To read the mainstream media, Republicans are supposed to be the fractured party, one fraught with mudslinging and a brutal primary season that leaves the eventual nominee battered and bruised.
But this go-round, it’s the Democratic Party that has gotten down and dirty. The GOP has all but crowned its nominee for the November presidential election, while the Democrats continue to splinter in a long slog to the nomination. Tempers are flaring and accusations flying, with party elders demanding Bernie Sanders vacate the race — if only to preserve the eventual candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Sanders is having none of it and pledges to fight on, perhaps all the way to the Democratic National Convention in July. The next two weeks leading up to the California primary on June 7 could be the most vitriolic of the Democratic primary so far as the party faces deep divides among its voters. While the primary was supposed to be a coronation of Clinton, Sanders has prevented it, and his supporters aren’t ready to accept his dwindling chances — blaming the primary process.
Some in the Democratic Party are condemning Sanders for wanting to take his campaign through to the convention in July. “It worries me a great deal,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a CNN interview. “You know, I don’t want to go back to the ’68 convention, because I worry about what it does to the electorate as a whole — and he should, too.”
Her comments come as supporters of Clinton’s and leaders within the party are anxious about her ability to unify the party and bring Sanders’ supporters over in the general election. Recently, the Nevada State Convention made headlines due to violent eruptions from Sanders supporters over what they believe to be a “rigged” system in favor of political insiders. The violence is cause for concern, as it foreshadows what could happen at the national convention.
In many ways, the 1968 Democratic primary is similar to the 2016 primary, when the Establishment played a heavy role in deciding who would clinch the nomination. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who was considered to be the ultimate underdog, secured the most victories in the nominating contests and had a large grassroots following. His challenger, Sen. Robert Kennedy, had won most the Democratic primaries, but was assassinated.
Despite McCarthy’s top position, party leaders decided that Vice President Hubert Humphrey would be their nominee — even though he hadn’t entered a single primary contest. While current DNC rules prevent something like this from happening, their superdelegate system allows for the Establishment and party elites to retain control over who ultimately gets the nomination.
The most striking part about the 1968 Chicago convention were the riots that ensued. There was a large anti-Vietnam war sentiment — and McCarthy was the candidate who backed ending the conflict. Both Kennedy and Humphrey ultimately represented President Johnson’s pro-Vietnam war stance, prompting riots. In 2016, the violence has ensued because of the rules practiced by the Democratic National Committee to prevent someone like Sanders from receiving the nomination.
However, White House press secretary Josh Earnest dipped into the political chaos to say he didn’t believe the violence was of concern and that Democratic voters would come together in November. “I think one of the lessons of 2008 is not to confuse passion in the primary for disinterest in the general election,” Earnest said.