How Much Can Change in An Election Year

The press has decided (for us) that the election is all but over. They aren’t exactly telling us who will win – that comes next week, apparently. They are telling us who we get to choose from, and it’s a very short list, all of a sudden. Today I invite you to remember (or learn, if you’re young enough) what the world was like exactly 40 years ago, January 29, 1968.

On January 29, 1968, the Tet Offensive had not yet begun in Vietnam – it began the following day. Walter Cronkite had not yet informed us that “It was a whole new war.” The next day would be different, but on January 29, 1968 Vietnam was an inconvenient and pesky dust up, of not too much importance half way around the globe. It was annoying that it wasn’t over yet. Merely annoying.

On January 29, 1968, the most likely person to be elected the following November to be president was, of course, Lyndon Baines Johnson. With good cause he was counting on, and assuming, the loyalty of everyone in the administration, especially his presumed running mate, Hubert H. Humphrey. The biggest challenge to his claim was another Democrat, Sen. Eugene McCarthy.

McCarthy declared his candidacy on November 30, 1967 saying, “I am concerned that the Administration seems to have set no limit to the price it is willing to pay for a military victory.” His candidacy was dismissed by political experts and the news media, and given little chance of making any impact against Johnson in the primaries.

McCarthy’s campaign took off before the New Hampshire primary, which he won. In those days the N.H. primary was held in March.

In January, Robert Kennedy had not yet entered the race. He would not do so until LBJ removed himself from consideration in March. There was another person, a black man, who was not a candidate, but whose endorsement was extremely important, especially to any democratic hopeful; Martin Luther King. History was about to decline to take a left turn, but it was about to wretch regardless, for neither fulfilled the destiny that was so obvious in January. On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Humphrey had a commanding lead over divided anti-war forces. When the smoke cleared, he led the pro-war forces, but even that dissolved.

Since we’re waxing nostalgic here, you may also recall that Richard Nixon’s first, best challenge to the nomination was Gov. Romney (of Michigan).

So now I have a question. If the voting population today has not yet committed themselves to any particular candidate (and with good reason, I might add), then why have the parties?

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