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tv   1968 - America in Turmoil Conservative Politics  CSPAN  April 15, 2018 10:30pm-12:01am EDT

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turmoil with a look at conservative politics 50 years ago, perceived liberal excesses and disenchantment with government gave rise to the political right, richard nixon, and republican presidential victory. ronald reagan made his debut as a candidate, foreshadowing the revolution to come. our guests are the editor of the , george conservative washington university professor. first, here is richard nixon excepting the nomination for president at the gop convention in miami beach 1968.
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pres. nixon: we make history tonight, not for ourselves, but for the ages. the choice we make in 1968 will determine not only the future of america, but of the future of peace and freedom in the world and the question that we answer tonight -- can america me to this great challenge? for a few moments, let us look to america to find the answer to that question. as we look at america, we see smoke and flames. we hear sirens in the night. we see americans dying on distant battlefields. we see americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other at home. and as we see and hear these things millions of americans cry out in anguish, did we come all this way for this? did american boys die in
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normandy, korea, and in valley forge for this? listen to the answers to those questions. it is another voice. is a quiet. tumult of the shouting. it is the voice of the great majority of americans, the forgotten americans. they are not racist or sexist. they are not guilty of the crimes. they are black and white. they are native and foreign, young and old. they were at america's factories, they run american businesses, they serve in government, they provided most of the soldiers who died to keep us free. they give drive to the spirit of america. they give lift to the american dream. they give steel to the backbone of america. they are good people. they are decent people. they work and they save and they pay their taxes and they care. like theodore roosevelt, they
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know this country will not be a good place for any of us unless it is a good place for all of us. [applause] pres. nixon: and this i say -- [applause] this i say to you tonight is the real voice of america. in this year, 1968, this is the message that will broadcast to americans of the world. let's never forget that despite her faults, america is a great nation, and is great because her people are great. with winston churchill we say, we have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugar candy. america is in trouble today not because her people have failed, but because her leaders have failed, and what america needs
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our leaders to match the greatness of her people. [applause] america in turmoil 1968, and that was a speech by a richard nixon as he accepted his party nomination after losing in 1960 and losing his bid for california governor in 1962. isning us at the table --, the editor of the american conservative, thanks for being with us. and from the graduate school of political management and associate professor and author of the book the right moment, ronald reagan's first victory and the decisive turning point in american politics. many are wondering what is going to happen with the conservative movement? what's changed before 1964 and 1968?
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matthew? matthew: 1964 was seen as a conservative demise. the extreme right has no home in the center of american politics. but of the country changed dramatically as we are going to discuss today, vietnam, urban unrest, law and order, and the republican party with the goldwater capture of the and nomination in 1964 signaled the energy of the grassroots, ideologically in the conservative media, where all that energy was flowing. and it was flowing to the right of the republican party and was ultimately the goldwater-type conservatives on the ascendance and who carried and prevailed for the most part in 1968. host: a key player in the 1960's is richard nixon. he loses the california in 1962.hip
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that famous speech, you won't have dick nixon to kick around anymore. guest: my parents were very upset about that. host: that actually made him look like a victim, correct? guest: they try to make him look like a has been. there is the old role in american politics -- you are not finished until you say you are finished. but if you say you are finished, you are finished. and nixon said in that famous press conference that he was finished. so he thought that he was finished, but he wasn't. and his good friends in california gave him some great advice. they said get out of california, go to new york and you could actually rise back up. and that is what he did. host: he places the name of very berry goldwater in a nomination in 1964, and what
