The 1968 Exhibit: Daley and Lindsay on the cover of Harper's, August 1968

AN UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACH

Exactly 42 years ago, the nation was on state of high alert and dreaded anticipation over "what was going to happen in Chicago"--by which everyone meant the Democratic National Convention, slated to begin on August 26th. *Violent confrontations with civil authorities-- read: *Chicago's notoriously hard-bitten police--were all but promised by the thousands of antiwar demonstrators descending on the Second City. *The Republicans had, as predicted, already nominated Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in Miami, without a lot of enthusiasm. *The focus now turned to Chicago.

harpers-aug68The nation's magazines were filled with political news throughout the summer: *Nixon and Wallace graced LIFE covers, Agnew and Nixon raised their hands triumphantly on the cover of Time. The editors at Harperis, however, took a more "unconventional" approach. * The left-leaning general interest magazine used their August issue to highlight iThe New Mayor and the Old,i John Lindsay of New York City, and Richard J. Daley of Chicago.

While the profiles of these men may not have helped readers understand the upcoming presidential elections, they did shed light on the political climate of 1968. In many ways, Lindsay and Daley embodied much of the polarizing nature of the year's politics. * In Harperis, David Halberstam paints Richard Daley as a powerful, hard-hitting politician: *iThe poor of his city were afraid of him and the powerful of the nation deferred to him.i John Lindsay, on the other hand, is described by Larry L. King (not THAT Larry King) as hard-working and approachable, if somewhat naOve: *"He has gone into the streets to seek out his constituency.i Lindsay was widely portrayed as having the isofti approach to rioters and disturbers of the peace, in contrast with Daley, whose widely known aggressive approach landed him in hot water when he was accused of espousing ishoot first, ask questions lateri rhetoric to his police force.

Just as race played into the larger political picture, so did it in Daley and Lindsayis careers. Halberstam finds Daleyis politics heavily influenced by race discrimination, Daley being the iproduct of a time when the American ethic was to succeedOeHe does not like poverty programs in part because they represent a threat to his powerofederal money going directly to black neighborhoods.i Lindsay comes out on the other side of the race coin, fighting for improved race relations, responding to politicians who have downplayed Americais shift towards itwo societies, one black, and one whiteoseparate and unequali by remarking, iWell, by God, it is so.i

Of perhaps even greater interest here, however, is* historian Arthur Schlesinger's "America 1968: The Politics of Violence," published here as an essay, and first delivered as a commencement address in New York on June 6, 1968, when Senator Kennedy was in a California hospital, brain-dead.* Schlesinger's words are bleak:* Americans, he said, "are today the most frightening people on the planet," because of assassinations, urban violence, and the Vietnam War.** The "evil is in us. . . . We are a violent people with a violent history, and the instinct for violence has seeped into the bloodstream of our national life."

With thanks to guest blogger Katie Bates

2010-08-23 20:13:23