low-energy and out of touch. People may remember that “Happy Days Are Here Again” became the campaign theme song for Franklin Roosevelt. What they may not know is that the song played first at the GOP convention that year (both events happened in the Chicago Stadium, and the house organist played the song during both). At the RNC, it sounded like a funeral march at the DNC, it fit the upbeat message. Roosevelt used it in every election afterwards.

How does the 2016 RNC stack up? It didn’t change the story, it didn’t heal party fractures, and I’d be surprised if it changed many minds. However, it is too soon to tell whether Trump’s doubling-down on his message is going to be his key to victory or the fatal step toward defeat. We’ll have to wait for the next generation of historians to assess that one.

‘The worst that the country has seen since the Democratic National Convention of 1868’
Josh Zeitz has taught American history and politics at Cambridge University and Princeton University.

If by “worst” we mean the worst-organized or worst-executed convention, the GOP gathering in Cleveland is a strong contender. But who’s to say whether a plagiarized speech, a half-empty hall and the Ted Cruz imbroglio are worse than, say, the 1972 Democratic Convention, which was so poorly run that the nominee delivered his acceptance speech at 3:00 a.m.? Or the 1924 Democratic convention, which required over 100 ballots to select a candidate? Or the 1964 Republican convention, which resembled a barroom fight?

If, however, we mean angry, ugly and venemous, then this week’s convention is probably the worst that the country has seen since the Democratic National Convention of 1868. That year, Frank Blair, an erstwhile conservative antislavery man, issued a public letter on the eve of the convention, denouncing Republicans for enfranchising a “semi-barbarous race of blacks” that “subject the white women to their unbridled lust.” Blair’s letter established the tone for the convention, whose slogan read, “This is a white man’s country. Let a white man rule.” As one Democratic strategist unabashedly acknowledged, the party’s only path to victory was to excite “the aversion with which the masses contemplate the equality of the Negro.”

One can’t quite get away with that level of racial invective today (though in a convention-week panel, Congressman Steve King essentially tried). But the 2016 convention dripped with racially charged rhetoric of a variety that we have not experienced in well over 100 years. In their incitement against Latinos and Muslims, convention speakers, including Donald Trump, made clear that they believe this is a country for Christians of European descent, and that we should let those men rule.

2016 ‘only barely edged out the 1868 Democratic National Convention’
Heather Cox Richardson is a professor of American history at Boston College.

The 2016 Republican National Convention was shocking for its disorganization, infighting,

racism, and apocalyptic language, but it only barely edged out the 1868 Democratic National Convention as the worst in American history. Curiously, the two were very similar.

In 1868, only three years after the end of the Civil War, the Democrats met in New York York City to write a platform and pick a presidential candidate. The Democrats hated the Republicans who had just defeated the Confederacy and freed the slaves, and they loathed the strong federal government that was enforcing racial equality. But their virulent opposition to the federal government did not mean unity. Party leaders had to balance the racism of white Democratic voters against the demands of eastern financiers who wanted to roll back taxes but who also wanted the new $5 billion national debt to be paid in full.

They couldn’t. The convention caved to southern whites. Delegates declared America “a white man’s country” and the platform attacked the Union government that had just won the Civil War. It called for an end to black rights, taxation and government bureaucracy. Crucially, it alienated wealthier voters by calling for the repayment of the national debt in depreciated currency. The factions fought over the nomination for 22 ballots. Then delegates, in desperation, cast votes for the convention’s chairman, a conservative New Yorker. He categorically refused to serve. But when he left the hall briefly, the convention nominated him anyway. Going into the election with a problematic candidate and little principle other than the destruction of the federal government and white supremacy, the Democrats lost.

‘It still pales in comparison to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago’
Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton.

