Skip to main content

tv   Lectures in History 1968 Presidential Election  CSPAN  August 7, 2018 1:59pm-3:09pm EDT

1:59 pm
today we are going to be talking about 1968, a year when a heck of a lot happened, including a presidential election and a year where there were a lot of social, economic and political parallels that are, in some ways, familiar to us now, in part because of some of the changes that early 21st century america has experienced, particularly in politics, were set in motion in this late 1960s period. so let's get started. so i want to start with an unlikely presidential news conference or address to the american people. march 31st, 1968. lyndon johnson, president lyndon johnson, gave a televised address to the nation and his subject was the vietnam war. by this point, vietnam had escalated into a bloody conflict involving over half a million american soldiers. so a war that had gradually started as a small engagement against communist -- potential communist aggression in southeast asia in the 1950s had escalated into a major conflict
2:00 pm
that was tearing america apart. so johnson gives a speech about the war, he's -- he looks tired, he looks old, the glare of the television lights did not help matters. at the very end, he lands this bombshell, because of the importance of resolving the war in vietnam and peace talks were already ongoing with the north vietnamese, he said, quote, i do not believe that i should devote an hour a day of my time to any personal partisan causes. accordingly, i shall not seek and i will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president. so how did we get here? how did lyndon johnson, who had been elected in a landslide
2:01 pm
victory less than four years earlier, get to the point where he is deciding not to run again for re-election because he doesn't think -- not only does he not think he is going to win, he doesn't think he's going to get his party's nomination. how did this happen? and this was a very hard scenario to imagine when johnson was first running for president in 1964. it was also a hard scenario to imagine given johnson's and his administration's role in a broader mainstream liberalism in 20th century america, a liberalism that has its -- that is tied in with progressive ideas about progress and technology and progress. ideas that animated things like the 1939 world's fair, the futurerama exhibit and some of the other things we have talked about in this class. that idea that big organizations and new technologies, big corporations, big government can bring good things about. that america is getting better
2:02 pm
and better and that experts are the ones who can give the answers -- can provide the answers for where america goes next. that having expertise, whether it be the expert engineers at general motors who are envisioning this city of the future in the futurerama exhibit in 1939, or it be the architects of things like the marshall plan, rebuilding europe and japan after world war ii, or the engineers of nasa who are building the rockets to send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. this optimism and this faith in big organizations and big technologies is starting to break down, and the thing that breaks down that faith more than anything else is the war in vietnam. but this, again, was hard to imagine four years earlier. in 1964 johnson's opponent was barry goldwater, republican, senator of arizona and someone
2:03 pm
from the far right of the republican party. so the mainstream of the republican party in the early 1960s and before was not that far removed from the democrats. certainly there were lots of issues on which they differed, but this general understanding that progress was possible, that expertise was valuable, that you needed big organizations to get things done, even though dwight eisenhower warned the american people in his farewell address about the growing military industrial complex and about these scientists who longer knew how to innovate because they are on a government paycheck. he nonetheless surrounded himself with scientists and understood the importance of these very large organizations to conduct the business of the united states. right? so both democrats and republicans are part of this broader post-war consensus about what the role of the government
2:04 pm
does, the importance of people with expertise in charge and goldwater is someone who comes out of -- well, right field, not left field. although he was a sitting senator, you know, he was not -- he was a politician, he was a very experienced seasoned politician and someone with a very firm and clear ideology, conservative to libertarian. i think in today's day and age we would call him more of a libertarian. he was a great believer in freedom of every kind, individual freedom and also freedom from communism. he was the ultimate anti-communism crusader, following in the footsteps of people like richard nixon. but someone who comes in, seizes the nomination from the republican party from more moderate possibilities and is quite a hardliner. johnson very successfully runs against him as someone who is out of touch with the mainstream
2:05 pm
of politics, someone who is way too conservative for america, someone who doesn't have america's interest at heart, someone who should not be trusted with having their finger on the nuclear button because he might just pop off at any minute. but nonetheless goldwater, despite the fact that a lot of experts and a lot of the establishment were very worried about goldwater, he had a lot of grassroots support, particularly among young people. maybe not this young, although i had to show this picture because i love this picture, but he galvanized an incredible grassroots support from teenagers, housewives, people who were not part of the political establishment. a lot of people in the sun belt communities, suburban sun belt communities of southern california and arizona and the southwest -- the west and the southwest, who believed that america was on the wrong path, were worried about communist
2:06 pm
influence in public schools and in local governments. and we're still, you know -- the age of mccarthy was over, but there were still a lot of people worried about the same things that joe mccarthy had been warning america about a year -- a decade before. but the democrats rule the day. the democrats have a -- johnson and the democrats run a campaign that is successful not just in its bringing -- building enthusiasm among the liberal coalition that had been started in the age of franklin roosevelt with white working class voters from the north and midwest and african-american voters, but also to successfully paint goldwater as an extremist, as someone who could not be trusted. and so the electoral map in 1964 was a landslide victory for the democrats.