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happens between 1964 and that 1966 led the groundwork for his campaign? guest: he did a brilliant thing when he gave his nominating speech for goldwater. the liberals in the party were resisting goldwater, and in doing so, they were resisting the goldwater constituency. and you can't do that in politics. nixon wisely understood that he could not do that, so he managed to maintain his standings and romneyparty, where is and others all relinquished their standing within the party. host: let's talk about nelson rockefeller. he was governor of new york. he was in the race, out of the race, back in the race. what was that all about? guest: he had run before twice, and i think the most important moment to understand is that in 1964, robert just said he got up
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on the convention stage and denounced extremism. and what he was doing was rejecting the direction of the republican party under goldwater. he was detested by conservatives. he was seen really as the leading, the embodiment of moderation in the republican party. he was pro-civil rights. initiatives in state government, new york. he wanted to use government as a catalyst, and he refused in the reject68 campaign to civil rights. he said i have got to be true to who i am. when he announced, he announced after martin luther king was killed. he thought robert kennedy might become the nominee and he could become a viable republican who could capture the presidency. again, he had misread, as he had previously, where the party was, the strength of the conservative movement, and he
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really was never much of a force or threat to richard nixon. host: was he in the wrong party? would bertainly there no place for him in the republican party today. arguably -- now he claimed he was committed to physical on social, whereas issues, he was more progressive. but he came out of his northeastern tradition of liberal republicans and, had he been in office as a politician in the 1970's or 1980's, it would be a very easy fit to see him in the democratic party. nixon,n 1964, richard and i am paraphrasing, says we are rockefeller republicans, goldwater republicans, but we are all republicans. tactically, what was he doing as he had his eye on 1966 and
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the midterm elections and potentially running again in 1968? guest: he was trying to thread the needle. he was trying to position himself as the person who could bring the fractured party back together. and because he supported goldwater and did not go after goldwater as an extremist, and because he managed to maintain some relationship or association with the more liberal elements of his party, he was the one who positioned himself. what is really interesting in 1968 is the extent to which -- they did not quite understand it -- of the extent to which the liberals had been left behind and all of those people who thought they could still serve sort of recapture the party from these extremists didn't understand what had hit them. host: and these so-called liberals -- the senator from new york, governor of pennsylvania, wason rockefeller, what
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happening within the republican party, these two different factions in the gop? guest: there were remnants of moderates. they were certainly there. they were obviously elected officials who are moderate. but ultimately that battle, i think, had been fought in 1964. and in fact, in 1966, what we see with richard nixon is that he is backing republicans on the right, but also in the middle. he gets a lot of the credit in 1966 for endorsing and helping republicans pick up dozens of seats in the midterm congressional election. guest: 46 seats. ah, 46 seats, and nixon gets a lot of the credit for. that. he is seen increasingly as a credible conservative. there is a lot of skepticism, i don't want to say that now.
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but he sees where the energy is in the republican party and the moderates ultimately are a significant minority within the party, and if we factor in george wallace, who we have not talked about, who would ultimately become the embodiment of this conservative coalition, we see that the moderates are really a dying, spent force, and frankly in to the extent that 1968 there was a threat to nixon, it was ronald reagan on the right. those battles have been fought in 1964 and 1966 and the moderates came out on the losing end. even if romney and rockefeller did not necessarily buy into that. host: we will talk about governor wallace in a moment. guest: let me make a point. host: sure. guest: nixon has another problem. he has the image problem. part of that was elements of his personality that did not go over very well with a great deal of people.
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and he addressed both of those problems in the fall of 1966. in terms of campaigning for republicans all over america, he was indefatigable, he was everywhere. and he campaigned for liberal republicans, campaign for moderate republicans, campaign for conservative republicans. and in doing so, he addressed the question of old nixon versus new nixon? and newsweek magazine had him on the cover, time had him on the cover, all these major publications were writing about him and basically accepting that yes, there is a new nixon. host: the first to enter the race in 1968 was governor romney , and he was the first to leave the race in 1968. what happened? guest: romney i don't think he ever managed to graduate from state politics to national politics. i used to cover presidential campaigns for the wall street journal and i covered a lot of governors in those days. it is a totally different situation from being governor of a state and running for the presidency.
