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AMST 3100 The 1960s

Powerpoint 12
Read Chafe Chapter 12; Farber Chapter 9

By 1968 the social polarization of America was at its peak. Chafe labels this a watershed year that determined which direction the nation would go. At the beginning of the year, it appeared that the nation was still heading toward making social reforms that were intended to make the U.S. a more inclusive society. By the end of the year, it was clear that those who sought to reform the society or to build a new society based on peace, equality, and social justice would lose momentum, while those who rallied in defense of the status quo would be victorious.

Violent tensions increased dramatically in 1968. In addition to the murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Chicago police attacked protestors at the Democratic national convention that summer as both sides squared off against each other.

The Early Months of 1968

At the beginning of 1968, LBJ appeared willing to run for rereelection, although Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy had declared himself a candidate running on an antiwar platform. Then, in January of 1968, the siege of Khe Sahn began, followed by the massive Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
The Tet Offensive weakened LBJs credibility and Virtually all of South Vietnam led the media to take a more skeptical view of the was attacked by the Viet Cong. administrations characterization of the war. The strength of the Tet Offensive surprised the Americans, who had been told we were winning the war and that 3 victory was on the horizon.

The Early Months 3 Key Figures

By the early months of 1968, at least half probably a majority of the public - was opposed to the war but they were not sure what to do to end it. In 1968, three people represented the hopes and idealism of the liberal reformers. All three people believed in a quick end to the Vietnam War as well as the strong domestic reforms started by LBJ:
Martin Luther King, Jr, Robert Kennedy, and Eugene McCarthy.

By the end of 1968, all three would be out of the picture.

Robert Kennedy
Liberal reformer. Democrat. Well connected to the Democratic Party machine. Well-sculpted media image. Well Charismatic and well known to the public. Like his brother John, Robert Kennedy had a sense of youthful idealism that was inspiring. Opposed to the Vietnam War. Well liked by racial minorities, liberals and even moderates.

RFK with reporters in March 1968.

Robert Kennedy
At first, RFK was reluctant to run for the Democratic Party nomination. RFK had matured a lot since his brothers death. And he had grown increasingly radical and class-aware. class The charismatic RFK had questioned American policy in Vietnam as early as 1963, and Kennedy had developed a deep concern for the have-nots of haveAmerican society. By 1965, LBJs Great Society programs were suffering cutbacks in order to fund the war, and it was Kennedy who became the spokesperson for their plight. Kennedy was well-liked by blacks, Hispanics and wellNative Americans because he demonstrated his awareness of the ties between racism and social class. By 1968, Kennedy was deeply disenchanted with LBJs policies. Johnsons war policies had compromised his Great Society programs and threatened inflation. In March, just after the strong showing of Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary, he announced that he would run for President.

Eugene McCarthy
RFKs decision to run split the antiwar movement between Eugene McCarthy and Kennedy. Both were well liked by their followers, but it was clear that McCarthy was the weaker candidate. While he too was a Democratic liberal reformer, he had liabilities: A relative unknown. Lacked charisma. Came across publicly as a bit of an egg head (too academic). Unskilled at media image sculpting. An outsider to the Democratic Party machine. Single-issue candidate. Single His sole strength was his anti-war antiplatform, and this made him more of a symbolic candidate.

Eugene McCarthy is seen here meeting with President Johnson. Visit this interview for a brief but interesting glimpse of the anti-war anticandidate who almost won the New Hampshire primary in early 1968. McCarthys stunning 42% support persuaded RFK to enter the campaign on an anti-war platform. When he antidid, McCarthy was pushed into Kennedys shadow.

LBJs political status was harmed by the Tet Offensive. His coalition of liberals and minority groups had already fallen apart. He had been diverted from his Great Society programs by the Vietnam War.
By 1967, he was spending 25 times more hours on Vietnam than on domestic problems. He was clearly out of touch with the very groups that had put him in power, and the constant media coverage of the war had caused Johnson to wither away into seclusion in the White House. He was becoming bitter and he blamed the media and the protestors for his problems.

