As Democrats gather in Milwaukee – some virtually – for their much-anticipated National Convention, party unity is the goal. But is this noble aim more of an elusive and ephemeral dream that will dissipate when the warring factions realize they signed up to a ticket that falls short of expectations? After months of anger and division, the party faithful are expected to swallow past grudges and ideological passions to unite behind Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Is this a bitter pill that can be comfortably swallowed by the progressive wing, or will we see echoes of the 1968 riots?
The party leadership, perhaps expecting a certain amount of unrest, is scheduling Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) speech for the first day in what appears to be an effort to get all the bad blood out of the way before Biden takes to the stage on day four. It is thought that although most of the elected politicos are willing to accept the presumed nominee, Bernie Bros are not going to let the moment pass unremarked.
“Milwaukee Will Burn”
In January, a former regional organizer for the Sanders campaign, Kyle Jurek, was recorded by an undercover Project Veritas reporter laying out plans for what happens if Bernie is not on the ticket:
“If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination or it goes to a second round at the DNC Convention, f***** Milwaukee will burn … It will start in Milwaukee and then when they f***** — when the police push back on that, other cities will just f***** [explosion sound].”
And he wasn’t the only one making such threats.
Across the United States (mostly in Democrat-run cities), lawlessness has taken hold. Rioters, looters, and arsonists revel in violence as police officers are held at bay by elected politicians who tacitly side with the “activists.” In 1968, various groups converged on the International Amphitheater in Chicago to protest the party and the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.; more than 100 cities had experienced riots. It is difficult not to see similarities.
So far, several groups have indicated that they will be protesting at the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee. However, Biden himself has said that he will not be attending in person. Ryan Hamman, an organizer for the Coalition to March on the DNC, said:
“The reason why we’re still going to be doing something, even though Biden and the Democrats have basically abandoned Milwaukee and have decided to stay home, is that the issues that we’re marching for, specifically the issue of police crimes, these things aren’t going away.”
And this issue could be the spark that ignites groups across the country. Protesters are shutting down cities as a reaction to what they see as the danger of police power. Yet, the party has chosen to back two individuals with questionable histories on prosecuting and imprisoning a large number of young black men. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter will see this as a kick in the teeth.
Traditionally, these conventions try to create unity behind a shared platform and common ideals, but not this year. With such polarizing wings of the party in direct opposition to each other, the chances of getting everyone united on a set of policies will be almost impossible. And it looks like they’re not even going to try. Instead, this unusual convention will be aimed at uniting in the face of a common enemy: President Donald Trump.
A top Bernie Sanders adviser, Jeff Weaver, spelled out the agenda in a brutally honest approach:
“All of us – and by that I mean the people who were in the Bernie campaign, the people in the Biden campaign, and people outside of both of those campaigns – have really worked hard to create an effective and genuine popular front against Donald Trump … Trump is a very unifying factor.”
Condensed into two hours of broadcasts per day, the convention will be unlike any other. With delegates voting remotely, it appears the Democratic Party is looking to push the idea of “digital democracy.” If past efforts are anything to go by, it may be more a case of “digital despotism.”
Read more from Mark Angelides.