In the Jungle

Hubert Humphrey
Hubert Humphrey; drawing by David Levine

It was perhaps unfortunate that Daley, the hoodlum suzerain of the city, became emblematic of all that the young people in their anguish cried out against, even though he plainly deserved it. No one should ever have been surprised that he set loose his battalions against the kids; it was the triumphant end-product of his style, and what else might one expect from this squalid person whose spirit suffused the great city as oppressively as that of some Central American field marshal? And it was no doubt inevitable, moreover, a component of the North American oligarchic manner—one could not imagine a Trujillo so mismanaging his public relations—that after the catastrophe had taken place he should remain so obscenely lodged in the public eye, howling “kike!” at Abe Ribicoff, packing the galleries with his rabble, and muttering hoarse irrelevancies about conspiracy and assassination, about the Republican convention (“They had a fence in Miami, too, Walter, nobody ever talks about that!”) to a discomfited Cronkite, who wobbled in that Oriental presence between deference and fainthearted suggestions that Miami and Chicago just might not be the same sort of thing.

That is what many of us did along about Thursday night in Chicago—retreat to the center, the blissful black interior of some hotel room and turn on the television set. For after four days and nights in the storm outside, after the sleepless, eventually hallucinated connection with so many of the appalling and implausible events of that week, it was a relief to get off the streets and away from the parks and the Amphitheater and the boorish, stinking hotel lobbies and to see it as most Americans had seen it—even if one’s last sight was that of the unspeakable Daley, attempting to explain away a shame that most people who witnessed it will feel to their bones for a very long time.

Yet, again, maybe in the immediate aftermath of the convention it was too bad that Daley should have hogged a disproportionate share of the infamy which has fallen upon the Democratic party; for if it is getting him off the hook too easily to call him a scapegoat, nonetheless the execration he has received (even the New York Daily News, though partly of course out of civic rivalry, carried jeering stories about him) may obscure the fact that Daley is only the nastiest symbol of stupidity and desuetude in a political party that may die, or perhaps is already dead, because it harbors too many of his breed and mentality. Humphrey, the departed John Bailey, John Connally, Richard Hughes, Muskie—all are merely eminent examples of a rigidity and blindness, a feebleness of thought, that have possessed the party at every level, reaching down to those Grant Wood delegates from North Dakota who spilled out from the elevators into my hotel lobby every morning, looking bright-eyed and war-hungry, or like Republicans, whom they…

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