Is it 1968 all over again?

Why campus protests could spoil Democrats' hopes for November

Photo collage of the number 1986 in a blocky, vintage font. Each digit is overlayed with a red-tinted photo: the flag of Vietnam, the university of Columbia, a photo of police brutalising a student protester, and the smiling face of Richard Nixon
"The parallels between 2024 and 1968 are ominous"
(Image credit: Illustration by Julia Wytrazek / Getty Images)

Does history repeat itself? It seems that way to some observers of the campus protests against the Israel-Hamas war. "The turmoil we're seeing brings back memories of the widespread student protests of 1968," Princeton University's Julian Zelizer said at CNN. That crucial, chaotic year saw roiling protests against the Vietnam War — and ended with Democrats losing the presidency to Richard Nixon's "law and order" campaign. President Joe Biden "must surely be worried now that history will repeat itself."

The '68 turmoil wasn't contained to campus quads, though. Thousands of protesters famously descended on the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where demonstrators and police battled in the streets. Chicago is where this year's DNC will be held. "We'll be marching with or without permits," said one pro-Palestinian organizer. The historical echoes are making some Democrats uncomfortable. "This is all playing out again," Charles Blow said at The New York Times

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Joel Mathis, The Week US

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who has spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His work also regularly appears in National Geographic, The Kansas City Star and Heatmap News. His awards include best online commentary at the Online News Association and (twice) at the City and Regional Magazine Association.