2:07 pm
but here is what's interesting, goldwater doesn't win very much, he wins his home state of arizona. but he takes states that have been solidly blue, democratic, for decades and decades. the deep south goes -- the electoral votes of the deep south go for barry goldwater. and why do they do that? because of civil rights. because this is after the civil rights act has been signed into law by johnson, something that the deep south, the whites of the deep south, find a great -- something that is a great betrayal of their state's rights and their way of life by the federal government. goldwater is a states rights guy. he is a believer in freedom. he is a believer in as little government intrusion as possible, including in the business of the south. so because of that you have states going red in the south for the first time, but hardly the last time.
2:08 pm
so 1968, fast forward. johnson's electoral victory is -- enables him to get major pieces of social legislation passed in the wake of 1964, to advance his anti-poverty agenda that he and -- was his and john f. kennedy's, to pass programs of what he called the great society, including the centerpieces of them, medicare and medicaid. major social -- major social programs, health insurance for the elderly and for lower income people. and a whole host of other anti-poverty programs, job creation programs, and the vast enlargement of the domestic side of the government, but what johnson also oversees is this vast enlargement of the military side of the government because of the war in vietnam. he oversees this massive escalation of the conflict. it's ironic because when he
2:09 pm
comes into office he is very conflicted about it. this is kennedy's war. this is not something -- you know, from the get-go, and we hear this in the tapes of johnson's phone conversations that he had with friends and colleagues from the oval office saying, i don't know how we're going to get out of this, but we have to -- we can't just pull out. we can't lose. losing is not an option. so when losing a war is not an option -- and, remember, look at the 20th century wars, look at world war ii, only, you know, a couple decades in the rearview mirror, this great american victory. for america to lose a war, to pull out of a conflict in a small, less-developed country, to not be able to win that war, that would be a terrible blow and it would be a cold war blow because this was a proxy war for, you know, american democracy versus soviet communism, soviet and chinese communism. vietnam is one of those dominoes
2:10 pm
in the middle. so he escalates. by 1968, the escalation has been quite massive. so one of the things that is propelling it is now that there is -- men are being drafted. so as the war escalates, you need to draft more young men in the military. you need to get more soldiers. now, the draft is instituted right in the run-up to world war ii by roosevelt, so we don't have -- now we have an all volunteer military, we did not then. and the escalation of vietnam means the escalation of those being called up in the draft. so during the nearly ten years of heavy american involvement in the war a total of 11.7 million
2:11 pm
served in the armed forces. a little over 2 million of those went to vietnam and within that number, 1.6 million saw combat. so overall of the entire 18 to 25 population, it's a little over a quarter of the population, is drafted up, but the uncertainty of the draft, the fact that every young man has to register for it, makes it a possibility and a probability for everyone. at the peak of the draft in 1966, 330,000 americans are drafted. by 1968, going into 1968, one-third of the 20-year-old men in the u.s. were in the service. so one in three 20-year-old males in the united states were in the military. now, this was not evenly distributed by race, there was a disproportionate number of people of color, men of color who were drafted up. it was something that threads through the anti-war movement and becomes a major rallying cry for and connects the problem of the war overseas with the problems of race relations at
2:12 pm
home. but it is something that you cannot get exempted -- that no one is exempted from ultimately, although some people are more easily able to dodge it than others. so the draft increases the anti-war base. so coming into 1968 there's already incredible antipathy about vietnam and a very vibrant anti-war movement, and in the early days of 1968 towards the end of january, there is a north vietnamese assault on south vietnamese strongholds, including cities that changes the visibility of the war and amps up pressure and broad-based anti-war sentiment beyond just those who are trying -- who are getting drafted. this is the -- so on the -- the vietnamese holiday of tet which is in the beginning of -- in
2:13 pm
early of 1968, there is an attack that the johnson administration didn't see coming. vietnam's fighting comes to the cities and it goes from major cities over the next three weeks of this -- this wave of attacks, over 12,000 civilians are killed, a million refugees are created. it has a huge toll on the north vietnamese. many more north vietnamese deaths than south vietnamese soldiers or american soldiers. ultimately the american-backed forces prevail. it's not a win, the north vietnamese are pushed back, but this type of attack, this coordinated attack is something that the johnson administration didn't predict was going to happen, was saying there is no way that the north vietnamese
2:14 pm
have this power, have this capacity to do this sort of thing and they also don't have the -- they also, you know -- there is no way they are going to prevail. they were right on the second point. but one of the things that made tet so important and so visible was because there was fighting going on in the cities, it was the fighting going on right in the range of television cameras. it's where all the foreign correspondents were located. so the fighting is beamed from the streets of the cities of vietnam back to the united states and it becomes much more visible. when it's guerrilla warfare in the jungles and hamlets you hear about it afterwards, but actually seeing this warfare erupt on the streets of vietnam's major cities changes the dynamic. so the anti-war movement which
2:15 pm
has as its -- as its core these young college students who are vulnerable to the draft and at institutions where they have time on their hands to protest and a platform to get people to listen to them starts to expand. it becomes a more broad-based youth movement and it's enabled in part by the fact that there are so many young people. so another reason that vietnam becomes such a political flash point is demographics. it's the baby boom. it's a young -- a new generation of young people. this is a group that male and female is termed man of the year by "time" magazine in early 1967. they are start to be understood by their elders as this new generation that is not only large in numbers, but care more about social justice and geopolitical issues than their previous generations did.