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the stuff comes at you in a -- you have to move so fast, you can't make a mistake. and when he said he had been brainwashed in vietnam, it made him a figure of fun. mccarthy expressed as well, perhaps devastatingly, said perhaps a light rinse would have been adequate. guest: the issue of civil rights. again, rockefeller and romney run and were pro-civil rights. after the civil voting rights act, the republican party becomes opposed to mandatory -- opposed to federal desegregation efforts, argues that the war on poverty targeting african-americans is a total failure and an example of a government overreaching. now that is not the only issue, but i think it is a central issue. it was really hard to see how
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romney and the brainwashing gaffe -- not to minimize it -- it was hard to see how romney in 1968 version of the republican party being pro-civil rights, how he would emerge as the nominee. he withdrew even before any votes were cast in new hampshire, so it was a very short-lived and in some ways ignominious political effort. host: another candidate whose rise came in 1964 was ronald reagan's, the retired actor. he ran for governor in 1966. he defeated a democrat, pat brown. and in june of 1968, he appeared on cbs's face the nation in which he talked about the state of the republican party and the conservative movement 50 years ago. >> when we talk about the convention and delegates, estimates from 38%. i have heard 60%. goldwater delegates returning this year to miami. do you see your self as the only
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hope of the conservatives in the party? they are certainly not going to rally around nelson rockefeller and many of them not around richard nixon. where else would they have to go except you? >> as you know, i won't go on anymore with using those labels. i have an working for two years trying to get the party to drop those labels. >> a great many people do use them. >> and yet we have been very successful. i think there is a different philosophy in the republican party today at the grassroots level. i think you'll find the republican party today is far more willing to see good and other republicans in the interest of unity and in the interest of winning. there is a great desire. we have had a bloodbath and learned a lesson from it. the party was virtually out of existence just a few years ago. and i don't think that you are going to have that problem. i don't think people are going
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to this convention frozen into an ideological mold. host: how are thanks to cbs news junehat excerpt from the 1968 interview. let me ask you about ronald reagan. he was in the race in 1968, but primarily as a favorite in california. can you explain what his role was in the primary process, if any? guest: yes. first of all, he had just won the governorship of california, this is his first political campaign. so in november 1966, he did was richard nixon could not do and he beat pat brown in california. so he just stepped into the governor's chair, and then there let among his supporters in the west coast and that this is the rising star of the conservative movement. this is goldwater, but a much more electable goldwater. reagan had just gotten into office and what one of his aides aides didhat the
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much more work than reagan did in those primaries. they tried to draft him. reagan declared himself as a candidate at the convention itself in the hopes that they could deprive richard nixon of nomination on the first ballot. so while i think nixon's forces were somewhat concerned that reagan could be a credible threat, nixon had -- before reagan even announced at the convention -- nixon had wrapped up the endorsements from a very very goldwater, strom thurmond, many of the southern conservatives that reagan would have needed to pick off. so, it was ultimately -- there was not much of a credible threat to richard nixon. 1976 when he almost unseated ford.
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just to go back to the earlier point, paying off in 1968 during the primary process. guest: there is a reality in american politics that things happen that are perceived as impossible, and perceivable. as soon as they do happen, they become commonplace. the election of donald trump, abraham lincoln are examples of this. when pat brown was running against reagan and he dismissed reagan, tried to make light of him. he said he has no experience. he said i have never flown up and come up but don't worry because i have always been really interested in aviation. reagan won the election by almost a million votes. 994,000 votes. and immediately, he was a major figure in american politics. was the stealth candidate. he let his guys basically run him in these various states. he picked up 11% in a new new hampshire. he picked up 22% may be in nebraska.
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he picked up 20% in oregon. he picked up 100% in california because he was favored son. that face going into the convention and the only way as we just heard -- the only way he could possibly get the nomination is denied nixon on the first ballot the nomination. and nixon was not in a great position of strength going into that convention. and it was entirely conceivable that he could have been denied the nomination on the first ballot. he wasn't, largely because of strom thurmond. host: our guest is robert erry. we will get your phone calls. john in tampa, florida. go ahead please. caller: was a pivotal year in 1968 american history, but
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however to understand that year, you have to go backwards in time a long distance and then go forward in time up until now. you cannot comprehend the significance being so pivotal without looking at the periods from 1948-1965 when the wealthiest americans paid in income tax rate of over 90%, and yet you had basically the middle class was stronger than ever. host: setting the stage for 1968. your thoughts, robert? guest: i was a senior in college in and campuses were burning up. 1968 demonstrations were everywhere. in the year before we had race riots in urban areas in which tens of people were killed. and in detroit and newark and other places. the country appeared to be many people it was coming apart at the seams. and i think we have to put that context into our discussion
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here a little bit because that was driving an awful lot of what was happening. and what was happening was a reaction to that. the politician of that year who understood how to thread that needle, how to position himself as a candidate who is not a radical, not extremist, but who can straddle the various elements of the republican party and take the party and the nation forward. guest: in some ways, ronald reagan's 1966 campaign in california was a template for richard nixon. and the nixon emphasize primarily the issue of law and order. the idea that the country was unraveling, that there were riots in cities, the berkeley protests, the antiwar demonstrations, april 1968 the
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columbia university unrest, and nixon was able to get this theme that the non-shouters, the quiet as he called them, the quiet americans -- and he was primarily appealing to white, middle-class suburbanites, white working-class americans. to crackdown on the supreme court justices who are too lenient, on the the politicians who have embraced expectations, failed to calm the cities. the caller is absolutely right see 1968 as a pivot, post-1945om the american order where the country emerged as the lone superpower, untouched by the bombing, the economic growth, the nonstop essentially expansion.