The tragedy was immense. Well meaning elites (LBJs liberal consensus), with their faith in economic growth under corporate capitalism, had confused their own definitions of reform with that of minority groups and students. One key problem was that the liberal reformers within the Johnson administration were class-biased. They class-biased. favored the experts over the people and were not sensitive to the issue of empowerment along race, class, and gender lines. By 1968, many minorities had rejected LBJs liberal consensus, and were aiming toward a more radical vision of social change.

In this image, National Guard troops seek to quell a Detroit riot in 1967. LBJs domestic policies were not sufficiently sensitive to the problems of the ghetto. Virtually every major American industrial city erupted in riots at some point between 1965 and 1968.

It did not help LBJ that by 1967 Martin Luther King came out publicly against the war. Johnson could not understand what had happened. He had done so much for black Americans, he thought, that they should be loyal to him now. By March, 1968, a Gallop poll showed 49% of Americans were opposed to the Vietnam conflict, and the numbers were going up.

King is shown here with Malcolm X, who was much more radical than King. By 1967 King not only came out against the war, he also began to suggest that poverty was not just a function of racism. It was also related to capitalist exploitation of all poor people, regardless of race. King was cutting his ties to Johnsons domestic policies too.

LBJ Renounces Bid for Re-election Re Realizing that he had polarized the nation, lost popularity, and might lose the Democratic nomination to Robert Kennedy, President Johnson announced on March 31st that he would not seek re-election. re He had escalated the Vietnam conflict at the expense of his Great Society programs, and the price was a second term.

LBJs March 31 announcement came as a complete surprise to most Americans. Johnson had actually prepared two speeches and until the last moment it was not known which one he would deliver. One speech announced a further escalation of the war. The other announced his withdrawal from the race and his intention to sue for peace in Vietnam and halt the bombings.

Change Change Change

The 10-week time from 10midmid-January through March 31 was a remarkable series of earthquakes: the Tet Offensive, McCarthys New Hampshire showing, Kennedys surprise declaration, and Johnsons withdrawal had all occurred during this period. Yet even more changes would pale these earlier events.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

King was the soul of the civil rights movement. He had won the Nobel Peace prize in 1964 for his civil rights efforts. His 1967 public declaration against the war helped legitimize the antiwar movement. Between 1967 and 1968 King shifted his emphasis from civil rights legislation to a populist campaign against economic injustice. He sought a multiracial coalition a poor peoples campaign - joined together for worker rights, fair wages, and better protections against economic hardships.

King and Johnson needed each other for civil rights legislation. However, by 1967 Johnson had become preoccupied with the Vietnam conflict at the expense of his domestic agenda. King had kept his feelings about this shift silent until now, but he could do so not longer. Kings criticism suggested that LBJ had lost a key constituency.

Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Kennedy and McCarthy represented the hopes of liberal reformers who wished for change from within toward peace and justice. None had given up hope on the systems ability to reform itself. King was the soul of the civil rights movement. But support for King was eroding as the Black Power movement gained momentum. By now, King had become more aware (like RFK) of the ties between racism, capitalist exploitation and poverty, and, while still an idealistic reformer, he was becoming more radical himself. He had become more critical of corporate capitalism by 1968 and was focusing on the need for a multiracial poor peoples campaign.

Martin Luther King, Jr

Meanwhile, in the years before 1968, J. Edgar Hoover had targeted King for destruction and had illegally wiretapped him. He then sent this evidence to Kings wife, reporters, and others to show that King was a subversive. The evidence revealed adultery and drinking, but certainly not subversive activities (as Hoover called it). King felt increasingly besieged and helpless, yet emerged from all of this a more committed leader for economic reforms. It is likely that this shift was partly due to the influence of the black power movement and its radical criticism of American corporate capitalism. By 1968, King was re-energized and he was reready to start a poor peoples campaign for economic justice.

J. Edgar Hoover was not beyond dirty tricks in his zeal to undo his enemies. He was obsessed with communism and considered many leaders of the counterculture to be pawns of communist conspiracies. 15

Martin Luther King, Jr

To King, the struggle now was a class struggle. He went to Memphis in April of 1968 to develop a multiracial class-based classmovement to work for economic reforms.
Kings poor peoples campaign for economic justice was a multi-racial multicoalition held together largely by King himself.

