My sister reminds me of the 1968 Democratic National Convention which ended up erupting into riots. 1968 was a crazy year. Both MLK and RFK had been assassinated. The Vietnam War was still raging and sending body bags back at an obscene rate, and the American public was in an uproar. LBJ had announced that he would not seek re-election. The front-runners of the Democratic presidential nomination were Hubert Humphrey (who would end up losing ignobly to Nixon), the more status quo candidate, and Eugene McCarthy, whose platform rested heavily on an anti-war stance, with the goal of rapid withdrawal from Vietnam. The undemocratic manner in which Humphrey won the nomination without having participated in a single primary ended up being a liability in the general election, and resulted in permanent changes in the nomination process.
The 2008 Democratic National Convention runs the risk of being a similar debacle. No one has been assassinated (yet), but the War in Iraq is still raging and continuing to send body bags back to the homeland. Al Gore is not going to run for re-election. While HRC (whom I see as the status quo candidate) and Obama (who has a legitimate anti-war stance) are a lot closer in delegate counts than Humphrey and McCarthy were, there looms the specter of superdelegates deciding the nomination. And if they stupidly swing the pendulum away from the popular vote, you can be certain that mayhem will ensue. The other albatrosses are Michigan and Florida, who, according to party rules, will have no delegates, as punishment for moving their respective primaries up. While it sucks that Michigan and Florida Democrats have been denied their ability to vote, it would also suck immensely to reverse the rules all-of-the-sudden now. HRC has already brought up the nasty notion of contesting this ruling, and if this becomes an issue, it will also likely cause chaos.
On the other hand, it looks more like it will be the Republican Party that is bound to fracture. The unholy alliance of corporate interests, libertarians, and fundamentalist Christians that got Reagan elected back in the day is unravelling with each primary and caucus. The party faithful have chosen McCain—the man renown for being a “maverick”—as their candidate. Romney—the status quo “mainstream” candidate backed by such hacks as Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt—has tanked badly and is out. Only the spoilers are left: Huckabee—the darling of unhinged fundamentalist Christians, and Ron Paul—the dark horse supported by delusional libertarians (although there are rumors that his run is coming to an end.) Even if McCain manages to fix the election in his favor, the Republican Party as we know it is finished.
The scary thing is the idea that the nomination of HRC will galvanize Republicans of all stripes to vote against her. Given what happened in 2004 (in which Democrats foolishly picked John Kerry as the “anybody-but-Bush” candidate), it remains to be seen whether antipathy against a particular candidate will be enough. I am somewhat skeptical that an “anybody-but-Hillary” sentiment will actually help McCain win the election. (I am less skeptical that Diebold may help McCain win the election.)
In any case, Barack has been my man from the start, ever since he was in the Illinois State Senate. I left Illinois in 2004, right when he was starting his bid for the U.S. Senate and I never dreamt that he would have made it this far.
In policy content, the differences between HRC and Obama are small details. (Not that the details don’t matter, but they have far more similarity with each other than they do with McCain.) But the one thing that swings my vote completely is the fact that HRC voted for the war, and Obama was against it from the start.
To paraphrase Obama himself, there’s something to be said about being ready on day one, but there’s something also to be said being right on day one.
It’s going to be an interesting year. Here’s to hoping that no blood will be spilt.