Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama, JFK, the Chicago riots -- and the two Richard Daleys

To appreciate how much America has changed, look at these two images of Chicago police reacting to groups expressing their political views. The first image (from the Chicago Tribune) shows an officer autographing the T-shirt of a participant during Barack Obama's victory celebration at Grant Park. The second image shows police autographing protesters' heads during a protest outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968 that rammed through the nomination of Hubert Humphrey, who chose to support Lyndon Johnson's prosecution of the Vietnam war against the opposition of many Democratic delegates.

The Chicago mayor on Obama's victory night was Richard M. Daley. Forty years ago the mayor was his father, Richard J. Daley. The current Mayor Daley is a huge supporter of Obama, and helped pave the way for his political success (even while the impatient Obama pushed boldly against the levers of Daley's Chicago machine). Daley's father was a staunch supporter of John F. Kennedy, and unquestionably helped Kennedy squeak to victory over Richard Nixon in the extremely close 1960 presidential election, where Illinois put JFK over the top. Eight years later the senior Daley encouraged the excesses of the anti-Vietnam movement by running the Democratic convention like the boss he was of his city and overreacting to the the Yippies and other anti-war protesters who decided to draw their line in the sand as Humphrey's nomination was rammed against antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy.

Historians will argue over whether the Boss Daley of 1968 could have prevented the head-crunching protests that besmirched his and his city's name. When I look at the slideshow of the Grant Park Obama victory celebration decreed by his son, I marvel how times could change so epochally within two generations in one geographical space.

Of course Obama is pivotally in the middle of this sea change.

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