The 2016 Election Is Looking A Lot Like 1968, For A Lot Of Reasons Not So Great
Try this for feeding your head.
The past weekend marked San Francisco’s annual Haight-Ashbury Street Fair – a chance for super-wealthy techies and superannuated hippies to groove to the strains of Jefferson Starship, the spinoff of the fabled Airship band that gave us red queens, white knights and hookah-smoking caterpillars.
The ‘60s never entirely died in The Haight.
Nor, for that matter, this current presidential election, which has some uncomfortable parallels to 1968 and the three-way battle between Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon and George Wallace.
For at least the following four reasons:
Societal Unrest. The first eight months of 1968 were the closest that America’s come to a nervous breakdown in modern times.
Two months after the late-January Tet Offensive in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson took to the nation’s airwaves on the last day in March to withdraw from the election. Four days later, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. And two months after that: Bobby Kennedy.
The capper in August: amidst the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, violence between police and Vietnam protestors in the city’s streets and parks.
That said, it’s a time of volatile news. In 2016: terrorism-related incidents, the Brexit vote and last week’s storm of two police-related shootings followed by the sniper attack in Dallas.
One, Maybe Two Messy Conventions. We’re already bracing for Cleveland, the Republican National Convention and the question is what lawlessness awaits the GOP gathering there next week.
City officials have quietly sought to build a police of 4,000 officers on hand to quell any unrest (that’s both Cleveland cops and recruits from other cities). Just how aggressive the protest tactics – and how confrontations play out live on television and social media – remains to be seen.
But let’s not forget about the Democratic National Convention, in Philadelphia, the following week.
Although the party’s platform is coming along in an orderly manner that suggests there won’t be a messy floor fight (Bernie Sanders is winning some, losing some re: plank battles), there’s still the prospect of outdoor protests.
Speaking of economic development, a closed Philadelphia prison has been brought back to life, just in case there’s need for extra jail space.
Back in 1968, the choices came with this baggage. Humphrey was an extension of the party establishment. Nixon wasn’t a fresh face – on the national scene for the better part of two decades; by 1968, running the sixth major campaign of his career (twice in California for governor and the U.S. Senate, twice in the 1950s as Eisenhower’s running mate, twice in the 1960s as the GOP’s presidential nominee).
Add to the mix George Wallace, representing the American Independent Party and not exactly a soothing tonic (“If any anarchists lie down in front of my automobile,” he famously remarked, “it will be the last automobile they ever lie down in front of.”).
In 2016, Clinton suffers from the same over-familiarity as Nixon. Like Humphrey, she struggles to appeal to a younger Democratic that sees her as too establishment. Trump may be novel, which separates him from Humphrey and Nixon. But like Wallace, he’s tapped into a stream of populist insurgency that makes him a polarizing figure across ideological and racial lines.
As for Johnson and Stein, that takes us to our final point . . .
Third-Party Mischief. In 1968, Wallace received only 8.6% of the national vote. But he managed to scramble the Electoral College by carrying five states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
All of those states, save Arkansas, voted Republican in 1964; otherwise, they’d been solidly Democratic for decades.
Neither Johnson nor Stein – he’s the Libertarian choice; she hopes to represent the Green Party – likely will win a state or an electoral vote. But, as was the case in 1968, they give voice to voters not enthralled by what the Democrats and Republicans have to offer.
Johnson, a former Republican of New Mexico, cuts both ways with GOP voters: he’s pro-choice, pro-pot and pro-pathway for illegal immigrants – three red flags for conservatives. He’s also lower-taxes and free-market – a pair of boasts Clinton and Trump can’t make.
As for Stein, a physician and answer to the Jeopardy question of the woman to receive the most votes in a presidential election (she was the Green Party’s nominee in 2012), remember: when Ralph Nader ran under the Green banner back in 2000, it was about quality, not quantity. Nader received only 2.74% of the national sum, but his vote totals in Florida and New Hampshire likely cost Al Gore those states and the election.
That’s since been labeled as the “Nader Effect”. And, in her more paranoid moments, it’s what keeps Hillary Clinton awake at night – especially when she reads news reports that Sanders has a standing invitation from Stein to join her party and run as its nominee this fall.
As Stein explained to reporters: “At least when Republicans are elected, people fight. When Democrats are elected, people are lulled into complacency and fall asleep.”
Apathy? Like 1968, not a defining trait of this election.
This article was written by Bill Whalen from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.