2:16 pm
they are intensely engaged in many of them, in rectifying the injustices of the world and increasingly starting to talk about vietnam alongside civil rights and other injustices at home. they're connecting these problems. and it's a very different sort of politics than we see in earlier civil rights movements, which are about fighting for a kind of consumer-based citizenship. by with holding your -- using your buying power to get what you want. by using the front of respectability and good behavior as a way to convince people to go along with your cause. this is way that political protest has been conducted for quite some time in the united states. not just in the '50s and '60s, but well before that, right? and this new generation has different tactics and very quickly, lyndon johnson, who, the person who thinks these people should be my people, they should be my supporters, very soon these young people turn on lbj, lbj as the war criminal, as the person responsible for this debacle in vietnam.
2:17 pm
lbj is the person who is sending people there. and vietnam gradually starts to take over everything else that johnson is trying to do. it starts taking over fiscally, because it is, it is just eating up a giant chunk of the budget so you can't also have the generous anti-poverty programs and welfare programs of the great society and have the big spend of an increasingly expensive war. and it also is eroding political support. and so by the time you come into 1968, it isn't just the kids out on the streets, there are other people protesting for peace. there are other people who are either out on the street or they're just sitting in their living room watching tet offensive unfold on the television and wondering what the heck is going on. that somehow things are going wrong.
2:18 pm
the scope and scale of the war and the, the sneak attacks, surprise attacks of the tet offensive, the u.s.-backed troops eventually prevail, but it is something that goes against what the leaders in wads have be -- washington have been it willing the american public about how the war is going. it's showing a very different war than what the, what leaders in washington are saying, oh, everything going fine. we're working towards peace, we are deescalating, north vietnam is weak, et cetera, et cetera. and the moment that really turns the tide politically or maybe the final straw that breaks the camel's back is when the person who is the arbiter of how americans understand the news of the day, someone who is seen as a trusted source, not fake news, but real, serious news, walter cronkite, the veteran cbs reporter who had reported extensively from vietnam, the now, sits at the anchor desk,
2:19 pm
who told america that john f. kennedy had been shot and killed. the person who later informs america of the moon landing. the person delivering the momentous news of the day to millions of american households, so how many people, i'd like a show of hands, how many people watched the network nightly news in the last month? okay, there are a a few of you. network, not cable, network. yeah. how many people make a point to watch it every day? no hands. one hand, all right. one hand. but you probably know walter cronkite or are more familiar with walter cronkite. so this is, this is, it's hard, this is where news came from, right?
2:20 pm
it's not like we've all tuned out from the news, how many people consulted a news source in the last 24 hours, yeah. so it's not like you're tuning out. you're probably tuning in more, you get more news than you want to get, right? we have too many places to find it. but then, walter cronkite or the two other news anchors were the places you went. the nightly news, you sat down every evening and got 30 minutes of what to think. and so on february 28th, cronkite ends his broadcast with a three-minute speech about the war in vietnam. and he looks at the camera, and he reads from a script, he looks up, at the viewer sitting in their living room and says, for it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in a stalemate. to say that we are closer to victory today is to believe in the face of evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past, to say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic unsatisfactory conclusion. on the off-chance the military and political analysts are right
2:21 pm
in the next few months, we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed the last gasp before negotiations. it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to democracy and did the best they could. and so while all this is playing out, there's a presidential election going on. in the summer, by the summer of 1967, the democrats, a group of left, young, left-leaning democrats have started a dump johnson movement. that is determined to find someone else to run for the democratic nomination. and they are, they cast about for a number of potential candidates, landing first on trying to persuade robert kennedy, the son, the brother of the former president. now senator from new york, to run. and kennedy says no, i'm not interested. i'm not going to do it. by after going through looking
2:22 pm
at a few short lists, they finally come to the senior senator from minnesota, eugene mccarthy. now gene mccarthy was kind of an unlikely person to run for president. he was, he like he was fond of quoting poetry on the floor of the senate. he didn't have a lot of friends in the senate. he was -- one colleague referred to him as the most intelligent man in the senate and that wasn't a compliment. he was seen as kind of a cold fish. standoffish, too intellectual for his own good. but he was, he was someone who had a past as a cold war hawk. he was not a -- he was not a
2:23 pm
soft liberal softie. he was someone who believed in vigorous intervention to stop the spread of communism. he was someone who was on the side of initially, the house on unamerican activities committee. he was someone who was, he was not an uber-liberal guy. but it was increasingly clear to him and particularly as the escalation increased in 1966, 1967, that the war in vietnam was untenable and needed to end. and so he becomes -- he joins the race in november 1967, as the anti-war candidate. and he gains, gathers a good deal of support. and by early 168 he's running very strong in the ramp up to the new hampshire primary, which then was in early march. the new hampshire primary, mccarthy does not win. but he gets over 40% of the vote and it's the moment when johnson, who gets -- who realizes that this fringe anti-war, this obscure anti-war
2:24 pm
candidate, is someone who could potentially be a major challenger and also that anti-war sentiment is running so strong that it is not wise for him to run for re-election. but mccarthy is, as mccarthy's campaign gains steam and a lot of the energy of the mccarthy campaign comes from young people, these young college people, who join on, who care more about the war in vietnam than any other issue and have their first experience in organized politics, by jumping on the support of the mccarthy campaign, and one of the -- they're encouraged by campaign organizers to get clean for gene, meaning cut your hair, shave your beard, wear tidy clothes, don't look like a long-haired young hippie, actually make yourself look like a clean-scrubbed campaign worker
2:25 pm
as a way to increase the support, the broaden the support for mccarthy jond just young people in their college dorm rooms. but mccarthy, once, as the mccarthy campaign gains steam and it becomes clearer and clearer that johnson and his vice president hubert humphrey, who would be another possible nominee for the 1968 democratic nomination, that they are increasingly hobbled by the war in vietnam. robert kennedy reconsiders his ideas about not getting in the race. and so, by middle of march, too late to actually get formally on the ballot for wisconsin, the wisconsin primary, which is coming up, but nonetheless, in it, he's a significant write-in candidate and he's on the ballot for later primaries going forward.