Ideally, a political convention should bring a party together and broadcast a positive image to the general public. While this year’s RNC fell considerably short on both those goals, it still pales in comparison to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Democrats had been thrown into chaos over the previous year—with Eugene McCarthy’s antiwar insurgency, Lyndon Johnson’s stunning announcement that he wouldn’t run again, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on the campaign trail—and the convention only made things worse. Antiwar activists came to Chicago not just to protest “the party of death” but to sow chaos in the streets. In response, Mayor Richard Daley overreacted considerably: All of Chicago’s 12,000 police were put on 12-hour shifts, 7,500 regular Army troops were flown in to suppress potential riots in black neighborhoods, and 6,000 National Guardsmen were armed with flamethrowers and bazookas, trained to fight mock battles with hippies. When the convention passed a plank supporting the war, the two sides clashed in the streets outside, turning into what an official report called “a police riot.” Scenes of the street fighting were broadcast live to the whole nation for 17 minutes, and the chaos spread into the convention itself. Senator Abraham Ribicoff denounced the “Gestapo tactics” of the police from the podium, and in response Mayor Daley screamed a stream of obscenities at him. All told, the convention showed a party badly divided and out of control.

‘Trump-fest took [vitriol and character assassination] to … levels not seen since 1992’
Julian E. Zelizer is a political historian at Princeton University.

This was certainly one of the ugliest and angriest conventions in recent history. While vitriol and character assassination have always been part of party conventions, Trump-fest took this to new levels—or at least levels not seen since 1992, when Patrick Buchanan lit up the Republican convention with his call to arms for a culture war with the Democrats. A central focus of almost every speech was been to vilify and criminalize the Democratic nominee with barroom rhetoric. This is not to say the convention won’t be effective in mobilizing Trump supporters and partisan Republicans, but it has lowered the bar as to what kind of political rhetoric is permissible from the podium.

‘The 1968 Democratic Convention has long stood as the worst … Until now’
Jason Sokol is an associate professor of History at the University of New Hampshire.

The 1968 Democratic Convention has long stood as the worst convention in history. Until now. The 1968 convention showed the Democrats as a party hopelessly divided, torn in two by the Vietnam War. Inside the convention hall, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago barked anti-Semitic epithets at Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff. Outside, in Grant Park, the Chicago police savagely beat protesters. There seemed to be no worse way to nominate a president. Today’s Republicans have found a worse way. The 2016 Republican Convention was remarkable not for its bumbling shows of discord—culminating in Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement—but for the ways in which it illuminated a consistent message: hatred. Most other conventions have attempted to offer hopeful visions of the candidate and the nation. Richard Nixon did indeed pledge “law-and-order” at the 1968 Republican convention in Miami, but he softened it with doses of sunny optimism.

This convention centered on a terrifying theme of anger. The thousands of attendees reveled in their hatred for Hillary Clinton, for immigrants, for Muslims, for African Americans. Rudy Giuliani raged at black protesters. Chris Christie fueled the crowd’s fury toward Clinton, apparently hoping that millions of Americans would forget how his own political team perpetrated the most vengeful scheme since the days of Watergate. Donald Trump presided ominously over it all. In the end, Trump presented himself just as he has throughout the campaign: he is the ultimate fear-monger, with nothing but enmity to offer.

‘With [a wall] as the one concrete platform plank, literally, the Republican convention might indeed be the worst.’
Meg Jacobs, research scholar in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University

It’s hard to call this the worst convention. The numbers who tuned in were up, the speakers unified members at the arena and at home around a central theme—anti-Hillary, and the race thus far shows that what the press sees as fumbles and gaffes does not hurt the GOP nominee and often helps him. So by those measures Trump had a good convention. He promised a good show and with the constant cheers like “lock her up” or “build a wall” or “send them home” he delivered.

The remaining question, though, is: Can a candidate sustain a race premised largely on hate and not on real policy? History suggests otherwise. Trump does offer a promise of greatness. But even that vision rests largely on targeting others. It’s hard to think of any other convention where the major party candidate has run so much on force of personality alone, promising to be the tough guy against undesirables. But targeting undesirables is not an economic platform. Trump may have been trying to channel Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 with his appeal to forgotten and silent Americans. All he seems to be offering, though, is permission to speak up and say ugly “politically incorrect” things. Nixon too used racially coded messages and conservative messages. And like Trump he was an opportunist. But unlike trying to rally working class and middle class Americans through nativism, Nixon also offered concrete programs. To broaden his base, he supported EPA, OSHA and even price controls to protect struggling Americans. Reagan also promised to rid the country of Jimmy Carter’s malaise through a clear conservative fiscal agenda, as did the two Bushes.

