Willie Brown is front and center on the New York Times' homepage today in a Times-produced video all about his roles at the Democratic National Conventions going back six decades. Brown, best known around here as a former San Francisco mayor, has been a California delegate at every DNC since 1960 (except for '92), and in the video he talks about growing roles of black people in the party and the growing importance of black voters, starting in 1964, but especially by 1968, when protests, riots, and chaos famously erupted outside the DNC in Chicago.
"The organized protests were by the youngsters who had been the real anti-war people," Brown says. "The blacks on the outside [in '68] were really the radicals. They were really the people who would have been a part of what you'd call the Panthers or the Panther types, or what you'd call today Black Lives Matter. None of those people were inside of the halls. They were all on the outside of the halls, and they did not really relate to those of us on the inside of the halls."
He calls the intense protests that year "fascinating but not interpretive for power."
The hell that broke loose that year did, however, change the rules for Democratic and Republican primaries in 1972, allowing for more minority candidates to emerge like Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American major-party candidate for President. Brown didn't support her, however, because he says "I'm a very want-to-win kind of guy... and I didn't think Chisholm could beat Nixon."
He also brags about throwing the greatest convention party ever, a party called "Oh What a Night" during the 1984 DNC, which he compares to Hamilton in that everybody and anybody wanted to be there. Former President Jimmy Carter in fact had asked for 100 tickets but he only got ten.
He proceeds to say some mildly offensive things with regard to President Obama looking like "an acceptable black man" whom people would vote for and not be scared of in the streets.
And he points out that while black people have lived in fear of the police forever in this country, the issue of police killing black people was not on the political agenda in previous eras, and has come on the agenda largely because of the political power black people now have achieved.
Brown won't be attending this year's DNC though. Why? It may just be his age and stamina, but he told Matier and Ross this weekend that he was only really interested in going if there was going to be a fight between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. “No fight, no reason to go,” Brown says. “Besides, they expect you to pay your own way.”