2:26 pm
kennedy jumps in. now, kennedy was, by this point the, the supporters of gene mccarthy who might have been inclined to support kennedy the summer before, now have their -- they've plighted themselves to gene mccarthy and they see kennedy as this johnny come lately, just getting in on the, jumping on the bandwagon once it gets going. so among the diehard mccarthy supporters, there was a great dislike of bobby kennedy. here's a homemade sign in iowa in the campaign rally in the spring of 1968 supporting mccarthy and then handwritten in marker on the post is "bobby, go home." there's a real sort of, you are either with gene mccarthy or you're with bobby kennedy. and kennedy and mccarthy did not like each other very much, either. mccarthy, faced with a far more
2:27 pm
glamorous, telegenic, well financed opponent. would sort of say things like, well he plays touch football, but i play football. but kennedy was extremely good at calibrating himself to these -- the larger culture, to reaching out not just to college students, all of whom -- nearly all of whom were white, but reaching out to a multiracial coalition of democratic voters, of people who had fond memories of and loyalties to his brother, john, and to these other working class members of the roosevelt coaliti coalition, the new deal coalition, to build support around his candidacy. and so by the end of march, you have johnson realizing that it's just untenable for him to stay
2:28 pm
in and saying he's getting out. but it just gets more crazy from there. if that had been all that happened in 1968, that would be enough of the story, but there's so much more than happens that shapes the election outcome and also where american history goes from there. including the assassination of martin luther king, april 4, 1968. a moment that transforms, that is sort of a -- a moment that rocks all of american society, that becomes -- you know, a cover is devoted to on "life" magazine, the major photojournalistic mass circulation magazine of the day. but also has effects on the broader contours of the civil rights movement. a civil rights movement that as we know is already changing and already has consists of many different civil rights movements and ideas about the way to affect racial justice and social
2:29 pm
justice. but the immediate aftermath of the king campaign is violence. in washington, d.c., civil disorder rioting breaks out in african-american neighborhoods. there already have been a number of civil disorders, riots and predominantly black neighborhoods in large cities, summers before that, summer of '65, '66, '67. the economic and political frustration of poor black communities overflows after king's assassination as well. robert kennedy plays, has an immediate, sort of example of his mastery of the political moment. and also his keyed-in understanding to the -- to the
2:30 pm
broader -- that the questions of 1968 extend beyond vietnam, beyond the concerns of white college students, quite frankly. as the news came through the wire on april 4, he was in indianapolis, indiana, campaigning during the indiana primary. and he gives this impromptu speech. he stands up and says, news has come, that dr. king has been killed. he breaks the news to the crowd around him. a majority minority crowd. and says, this is the time -- i, too, had a brother. i lost a brother to this sort of violence. this is a time to end the violence. and gives this very eloquent, impromptu speech. and this was not disorder. there are not fires in indianapolis that evening. whether bobby kennedy gets full
2:31 pm
credit for that is a different matter. but nonetheless, it was an example of his mastery of politics and his ability to reach out to a broad coalition, an ability that makes many people feel that he would have been ultimately successful had he lived to become the nominee and the major party candidate in november 1968. but the king assassination shifts, there are other things that dr. king had started to build that continue. including the poor people's campaign. which was another sort of a new focus on the economic justice, moving away from voting rights. and desegregation of the south and moving towards more broad-based economic justice. so the month after king's assassination, the march on washington, the poor people's march on washington that he had been organizing and planning, that continued. it was followed this in the summer of 1968 by many other marches in other cities. and other marches in washington. where the calls for justice have become more multiracial. here you have signs in spanish. you have white people, you have hispanic people, you have
2:32 pm
african-american people. it is more focused around economic issues. around the broader injustices that are not just southern problems, but are everywhere. but there are new voices in the civil rights movement as well. former student nonviolent coordinating committee chair, snic -- remember, we talked about snic in previous lectures. a southern civil rights organizer, one of the students who is a leader, of the student-led civil rights movement in the early 1960s. by the middle of the 1960s, some of these student leaders are shifting their focus and shifting their message. and that includes stokley carmichael, snic chair in mississippi and by 1966, '67,
2:33 pm
'68, he is, the language of civil rights has not been about let us sit at your lunch counter. let us participate in the broader white society. but one is more strongly separatist and one is more strongly africanist, pan-africanist. and a message of black nationalism. one that says we can't wait for white society to get its act together and so much change is going to be necessary in order for justice to be achieved, that these nonviolent means are not going to be the only way to do it. here's an example. and carmichael, i'm bringing up as an example of one of many leaders on the left, part of an emergent black power movement, black nationalist movement in the late 1960s, activists who are coming out of the civil rights movement in many cases. people who are, who are articulating a reality that nonviolence has only gotten us so far and voting rights can only get you so many things. here he is, talking in berkeley, in early 1968, at a rally that
2:34 pm
is to support freeing huey newton. a leader of the black panter party in oakland. who was imprisoned on murder charges after the killing of a white policeman outside oakland. and the jailing, the conviction, jailing and eventual freeing of huey newton becomes a great cause of the black power movement. and also other allies, white and black. so here's carmichael. they took us from africa, they put thousands of miles of water between us, they forgot blood is thicker than water. we are african people with an african ideology. we are wandering the united states, we're going to build a concept of peoplehood in this country or there will be no country. there will be no country. so this is a very different type of articulation of african-american civil rights
