Monday, July 25, 2016

Flashbacks: Denver 2008 and Fear & Loathing 1972

It's not Flashback Friday or Throwback Thursday, but we are venturing back eight years to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. What was happening eight years ago? Well, the convention hadn't started yet as it was late in August, bumping up against football season, which is feverish in the Mile High City during any year but high expectations should be keen this year for the Super Bowl champs as they decide who will fill Manning's XXXL shoes and ego.

To read about first-day happenings at Denver DNC, go here. Other posts are in the archives for August 2008.

Strange as it seems, Hillary Clinton figured prominently in Denver. She relinquished the stage to Barack Obama in '08 but has no intention of giving up the prime spot in Philly. Tim Kaine as Veep? Not my first choice. Elizabeth Warren would have been a dazzling pick. Even craft brewer and Colorado governor John Hickenlooper held more appeal, although he did oppose marijuana legalization. If he had prevailed on this issue, Denver's hipster invasion may have been avoided. I liked the idea of Newark's Cory Booker on the ticket, or Julian or Joaquin Castro of San Antonio. It may be too soon to have Clinton/Castro on lawn signs in Miami or even in Cheyenne. Wait a few decades, when a dead-and-buried Fidel is as ubiquitous on T-shirts as Che, and Havana is a hotspot for Sandalistas in search of quaint bistros, brewpubs and boutique hotels.

Speaking of flashbacks... I'm reading "Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writings of Hunter S. Thompson." I was searching the library for "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," but found this newer volume instead. I skipped through Thompson's report of running for Aspen sheriff on the Freak Power ticket and his run-in with the Hell's Angels. This may be hard to believe, children of the West, but in the early 1970s, the Roaring Fork Valley was much more like present-day Wyoming than the Colorado of today. Longhairs were not welcome in Aspen or Denver ("get out of Denver, baby, go!) or even Boulder. Hitchhikers were more likely to get a finger-o-gram than a ride. The stoned, half-naked hippies of the Rainbow Tribe were not welcomed to Colorado in the summer of '72. And wild-man Hunter Thompson was not elected sheriff of Aspen in 1970 with his promise of free drugs for all.

Here's Thompson's description of Aspen in 1969, when registered GOPers outnumbered Dems 2-1 -- and both were outnumbered by independents:
"They are a jangled mix of Left/Crazies and Birchers: cheap bigots, dope dealers, Nazi ski instructors, and spaced-out "psychedelic farmers" with no politics at all beyond self-preservation."=
DNC 1968 host Mayor Richard Daley unleashed the city's cops on hippies and Yippies on the streets of Chicago. In 1972 in Miami, activists remembered and were having nothing of Hubert Humphrey. Youngsters and disillusioned older Dems selected South Dakota anti-war war hero George McGovern as their standard-bearer against Nixon. It was a "doomed campaign" from the start, says Thompson. He preferred McGovern over "party hacks" Humphrey and Muskie and "Scoop" Jackson. But he knew that McGovern didn't have a chance against Tricky Dick's tactics. That included the now-infamous Southern Strategy which transformed the Dems of the South into fire-breathing Republicans who were deathly afraid (and resentful) of hippies, women's libbers, school integration, the threat of Ho's legions invading Memphis and Atlanta, and modern life in general. Sound familiar? Trump's people are stoking similar sentiments, especially angst about present and future America.

Here's a strange little quote from Thompson about his experiences in Aspen's 1969 mayoral race and his own race for sheriff in '70. See if it has any bearing on Trump's run this year:
"This is what some people call 'the Aspen technique' in politics: neither opting out of the system, nor working within it... but calling its bluff, by using its strength to turn it back on itself... and by always assuming that the people in power are not smart."
I have noticed everyone from former hippies to right-wing doomsdayers coming out for Trump. They all want to say "fuck you" to the establishment, as Michael Moore pointed out so well in his recent "Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win" article. Maybe Trump has resurrected the Aspen technique for the 21st century? Freak Power, Trump style. Unknown Colorado state rep (later Gov) Dick Lamm used a similar tactic when he urged Coloradans to say "fuck you" to the International Olympic Committee. And they did. The IOC told themselves that nobody ever votes against the Olympics. Lamm and his minions assumed that the IOC didn't know what the hell is what doing -- and they were correct. Behold the Brazil and Russia olympiads.

It is also possible that the people in power in the Democratic Party are not as smart as they think they are. Hunter Thompson and the ancient philosophers knew that hubris can be an Achilles' Heel. Cliches, too -- they knew all about those.

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