This isn't 1968, but Biden may fall

It's seven in the afternoon on a rainy Friday at George Washington University.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 23:39
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This isn't 1968, but Biden may fall

It's seven in the afternoon on a rainy Friday at George Washington University. Dozens of students are resisting outside this center of knowledge, whose grounds remain closed after the eviction of the hundred tents that had been pitched inside since April 25. The spokeswoman for the Student Coalition for Palestine (SCP), kufiya in her neck, addresses the media in an impromptu press conference to explain the outcome of her meeting with the chancellor, Ellen Granberg, who after two weeks has opened for the first time the "dialogue" with the students.

"There is no dialogue when the administration of this university has applied the most punitive and repressive measures against its own peaceful students. There is no dialogue when in their invitation they reaffirm that they will not consider changes in their investments, which are financing a genocide in Gaza. And there is no dialogue when they allow Zionists and the police to tear off the hijabs of their Muslim students with impunity," he says.

On Wednesday, about twenty officers entered the campus on Granberg's order and dismantled the camp set up in the main garden, renamed Shohoada' Square (Martyrs' Square), in the renamed Popular University of Gaza. 33 people were arrested, including a photojournalist, accused of trespassing and assaulting the authorities. Yesterday, the students pitched their tents again and hours later the same scene was repeated.

Today the Martyrs' Square woke up closed, the statue of George Washington no longer wears a kufiya or the Palestinian flag, and dozens of police take turns to monitor the surroundings. Despite the general depressed mood - due to the rain, the evictions and the arrests -, another spokesperson of the SCP conspires to continue on a war footing: "In the face of the brutality of the Zionist State and the American empire, none of we will not stop until the war in Gaza ends. Those who protested against segregation, against apartheid and against the Vietnam War did the same thing at this university.

An officer guards the main garden of the recently renamed "Plaza dels Mártirs", closed since Friday after two evictions and dozens of arrests.

Since the student uprising in Gaza began, more than 2,800 people have been arrested at 63 universities across the country, according to the latest count by The New York Times. This election year, the situation evokes reminiscences of 1968, when the arrest of 700 students at Columbia University ignited a fire that would eventually spread throughout American society against the Vietnam War .

The outrage brought down President Lyndon Johnson, who four years earlier had escalated the level of US military involvement in Southeast Asia, in a war that at the time was already unwinnable and would end up leaving 58,000 troops Americans dead and 153,000 wounded. In March, after the New Hampshire primary, Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election.

Five months later, as Democrats prepared to choose their candidate at the National Convention in Chicago, the anti-war movement staged mass demonstrations that were met with police brutality. The candidate elected at that convention, Hubert Humphrey, would end up defeated in November by Republican Richard Nixon, who had promised to achieve a "peace with honor" in Vietnam. The withdrawal of troops would not be formalized until 1973 through a law passed by Congress.

The parallels of the current situation with that of almost six decades ago serve as inspiration for the student movement in Gaza and have been highlighted in numerous press articles, and even by Senator and former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who stated that "Gaza can become Joe Biden's Vietnam".

The two uprisings occur in an election year, in a country where the ideological and generational gap is increasingly evident (especially since Black Lives Matter); both have started at Columbia University, spread to other universities in the country, and been harshly suppressed by order of the presidents, and in both there is an unpopular Democratic president in power and a national convention in power in Chicago.

However, in 1968 the whole of American society was involved in the conflict, since it was their own family members who were the victims of the carnage in the name of containing communism in the world. Although the war in Gaza, financed in large part by the United States Government, has also killed Americans and relatives of the students - many of Arab and Palestinian origin - who are protesting today, it is more complicated that it expands to other sectors of society, which mostly continues to support the delivery of arms to Israel.

This is not 1968. If it was, Biden would probably have announced his withdrawal from the race. And his rival, Trump, would not be urging Tel Aviv to "finish the job" and criticizing the president for "abandoning Israel" with his recent decision to delay the shipment of 3,500 bombs for fear of a massacre in Rafah.

And while Gaza is not Vietnam, it could bring down President Biden, but not by default like Johnson, but at the polls on November 5th. Due to the American electoral system, tens of thousands of people in seven key states can decide the outcome of the elections, which are expected to be at least as contested as those of 2020. Then, the support of young university students was essential for their victory, but it is less and less clear that they will revalidate their confidence.

The latest poll by the prestigious Emerson College indicates that, at the moment, Trump has an advantage over Biden in the seven states considered key: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But it also reveals that the margin is narrow, between one and five points depending on the state, and there are months left to turn the situation around.

The scenes we see today at George Washington University have been repeated in educational centers across the country, including these seven swing states, where the undecideds – estimated at 6% – are mostly young, a segment of the a population that historically shows less sympathy for Democrats and Republicans, and that defines itself – by 41%, according to – as independent. If Biden continues to criminalize protests, maintains arms support for Israel and does not influence his Government to put an end to the slaughter, which already amounts to 35,000 deaths, it will be difficult for him to win the support of young people and his reelection