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tv   1968 - America in Turmoil Liberal Politics  CSPAN  April 8, 2018 6:30pm-8:02pm EDT

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going to pray for him. he sat there and he prayed for a critic, by name. not many people would do that. book00 eastern on c-spa -- c-span 2's book tv. series,ontinue our 1968, america and turmoil. emboldened liberal activists redefining the role of the federal government and challenged traditional values. the assassinations of martin luther king jr. and robert f kennedy were shattering blows. rfk's daughter and michael cohen. first, we hear from senator robert f kennedy during his march 16 1968 presidential
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campaign announcement. i have traveled, and i have listened to the young people from our nation about the anger about the war they are sent to fight and the world they are about to inherit. alter tried in vain to our course in vietnam before it saps our spirit and our manpower. raises the risk of further war and destroys the people and country it was meant to save. i cannot stand aside from the est that puts aside our nations future and children's future. the new hampshire campaign of senator mccarthy has proven how divisions arent within our party and our
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country. until that was publicly clear, my presence in the race would have been seen as a clash of personalities rather than issues. overhat that fight is won, policies which i have long been challenging, i must into that race. the fight is just beginning. win.ieve that i can i previously communicated this decision to president johnson. my brother and, the senator travel to wisconsin to senator mccarthy, to make senator my brother and mccarthy that my candidacy would not be in opposition to his, but in harmony. hisim is to support campaign in the spirit of his november 30 statement. month at a time, it
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is important now that he achieves the largest possible majority next month. andisconsin, pennsylvania, in the massachusetts primary. i strongly support his effort in those states and i urge my friends to give him their help and vote. both of us will be encouraging like-minded delegation at the national convention. both of us want, above all else, an open democratic convention in chicago free to choose a new course for our party and country. finally, my decision reflects no personal animosity or disrespect toward president johnson. he served president kennedy with the utmost loyalty and was extremely kind to me and members of my family in the difficult months which followed the events
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of november 1963. i have often commended his efforts in health and education and many other areas. i have the deepest sympathy for the burdens that he carries today. the issue is not personal. it is our profound differences over where we are heading and what we want to accomplish. i do not lightly dismiss the dangerous and difficulty of challenging an incumbent president. these are not ordinary times, this is not an ordinary election. at stake, is not simply the leadership of our party, even right tory, it is our the moral leadership of this planet. thank you. -- i of 1928, ach
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tumultuous year and this announcement from senator robert f kennedy would seek the democratic nomination. joining us from west palm beach daughters the oldest of senator kennedy. thank you for being with us here on c-span. is joining us in washington the author of the book american out inom coming paperback later this year. let me begin with you. president lyndon johnson, a political figure, what was his standing when the year began? the war in vietnam had become a stalemate. it was growing opposition in his own party and on capitol hill. facing a primary
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challenge within his own party for the nomination. that isnd of january, the end of johnson's presidency politically. the administration was lying at the war. there is no light at the end of the tunnel that was visible. things were falling apart in vietnam for the u.s. policy there. it became clear that johnson politically, it would be hard to within hisrticularly own party because of the opposition within democrats. the offensive was surprised for the north vietnamese in january 1968. the viet cong took over. he was taken over by the north vietnamese. it was actually a failed military offensive. at home it had a huge effect on
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the psyche of people, convinced a lot of people that the war was lost and it needed to be qui eted down. a uniquewas in situation. he was a classic liberal and had strong support among liberal groups, particularly the union. when he became vice president for johnson, in some ways humphrey was a bigger supporter of the war than johnson. he became the public face of selling the war to the american people. this created problems with him without his own party. liberals saw him as turning his back on the party and his liberal beliefs. some groups he was popular, especially among labor, but for a lot of democrats, he was seen almost as negatively as johnson was seen. host: we want to talk about your
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father, but i want to ask you about mccarthy, the center who announced to challenge a sitting president, lyndon b. johnson. what was your father thinking early in that process as you jeanne mccarthy was ramping up his campaign in new hampshire and elsewhere? mccarthy was ramping up his campaign in new hampshire and elsewhere? guest: a number of people were asking my father to run for president. he was ambivalent, because he thought that it would be seen only as a fight against lyndon johnson. personality versus personality. he didn't want to have this fight the about him and lyndon johnson. he wanted to raise larger issues. when he spoke out against the vietnam war in 1967, very few people listened to what he said. with a listened to and publicized was the personal animosity. important aspect of
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how my father was trying to make his decision to run or not. gene mccarthy did not have that personal history with lyndon johnson. when mccarthy was running, he was running more clearly against the war. host: when did your dad decide to seek the nomination? what was the tipping point? the tet think offensive was the tipping point. he said early in january that he would not run. after the tet offensive, i think he changed his mind. he saw that there really was no way this war was going to be won. therefore, lyndon johnson could not acknowledge what was going on. lyndon johnson himself understood it could not be won. lives were being lost in a fruitless, horrible effort.
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run.cided he wanted to he made that decision before the new hampshire primary. he had made that decision before that time. host: a popular magazine in the 1960's and 1970's "teen magazine" had you and your father on the cover. you were 16 at the time. what was going on inside -- go ahead. guest: i just remember that. it was funny. i haven't seen that picture for a long time. it is very sweet of you to put it up. because i wasn it curious what was going on within the family, you, your mother, and other family members considering if robert kennedy should seek the nomination? we obviously thought that our father was terrific. my mother was a big supporter of
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him running. he knew that in his heart wanted to run for president. in thewhat was going on riots in the cities and vietnam. she thought that that was his destiny and pushed him to run. was clearly worried about the issue with lyndon johnson on the one hand. the second was that he had run his brother's campaign in 1960 and understood that when you run for president you try to make win.that you can that you have thought it through and have a campaign in place. that is what he established in 1960 for his brother. he had not done that in 1968.
