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A Different Kind of Democratic National Convention: Background information when reading The Nix

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The Nix

by Nathan Hill

The Nix by Nathan Hill X
The Nix by Nathan Hill
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 640 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2017, 640 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

A Different Kind of Democratic National Convention

This article relates to The Nix

Print Review

Political ButtonsIn The Nix, Sam's mother, Faye, takes part in the protests that took place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, one riddled by unrest and tensions. It was a convention held in Chicago where then mayor Richard Daley was believed to have been instrumental in many of the goings-on both inside and outside the political arena.

The lead-up to the convention, which nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey for President and Senator Edmund Muskie for Vice President, was already charged along political and racial lines. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated just two weeks prior and riots had broken out in 125 cities around the country, including in Chicago, where mayor Daley suggested the police had gone too easy on the rioters. Senator Robert Kennedy was also assassinated – he was incidentally a challenger in that year's Democratic Primary and up until his death, had been leading the delegate count.

Humphrey RallyThe disaffected youth and overall electorate galvanized around one primary issue that dominated the national consciousness for years: the Vietnam War. Determined to make a statement and with a secondary objective of showing support for anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy, who also participated in the primary, these protesters rallied around the anti-war cause to effect change in the party's platform.

Among the various groups that came together for the protests was the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, which had been planning a youth protest march to coincide with the convention. The close to 10,000 protesters were met with around 23,000 police and National Guard members.

A student planted a North Vietnam Communist flag on the statue of a Civil War hero, one of the many flashpoints for intense clashes with police. The Chicago 1968 convention protests are remembered for severe police brutality and the reckless use of tear gas (it is said that this tear gas even reached Hubert Humphrey's room in his hotel, a nugget that is included in The Nix). A federal investigation found there to be provocations from the demonstrators including rocks and bottles thrown at police, but the scale of the response was nevertheless regarded as disproportionate and as per the report, "unrestrained and indiscriminate."

Police RiotsThe violence was not limited to just the streets either. Inside the convention floor, tensions broke out between anti-war delegates and the rest, and many were jostled and threatened. A famous news clip shows veteran correspondent Dan Rather of CBS News being assaulted by security guards: "Unless you intend to arrest me, don't push me please."

The protests are said to have had a deep effect on the country's psyche (Nixon, the opposition candidate won the election) and brought about changes to the primary nominating process for both sides, whereby party leaders could not anoint the party representative behind closed doors.

Dan Rather Convention Floor Fight 1968:



Political buttons in 1968, courtesy of keywestproperties.blogspot.com
Posters of Presidential candidate, Hubert Humphrey, courtesy of keywestproperties.blogspot.com
Police riots, courtesy of keywestproperties.blogspot.com

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Poornima Apte

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Nix. It originally ran in September 2016 and has been updated for the May 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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