SOUTH PORTLAND — Sometimes it takes a confluence of events to provide clarity to the muddle. The events in this case are the 50th anniversary of the riots surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968, the recent death of Sen. John McCain and the mind-numbingly idiotic statement by Fox News commentator Marie Harf on “Outnumbered” on Aug. 16 that “the highest form of patriotism is protest.”

The muddle is the catastrophic state of the modern Democratic Party.

For those old enough to remember, there used to be an America in which the highest form of patriotism was … well … patriotism: the love of one’s country. By Marie Harf’s logic, a protester with an “America Sucks” sign, or a flag burner, or an anthem-kneeling millionaire football player, or a draft dodger fleeing to Canada, or even a clod like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo – whose “America … was never that great” slam was what Marie Harf was defending – would all be examples of patriotism equal to the heroic Vietnam service of John McCain.

As to how cursing your country, burning its flag, refusing to stand for its anthem and fleeing when summoned to service are examples of “love of country,” I leave that to Ms. Harf, who, possessing the persona and gravitas of the captain of a high school cheerleading squad, was nevertheless a State Department spokeswoman for two years during Barack Obama’s second term and our face to the world against the likes of the so-called Islamic State and Vladimir Putin. Small wonder that Obama’s ineffectual foreign policy strategy was called “leading from behind.”

How America arrived at such a point is the question answered by historian Arthur Herman in his Aug. 28 National Review article, “Chicago 1968: The Night the Democratic Party Died.”

Herman writes, “Fifty years ago tonight a great American political party was murdered by its own children and closest friends. The party … was the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and JFK, which perished during the riots in Grant Park, Chicago, on the night of Aug. 28, 1968, in the midst of the party’s national convention. Its children … were the rioters from the anti-Vietnam War left. … The friends who joined in the kill were the mainstream media. … Starting that night The New York Times, The Washington Post and ABC and CBS News would become the enablers of America’s radical left. … A new media paradigm was born. Left-wing rioters … became ‘protesters’ … The police now became the villains … A direct ideological line runs from that night to Black Lives Matter a half-century later.”

As a result, concludes Herman: “A new Democratic Party was born … that increasingly reflected the radical views of the Chicago protesters: that America, not communism, was the real force for evil … . That Democratic Party (became) a party obsessed with social justice, identity politics and America’s past sins – essentially the party it is today.”

The “America is evil” mantra is key. In grounding war opposition not in geopolitics but in morality, protesters could argue that America hadn’t just made a well-intentioned mistake, America was irredeemably morally flawed, a mindset that was a convenient guilt-cleansing elixir for rioters and draft dodgers. This was, after all, the luckiest generation in human history, born into the wealthiest, most free, most powerful nation the world had ever seen. A good and great nation could legitimately demand sacrifice from its citizens, but not one that was a racist, imperialist, sexist – “homophobic” would soon be added – engine of repression which became, and remains, the left’s description of America.

Thus the muddle. It began with Barack Obama’s 2009 worldwide “apology tour.” Continued with Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment. And deepened with the Resistance; the refusal to condemn anthem kneelers; calling for sanctuary cities, non-citizen voting and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and Rep. Maxine Waters advocating the physical harassment of Trump administration officials. Add in the lurch toward socialism and Venezuela, the appalling performance by Democratic senators at the hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and the recent Gallup poll that found that only 32 percent of Democrats are “extremely proud” to be Americans, and the muddle devolves into quagmire. And all of this in the face of the best economy in decades resulting from President Trump’s tax cuts – which not a single Democrat supported.

The performance of the modern Democratic Party is the worst performance by a major American political party since 1850s Democrats supported the extension of slavery into the territories, and it has thereby rendered itself unfit to lead.

Would that the party were over. Protest that.