On April 4th, however, King was assassinated while he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
He was killed by James Earl Ray in what was probably a conspiracy.

More than 100 cities erupted in race riots following news of his murder.

King was killed by a sniper on April 4th. This photo was taken just after he was shot. His friends in this photo are pointing in the direction of the shot as a wounded King lies on the floor of the balcony.

Robert Kennedy
With King dead, blacks turned mainly to Robert Kennedy to represent their hopes for reform, and Kennedy was in-sync with Kings ideas on race inand social class reforms. RFKs candidacy gained momentum into the California primary, the most important primary next to New York. On June 5th, Kennedy won the California primary. This meant he was likely to win the Democratic nomination and perhaps the Presidency. That same night he was murdered by Sirhan Sirhan in what was probably a lone assassination. His death represented the last gasp for the liberal reformers. McCarthy was still around, but he lacked media and leadership skills and drifted in his campaign for the remainder of the season.

Like his brother John, Robert Kennedy was charismatic and idealistic. Robert Kennedys murder shocked the nation and ended chances of further major institutional reforms. 17

The Democratic Party National Convention

Tensions rose with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Both King and Kennedy had been killed, and Hubert Humphrey had the party nomination sewed up. Humphrey, the Vice President under Johnson, was tainted. He represented the status quo and was heir to the unpopular LBJ. His war policy was unclear for most of his campaign, and this is probably what cost him the election. Had he committed to halt the bombing sooner in the campaign he may have won the election. Meanwhile, the counterculture seemed to have lost its focus and a sense of direction. It had become fragmented, increasingly cynical, and more frustrated with the murders of King and Kennedy. Before the convention, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a hawk, announced that he would not tolerate antiwar protestors in his city. But the protestors were determined to come. It would be a show-down showtelevised on national TV.

Hubert Humphrey


Democratic National Convention

Despite Mayor Daleys threat, thousands of antiwar protestors showed up to hold rallies against the war. What occurred was a violent spectacle. During the Democratic Party nomination, Chicago police brutalized thousands of antiwar protestors outside the convention center in what would later be officially called a police riot.
A later inquiry determined that a police riot had occurred during the Democratic National Convention. Police anger was driven by numerous factors, including the following: the mayor authorized brutal behavior; they viewed the protestors as Eight radicals were arrested, and ultimately seven would go on trial for conspiracy to incite law breakers deserving punishment; social class and age based antagonisms a riot. The Chicago 8, as they were initially called, included Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, existed; poor police training; some were Tom Hayden, Bobbie Seale, Dave Dellinger, provoked by the protestors; and Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner, and John Froines. ideological differences existed between Bobbie Seale got a separate trial, so they later the police and the protestors. 19 became the Chicago Seven. Hubert Humphrey would be the Democratic nominee, but the police riot distracted media attention from Humphreys nomination to the chaos outside, giving the image that the Democratic Party was itself in chaos. To the average viewer, the scene looked like chaos, both inside and outside the convention hall. It was a disaster for the Democrats.

The Chicago Seven

The trial of the Chicago Seven began in 1969 and was a classic show-trial. It showwas filled with absurd theatrics.
At one point the judge even had a defendant gagged.

In February, 1970, all seven members were acquitted of the charge of conspiracy to incite a riot, but 5 were found guilty of lesser offenses. All convictions would later be overturned by an Appeals court.

The Chicago Seven, with attorney William Kunstler and others, seen here holding a press conference. Jerry Rubin is on the far left and Abbie Hoffman is on the far right.

Humphrey, the Democratic nominee, selected Edwin Muskie, Senator from Maine, as his running mate. Humphrey was a social liberal who supported the domestic policies of Johnson. These policies were still generally popular at that time, although there was a rising backlash of moderates and conservatives who felt that there had been too much social change lately. Because Humphrey was the incumbent Vice President, he was tainted by Johnsons Vietnam war policy and was viewed by many as the status quo candidate.
Humphrey would be in the awkward position of having to defend President Johnsons war policies, and this created a ripe opportunity for the Republican candidate to be the candidate of change.

