How the Israel-Gaza Protests Could Hurt the Democratic Party

It’s a nightmare scenario for Democrats: Protesters disrupt their convention this summer; they clash with the police; chaos seems to take hold.

It may not be imaginary. As protests over Israel’s war in Gaza continue to intensify, especially on college campuses, activists are preparing to be in Chicago this summer for the Democratic National Convention.

Demonstrators faced off against National Guardsmen outside of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.Credit…Barton Silverman/The New York Times

The very idea sends some Democrats right back to 1968, when their convention, also in Chicago, was overshadowed by infighting and violence between the police and antiwar protesters. Back then, many voters watching the nightly news got the impression that the party could not control its own delegates, never mind a country that was wrestling with an unpopular war.

Protests over the Israel-Hamas war could also complicate this year’s convention and the Democratic messaging for President Biden, whom Republicans have eagerly cast as too indulgent of chaos and disorder in American society. Last week, Fox News and other conservative outlets repeatedly showed demonstrations that made the country seem on the edge: Columbia University sending in the police to arrest students on campus; protesters shouting “genocide!” at President Biden at a campaign stop; demonstrators chaining themselves to cars to block traffic, creating gridlock.

“The whole Republican message is, ‘The world is out of control and Biden is not in command,’” said David Axelrod, the Democratic strategist and adviser to former President Barack Obama. “They will exploit any images of disorder to abet and support it.”

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