To rally his base Trump, the real estate mogul, came back to where he started his campaign with a promise to build a wall. With this promise as the one concrete platform plank, literally, the Republican convention might indeed be the worst. And if his appeal premised largely on hatred works that will be a new low.

‘This was the worst convention—if by “worst,” we mean the most fascist and populist in recent memory.’
Federico Finchelstein is professor of history at The New School in New York.

I agree that this was the worst convention—if by “worst,” we mean the most fascist and populist in recent memory. To be sure, Donald Trump’s extremism echoed that of Republicans past, like Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon. But for global historians of fascism such as myself, the convention was something entirely new, and clearly the worst from the perspective of undemocratic developments. It signaled, at the top of the Republican ticket, the new American preeminence—in line with a strain of xenophobic right-wing populism that is developing around the world.

Through Trump’s mix of racism, religious discrimination, anti-migration and anti-integration rhetoric, along with the new call for the imprisonment of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, (the “lock her up” chant was a prevailing theme at the convention), Trump presented himself on the global stage as a new dominant world leader for the populist pack. In his leadership style, a striking first at the GOP convention, Trump was less comparable to previous Republican candidates and more akin to the likes of Marine Le Pen in France, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. All these powerful leaders are reminiscent, in turn, of historical figures like General Juan Perón in Argentina and Getulio Vargas in Brazil, who converted fascist ideas into a form of electoral authoritarianism dubbed populism.

These leaders sent opponents to jail. Like we saw at the convention, they made a point of presenting those they did not like—whether political opponents, the media or the judiciary—as enemies rather than interlocutors or sectors of society entitled to different opinions. All populists claim to talk in the name of the masses and against the elites, just as Trump on Thursday declared, “I am your voice.” But in practice, they replace the voices of the citizens with their own singular voice. Decrying a diverse plurality of American voices, the Republican convention showed the world that America and Trumpism are writing a new chapter in the long global history of authoritarian challenges to democracy. That is a scarier outcome than any other presidential convention I can remember.


Retelling Tales of Contentious Conventions

Retelling Tales of Contentious Conventions

Sen. Everett Dirksen reacts to the vote against Robert Taft, whom he supported for president during the 1952 Republican convention in Chicago. © Bettmann/Corbis ocultar legenda

Sen. Abraham Ribicoff cites "Gistapo tactics" of Chicago police at the 1968 Democratic convention. Corbis ocultar legenda

Political conventions aren't what they used to be. Floor fights over platforms and nominees have given way to "unified, happy affairs," NPR News Analyst Cokie Roberts says.

As Democrats convene in Boston to nominate Sen. John Kerry, Roberts and NPR's Renee Montagne discuss the history of some of the most contentious conventions and why the gatherings aren't as dramatic as they once were.

Contentious Conventions

"The parties have been trying to go to the electorate with a unified message," Roberts says. "But beyond that, the people who control the conventions won't let the people with different views speak."

Conventions Past

The last time there was even an attempt at that was in the 1992 Democratic convention, when Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey wanted to talk about abortion. But Casey was told he could not make a pro-life speech at the convention.

Also long gone are conventions with a real fight over the nomination. The 1952 Republican convention pitted conservative Robert Taft of Ohio against Dwight Eisenhower. Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who backed Taft, accused Thomas Dewey, the GOP nominee in 1944 and 1948, of leading the party "down the road to defeat." Eisenhower was nominated and went on to become president.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater was considered by some Republicans to be too conservative. New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller tried to bring the GOP back to the middle, warning of "an extremist threat" to the party posed by groups like the John Birch Society. He was drowned out by cries of "we want Barry" from the convention floor. Goldwater won the nomination but lost the election in a landslide to Democrat Lyndon Johnson.

