DENVER -- Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Denver Press Club at the Denver Athletic Club today, former California state legislator and '60s political activist Tom Hayden predicted that Barack Obama will lose the 2008 Election. "An African-American candidate talking about economics and a white war hero -- it's clear to me who is going to win," Hayden said. When one of the attendees at the small luncheon, attended mostly by Denverites, asked him to be more specific about why he thinks Obama will lose the race, Hayden replied, "You don't think McCain's gonna have a convention about his being an American." Hayden seemed to be referring to the fact that Barack Obama continues to introduce himself to the American electorate. Hayden elaborated. "I've known kookie Cokie, kookie Cokie Roberts for years, but when Obama vacationed in Hawaii, she said, "He shoulda gone to Myrtle Beach." Hayden turned out his hands, as if to say what're you gonna do?
Hayden went further. "[Obama's] problem is that he's lived in the world of beating the Democratic establishment for so long, it's hard to transition to being the Democratic establishment." Hayden is part of the group Progressives for Obama, but he has his issues with the candidate. "There's the pursuit of the last white man standing in Pennsylvania," he said, rather than a fierce pursuit of the Latino vote, which is what Hayden would like to see.
Given Hayden's history of confrontation with the police, famously at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968, perhaps it's not surprising that Hayden has a generally dark view. Much of his talk, which was advertised as an introduction to his new book A Tom Hayden Reader, centered on the police presence at the convention in Denver. Since the 1999 Seattle protests against the WTO, Hayden said that there has been "a continuous police build-up that concerns me since then." The brother of an old friend who lives on Denver's 16th Street Mall told Hayden that "he had never seen anything like it before"--that the police presence there is overwhelming, intimidating and edgy.
Apparently, the police have said that they have hundreds of weapons stored next to the mall, and that they bring them out every night and return them to their secret cache in the morning. Or anyway that's what the brother has confided to Tom Hayden. "All these horses on the mall -- it's like St. Petersburg 1905," Hayden said. The Denver Police Department has received $50 million from the Department of Homeland Security, according to Hayden. What concerns him is not only the massive police presence at the convention (the cop who spilled the beans about the weapons cache is convinced that something is going to happen here) but also the newly purchased technology, which will be used "in the barrio" long after the Democrats are gone. When Hayden says that the police create "an imaginary argument with your mind and with your nervous system," he almost seems to have made the point.
There's no need for so many police in Denver, Hayden says. "With Obama having opposed the war, there's no real reason for demonstrations." Hayden also feels that the "radicals of the 60s don't get credit for what has happened for good in the Democratic Party." He thinks there's too much harkening back to 1968. "All this talk about '68 because we have a fascination with round numbers," he quips. "Our country is full of the wreckage of the 60s."
Hayden observes that "there is a new social movement on a vast scale" centered right now in the Obama Campaign. "These young people will plant seeds for the next twenty-five years." But they are "small-d" Democrats, Hayden says, and they are environmentalists and idealists. "They don't want a war in :Pakistan!" And "if Obama loses, which I think he might," Hayden says, nevertheless the Democratic Party will have grown bigger. As for Obama, "he is losing. He is gonna lose the electoral college."
Hayden does offer a taste of Obama hope. "He gets one more chance to reboot, re-orient, redeploy." He offers the example of the Obama ad campaign on the McCain houses as a primer on how rebooting works these days. According to Hayden, some young investigators financed by Brave New Films in Los Angeles went to Arizona and filmed all the McCain homes and put the video on Youtube. Although the video went viral, nothing happened politically until a reporter from Politico saw it and then had a chance to ask John McCain himself the now-famous number question. Only then, Hayden reminded us, did the Obama team jump on. "Outsiders triggering situations -- that's the only way to win."