2:35 pm
and rights. it's also accompanied by a more militant stance, both visually militant and politically militant. and the presentation of the black power activist is very, very different than the civil rights protesters of montgomery bus boycott or the greensboro sit-ins on the woolworth's lunch counters. there are no more suits and ties, there is no more we're going to make ourselves look like the respectable middle-class people we are and deserve to be treated as, the customers we deserve to be. we're going to be militant and we're going to dress to express our power and our difference. our youth, our power, our difference. and so this is an image that again, think about how these images are transmitted through print media and through television media to an audience in 1968. these sorts of images also are flashed into living rooms, largely white living rooms, along with images of civil
2:36 pm
disorder in predominantly black neighborhoods in major cities. including in detroit, where some of the -- probably the most significant rioting occurs and most damaging civil disorders of the period. happen in detroit in 1967, where black neighborhoods are up in flames. and white residents, particularly white working-class residents who are proximate, feel themselves endangered by this violence, are increasingly worried about the violence in their midst. so narratives -- so for african-americans, many whom are frustrated with the incompleteness of the civil rights victory, the slowness with it, with which white politicians have responded to the deep and enduring inequities, the segregation in poor neighborhoods, the limited
2:37 pm
economic opportunities, the limits on housing and jobs, this is and can be -- these are empowering images of black people fighting back. to some other african-american activists, this is disturbing, because this is -- you know, we got this far because we didn't present such, we were nonviolent. we were peaceful and this type of violence is not going to advance the cause. and to many whites, ordinary people sitting in their living rooms, watching television, who are already feeling anxious about all of the changes that are going on around them, they see these images and they think, we need what we need is we need law and order. these images are also coming across at the same time as images of college students growing their hair long and misbehaving, so it isn't just the violence that they're seeing
2:38 pm
on city streets. it's also the violence they're seeing in other places as well. and the violence in vietnam. there's very little good news that walter cronkite is delivering on the nightly news in 1968. that's why politician who is have law and order messages, who are coming out and saying i'm going to clean up the streets, we going to reduce crime. we're going to create some order out of this chaos, have -- are increasingly potent and convincing. the progenitor of this message is ronald reagan. who in 1966 in a foreshadowing of what happens in 1968 is elected governor of california. unsurprisingly california happens to be the place where these two types of disorders first break out. first on the campus of berkeley in 1964, the free speech movement, demonstrations, mass demonstrations by students on
2:39 pm
the campus of berkeley against the berkeley administration. and then on the streets of los angeles, the watts neighborhood, going up in flames in the summer of 1965 in response to police violence. and in 1966, ronald reagan runs against the incumbent liberal governor, somebody who had beaten richard nixon soundly for the governorship four years earlier and wins running on this message of law and order and bringing order out of chaos. and that's an important -- the people who are running in '68 take notes from that. so talking about disorder, let's talk more about disorder on college campuses. so again, you have the men and women of the year. this mass number of young people. young people who are going to college in greater numbers than ever before. young people who are increasingly attuned to broader social issues. they're caring about what's going on in the america around
2:40 pm
them. they're seeing a deeply unjust nation. and they're seeing an america that is acting, is acting with brutality across the world. particularly on nations of filled with people of color. and post colonial nation. and they are, they're mad. not all of them, but a lot of them. and another thing that really shocks the older generation is not just the discontent, the marching on the streets, the peaceful participation of peaceful nonviolent protests whether it be civil rights or anti-vietnam protests of these young people, but the increasing violence and disrespect of authority with which these take on. even in the most elite college campuses. in the nation. so by april and may, columbia university is one of many
2:41 pm
places, many college campuses across the country that becomes consumed by these sorts of protests, these types of violence. where the administration of the university becomes the target of student discontent. not only in the conduct of the university. columbia happened to be expanding its campus and expanding into predominantly black neighborhoods and razing homes and building new administrative buildings. that became a flashpoint for student discontent. but also student discontent that is being, that is, talking about the war in vietnam. talking about how research universities are complicit in the war-mongering machine of the u.s. government because they are doing military research. they are researching things like chemical weapons. agent orange and napalm being dropped on north vietnamese villages. being developed on university campuses. so 1968, '69, '70, '71, on many american college campuses there are increasing protests and acts
2:42 pm
of violence against university properties and violence in which students are caught up in. and increasingly militant stance of these very privileged young people, these people whose parents are like, oh, my gosh, you have it so good. you grew up in a time of peace and prosperity. we worked really hard to make sure you could go to a nice school. and what are you doing? you're growing your hair long and occupying the president's office. but this face might have been the face of young america that is the fodder of newspaper headlines and it's the face of young america that we remember in you know we think about the '60s, we think about the counterculture, we think about hippies, we think about the left, the anti-war left. we think about people growing their hair long, dropping acid, dropping out.
