Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The last thing we want to recreate is '68

Back in June, journalist Naomi Klein characterized Barack Obama's economic team as a group of "market fundamentalists". So it came as no surprise when I read that police in Denver are grappling with far-left protest movements set on disrupting the Democratic National Convention.

One particular group, called Recreate '68, is focused on the Iraq war, drawing parallels between this convention and the one in 1968, which was the last election held during a widely unpopular war. The rest of the groups represent the usual smörgåsbord of radical protesters, which seem to coalesce around an amorphous "anti-capitalist" theme.

So what gives? Realistically, the far-left is not going to get a better candidate than Obama. He's probably more supportive of free trade than his Ohio campaign led on, but he has a solidly liberal voting record. And the whole multi-racial, former community organizer and civil rights lawyer thing probably can't hurt either.

However, these groups are likely seizing on the 2008 DNC as a unique opportunity. Voters are fed-up with the war, anxious about trade and healthcare, and are weary of markets in light of the current financial situation. If there's going to be a time to push a far-left agenda, it may be now.

But that may turn out to be a big mistake. Despite all the concerns, this is not 1968. More importantly, it's not 1932, the last time a financial crisis led to substantial economic reforms and a large shift to the left. Anti-capitalism plays well when there's 25% unemployment; when it's 5.7%, people are probably looking for less radical change.

And, as Clay Evans points out, 1968 didn't work out so well for the protesters:
"it's worth remembering how the television images of the street violence in Chicago played in middle America. Right or wrong, the majority of Americans laid responsibility for the '68 mayhem at the protesters' feet, paving the way for the election of Richard Nixon. The Vietnam war continued, and even accelerated, during his time in office."
Compromise isn't always fun, but it's better to get at least some of what you want.

No comments: