It seems like ancient history now, but the youth movement and much of the left failed miserably in negotiating the political terrain and contradictions of the 1968 elections. Angry at the Johnson administration for its prosecution and escalation of the war in Vietnam, infuriated by the state sanctioned violence against protesters at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago, shocked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, troubled, but not surprised, by urban rebellions in cities across the country, and, not least, turned off by the nomination of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, many of us sat out the presidential elections that year, scornful of anybody who would support the “lesser evil.”
And what were the results of our stand on “principle,” our refusal to support the “lesser evil?”
Nixon to begin with. But that’s not all. A prolonging of the Vietnam war six more years and the unnecessary death of roughly a half million Vietnamese (and that’s not counting Cambodia and Laos where a quarter million or more likely died) and 21,000 U.S. soldiers.
And then there was Watergate. The success of the Southern strategy and the beginning of the long rise of right wing extremism and its latest iteration, Trump and the MAGA movement.
Which brings me to this year’s election, Gaza, and President Biden. The Israeli war on Gaza and Gazans is without question brutal and immoral, arguably genocidal. How could ethnic cleansing and land theft be anything else! And Biden, inarguably, is complicit in Netenyahu’s unrelenting war drive and blood bath.
Still if one’s decision not to vote for Biden opens the door to another 4 years of Trump in the White House, I can’t think of anything more politically indefensible and morally irresponsible. It would make, I dare say, the climb of the Palestinian people to equality and statehood so much steeper.
A two state solution has no place in Trump’s universe. In Biden’s world, it does, along with the rebuilding of Gaza and the safe return of Gazans to their homes and communities. This isn’t to let Biden off the hook, but to look at reality soberly, understanding that the parameters of the possible are strikingly different depending on who is sitting in the White House next year.
I hope that young people do the same and make better choices than we did decades ago. Otherwise the results of next year’s election could make the 1968 election and what followed, as bad as it was, seem like a pale imitation of what would await the country and world – not least the Palestinian struggle for equality and national rights – if Trump is elected.