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Monday, August 25, 2008

Some Thoughts on the DNC Protesters

posted by on August 25 at 9:30 AM


It occurred to me during a cold shower yesterday—a nice way to cool off when it’s in the 90s here in Denver, and a good place to hide out and think when you’re crashing in a tiny apartment that’s quickly becoming a journalist tenement—that the DNC protesters must not have been watching the Democratic primaries.

The entire protest movement here is organized under the rubric of “Recreate ‘68,” no doubt meant to evoke a certain nostalgia for a time when hippies and other anti-war protesters famously confronted the Democratic party establishment in Chicago over the Vietnam War and the lack of openness in the convention process at the time. On the plane here I was reading an old photocopied magazine clipping from 1968 that Annie Wagner pulled out of a drawer at her Seattle apartment the other night. It’s Esquire magazine’s take on the 1968 protests and police violence, written by Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Terry Southern, and John Sack. It’s an amazing collection of work, and it’s quite possible that a lot of the younger “Recreate ‘68”-ers here in Denver have no idea who most of those writers are—which is part of the point they’re missing.

Burroughs, 1968, Vietnam… It’s all part of the cultural crucible that forged the identity of those in the baby boom generation, people like Hillary and Bill Clinton. What the “Recreate 68” people don’t seem to realize is that the Democratic primaries pretty well settled the question of whether liberals still want to be wrapped up in the personalities and pathos that came out of that era. The fight between Hillary (and Bill) Clinton and Barack Obama was in large part a generational battle, and the post-boomer generation won. A majority of people on the left have no interest in recreating 1968, or anything close. They voted for a new voice from the post-boomer generation, a guy who was only seven years old in 1968 and who was promising a break from the calcified grudge matches that politically-minded Americans have been fighting and re-fighting ever since he was born.

Though it didn’t come up a lot at the protests I’ve witnessed, Barack Obama also happens to be against the war in Iraq—which somewhat deflates the idea that there’s any real recreating of 1968 to be done. The 1968 protests were about an endless war, racism, a status quo Democratic nominee, and a Democratic party that the protesters felt had no interest in listening. Today the Democratic party is preparing to nominate its first African-American presidential candidate, he agrees with the protesters on the Iraq war (and a lot of other issues they’re raising), and he won the nomination in part due to reforms in the nominating process that were instituted after 1968.

If the protesters here in Denver are wondering why the promised “tens of thousands” haven’t shown up, they simply haven’t been paying attention. The nostalgia they’re marketing doesn’t sell anymore, and in most respects, it doesn’t even apply.

RSS icon Comments


Eli, I know it isn't in your nature to be petty and violent but you need to just trip one of these buffoons.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | August 25, 2008 9:21 AM


You may be too polite to say this, Eli, or maybe you don't agree, but I'd suggest that the ultimate driving principle behind these protesters is an overweening sense of exhibitionism and ego.

They probably don't know shit about 1968 -- newsflash protesters: a Daley is not a morning newspaper.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | August 25, 2008 9:22 AM

it's ' jean' genet, not 'john'. genet was more interested in the thigh muscles of a chicago cop than the protests. crazy frog frenchie.

Posted by scary tyler moore | August 25, 2008 9:24 AM

Don't assume what people have and haven't read -- you can't even spell Genet's name correctly. Quit being an arrogant prick.

Posted by Cotter | August 25, 2008 9:33 AM

Hey Eli: Are those the bike terrorists who tried to derail the SLUT?

Posted by DOUG. | August 25, 2008 9:34 AM

I hope incredibly deeply that when I'm my parents' age (~60; I'm 28), my politics aren't defined by what happens right now. I hope I am still thinking.

Posted by Steve | August 25, 2008 9:35 AM

Dear Mr. Insightful Reporter Person,

Please use your powers of investigation to discover why leftists are protesting the policies of the centrist Democratic Party. I can't think of one single issue where a dyed in the wool leftist would not be 100% thrilled by the Democrats. Are they just crazy? Are they just ignorant youngsters who don't have years of wizened experience like you, Mr. Insightful Reporter Person?

I'm flummoxed!

Thank you so much for helping me understand this confusing world.

Posted by elenchos | August 25, 2008 9:39 AM

Technically, Obama is Edge Gen, he's both Boomer (tail end is 1964) and X-Gen (starts in 1960).

Things don't always come in nice neat packaged boxes.

When he was 12, Billy Jean King wiped the floor with a certain male tennis player, ending the myth of male dominance and changed the face of sports options for girls forever.