2:43 pm
right? but let's not forget, that this was not everybody. and that the 1960s is a time, yes, when the modern left, liberal left comes together, and you have strong leftist movements, both within and outside formal politics, a push towards more leftist solutions. it is also the moment when the modern right is coming to the fore. there are also young people on college campuses, young people in high schools, just post-collegiate, who have very different ideas about what america is and what it should be who are championing conservative values. who are not distressing their parents by growing their hair long or doing drugs, but are projecting a more wholesome issue, wholesome image and also who are increasingly gravitating towards conservative thinkers, and conservative politicians. barry goldwater to ronald reagan, on and on, as people who have the answers for what,
2:44 pm
what's ailing america. that the solution is not more government, is not more freedom for people to do what they want. but the solution is actually less government. the solution is return to traditional values. of church and family. and community. so the late 1960s is the beginning of not only modern politics of the left, but also the modern politics of the right. to understand the 1960s as this crazy, long-haired hippie, everyone was so liberal type time is to misread all of these other things that were going on and were incredibly powerful. it also helps to explain the way 1968 played out the way it did. so june begins with an event that completely up-ends not only the democratic political landscape, but the broader political landscape of, of 1968
2:45 pm
america, which is the assassination of bobby kennedy. the night right after he's won the california primary. the primary that probably would have sent him to -- secured him the nomination, ultimately, the democratic nomination, got him enough delegates. kennedy ultimately served as past mccarthy becomes the candidate to beat in the late spring, early summer. at his evening of triumph he is struck down by an assassin's bullet. this is something that has a devastating effect, not only on the people who were the supporters of robert kennedy, but on a broader public that already had been devastated by other assassinations. john f. kennedy, martin luther king and now robert f. kennedy. so kennedy's assassination, just like king's assassination
2:46 pm
precipitates a broader national mourning. and now it throws the democratic nomination into even more turmoil. it's not clear who, if anyone can bring them together. but in the meantime, the republican party is the republicans are debating who is going to be their nominee. and by the early summer, it is clear that the person who is going to be the nominee is the most unlikely of candidates. richard nixon. why is he unlikely? well, he's lost, a lot. he lost to kennedy in 1960, narrowly, but he loses. he runs for california governor in 1962, and he loses to pat brown, the liberal that ronald reagan later defeats four years
2:47 pm
later and famously says you're not going to have richard nixon to kick around any more after that. he had a very adversarial relationship with the press. he saw them as certainly as the enemy and as highly adversarial. and as recorded again an again in the history books, the pivotal, a pivotal moment of the 1960 election for richard nixon was the televised debates in which he suffered from all sorts of flop sweat and television was not kind to him and it was very kind to john f. kennedy. now was that the reason he lost? no, there are many reasons that the election played out the way it did. and there are different interpretations about the magnitude of the debate. but what was clear from 1960 is one thing that richard nixon was not good at was television. by 1968, television was more important than ever before. to show up well on television, to communicate through television advertising and television was the key, was key to gaining political support and
2:48 pm
convincing people to come on to your side. but nixon is and his allies are watching what's going on, particularly after reagan's victory in 1966. and looking and seeing other potential contenders to for the republican nomination in '68 fall by the wayside. moderates like nelson rockefeller and george romney, father of mitt romney, people who would have been likely candidates, all of a sudden they're not -- are no longer strong possibilities. and so this gives an opening for richard nixon. as richard nixon makes his great comeback he's very mindful of what his public image will be. so mindful it's the subject of satire on the cover of "esquire" magazine. he hires an ad agency to build a whole television presence around him. he hires key aides, chief among them being roger ailes, a young
2:49 pm
aide who later goes on to found fox news. also among the campaign staff were nixon is a young patrick buchanan. who later becomes a television pundit and a presidential candidate himself. and is responsible for writing some of the more strongly conservative speeches that nixon gives during the '68 campaign. so he has got a really television savvy group around him and he builds a public image that is very different -- very different from the image that he has in 1960. he's trying to distance himself from this. so one key prong is advertising and using television advertising very creatively, in a way that doesn't foreground him, his face, his voice that much,
2:50 pm
although his voice is there, but has a series of images that are designed to play on emotions rather than doing a straight, here's my policy pitch and what i'm going to tell you. in a way that's complete opposite of what he does in 19 60. he also is, his team makes sure that he's in very carefully controlled media environment. where there's if there's a town hall meeting, all peemt who are asking him questions have been prescreened and preselected. so he won't get anything too out of the side. but he also is keying in to the, broader anxieties that a public, the public has about all of the changes that are going on. he's looking at what happened, what reagan did in 1966. and what other republican candidates are doing, elsewhere
2:51 pm
in '66 and in '68, to play up to this concern about crime and law and order. he says in may, a great many quiet americans have become committed to answers to social problems that preserve personal freedom. so this group of quiet americans he then famously labels the silent majority. this is the, these are the people that he is speaking to. and it's a very powerful message. but his message is, in some he has a challenger with this message. silent majority of more conservative americans. and the major challenger is george wallace. george wallace is someone who has gotten a lot of, a lot of attention of late in part because he is a strongly, was a strongly populist voice. as a candidate in 1968 and after.