The country's deep division over the Vietnam War came to a head at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, addressing the convention, condemned "Gestapo tactics" of Mayor Richard Daley's police cracking down on the antiwar protesters outside. Vice President Hubert Humphrey was nominated over Sen. George McGovern, who was favored by war opponents.

"There are some Democrats who think that that convention cost them the election in 1968, which was very, very close, and they haven't had a raucous convention since then," Roberts says.


When Aretha Franklin Rocked the National Anthem

In 1968, the Queen of Soul drew a fierce, racially charged reaction when she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Democratic National Convention. The reaction to her death shows how much America has changed—and hasn’t.

Zack Stanton is digital editor of Revista Politico . You can find him on Twitter at @zackstanton.

Five decades ago this month—before “Chicago 1968” became shorthand for mayhem and riots, days ahead of Sen. Abe Ribicoff’s convention-stage denunciation of the police department’s “Gestapo tactics,” and minutes ahead of Mayor Richard J. Daley’s “welcome” speech threatening “law and order in Chicago”—Aretha Franklin opened the Democratic National Convention with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that gave birth to days of outrage among older, white traditionalists upset that the 26-year-old black Detroiter hadn’t stuck to what they thought the script of a national anthem performance should be.

“When the Democratic party selected Aretha Franklin to sing … it apparently was not aware that a ‘soul’ version of the anthem is considered bad taste,” wrote the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Paul Jones. “The appearance of Miss Franklin stirred more controversy than even the seating of the [segregated] Georgia delegations.” “Musically, the generation gap was never so wide,” said New York Times critic Jack Gould.

True, Miss Franklin was singing behind the beat of the full military-style band playing the anthem in accompaniment, but this, her manager explained, was not a stylistic choice so much as an unintentional one—they were at one end of the arena and she was on the other, performing without the benefit of an in-ear monitor to hear them.

“Did she know the words?” harumphed Boston Globe TV critic Percy Shain. “Did she leave out ‘land of the free’? And if so, was it inadvertent or intentional, as a comment on the status of the black people?” (The missing answers: Yes, though she stumbled once No and Not Applicable.)

Watching the recording of Franklin’s performance today—knowing how everything turned out for her, that she’d come to be revered as the national consensus choice as the greatest voice of the 20th century and that her death Thursday at age 76 uncorked a nationwide outpouring of remembrance—it’s difficult to imagine what exactly people were so riled up about.

But there had never been anyone like Aretha Louise Franklin.

There’d been female pop stars, but their voices were thin, or their skin was light, or their waists were safely narrow, or their sensibilities fine-tuned for mainstream audiences. Some, like Diana Ross or Ronnie Spector, were relegated to “girl groups” under the thumb of brand-name record executives and producers. Gospel stars who crossed over were men with matinee-idol looks, like Sam Cooke. Crooners like Nat “King” Cole and Ella Fitzgerald were of an older vintage and had to sand down their rough edges. In the 1960s, black artists who made it big with white audiences—including the entire Motown stable—often had to check their politics at the door so as to avoid controversy (which, per Hitsville impresario Berry Gordy’s business sensibilities, was de facto company policy).

All of which made what Franklin was doing all the more daring. She was black. She was a woman. She had curves. She was strong, but knew deep pain. She was angry about injustice. She came from the church. She married Sunday morning with Saturday night. She didn’t apologize for it or check anything at the door. And in 1968, that made her daring.

By the time of the Democratic convention, Aretha was 19 months into a burn-your-tongue hot streak unlike anything a woman of color had ever had the opportunity to achieve. Within that time span, she became the top-selling solo female artist in music history, with nine top-10 hits.

The emotions she evokes on those songs are, half a century later, still so perfectly heartfelt it’s hard not to envision that Aretha is pouring out her soul directly onto the vinyl record press. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” with her soft ecstasy on a lyric like “Oh baby, what you’ve done to me.” Her cut-the-bullshit tone on “Chain of Fools.” On “Think,” the way the pushback in her voice gets more and more assertive, as if she’s whipping herself into a lather the more she recalls how she’s been treated. She takes Otis Redding’s “Respect,” an up-tempo number about a man wanting to receive respect when he comes home from work, slows it down and inverts it into the story of a working woman exigente—not asking for—the treatment she’s earned. The matter-of-fact way she falls into a reverie then snaps out of it: “Oooh, your kisses—sweeter than honey. Mas adivinhe? So is my money.” She owns the song so completely that we cannot imagine it ever belonging to anyone else. (Not for nothing did Chicago deejay Pervis Spann anoint her the “Queen of Soul” in October 1967.)