Hubert Humphrey

Humphrey refused to break with Johnsons war policies until just before the presidential election, when he stated that he would agree to a unilateral halt to the U.S. bombing campaign. But by then it was too little, too late.

Humphrey is photographed picking up a baby as he was campaigning in 1968.


Richard Nixon
The Republicans nominated Richard Nixon to be their candidate for President. Nixon could claim to be the candidate for change, given that the Democrats had nominated LBJs loyal ally, Hubert Humphrey. People were familiar with Nixon, who had been Vice President under Eisenhower. Nixon had been tainted earlier by scandal (recall his infamous Checkers speech), and had lost to JFK in 1960. But he now presented himself as the new Nixon. In reality it was the old Nixon, only well-packaged in a slick media wellcampaign. By now Nixon was more skillful with the use of media. His media-based campaign emphasized two mediabasic themes: 1: law and order at home, and 2: peace with honor in Vietnam. Nixons running mate was Spiro Agnew, an outspoken hard-right Republican. hard-

Nixon campaigning in 1968. Note his famous hand gesture. Nixon exploited the growing sentiment that there had been too much change too soon. He was a hawk on foreign policy, a social conservative, and an economic moderate. However, he could be surprising. His most notable accomplishments would be in foreign policy.

Richard Nixon
The primary beneficiary of the chaotic Democratic National Convention of 1968 was the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. Nixon exploited the tensions of the Democratic convention and campaigned on a law and order platform, along with promises of ending the Vietnam War with his new slogan, peace with honor.
He claimed to have a secret plan to end the war or at least he allowed this claim to be spread - but this turned out to be mostly empty political rhetoric.

He packaged himself in a sophisticated media campaign and exploited the rising backlash against the counterculture. Nixon also exploited Spiro Agnews vitriolic speeches that portrayed the protestors as un-American and unpatriotic. un-

Both Nixon and Agnew would turn out to be law breakers, despite their law and order campaign.


Nixons Victory
Nixon won the 1968 election by the slimmest of margins. He received 43.4% of the vote, compared with Humphreys 42.7% of the vote, with George Wallace the Alabama segregationist getting the rest. Regarding domestic policy, Nixons victory eliminated any chance for significant reforms in American institutions and took the wind out of the sails of the liberal reformers. With respect to foreign policy, Nixon had a good deal of experience as Vice President under Eisenhower and many mainstream Americans believed that he could find a solution to the quagmire that had become Vietnam. Both the Democratic Party and the counterculture lost focus and direction by the end of 1968. There was a profound loss of idealism among progressives after 1968. Many would go through a burn out phase. Nixons victory represented the triumph of the reactionary forces and the silent majority who resented war protesters, hippies, the black civil rights movement, feminists, student radicals and Lyndon Johnsons Great Society.


The New Republican Party

Nixon had exploited the Southern Strategy by appealing to the conservative Dixiecrats of the South, urging them to cross over to the Republican side.
And they did. The Republican Party would be changed from then on. After 1968, a primary constituency of the Republican Party would be the social conservatives who opposed civil rights for blacks, women, gays, and other minority groups. While the Republicans may have sold their soul (as Republican strategist Kevin Phillips argues), this coalition of moralistic-legislationmoralistic-legislation-oriented Christian social conservatives with laissez-faire laissezadvocating economic conservatives would be a winning coalition for Republicans in future Presidential elections up to this day.

The modern Republican strategist, Karl Rove, has used the Southern Strategy to build a winning coalition of social conservatives and economic conservatives.


1968 Legacy
After the events of 1968, both the Democratic Party and the counterculture lost focus and direction. 1968 witnessed the triumph of the reactionary forces, the Silent Majority of conservative and moderate Americans who believed that America was changing too much too fast, and who resented the protestors as well as the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson. What remained of the liberation efforts of the 1960s was a radical critique of the status quo versus the reactionary backlash. According to Chafe, the middle had lost its center. center.

The dark cynicism or even fatalism of the rock band, The Doors, captured the emerging tone of the late 1960s within much of the counterculture. This cynicism spread to mainstream Americans after the age of assassinations, Vietnam, civil strife, and political corruption. 26

AMST 3100