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the sense of military strength that nobody could challenge. and, the sense that there was abundance for all. i think all of these kind of fundamental -- and of course, issues of race and gender. the fore,led into primarily in 1968. all of these things spilled out in that year and of course we are still living in the shadow. our line for republicans. and for democrats. america in 1968, turmoil. kevin is joining us from chicago, democrats line. good morning. caller: good morning. i am so happy that you are doing this show. what i find is that 1968 through particularly, it is a period conservatives don't want
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to talk about. we certainly don't teach about it. it was a total realignment of the parties. and it cannot be discussed in any context, and you can to till around it. what undergirds it are two factors, race and class. and when we look at the divisiveness of today and what is going on in the current administration, it is undergirded by 1968 politics. a southern strategy. i invite conservative writers and thinkers to really explain the realignment of the parties, the exodus of blacks away from republican electoral politics, and the legacy that has on the present, especially going into reagan, because reagan brought goldwater back, and as a black
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young man at the time, goldwater , the name in urban communities was like saying voldemort. host: do you want to respond? thank you for the call. guest: yes, i think that is a very good question to be posing. thatlyndon johnson past landmark legislation and civil till, the, the 1964 voting rights bills, he told his friends "what i have done is i have just lost the south of the democratic party." and he was right. and the next opportunity after that have been completed when the american people came together in the presidential election, we had the emergence of george wallace, and george n five states down there, the five deep south
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states, and he basically took the south out of the democratic party where it was just lying there and nobody was going to pick it up and who was going to get it? and nixon affected this realignment the caller is talking about by bringing the south and those wallace voters into the republican party, very controversial at the time, remains controversial among historians today, for very good reasons. my own feeling is that it time, served to domesticate racial issues in the south to the extent that it moderated them. obviously, there was a backlash to that legislation and the south was realigned. the republican party, the so-called southern strategy, that the democratic lock on the south since really the end of aretruction, so we talking about a century, that that lock was no more, and
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remember, wallace was a segregationist. he defended explicitly segregation and he ran what i think many historians consider a racist campaign. where he made -- that wasn't of the only issue that he appealed to, but he did make explicit appeals to white voters both in the south, but also in the industrial north, union members, and talked about these hard , as he put it, these hard-working police and barbershop workers and beauticians who were revolting against not just african-american unrest, but also the kind of pointy-headed, over-educated elites. ad it was in that sense modern campaign that resonates in our politics today, but we do see the republican party today, much of its strength still remains in the south. not just of the deep south, but
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also the border states. and that has, and that really happened in the 1960's, it happened over time, but you do see by the end of the 1968 election, you do see the republican party in the ascendance essentially in the south and dominant. host: a quick follow-up. our their parallels to the george wallace 1968 voters and the donald trump voters in 2016? guest: i will caveat by saying history does not repeat itself and it is hard to create these analogies, because the issues in were different than the issues 1968 today. like the issues of trade. immigration the donald trump used, but having said that much of the language -- for example, as nixon appropriated george wallace's themes in 1968, donald trump explicitly in his convention addressed did appropriate some of richard
