A young friend who lives in a small town in a rural state sent me the following observation today:
If the Clintons push for the win in Denver, they're going to split the goddamn party down the middle. I read your chapter on 1968 Chicago, obviously. I'm of the generation who supports Obama. I know what we're like. Shit, I know what I'm like.
Rick, if the Machine tries to give the Clintons the victory at the convention, I swear to God, Chicago's going to look like a Sadie Hawkins dance. People my age are going to be throwing stones. We all have transportation -- cell phones -- disposable income -- the Internet -- free time -- and Seattle as our example. Part of me is scared of a riot. Part of me isn't. The nomination belongs to Obama. Do you think we're going to let the Democratic Leadership Council take it? "God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, fire next time."
He's referring to my forthcoming book Nixonland, about the American civil war that broke out between 1965 and 1972, specifically the chapter about the beatings by Chicago police against both anti-war protesters and anti-war delegates at the 1968 Democratic Convention. I thought it a bit too melodramatic, and didn't take it particularly seriously, though I did pass it on for discussion (with my friend's permission) at a couple of listservs I belong to.
One of them yielded up this response, from an Iraq War vet who works full time in Democratic politics (again, quoted with permission):
Not to mention that there's going to be a significant Iraq veteran contingent at the convention, ready to rock 'n' roll. We've already had planning meetings about it -- we're going about it the same way that we would plan any decent military operation.
Put it this way: if she goes for the gold in Denver, she'll have to claim the medal somewhere other than the Pepsi Center.
I began to take all this a little bit more seriously.
He then added this:
I can't emphasize enough how potentially scary things could get -- we've got folks working on the inside of the convention, and it's all done on a cell basis, so that folks only know what they need to know.
I'm trying to keep everyone calm, as I just mentioned, but it's getting harder and harder to do so. The mood's getting ugly, and if we go to Denver without a nominee, the pressure's going to be intense from without to nominate Obama. She can win the nomination, but it won't be a prize worth having.
I took it more seriously still.
I pass this all on without comment, for superdelegates and my friends in the Hillary Clinton campaign to read, and in categorical abhorrence of anyone who'd contemplate introducing violence as a variable in American civic life.