2:52 pm
and had a messaging about personal freedom and kind of anti-elite message that is very reminiscent of the message that donald trump used so effectively on the stump in 2016. trump and wallace were very different people with very different personal histories. but wallace's campaign, just like trump's appealed to this populist interest, this notion of the people versus the powerful. that these experts, these pointy-head people who got us into this mess in vietnam and tell us that you know all these things are good for us, they don't know better, they don't know best. why do all of these college professors and washington bureaucrats know what's what? we should not have these people messing in our lives. so wallace of course, is a southerner. he was a former governor of alabama. he first ran for alabama governor in 1958, was actually and lost, he had ran as a racial moderate.
2:53 pm
he learned his lesson from that loss. that he needed to be much more strident on race and the preservation of segregation. in 1962, he ran again for alabama governor. and won, and became a staunch, vocal and nationally prominent defender of segregation. and in his, in rising to national prominence, he was not just speaking to alabamans who were concerned about how state's rights were being infringed upon, about how local traditions and customs of racial segregation were being infringed upon by new federal mandates. even as governor, even his inaugural address as alabama governor. he's talking to southerners who might have left the south, who are living in other places, who are seeing the changes in the racial order around them and the social order around them and that's not something they're pleased about. so by 168, he is has transitioned this message to not talking specifically about racial change, but talking about social disorder and crime and these law-and-order concerns. he isn't talking about race. but he kind of, he is.
2:54 pm
so both national parties have kowtowed to every anarchist that has roamed the streets. i'm not talking about race, but yet, he's talking about preservation of home owners' rights, he's talking about low taxes, about keeping your community the way it is. he's talking about state's rights, and he's speaking vociferously against the measures that had been used by the federal government to try and implement and institute a better, fairer racial order in the south and elsewhere. and he has a garners a great deal of support, not just in the south, but in the north as well. this type of message is kind of harsher and more undiluted version of nixon's silent majority. nix-the soft pedal and wallace had the harder edge. by august, you get to the
2:55 pm
national conventions. we rarely ever hear about the republican convention which happened at the beginning of august. because it really didn't make much news compared to what happened at the end of august, with the democrats in chicago. so the republicans came in to, to their convention with richard nixon pretty, it was pretty clear where they were going to go. the democrats come into their convention with, it's, it's not clear whether the establishment forces now led by and personified by hubert humphrey, johnson's vice president who is now running for the nomination, had not ran in any primaries, mind you. but he's running for the nomination. we'll talk later about how the nomination system has changed so much since then. but he all, but chicago also
2:56 pm
becomes the destination for the anti-war left. here we have a, a group in new york that's, that's sponsoring buss to go to the convention. and is talking about how the tens of thousands will be there to demand an immediate end to the war in vietnam and an end to the war against black america. these two causes, racial justice at home, and end of the war abroad, are twinned, are coming, being linked together by the leftists, by the protesters. so chicago becomes as the democratic establishment converges on chicago, so do these many protesters. and violence ensues. and so what is, now why, why is this such a meaningful and important event? again television. no more -- you can't think of a place with more television cameras, both inside and outside
2:57 pm
the hall than a national political convention, right? everyone has descended on chicago. so when all of these protesters who are camped out across the city of chicago protesting the democrats, the conduct of the war, protesting the injustices to the social order. when they are now, when they are set upon by the chicago police department, at the orders of a democratic mayor, richard daley, who is here on the floor of the senate, the floor of the convention, then this becomes must-see television. and the rifts in the democratic party become vividly displayed at the convention at the end of august. that you have a, you have both within the hall, you have strife within the democratic party. and you have violence outside of it. and then coming bruised and battered out of the fray is a nominee, that nobody really wanted.