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nixon's themes on law and order, on this ocean of american , that i american crisis am the voice for the forgotten americans. he used some of that language and some of those ideas, and i do think some of trumps so-called populist appeals, primarily to white voters, i real echoesare in the wallace 1968 effort. host: george wallace the governor of alabama in 1968. in the summer of that year, here he is on cbs face the nation. [video clip] >> you were quoted that the way to stop a right is to hit people on the head. >> yes, i said something similar to that. when someone goes out and begins to loot a building down that endangers the health and safety of everybody, that is a good way to stop it. if you let the police knock somebody in the head who was
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breaking a glass window come up assaulting a person on this the street, i think he might be getting off light if someone knocked him in the head, and frankly that is what all to be done. if i was president of united states, i would take whatever was necessary to prevent what happened in the city. when you do that, you are going to satisfy the overwhelming majority of people of all races in this country because it is not a matter of race, it is a matter of anarchists and the governor has kowtowed to every an arc's group in the united states and as a consequence we don't have safety in the streets of our large cities in right here in washington, d.c. host: july 1968, face the nation courtesy of cbs. significant -- nixon to 43%,d
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making him i minority president. he was a significant figure because of the turmoil and the ferment that was going on in american politics, and we have a realignment come not just in terms of people in the electorate, but also in terms of the issues driving politics. from mobile, alabama. good morning. caller: good morning. yes, general and, i lived 1968 until now. i am probably older than one of you or both of you. from 1968 toto say what i see now has really horrified me. all not what you are talking about is how the party began to break up civics by using so much dogma, and the dogma became the whole deal with the republican party. you are against everyone but
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what you want done. that is not freedom. we, the females in the south and minorities am a did not have voting rights like the rest of you, and we still don't. with the many problems gerrymandering and republican party always sang they win the saying they win the vote. cheating is not winning, general men. if her going to have free and fair elections from 1968 until now, we must allow ou all our population to speak and be included. 1980, ronald reagan goes ahead to mississippi to launch his campaign, and in the place where three civil rights workers were murdered, he invokes the words state rights, which is code for some of the massive resistance of civil rights from the 1960's, and there have been
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efforts despite the passage of the 1965 voting rights act to suppress the votes, primarily african americans in the south, but ultimately i would say the republican party has been dominant in the south because it wins overwhelming numbers of the white vote and whites remain a majority in the south, and the democratic party wins an overwhelming majority of the african-american votes, so when doug jones was able to win in alabama, there was a highly unusual coalition that is probably not going to repeat a racialross coalition, so i think race remains a central fault line, and it is not just the south, it is around the country. we do see in 1968 the issue of flower fully.d
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is joining usyron from wilkes-barre, pennsylvania on the republican line. good morning. caller: good morning, i would like to make a comment on the republican party was able to support richard nixon as well as they did in 1968. inhard nixon did something 1960 that was quite unusual in politics. you have to remember that he forward and be a part of a coalition that wanted vote in 10lenge the sylvania and also in illinois, -- in pennsylvania and illinois,
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and as result he lost. if you recall that period of time, then you understand richard nixon a little better. host: robert? guest: i think that is absolutely right. challengedecline to those boat questions. i think there was stealing of the votes that took place in illinois. a doing so, he manifested pretty good element of character. i think he also showed character when he became president after 1968 in not ever talking about the mess he had inherited from lyndon johnson. he never said i am struggling, as donald trump has done and barack obama did, i am struggling with what i inherited. he did not do that.
