The pro-Palestinian student encampments protesting the war in Gaza swept across the country this week, and with them, dramatic imagery of arrests and crackdowns from New York to Texas to Southern California.

Soon, the comparison to another protest-filled election year inevitably arose. Is 2024 going to morph into something that feels like 1968?

That year, protests at Columbia University exploded amid a nationwide movement against the Vietnam War, one that involved violent clashes as police moved in on protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that summer. Democrats, who had been deeply divided over the war, ultimately lost the election to President Nixon.

There are many differences between then and now, and it is much too soon to know whether the campus protests happening now will come to feel like what happened that seismic year. But the bubbling up of protest activity across college campuses half a year before a presidential election has made 2024 — a year already knotted by war overseas and deep domestic political division — that much more complicated. It’s another question mark in a political season already full of them.

Here are three questions about the politics of this moment — questions that my colleagues and I will continue to explore in the coming weeks and months.

Jonathan Wolfe contributed reporting.

The students demonstrating on college campuses across the nation are a physical embodiment of the way that the Democratic base has been divided by the war in Gaza. They have drawn renewed attention to the disappointment many young and progressive voters feel about the Biden administration’s support of Israel in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians. (While largely peaceful, the protests have also been criticized for some demonstrators’ use of antisemitic language.)

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