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it was more of a passionate crusading kind of campaigning, which was part of him like that and part of him held that old political knowledge about how to put together a campaign. it is an interesting balance. host: beyond the leaders of the democratic party in 1968, what was going on within the rank and file? >> one of the interesting figures in 1968 was who have decided by early 1967 that lyndon johnson should not be a party in 1968 and he needed to be defeated. this was opposition of the war in vietnam. a basically tried to find democrat to challenge johnson for the nomination. he pushed bobby kennedy first. he said no. did at least a dozen
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figures. mccarthy was interested. he had already been throughout the country stating his opposition to the war. mccarthy was not a well-known figure. he was aloof, not popular on capitol hill. number 2 choice for johnson to be the vp nominee. he lost out to hubert humphrey. when mccarthy challenged johnson it was part of lowenstein's lobbying to get him involved. when mccarthy is involved, a group of antiwar activists rallied around his campaign and becomes his political army. is one of the reasons he did so well in primaries in wisconsin and oregon. one of the things that mccarthy an outlet forate
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antiwar activist to have thir voice heard. he gave the antiwar activists a voice. in the end, those activists were the ones who toppled johnson. without mccarthy's performance in new hampshire, kennedy doesn't get into the race. without kennedy and mccarthy both in the race, johnson doesn't drop out. we are looking at 1968. a year in crisis and turmoil. this program are joining us from west palm beach florida and the author of a book on 1968. give us a better sense of eugene mccarthy. but his personality was like, and whytical standing, he faltered as the primary process continued? >> he is an interesting figure.
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he was aloof. an intellectual. he had very liberal policies and a conservative demeanor. he believed in the process. -- he because he believed was fearful that democrats opposed to the war in vietnam and johnson's policies would create a third or fourth party. he wanted to give them an outlet within the party to make their voices known. traditional view of politics. he had very radical policies as time went on in the campaign. he was someone that was a bit lazy. he wasn't someone who liked campaigning. morning events, he would
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say "i am not a morning person." he could be very effective on tv, he just didn't like the details of campaigning. mccarthy was someone that would have just given speeches the entire time, and said here is my position you decide. that strategyn, didn't work so well politically. it became more difficult for him to be effective. him being, overwhelmed by the activism and energy around kennedy's candidacy. >> what was the relationship like between your father and senator mccarthy? >> they were both catholics. i think they were different kind of catholics in the sense that michael pointed out. gene mccarthy was more intellectual and reserved.
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i would not say -- my father i would also say was shy, but he liked people and was empathetic. butad the issue of vietnam, he also spoke very much to poor, theople to the disenfranchised. heart anduch larger embraced lots of people, touched them and was touched by them. they had different personalities and passions. march 16, 19 68, you and your family with your father as he announces the candidacy at the same place that john kennedy announced in 1960. what do you remember? >> it was very exciting to have my father announce his
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presidency. we were thrilled he was going to run. a number of people asked, weren't you afraid? one thing we have learned in our family is not to be afraid. so, we were very happy about the fact he was going to run, do what was in his heart. that he had something to offer this country. there was a lot of chaos, but we were accustomed to growing up in chaos. and my mother was pregnant with the 11th. it was a great day. then he marched in the st. patrick's day parade. ofre was an irish sense let's fight, let's make our views known. >> reacting to your father's mccarthy, let's watch. >> what is your reaction as a
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politician? can you take him? >> i haven't been moved to withdraw at this point. i think i can certainly win in wisconsin, and i see no reason to believe i couldn't win the other primaries in which i'm committed. >> is this going to cause you to reassess your overall position? >> i do not think there is any reassessment. i have been committed since i announced to run in the primaries, to which i have responded. i have made no changes in my plans either because of new hampshire or in consequence of the announcement of senator kennedy. >> i keep hearing a rumbling indications of a deal in the future. are you prepared to deal with bobby kennedy? >> i'm not prepared to deal with anyone as far as my candidacy is concerned. i committed myself to a group of young people and idealistic
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adults in american society. i said i would be the candidate, and i intend to run as i committed myself to run. if i cannot win, i will release my delegates. i don't have power over them anyway. i don't have a bloc of delegates to trade with. as far as i am concerned it will be an ultimate preconvention. i will run as far as i can in every primary and stand as firm as i can. if i cannot win, i will say to my delegates, you are free people. go where you want and make the best decision you can make. >> that was conducted after the announcement of kennedy. your reaction? had ahink mccarthy complication with the kennedys for a long time. he was very tough on jack kennedy, in part because he thought that he could be the first catholic president, not
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john f. kennedy. he never got over the way that bobby kennedy got into the race in 1968. the morning after was the new hampshire primaries. he said he was reassessing if he would run. the feeling among mccarthy supporters was these are the stolen gifts under the christmas tree. stealing his thunder after his impressive performance in new hampshire. the animosity grew as the campaign went along. entity was not a huge fan of mccarthy, and a lot of people weren't. he was a tough person to like. mccarthy didn't like about kennedy that he was an emotional candidate. he got the audience excited. he did not think that was appropriate for politics. he used to say that kennedy held outreach groups, native americans, african-americans, hispanics.
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he said he had all of these outreach groups like flavors of baskin-robbins. he would not have been successful today in politics at all. animosity a lot of between the two of them and a sense that as time went on mccarthy disliked kennedy in a way that defined his campaign. he became much more critical of kennedy as the campaign went on. >> list get your response. >> i think michael said it well. they had different personality types. as we havehy was, said a number of times, the intellectual. felt he had done something brave and courageous in running against johnson and resented someone getting into the race. resented my father. he had resented my family for a
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while because he didn't like their type of campaigning. that is politics. mccarthy --as you can see after he didn't win the nomination, it wasn't like he went back and said what can i do to help more americans participate? african-americans, indians, the poor? that was not his way of acting. that is not where his heart lay. >> the former lieutenant of maryland is joining us from palm beach, florida. a personal note on why you were there this weekend? >> we were here this weekend because my mother's 90th birthday is april 11. we had a great celebration last night. vice president biden came, speaker nancy pelosi, lots of
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brothers, sisters, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. it was a fabulous evening to celebrate my mother's fabulous life. i would say that my mother's believe in my father and her ability to say to my father " you can achieve things." callsn do what your faith you. my mother believed in my father, which was an important part of his success. >> albert, chicago, democrats line. >> good morning, c-span. good morning to you. if your father had in mind anyone he wanted to be his running mate in the campaign? think at that
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point, you can see when his brother was running for president, they did it make up their minds until the last 24 hours that lyndon johnson would be john kennedy's running mate. the running mate question often depends on what is going on in the rest of the country and he would be most helpful to win the general election. my father had a tough fight because he had mccarthy and hubert humphrey. he was focused on winning the primaries. then he had a couple of months to figure out who would be his running mate. thank you for asking. >> frank, new york. >> good morning. others ai formed with democratic group that supported eugene mccarthy. it was a shoestring operation. it was very exciting, because we managed to win 2 of the 3
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delegates. i was one that went to chicago, which was an experience in some ways. i also met our loewenstein -- al loewenstein. you know about his tragic end. him, oris proteges shot something like that.. once whenne mccarthy some of us went to new york city for a periodic meeting. i was inck me was as line to shake his hand he was talking to someone. he didn't seem to acknowledge my existence. [laughter] i thought, this guy may or may not have fire in the belly, but he needs to be more attentive to the people working very hard. it was a very difficult campaign. we had very little money and not
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much support from regular democrats. in fact, when i approach the regular democrats at a meeting and suggested they not support lbj, one of the prominent lawyers stood up and said, "who the hell are you?" i've been in town for only three years, so i could understand his comment. story. is a great when i was researching my book, i went through the papers and found oral histories of people working on the campaign. there was one consistent theme. they didn't really like mccarthy on a personal level. they found him to be aloof,
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distant, and not engaged in the campaign. yet, they all revered him because he had run. it is interesting about mccarthy that even though he was a very difficult person, he did something very courageous. he decided to take on johnson. if he hadn't done that, i don't think johnson would've dropped out. i don't think you would have seen the antiwar wing of the party being able to express themselves. mccarthy inspired a great deal of loyalty. also, among the supporters, there was a great deal of animosity against kennedy. in part, because they felt he had stolen mccarthy's thunder. he was the one that when no oneohnson else wanted. that created loyalty and people were involved in the
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political process after the 1968 campaign. more often than not people worked for mccarthy. the ones that stuck around remained in the political process even more so than worked for kennedy. not the high level, the lower grassroots level. >> did your father ever talk about his relationship with president johnson? did you hear conversations about what that relationship was like? >> we did not have a personal one-on-one talk about lyndon johnson, but it pervaded our house. it was clearly a very tough relationship. as you know, my father objected to his brother's choice of johnson for vice president. meshdidn't really personality-wise at all. they didn't get along very well. so, that was just clear.
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they just came from different parts of the world and different backgrounds and they didn't get along. but i have said in looking back 50 years what they did share was a commitment to dealing with the issues of poverty in this country and i give -- and and johnson also signed the 1964 civil rights act and he signed the immigration act, which my father very much agreed with. on some issues, they really did agree, even of the didn't always get along. but the real break came over the war. host: as we set the stage we want to talk about the primary campaign that began in new hampshire and ended in california with a victory, 46% for senator robert f. kennedy, 42% for eugene mccarthy.
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and this ad from the 1968 democratic campaign from the r.f.k. campaign. >> robert kennedy and people who are not registered this year. in 10 years these americans will inherit the problems we don't solve today. >> it is suggested in the next several decades people will have to wear a gas mask in new york city because the air is becoming so polluted. 750 pounds of refuse you breathe every year and the same to a lesser degree in other areas. that will spread to the rural areas. unless we stop it. things we can do about automobiles and laws we can pass about dumping and throwing refuse in lakes and streams and into the air. otherwise as secretary gardner says we will have to live underground. industry must do something and the individual citizens and the demand that you might take in it. i think that is what will make
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the difference in this country. >> nebraska can make the difference. host: from the 1968 campaign by robert f kennedy. we are looking back 50 years later. michael cohen is here in washington, d.c. and kathleen kennedy-townsend joins us from west palm beach, florida. greg is the next caller from new castle pennsylvania. caller: i spent a year in the jungle of vietnam including a-105 which i won't share which side of the border it was always on. a lot of the mess that was going on in laos because of drugs. but i'm firmly against the democrats because of the vietnam war and the message turned out ss -- mess it
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turned out to be and the draftees and of course the rich people, they could always avoid the draft. so, one of the old dumb grunts now and in declining numbers, i'm just making my comment. host: kathleen kennedy-townsend, how would you address that sentiment? ms. kennedy-townsend: i think it is an excellent sentiment. when my father was running for president he said the same thing. how unfair it was that people who could go to college got out of the draft and that the people who couldn't afford college didn't get out of the draft. he said that was unfair. he said that to college students. so, he was willing to go right into people who were benefiting from the unfair system and say this is unfair. this is unjust. this is not the way this country should act. so, i think that my father was very clear he didn't like the fact that so many people who couldn't afford college went to vietnam and those who were well off were able to get out of it.
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and he said it directly -- what is unusual, i want to underscore because often politicians tell people what they want to hear and one thing that was unique about my father is he was able to tell people what they didn't want to hear and ask them to think about their own responsibility and how they could do better and how difficult it was. he was willing to do that. host: washington state and brian is next. caller: good morning, c-span. great show. question for each of your guests. first question, mr. cohen, do you think that the liberals and politics will be able to make things daylight very clear how things work when each party is in charge of our country and then who comes along and has to fix things? host: thank you, brian.
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mr. cohen: that is more of a contemporary question, i suppose. i guess this goes back to the first question from greg and i want to thank him for his service. one of ironies about vietnam is it was democrats who were the ones who propagated the war and lyndon johnson programs most liberal presidents we ever had who led the war effort. it created a lot of opposition for democrats not just in the party but in general about their ability to handle foreign policy and military affairs. the irony of vietnam is johnson in part was to minimize the fallout from letting it fall to the communists and it was something that came back from the debate in the 1950's.
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the way for democrats to avoid that label was fight in vietnam and the result was that it basically showed a lot of people that democrats couldn't effectively handle foreign policy because of the effort in vietnam. so in a lot of ways it created, i think, a sense that democrats were not effective in national security and that has been propagated for 50 some years since then. i won't say that richard nixon fixed the war and problems johnson created although he got the u.s. out of vietnam, but there is a sense there that democrats created the problem and it undermined them politically for a long time area -- for a long time. host: kathleen kennedy-townsend i want to to share a column by pat buchanan who joined us to look at 1968.
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he said the year america came apart. among the things he talked about the race riots following the assassination of dr. martin luther king, the loss of your father and summering anti-war movement which made democrats bitter and humphrey seen as a johnson lackey and the american establishment the best and brightest had been broken at the wheel of vietnam. your thoughts. ms. kennedy-townsend: well, i think that vietnam did destroy a lot of the establishment. because they knew that they weren't winning it and they were still sending people over to vietnam to die in a war that they knew was not going well. and they were dishonest with the american people. and it was a disaster. and as i would say and i think historians could say you were not going to win that war. if you don't have the people in the south vietnam, the government didn't want to fight,
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you can't prop it up from outside. it is so ironic and sad when you think of how many people died, both vietnamese and americans, and now we can have good relationships with vietnam. it was really a tragedy. i think michael pointed out lyndon johnson was afraid the democrats would be criticized for losing a communist state as they lost china, yet they are criticized anyway. at least we could have been criticized and not have so many people die and quicker reconstruction of vietnam. host: will joins us from racine, wisconsin. go ahead, sir. caller: how are you doing, mrs. lieutenant governor. i want to point out something that is missing from a national
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conversation. we have a personality who happens to be running for governor of one of the states and happens to be your brother. i want to pick your brain and see what are your sentiments for this lack of identity for the democratic party and lack of engagement of support? ms. kennedy-townsend: well, i think -- first of all, my brother did run for governor of illinois and i think he would have been a terrific governor. his opponent spent $60 million against him of his own money, so it is tough when you are running against $60 million. across the country i have to say i think that the democrats have been revive and reenergized because of what is going on in washington. we are winning elections that we haven't won in decades and i think there's this new energy
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-- sense that we've got to get involved and get engaged. i will give you a statistic on women. two years ago 2,000 women ran for office. this year 34,000 women are running for office. there is a sense that this is our country and we are going to get involved. the other thing that is interesting about who is running is how many people who have served in iraq, in afghanistan, are running and running as democrats. so, i hope that this will be sort of the end of the vietnam era that the military can't be democratic because so many democrats are running who have been in the military. host: michael cohen. mr. cohen: i tend to agree with what kathleen kennedy-townsend just said in the sense that in 1968 the divisions in the democratic party were extraordinary particularly the war in vietnam but the issues of civil rights, crime and a bunch of things that divided the party.
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you had a wing of the party more conservative democrats, southern democrats, for example somebody like bobby kennedy had a lot of opposition. labor didn't like him. some democrats couldn't stand him. there were serious fault lines in the party. nothing like that today. you see there debate between sort of the bernie sanders wing and it is -- i don't want to paper them over. there are serious differences but nothing on the scale of 1968. the differences were fundamental and in a way i think there was a big wing of the party mccarthy's anti-war activists viewed the democratic party and johnson as illegitimate and when it began you had activists that regularly picketed humphrey's speeches because his views on the war in vietnam.
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in 2016 people were asking is this like 1968. it is nothing like 1968. as divisive as politics have become in our country, it can barely hold a candle to 1968 as far as the divisions and animosity, not just between the two parties but inside the parties. host: the election and politics of division with our guest michael cohen here in washington and fairfax, virginia, is where the next caller is coming from, susan. go ahead, please. caller: i'm susan and i'm calling with a comment and want to say hi to kathleen. i'm richard mace's niece. good to see you. ms. kennedy-townsend: ok. caller: good to see you. you and your family have been very much on my heart. my husband was a high school senior in elkton, maryland, in 1968 and last night he was showing the picture the so long
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bobby picture on the arts and style on the "washington post" to my daughter elizabeth last night and telling her a little bit about the history of that time. i want to just say hello and tell you that i miss you and hope that -- glad to hear you celebrated your mother's 90th birthday and hope to see you back in this area some time soon. and my brother andy strayhorn sends his love as well. ms. kennedy-townsend: thank you very much. very nice, susan. host: the u.s. information agency put together this program, this documentary, looking at 1968 and democratic primary. here is an excerpt. facingmccarthy is competition for a new candidate and robert kennedy had decided to run. >> with the decisions that are
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made by this convention today. >> there were other unexpected events. >> with our hopes and world's hopes for peace in the balance every day. i do not. >> they didn't realize the president's speech that he was about to tell the nation he would not run for the presidency again. >> accordingly, i shall not seek and i will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president. >> vice president of the united states. >> thank you. >> vice president humphrey became the last major democratic candidate to enter the race. as heir to the support that had been given to the president
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, humphrey acquired a substantial number of delegate votes before the national convention. >> thank you very much. thank you. >> hello. host: michael cohen, let's talk about the democratic party. what the structure was in 1968 and what changed after the 1968 election. mr. cohen: this is one of the most interesting things we never talk about. we saw that video and pictures of hubert humphrey. he never ran a single primary. he was not on the ballot and didn't need to be because of the way that the nominees were chosen by state convention and controlled by powerful democrats and big democratic party power brokers. so, even though kennedy and mccarthy faced off in the primaries ultimately they could not win enough delegates to win. once humphrey entered in april of 1968 it was almost predetermined that he would get the nominee unless mccarthy or
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kennedy could get enough to turn from humphrey to them. in that situation in which humphrey doesn't have to go before the democratic voters these two, this decision at the convention in 1968 one of the few things is this voice on creating a commission to change the way democrats chose the nominee. that didn't get much coverage but has changed politics because the primary system we have now , the whole spending years in iowa, new hampshire to win support and democratic voters happened because of this reform commission which created more a democratic system and the nomination should be chosen in the primary and binding and get away with state conventions. and that has created this modern primary system we have. it was something that was not really talked about much in 1968. it was something reformers were pushing. it came about in large measure because of the way humphrey was
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chosen and because of mccarthy's campaign. one of the things mccarthy said is again you have to have an outlet for people in the party to have their voices her and we -- to make their voices heard and we don't have it because we have five or six primaries binding and most delegates are chosen at state conventions. one of the important elements is it created the impetus of how the nominees are chosen and we live in a different world because of that. host: kathleen kennedy-townsend in a conversation on c-span radio james jones who was deat -- who served as the defective facto chiefff -- de of stash that particular time. to president johnson said on the afternoon of march 31, 1968, when london johnson met with his vice president announcing that he was going to not seek renomination, hubert humphrey reportedly said i had lost to one kennedy and i will lose to another. have you heard that story?
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ms. kennedy-townsend: no, i haven't heard that story. thank you for sharing. host: what about hubert humphrey and his standing in the democratic party and how your father would have campaigned against him? ms. kennedy-townsend: well, obviously if hubert humphrey had not participated in the primaries it was hard to campaign against him so the campaign against hubert humphrey would have to be with the insiders of the democratic -- the democratic insiders which would be to go to them and say hubert humphrey is tainted by his association with lyndon johnson and it is only those who -- it is only me who has won the primaries that showed he could win the votes that could win. otherwise hubert humphrey will be illegitimate in the eyes of many democratic voters. that would be the argument my father would have to say. obviously my father knew many of the democratic insiders because he had met and worked with them
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in the 1960 campaign as the attorney general and senator he knew who they were so he had a relationship and i think could have made a pretty strong argument about what needed to be done. i think it would have been very hard having won as many primaries as he did, he did beat gene mccarthy in all the primaries except oregon. he had beaten him in california. i think he would have a good argument that it with look bad for the democratic party to nominate hubert humphrey. i think it would have been a compelling case. host: we will come back to the california primary but we go to glen from pottstown, pennsylvania. caller: good morning. my question is to this kennedy.
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-- ms kennedy. would you agree every time the republican gets into the white house we have chaos, economic mayhem and i appreciate your dad and your uncle jack for their good intention and good human being. thank you. host: thank you, glen. ms. kennedy-townsend: thank you. i appreciate that. obviously i'm a democrat so i think the democrats who are a party that believes that government has a role really makes an effort to make government work and work effectively. i think that is a different attitude than some of the rest of the republicans have. i think we all agree we are not really talking about present day politics but i would say the current president is the epitome of being the head of a government that doesn't want it to work well.
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mr. cohen: i would say that in politics whoever ends up coming after president trump will have to find a way to fix what is happening in washington right now. host: we are focusing on the democratic party and state of liberal politics and next week we turn to conservative politics and republican and nomination of richard nixon after his defeat in 1960 to john kennedy. craig in tulsa, oklahoma, you are next. caller: it is an honor to speak to a kennedy and i always respect john after he was almost a conservative in many ways. i want to point out liberal politics it feels a sea change for how we faced war. it was the liberals that brought up the idea and eleanor roosevelt spoke to the mothers of the nation and said you may have to sacrifice your sons but we have to win. it was in 1968 and liberal
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politics that brought on the idea -- there's nothing wrong with masculine or feminine, they are both good, but you can't feminize -- we are and now we are to the point where we get ready to have an action we have to take the first question is when are we going to bring our boys home. that is normal for the mothers but it is not what we need to win. i think that one thing about conservative politics is they say we have to win and there may be sacrifice. that is realistic and the ugly thing of war it is necessary sometimes and a bad thing of liberal politics is the liberals need to reconsider and say we win and yes we want our boys to come home but it shouldn't be time lines and bring them home now before we start. just a comment on liberal politics. host: michael cohen. mr. cohen: i would say a lot of men felt that the war in vietnam was a mistake and the boys should come home.
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one of the reasons why vietnam was the disaster that it was was because there was no real strategy behind the war effort. there was no political strategy. there was no clear military strategy for success in vietnam. in a sense, one of the reasons vietnam was the disaster it was is because lyndon johnson refused to accelerate the war effort or withdraw the american troops. in the fall of 1967 it was clearly a stalemate and he understood that. and johnson couldn't decide which way to go. accelerate the war and get it over or bring the troops home. i think in a lot of ways his policies for the war were a disaster and led to the political situation of 1968. in part because he refused to acknowledge that it was going badly and shift course, refused to seek an alternative strategy and tried to seek a middle ground between escalation and
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withdrawal and it ended up as a disaster. so i reject the argument that it was liberals. it was not won and that was correct. host: let's put the year in context. we have been talking about eugene mccarthy who announced in november of 1967 to challenge a sitting president in his own party. that announcement was made november 30 of 1967. president johnson narrowly defeats eugene mccarthy in the new hampshire primary march 12 and that is key, michael cohen. he didn't lose it. it was basically his margin of victory. mr. cohen: he won by like four points but it was extraordinary. i think that it shows the dissatisfaction within the party. and bobby kennedy used that as a rationalization for getting in the race. he said i don't want to divide it but it is divided and it was clearly -- there was a huge
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division. one thing worth pointing out about the new hampshire vote that is worth noting. 40% of mccarthy voters voted for george wallace in the 1968 election. so it was not anti-war. it was not a bunch of hippies saying bring the troops home. they voted for mccarthy because they said johnson should escalate it. they wanted out of vietnam. they didn't care if it was withdrawal or escalation but they wanted to bring the troops home. one thing about mccarthy gets credit for is he didn't run on the anti-war platform. he ran on a senate protest vote to send a message to washington about how you feel about the war effort about the johnson administration and it was incredibly successful because he was bringing in not just those had opposed on the left but moderate conservative voters who supported the effort but didn't support the same goals as anti-war activists but were upset with how it was going.
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so it was a big coalition in new hampshire. host: four days after that robert f kennedy enters the race. we showed that you on march 16, 1968. johnson announces march 31 he will not seek re-election. hubert humphrey enters the race but not until april 27 which is a key thing to keep in mind. senator kennedy won the california primary on the evening of june 4 and then tragically shot after midnight dying the following day. hubert humphrey accepting the nomination august 29 and richard nixon elected president november 5. fred joins us from reynoldsburg, ohio. caller: how are you? mrs. kennedy, my sympathy for a long time in the loss of a wonderful person robert kennedy. ms. kennedy-townsend: thank you. caller: you are welcome. i was age 23 in those years. i studied humphrey.
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the articles written he was a very loyal person so he wouldn't oppose johnson publicly but i read material that says they broke on the vietnam war and johnson stopped including humphrey in some of the briefings and he was really on the outside. i felt when i was witnessing this first primary that i would vote in that robert kennedy brought a love and unity, there was a positiveness that i thought transcended politics. i disagree with mr. cohen. my impression at age three i listened to gene mccarthy i thought he was undermining the military. he was contributing to an atmosphere that some of my friends i thought were horribly abused and abandoned and the military was blamed for things and they were among the bravest, finest people who fought there.
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in contrast bob kennedy brought love and respect across the board. and from my feeling and my life at age 23 i could not in the same breath talk about your wonderful bob kennedy and gene mccarthy. those are my thoughts. i would ask for your comments, please. host: thank you for the call. we begin with michael cohen. mr. cohen: i stand in defense of gene mccarthy i think his criticisms were of the political leadership particularly of president johnson. and the strategy that was being used in vietnam. so i think there are people who perhaps were in the mccarthy camp, supporters who may have been more critical of the military but i don't think that was true of gene mccarthy. host: who on the political stage did your father rely on for advice as he began his primary campaign leading up to california? who did he count on?
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ms. kennedy-townsend: well, he had two terrific aides who he trusted. if you read my father's speeches, he believed in the young and thought that the young people with whom he spoke on college campuses had a lot to say. that is who he often listened to in a sense. there were all the old kennedy hands, ted sorenson, but he was saying go to the indian reservation and go to the delta and so he was listening in large part to his heart and to what was going on with young people.
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american vet. -- vote. so he was winning working class people, he was winning -- that was where his --
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it was also helpful, his message of everybody can participate and should have a job that gives you dignity. the demographics were why he was successful in california and indiana. he won about 30% of the white vote in indiana. he had double-digit point lead campaign inhe california because of luck and
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hispanic voters. tended to that kuwait from him -- to back away from him. host: walk us through the evening of your father's assassination, what you remember of the days that followed. i'm not going to go through that kind of tragedy, that's not what i would like to do, but i think we saw on the days that followed was an enormous outpouring of affection for my father to the train that went from new york to washington, it was supposed to be two hours, and left at seven or eight hours. working-class areas of
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the country. of the states. and both white and black came outt my father was le to do was to reach out to people who jancheds did not get along so well. michael's right that in california a number of whites 's afraid of my father affection with african americans and hispanics. but there were still a large the train ride ss population
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from new york to washington was really an historic story of thousands coming out to say good-bye to but there were still a large white working class population that believed in my father. they had seen him take on tough issues in his career. they identified with his sense of justice. and they really felt that they had lost something. >> i just want to add to that i think -- the train ride from new york to washington was really an historic story of thousands coming out to say good-bye to kennedy. and it's a combination of not just people's love for him, but i think a real sense that we have to remember that this happened two months after martin luther king and the riots that followed the assassination. there was a real sense that, we were coming apart at the seams and i think people felt how much
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more violence could this country take? and i do think the politics the, in -- the chance of winning, he still could have won but it really hurt him. he said that at the the time. the people came to see the country as falling apart and wanting a change, believing democrats couldn't fix the problems. he said something at the time about the assassination basically derailed his candidacy and i think is true. if you look at the polling, up to the that point humphrey was leading nixon. after the assassination of kennedy those numbers shifted. so i do think it was a very seminal moment. obviously a tragic moment. but in politics, in the sense that it did turn people to the view that how much more could this country take. into think the problems we see now, i'm not minimizing them at all. they're significant. when you have two major political assassinations, it really does cause people to really question what is happening in the country. host: had your dad lived would he have gotten the nomination? >> it's hard to speculate. i think he would have because he won the california primary, won every primary that he entered
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except for oregon, and he had good relationships with the insiders. and i think could have made a very good argument that he was the candidate that could bring and pull people together. so i believe he have could have won. i think that if he was nominated and won all these primaries, it would really hurt humphrey because it would look like he wasn't really the candidate of the people. and i think humphrey would have understood that as well. that's what i believe. you know, it's easy to say because who knows actually what would have happened. but i do think that my father understood after the california primary that he had to get along better with gene mccarthy, that they had to make a deal in some way. and the question is whether gene mccarthy would be willing to do
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that because he was, as you heard earlier, bitter with my father. but it might have been possible to say for the good of the country we've got to work together. >> this is not a criticism and i mean this as a positive. bobby kennedy ticked a lot of people off. a lot of people in the democratic party. labor did not like him. the southern democrats not the a fan. of course, lyndon johnson didn't like him at all. i think it was very hard for him to win the nomination in large part because of johnson. i think johnson would have done everything he could prevent kennedy from being nominated. but i think the threat of kennedy being nominated would have been enough to convince johnson to give humphrey more leeway. i think this is why he lost. he couldn't bring back liberals.
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only in late september when he sort of distanced himself from johnson did liberals sort of come home. i think had kennedy lived, just the mere presence of him as a possible nominee would have been enough for johnson to do everything he possibly could do to have humphrey be the nominee. but after kennedy was killed that was no longer an issue and johnson fought tooth and nail to keep humphrey from distancing himself. humphrey tried repeatedly to the craft a message that would be somewhat his own message on the war that would sort of say he wasn't johnson's lacky and johnson wouldn't do the it. and humphrey to his discredit went along with it and ended up in the convention in chicago at the dnc. he endorsed basically johnson's position on the war after the
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entire campaign challenging the war in vietnam, all the voters coming of saying they wanted change, humphrey endorses johnson's position. i think ultimately had he done something different, i think he probably would have won the election. 1968, americaes, in turmoil. greg, you are next. caller: thank you. i was a nine-year-old on the tracks in baltimore and as you can tell i'm welling up just thinking about it. but my question is this. looking forward -- and i hope this isn't too far off track -- but what was the trajectory of the democratic party after 1968 that made them incapable of mounting such a fractured challenge to the richard nixon four years later? can you summarize what was going on within the party that they were not able to put together a
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reasonable challenge to nixon by 1972? thank you. host: thank you. >> well, i would say the problem is the party was hopelessly divided between not just on the war but between sort of the establishment and activist wing. so you had a situation in which george mcgovern and the nominees having two -- several of the unions refuse to endorse him through to a lot of moderates did not support mcgovern's candidacy. huge divides in the party. i shouldn't minimize it because it was obviously important. mcgovern was a strong antiwar candidate and a lot of democrats and not support that position. but you also had a huge divide between southern and northern democrats. civil rights. mcgovern was much more liberal on civil rights issues and a whole host of cultural issues and i think that made huge division party.
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i think humphrey was better positioned to be able to navigate both sides of the party than someone like george mcgovern. are michael:sts and kathleen kennedy townsend. jeff is on the phone from georgia. caller: i was curious, in what ways were your father's views similar to the his brother john toward richard nixon and in what ways were they different? >> that's a good question. interestingly enough, when richard nixon and my uncle john kennedy were in the senate together, they got along. they got along as republicans and democrats. but there was not the same animosity we had between parties in the 1950's that there is now. i think that's in large part because they had both fought in world war ii.
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so there was a respect for people who are in the trenches together, who put their life on the line together. you may disagree on some policies but after all what you shared is the threat of death and seeing your fellow soldiers die. so i think that there's -- that always creates a kind of bond. my father, you know, then ran the campaign against nixon. i don't think they respected him during the campaign as much, clearly when you run against somebody it can be very tough and difficult. and so i think that president views aboutged his with or his relationship nixon during the campaign and that carried forward with my father. host: bill, nebraska. caller: hello, glad to see you. i remember you came to omaha
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about ten years ago. the reason i called is because in 1980 there became a collection of speeches of your father and i always thought the scottsbluff speech to be a symbol of his campaign because it was a heartfelt leap of faith in the founding fathers and then he basically was in -- because he felt there should be a collaborative effort by the president if he would have been elected president, he would have traveled to keep the connection. i wonder if that's what we need today in order to -- because there is a disconnect but not quite as much as 68. but do you think there's anybody who may be able to believe that as well. host: thank you. >> thank you. well, thanks for reading my father's speeches. i really appreciate that. i think he had a lot to say and i think it speaks to us today as well.
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we haven't discussed what he did say and did do after the martin luther king assassination and i think that's an important point of what my father was able to do, which is -- if you don't mind me going into that -- which is to go in to indianapolis to the inner city and to say to people there that martin luther king had died, which they didn't know, and then talk about how his own brother had been killed by a white man. so to try to say we all have suffered and there's pain. and then during the speech he asks -- he said we all have to have love and compassion for those who suffer, whether they be white or black, and let us say a prayer for our country. and indianapolis was one of the few cities in the country that didn't break out into riots because there was a politician who could reach out to people's pain and say i understand where you're coming from. and let's work together. and i think that's -- you can
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see, number one, that if somebody is able to do that and does do that and has the courage to do that after he was told by the chief of police and the mayor don't go in to the inner city, he did it anyway, that it makes a difference. so there are actions one can take that can lift people's spirits up and bring peace. that's i think your question. as to who can do it today, i think we've got a whole slew of candidates on the democratic side, and it's very exciting to see what they say and what they'll do, and we'll learn more over the next 24 months about who does it the best. host: we encourage you to follow us on twitter at c-span history. we have a question that we would like you to answer and we'll have it up for the full week and some of the responses next week . which party has changed the most since 1968? you can follow us on twitter and
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cast your votes. we'll have it up during the course of the week. let's turn to chicago and the convention. the convention was in late august to coincide with lyndon johnson's birthday, expecting that he was going to be renominated, giving the democratic party only two months to get ready for the november election. how significantly antiwar protests? >> hugely significant. in the sense that he created an aura around the party of dysfunction. it was impossible to look and not conclude democrats were a party that was incredibly fractured. it raised reasonable questions that could democrats govern a country if they can even run a convention? i think it's also worth pointing out that the people protesting in chicago did not represent i think the core of the anti-war left.
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many of mccarthy's supporters stayed home from chicago fearful of violence. the groups that were there, the hippies and abby hoffman and jerry ruben, they had a much more nihilistic view of politics. i think they wanted the police to react the way they did. in a way to point out the corruption in american politics and in that way they were successful. it's often forgotten that the -- chicago created a commission to look at the violence. the police had actually were the ones writing as opposed to the demonstrators. in a way they overreacted, they acted in a way that was cruel and incredibly, not homicidal, that's too strong, but pretty violent toward the protesters.
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pictures i think did a lot of damage to the party and made it hard for humphrey to run for president. an interesting story that he initially criticized the chicago police which ended up creating a backlash because most thought the police acted appropriately. they were fine with violence against the protesters. then he had to backtrack from that position. then of course that upset liberals. so it create add lot of problems politically so when the race started he was running high 20s, low 30s in the polls. ended up rallying by the end of the campaign but he started off incredibly hamstrung. how serious was hubert humphrey in asking your uncle senator ted kennedy to be his running mate? >> he probably saw there was a lot of affection for my family but i think my uncle -- i know my uncle was not interested.
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he felt we were a torn apart family. my mother had 11 children without a father. there was a lot of healing that had to go on in our own family. host: tom in pennsylvania. go ahead. caller: good morning. what sticks in my mind the most about both robert kennedy and john kennedy is they were the last leaders that we had , political leaders, that truly represented the broad middle class in america. what's happened since then is that we've wound up with the republicans representing the top no more than 10%, the democrats representing the liberal, the far left radical liberal left, and the 80% of us in the middle have no representation in national politics.
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and very often in state politics. do you foresee anybody coming forward in the near future that will -- that has the potential to truly represent america's middle 80%? host: thank you. well, i would respectfully disagree. i think that president clinton did a very good job in lifting up the middle class. i think we had the best economic performance for middle class and actually for working people in the 1990's through the economic policies. that was a very productive time. i think that president obama worked very hard to develop a strong middle class and obviously i think the health care bill, although it wasn't popular, really helps people
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because they know they can have health care even if they lose a job. so i would disagree with the premise in a sense but that's -- might be understandable on my part. the question is -- and i think there are going to be a lot of democratic candidates who i think will reach out to different aspects of the democratic party and we'll be able to decide who is going to do the best job of appealing, i hope, to all of us and it's not just a fraction of the party. question, which party has changed the most since 1968? you can follow us at c-span history. that's go back to april 1968. vice president humphrey accepting his party's nomination. >> but take heart my fellow americans, this is not the first time that our nation has faced a challenge to its life and its purpose. and each time that we've had to
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face these challenges, we have emerged with new greatness and with new strengths. we must make this moment of crisis, we must make it a moment of creation. [applause] >> as it has been saddened in the worst of times, a great people must do the best of things and let us do it. [applause] >> we stand at such a moment now in the affairs of this nation. because, my fellow americans, something new, something different has happened.
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there is an end of an era and there is the beginning of a new day. [applause] >> and it is the special genius of the democratic party that it welcomes change, not as an enemy but as an ally. as a force to be suppressed but as an instrument of progress to be encouraged. 1968, hubert humphrey, the democratic nominee. >> just to that last caller, one of the ironies mentioned kennedy and the middle come -- middle much betterrey did with the middle class voters. there's something about the humphrey speech that's interesting.
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he almost won the nomination. the presidency, i should say. and did so in part because labor rallied around him. he had long-standing support among unions and going back to the 1940's. they rallied behind him. they also rallied against george wallace, someone they felt was antithetical to the interests of labor. and in a sense that was the last -- not the last one but certainly maybe the best i could think of, of labor almost really bringing the democratic nominee over the finish line. and from that point on, democrats had a very fractional relationship with labor groups. in 1972, a lot of them supported nixon. a big part of the reason, frankly, was race. this is something we talked about today, but the racial issues that emerged out of the late ended up doing damage to 1960's democrats and support
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their support with white middle-class voters. host: republican line. caller: good morning. mrs. townsend, thank you so much for being on this show this morning. we're all very grateful for your father's dedication to america. he was such a good man. i was 12 years old and i was in social studies and we were following the primaries with my -- my teacher, and i woke up the next morning and i asked my parents about the primary, who had won and they told me about your father. we're all still very upset. we miss your father very much. but i want to tell you that we all need to come together as a country to face our problems. we can't be divided. it's so important for all the churches, all the faiths to come
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together and find common ground. host: thank you for the call. your reaction? >> i think that's true, and i think that part of that is from both sides of the aisle to respect the other side, to understand that even if we disagree on policies, both sides love america and each side -- each person has a sense of dignity within themselves. i think that really when my father talked about how we need love and compassion towards those in our country, it's really a wonderful thing to say because i think what he was able to understand is that even if he disagrees with somebody, he can respect where they came from and he can respect the dignity of it that they have as a human being. at one point he said we're all on this earth for a short period
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of time and we all have a hope that our children will do better and have an opportunity. that's what we share. and let's figure out a way that we cannot demonize the other size, rather than work with them. i think it would be a much better politics. unfortunately, as you know, that's not how people raise money, that's not how people get viewership on cable tv. but it is a way to build a stronger country and i thank you for your comments. host: let's look at the electoral vote totals in 1968. richard nixon getting 301 compared to 191 for then vice president humphrey. governor george wallace obtaining 46. the popular vote was closer. why did richard nixon win? >> that's a good question. i would say, a couple of factors. primarily the sense of dysfunction in the country. i think a desire for americans
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to, to quote a phrase, return to normalcy. 1968, it is hard to understand it now. but how just dysfunctional the country was and how divided it was, the sense the country was coming apart at the seams. not only had the riots after the but troopsons, fighting war in vietnam that a good portion of the country opposed. so i think that's a big factor for nixon. i think also another important factor was humphrey's inability to separate himself from johnson. numbers,the electoral i have the numbers in my book but 10,000 votes and humphrey wins. i think another week and humphrey could have pulled the election out. it was that close. and i think one thing to remember about nixon is that he
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started the race with about 40% desktop where he ended up. he didn't bring people behind him. he was not a popular figure. one thing someone asked earlier , how bobby kennedy felt about nixon. my research in the book the one thing that was sort of consistent about every political figure i looked at, republicans and democrats, none liked richard nixon. they didn't trust him, didn't like him, didn't respect him. and i think that was a view held by a lot of americans. i think it speaks to how weak a candidate he was, in a year which republicans should have won a larger margin, he barely defeated humphrey. there's also the wallace factor, which i think hurt the total to some extent and probably would've been a larger margin. host: we'll focus on the republican party next week. final question. 50 years later, what's the legacy of 1968 for liberal causes and for the democratic party?
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>> i hope that the top legacy is that we should participate. we should get involved, and we should have our voice heard. and that the voice of the young have a lot to teach us. as my father said, they have the least ties to the past and the greatest date to the future. the young made and him -- and an irma's difference in 1968 and think they can make a lot of difference today. >> i agree with that. participationaw by young people and all people because of the opposition to vietnam. they rallied behind change. that led to an important political shift in the country. one of the takeaways from 1968 was that engagement can make a difference.
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when you look at the anniversary of lyndon johnson dropping out of the campaign -- a lot of it was because of the activist who came out and opposed his nomination. i think she is right. our guest is michael: here in washington and joining us from beach, florida is kathleen kennedy townsend, the oldest daughter of senator robert kennedy. to both of you, thank you for being with us on c-span and c-span3's american history tv. >> beach, florida is kathleen kennedy townsend, the oldest daughter of senator robert kennedy. on the presidency, his story and peter lillback talks about his book "george washington's sacred fire." he argues that while many historians consider washington to be a deist or a nominal christian, he was in fact a devoutly religious person. colorado christian university hosted the proam


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