2:58 pm
except the establishment types and this whole -- for you know since the beginning of the dump johnson movement more than year before, so many democrats have been trying to displace the establishment. displace the men who had gotten the u.s. so deep into the war. and humphrey's eventual nomination is a great defeat for that democratic left. and it causes broader rifts and fractures in the democratic party that require much, a lot of work to heal. so coming in to the, coming into the last days of the campaign, it is a very close race. there's nixon, wallace is still in. but nixon and johnson, nixon and humphrey, it's not very clear,
2:59 pm
the polls are neck and neck, it's not very clear who is going to win. it's not clear to internal observers, and it's not clear to people who are looking at it from elsewhere, either. so while all of this discord is going on at home, in paris over the course of 168 there's a series of talks attempting to negotiate a peace in vietnam and the johnson administration, this is what johnson set out to do. as he announced he was not going to run. he was going to focus on bringing an end to the war. and by the end of october, he's quite close to getting there. he is, there's a willingness, the north vietnamese are recognizing that the election is close. it looks like nixon might win and if nixon wins, then he's going to have a more hard line and a less willingness to immediately stop the american bombing of north vietnam which was the main thing that the north vietnamese wanted. that he, it was in the north vietnamese interests to negotiate with the, with the south vietnamese and the
3:00 pm
americans. but then strangely, at the last minute, the south vietnamese walk away from the negotiation, step away from the table. say we're not going to negotiate any more. these are talks that have been ongoing. they have been moving towards some conclusion and concessions, getting closer. johnson and humphrey were hopeful that something would be resolved before the election, because that would have been a useful thing for them politically. and south vietnam steps away and the whole thing, negotiations fall apart. and so for a long time there's been speculation that the nixon campaign had something to do with it. and there was no proof. and so i want to end with this one piece to show, here you are taking a history class, we've been talking about the past. and we, one of the things that you know sometimes we always need to remember that the past and our interpretation of the past is never static.
3:01 pm
that history is always an argument over what happened and why people did it. and oftentimes, our understanding of what happened in the past can be changed, the introduction of new evidence. so just a few weeks ago, a new biographer of nixon, whose biography is coming out, john farrell, whose biography is coming out in of nixon is coming out in a month or two, revealed that he had in the course of his research, had uncovered some notes that h.r. haldeman, nixon's chief of staff, chief aide in the campaign, had scribbled during a phone call with nixon in october of 1968. while nixon is still a private citizen. not president, not president-elect. paris peace talks are going on. among those scribbled notes, he essentially says, he's transcribing saying, is there anything we can do to monkey wrench this? anything rmn can do, richard nixon can do? what can we do to make these stops so johnson and humphrey don't get a pr victory.
3:02 pm
and then the talks can resume when i'm president and then we can make something happen. so a powerful example of how our understanding of the past is always changing. how new evidence can also introduce new interpretations. and how perhaps some of the, some of the things we thought were true about what a president did and why he did it. can change many, many decades after his death. so november, november 5th, 1968, election day. nixon wins. george wallace gets the south. and even though this looks like a very red map, it was not as close as one might think. yes, nixon gets an electoral majority. but you do have, and there's a question about how much you know, who wallace took votes away from.
3:03 pm
probably a few more than nixon. but even at this moment this high-water mark of liberalism, an election, a year that had started off all about the vietnam war. all about resistance to the establishment. then ends up electing a former vice president, two-term vice president, a republican, someone who campaigns on conservative, law-and-order messages. and rejects some of the more, this year of incredible sort of radical possibilities, why did it turn out this way? well i think that it becomes more explainable when we think about the 1960s as a broader revolt against established institutions. a revolt against established
3:04 pm
institutions who continues to contour or politics today. where people both on the right and on the left. revolt on the right and the left. it was an establishment that for in the eyes of some white southerners, it had betrayed their state's rights by enforcing integration of schools and public facilities in the eyes of college students protesting the vietnam war and worried about whether they were going to be drafted, it was an establishment that had lied to them about vietnam. it was an establishment that had fallen short of its promises of
3:05 pm
progress. of everything getting better and better. and the skepticism infused politics and then of course, by the, with the end of the nixon administration, with nixon's resignation in august of 1974, watergate becomes another blow to that trust in institutions, that faith in the people who are ruling us. and it further breakdown on both right and left of this faith in authority and organizations. i'll leave it there. thanks for coming. senate confirmation hearings for brett kavanaugh to be supreme court justice are likely in september and he's expected to be questioned about roe versus wade, tonight at 8:00 p.m. if you miss any of today's
3:06 pm
program you can see them tonight at 8:00 eastern. you can listen as a podcast on spotify on watch on on our 1968 page. our series continues out the week on c-span3. thursday a discussion on liberal politics. friday, conservative politics. on saturday, women's rights.
3:07 pm
next, new hampshire secretary of state bill gardner hosts a look back at the state's 1968 presidential primary. the panel includes then-supporters of democratic senator eugene mccarthy. president lyndon johnson and republican richard nixon. senator mccarthy opposed the vietnam war. and his strong challenge to president johnson in the nation's first primary. along with robert kennedy's entry soon thereafter is thought to have played a role in the president's decision to pull out of the race less than three weeks later. on the republican side, mr. nixon's victory launched him on
3:08 pm
a path to victory in november. this is about an hour and 45 minutes. welcome to all of you, being here in such an historic day for the new hampshire and its first in the nation presidential primary. the idea for this came about two years ago, when the person who wrote the first book about the new hampshire primary, chuck barretten, there was a memorial service for him. david hull, who was the number one in the democratic side in new hampshire, for eugene mccarthy was there. i met him for the first time and i as i was listening to him it made me think about having something on the exact day. here at the state house. to commemorate that primary. and i asked him if he would be willing to come to it and he was very happy about it. and he said, i hope you do this. but i'm not sure if i'm going to be able to be there. we lost him a year ago in


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on