by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It’s hard to think of a direct action that more directly backfired than the Chicago protests. But the passage of several decades tends to alter judgments. So it is that, 50 years later, the Spirit of 1968 is in the ascendancy on the left and in the Democratic party, which is moving toward a more open embrace of democratic socialism than perhaps could have been imagined by the protesters during those fevered summer nights in 1968.
Chicago was a war within the Democratic party; there’s a reason the protesters didn’t show up at the Republican convention in Miami earlier that summer. Mayor Daley, and especially his cops, hated the demonstrators and showed it with the appallingly free use of their billy clubs. Now, much of the Democratic party — certainly its rising figures — wants to cater to and capture the energy of the activists of the Left rather than resist them.
There is still an establishment of the Democratic party. The center of gravity has shifted, though, as labor institutions that once were culturally conservative and staunchly anti-Communist have faded in significance, and true machine politicians like Mayor Daley have all but disappeared. This doesn’t mean that antifa — a fringe comparable to the Students for a Democratic Society in the late 1960s — is about to take over the party, but there’s very little check on its leftward movement, accelerated every day by the reaction against Donald Trump.
The radical critique of America emanating from the streets in 1968, as fundamentally racist, oppressive, and corrupt, has more traction in the Democratic mainstream than ever before.