It's as much a part of him as it is of his wife - and thereby his daughters.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 25, 2008 9:42 AM

When I first heard that the protester organization was calling themselves "Recreate '68" I wanted to come up with some high-minded way of saying WTF.

This is as good a start as any in developing those thoughts for me and I thank you for it.

Posted by kentankerous | August 25, 2008 9:45 AM


Only one of the groups here is called Recreate 68. There are several other including Funk the War and Tent State. There are also immigration rights groups, environmental groups, etc, etc.

You have a point about some of the demonstrators, but many of them also have a point - that while the Democratic Party says some of the right things, they don't always do them, and they need to be held to the fire to keep them on the right track. We all thought the US would be so much better if the Dems took over the House and Senate, but the promises prosecuting the criminals in the Bush administration, or getting out of the war, closing Guantanamo, increasing environmental standards, universal health care, etc, etc, etc, have once again gone largely unfulfilled.

Also, look at the lack of progressive policies happening in our own state - where the dems control the House, Senate and Governorship. The Stranger often writes about the no-action Dems in Washington, why are you so hopeful the Dems will be so much better when in sole control of the other Washington?

Bottom line is that while there are some truly progressive Dems, the party as a whole could do better and needs to be reminded what people expect of them. Especially on foreign policy, where the Dems look a lot like the R's if you live in the Philippines, East Timor, Palestine, or Burma. Open Dem support of Indonesia (even by our own Patty Murray) while they were committing genocide in East
Timor isn't something people should be happy about.

Yes, Obama holds some hope for people, and I am also excited about his potential. But, his first major choice is Joe Biden, an establishment Dem who voted for and strongly supported Bush on the war. Should we really be naive enough to think that Obama will be the real progressive saviour, or will he more likely be another Bill Clinton, compromising on almost every liberal position while promoting things like NAFTA and breaking unions.

I met several protesters, and aside from being part of demonstrations here, many of them are working on some pretty heavy issues, including one who is fighting for the rights of immigrant sheepherders in Colorado, an issue completely ignored by Dems in this state.

We'll see what Obama brings. But don't dismiss the protesters, it's possible we all could be joining them in 4 years, they were right when they were protesting the invasion of Iraq, while many Dems were supporting it.

Posted by Meinert | August 25, 2008 9:45 AM

I hope they all eat tainted hummus and spend the rest of the convention spewing vegan puke on Matt Lauer.

Posted by Ziggity | August 25, 2008 9:47 AM

This is unamerican of me, I'm sure, but when I think of political upheaval in 1968, I think of Prague, and not us at all. What happened here seems like small potatoes in comparison.

Posted by Aislinn | August 25, 2008 9:48 AM

"(Barack Obama also happens to be against the war in Iraq-) which somewhat deflates the idea that there's any real recreating of 1968 to be done."

Wrong, wrong, wrong. You just aren't getting it, are you?

Posted by morgi | August 25, 2008 9:48 AM

This is unamerican of me, I'm sure, but when I think of political upheaval in 1968, I think of Prague, and not us at all. What happened here seems like small potatoes in comparison.

Posted by Aislinn | August 25, 2008 9:50 AM

Every time I see these guys on TV, I think, "They're at the wrong convention."

Posted by Dominic Holden | August 25, 2008 9:51 AM

Two word response to the pathetic, ideologically-greedy "Recreate '68" boomer a-holes:

Logan's Run

Posted by What's That On Your Hand? | August 25, 2008 9:58 AM

Hey Eli: Why don't you ask some of these so-called "Recreate '68ers" if they know who Greg Palast is.

Posted by DOUG. | August 25, 2008 10:02 AM

"Every time I see these guys on TV, I think, "They're at the wrong convention."

Ditto. If you want to create chaos and get yourself arrested please do it in St. Paul. You have to win power first before you can change anything - baby steps people - defeat the empire first then worry about nitpicking everyone else later

Posted by DavidC | August 25, 2008 10:05 AM

The theory of this piece is that if Obama hadn't won, the boomers would somehow still feel in power, and thus would be flocking to protest, because that's a sixties thing. And boomers do sixties things, we all know.

That's just stupid.

And more:

The youngsta generation hasn't won anything yet; you haven't "beaten" the boomers; the election is in the fall remember? We need every vote possible for Obama and right now it's tied so this isn't really a competition between generations. It's a competition between Obama nd MCain and part of that is whether or not Obama and his supporters are going to actually unify the Democrats and this kind of post totally ignores the fact that the Democrats, ahem, need lots of votes of middle aged folks and older folks. And more unity. Not a made up age-war.

The protestors don't have a large crowd because most folks old and young know protesting in the street is a fairly ineffective method for persuading anyone. The 1968 protests were a huge mistake by the left as they helped ensure in 1968 that the swing voters went with the GOP and they pretty much have done so ever since, usually.

So, boomers aren't interested in protesting because it's dumb, not because they are deflated after being vainquished by the next generations in the primary season.

That's vainglorious, it's clear they're handing out acid in Denver and Eli's taking it.

Oh meanwhile there's no Biden bounce and the race is all tied up now in the Gallup daily tracking poll. So I wouldn't be reveling about Obama quite yet-- maybe we should all try to unify, and fucking elect him, first?

Just a thought.

Posted by PC | August 25, 2008 10:16 AM

@19 - In case you haven't noticed, most of us HAVE unified. Except for the psycho deadenders who just love attention and the sound of their own voices. Which camp do you fall in?

Posted by Georgia Guy | August 25, 2008 10:33 AM

@Meinert - You've got a point, kinda, but the Dems get somewhat unfairly blamed for failing since 2006, since they've had to walk a tightrope in a 50-50 Senate (with traitor Lieberman casting the tiebreaking vote). Congress hasn't really been in Dem control for the last 2 years, even though it looks like it.

Yes, it's our responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable. We've got tons of left-wing attack groups who do that constantly (high-profile guys even, like John Stewart, Kos, etc.). Eli's point is about the extremely inapt parallel to '68. It just doesn't hold water. It's great if you want to go to the convention to get warmed up for Burning Man or something but you need to be very specific about what your complaints are, and simply saying "This is just like '68!" kind of drowns out any other message you might have.

Posted by DavidG | August 25, 2008 10:34 AM

What was it that those '68 protests got us? Oh yeah, it was NIxon.

Posted by gillsans | August 25, 2008 10:42 AM

And, @21. I totally agree. I have no idea why these protestors are at the DNC. It makes much more sense for them to be at the RNC. That probably will happen but right now they look like Burning Man wannabes at the wrong site. They really DON'T want to "Recreate 68'". That would most certainly ensure a loss for the Dems.

Posted by lark | August 25, 2008 10:44 AM

@14: Yay! You're back!

Posted by Greg | August 25, 2008 10:51 AM

@21 - agreed about the political realities in the US Senate, but look at Washington State and tell me what the excuse is here.

I'm not arguing to support the Recreate '68 theme, I'm saying they are not the only group here, and to write off all the demonstrators' issues because of the name of one of the splinter groups isn't really a fair take on the protesters.

Posted by Meinert | August 25, 2008 10:51 AM
The fight between Hillary (and Bill) Clinton and Barack Obama was in large part a generational battle, and the post-boomer generation won.

I'm not one of those people holding out for Clinton or unhappy that Obama's the nominee, but this is really oversimplifying the primaries and ignoring that Obama's victory was by a relatively slim margin. To pretend that the post-boomers won in such a landslide that the "old guard" is now irrelevant is a dangerous fiction. Maybe by 2012?

Posted by josh | August 25, 2008 10:57 AM

What Meinert said.

Jesus, Dominic. What the fuck is Hempfest doing in Seattle then? Shouldn't they be protesting in a place that needs enlightenment? Of course, then you'd have to ask what the fuck Critical Mass is doing in bike-friendly Seattle. But we don't question The Stranger's darlings.

I don't much agree with these DNC protectors, but the way the Stranger reports on this kind of thing is utterly conventional. Might as well be reporting for the TV news. I can't wait for you guys to find somebody who sounds like an idiot on videe so you can post it here. Then chuckle and feel superior.

Posted by elenchos | August 25, 2008 11:00 AM

I think Eli's got it exactly right. Someone has to ask these people "who do you think you represent, and why are there so few of you?"

Posted by Fnarf | August 25, 2008 11:11 AM

There are twitter DNC protest updates and police actions here:

The Denver Post also has live reports over at denver post .com /live

The twitter one in particular is quite active.

Posted by Jonny H | August 25, 2008 11:12 AM

@22 for the insightful win. Even if I too think of the Prague actions more often ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 25, 2008 11:19 AM

*Yawn* Wake me when the protesters go home. They're living in the past. Prolly some dumb ass Marxists...

Posted by Frank Sinclaiir | August 25, 2008 11:19 AM

here's some great work the Dems are doing in Denver...good everyone supports it

Posted by Meinert | August 25, 2008 11:43 AM

Clinton supporters whining that it's not too late for Hillary to get the nomination are like Patriots fans saying it's not too late for the Pats to win the Super Bowl.

Posted by elswinger | August 25, 2008 4:37 PM

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