With so much professional success over the previous year and a half, it was a risk to sing at the 1968 Democratic National Convention amid the tumult of the Vietnam War and student protests, after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, with an unpopular President Lyndon B. Johnson declining to run for reelection. Offering her voice for the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at that moment in time was itself a political act. So was the flavor of the way she sang it, imprinting the stylings of black gospel music upon the national anthem, laying claim to it as belonging to people like her, even as some Southern Democrats in that very hall were threatening to leave the party and support the presidential campaign of segregationist Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace.

Today, we take for granted that pop artists can express their political views and for the most part, nobody really bats an eye. That wasn’t always the case, especially for performers of color.

Aretha Franklin was part of the reason that changed.

She’d always been a social justice activist, the unavoidable outcome of growing up the daughter of Detroit megapastor C.L. Franklin, a man born in Mississippi a half-century after the end of slavery and a half-century before the Voting Rights Act. The Rev. Franklin was an agitator for change, a man whose musical, whooping sermons were carried on black radio stations nationwide. He toured the country in the 1950s and ’60s with a gospel act that featured his daughters. In Detroit, he’d organized the June 23, 1963, Walk to Freedom, the largest civil rights march in American history at the time, where more than 100,000 demonstrators turned out and his friend, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., first delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. “He was the high priest of soul preaching,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson eulogized at C.L. Franklin’s funeral in 1984, combining “soul, silence, substance and sweetness.”

Aretha Franklin’s inheritance was a tradition in which the political was about justice, justice was about morality, morality about the church’s teachings, and the church was alive through song. “American history wells up when Aretha sings,” President Barack Obama said in 2016. How could a voice like that, charged with such raw emotion, não be political?

With her convention performance, people listened to Franklin and saw and heard what they wanted to or needed to. Any offense lived in the imagination, and as such, certain prejudices took hold in certain viewers.

In that sense, it is not unlike viewers’ reactions to the protests of black athletes during the national anthem today (at the urging of a military veteran, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel, not sit, during the song in order to demonstrate his reverence for it). People read unintended motivations into actions, seeing or hearing what they, on some psychic level, want.

Unlike those athletes, though, Aretha Franklin wasn’t protesting during the anthem. When she sang the song’s closing line—“O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”—she was not protesting, but singing it as written, as a question rather than a claim of fact. That she was the one singing it was statement enough.


On this day in 1968, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley opened the four-day Democratic National Convention at International Amphitheater in what would prove to be the most violent such gathering in U.S. history. From its inception, the delegates were primed to nominate Vice President Hubert Humphrey for president to succeed President Lyndon B. Johnson, who chose not to run for reelection.

Outside the convention hall, tens of thousands of antiwar demonstrators took to Chicago’s streets to protest the Vietnam War.

In the ensuing days and nights, police and National Guardsmen repeatedly clashed with protesters. Hundreds of people, including many innocent bystanders, were beaten. Some were beaten unconscious, sending hundreds of them to hospital emergency rooms. There were multiple arrests.

The violence even spilled over to the convention hall, as guards roughed up some delegates and members of the press. Writer Terry Southern described the convention hall as “exactly like approaching a military installation barbed-wire, checkpoints, the whole bit.” CBS correspondents Mike Wallace and Dan Rather were roughed up by security guards — Wallace was punched in the face. Both incidents were broadcast live on television.

For the rest of the convention week, violence followed the pattern set at its start. An exception: protesters were joined on Aug. 28 by the Poor People's Campaign, led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Ralph Abernathy. This group had a permit and was split off from other demonstrators before being allowed to proceed to the amphitheater.


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