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verys a flawed man in some significant ways, but in these two instances -- host: this is richard nixon campaigning in new hampshire and being interviewed as he's going from one campaign event to another. [video clip] >> why do you want to do this? it is such a man-killing thing and your party put in time and serve your country. questionon: that is a that has occurred to me to0, and and it has- too, occurred to my family. your wife and children feel in ay about their husband great battle than he himself does. the man who is in the battle, he can fight back, can answer, where as those in the sidelines have to suffer in silence, but on the other hand, the reason i think perhaps motivates me more
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than anything else is simply this. i feel that this is the period in the history of the united states in which what we do or fail to do can determine the future for peace and freedom for the balance of the century. we did not ask for this but it is a role placed upon us because of the power we have in the vacuum of power in western europe. i believe the dangers of world war iii abroad, the dangers of warl war, approaching civil in a very difficult since at home, and other problems are greater than this country has ever had, but on the other hand i believe that never in our nations history have we had more capability to handle these problems. in other words, the forces that can bring peace and avoid war, the forces that can unite
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america and reconcile america and bring progress to our cities, are now stronger than they have ever been. what we need is leadership, leadership that will take powera's great harnessed and on harness it and put it to work on the unfinished business at home and the unfinished business abroad. from 1968, and as you look at that, matthew, what are you hearing, seeing? guest: so much politics is timing. and what i hear in part at least is nixon projecting a sense of calm, confidence, of experience, which is a dirty word in american politics now, and look, ronald reagan ran as a citizen politician in 1966, but nixon was able to say that look, i have the wherewithal, the
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toughness to restore the order that has been lost. he talked about a civil war potentially erupting at home. seen, and i think rightly so, as perhaps the most divisive year in the nation's history since the end of the civil war. nixon confronted that. the other thing i hear is that he mentioned vietnam, and it was really vietnam of course that destroyed lyndon johnson's gave nixon andt others a major opening. nixon handled that issue very tly, he did not talk much about it. he implied he had a secret plan to win the peace in vietnam. he said he would bring a peaceful end, an honorable e nd, to the war there, and he was
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able to offer himself as an answer to my solution, to this horrible war had already taken tens of thousands of american lives without really divulging what it was he was going to do an project that kind of ,onfidence to restore order restore the country sanity in a sense, as he was implying. host: our series, 1968, american normal. y andng us is robert merr matthew dallek. texas on thet from independent line. good morning. a lot of what happened then affected me when i'm younger. i am 62 now. in 1964, separate church and state, then abortions, those two
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voted on byere supported supreme court justices made up of republican judges. it was the republican judges that made those decisions. another that affected people my age back then -- i was 20-something years old -- when you went to apply for a job, they could give you a lie detector test, they could give you a lie detector test and they ask you if you ever stolen anything. you might have stolen something when you was five years old, and that would affect your chance, but eventually they took it out. are always talking about rights, who is taking a rights away.
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they need to figure it out themselves. host: rachel, thank you for the call. guest: what it evokes is richard nixon and other conservatives and wallace, they attacked the the court for chief justice warren, that the court had overstepped its bounds and had interfered in life in all these ways, the miranda decision giving too many rights to criminals, that the courts coddling lawbreakers, and this is where it is very modern because week your some of the origins of the argument that justices are there to interpret the constitution in a strict way, the strict constructionists, and nixon employ justices who respect the rule of all, who
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would roll back some of the in justices in a sense committed by the warren court, and i think it tied into this larger theme of law and order that nixon tapped into. that was a powerful issue that they were able to use then, and of course it is a huge issue in american politics today and has been ever since. host: let's put the year in perspective. we talked about governor george romney, the first to formally enter the race in 1967. november 18 that year, the tet offensive took place on january 30, 1968, former vice richard nixon enters the race on february 1, george romney withdrawals on february 28. nixon wins easily the new 12pshire primary on march come than president johnson announcing on march 31 that he will not seek reelection.
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nelson rockefeller enters the race on april 30. richard nixon excepts the nomination on august 8 that year . he is elected as her 37th president on november 5. owings mills, maryland, democrats line. good morning. good morning. caller: good morning. i amone of the things amazed to hear when i hear nixon speaking is the thread of what nixon is beginning to craft, along the lines of he can't speak the words as harshly as george wallace, so he begins to to thehe unspoken things white new southern strategy that , butt be spoken in a way is spoken by nixon in a way that has been carried out and picked up by ronald reagan and the state of how we have to crack
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down, we have to crack down on the violence in the inner-city, and that has been picked up in our politics today with donald j. trump. host: robert, do want to respond? guest: we still hear about dog whistle politics today, various people, and msnbc and others are very quick. there is no question that some of that takes place. we also have on the other side the phenomenon of political correctness, which is an effort to intimidate people from expressing themselves on the other side, so that is all part of american politics and a question of how political leaders are going to marshall political resources and pressures and forces and move the country forward. that is our system. host: his point is a perfect segue to the republican convention meeting in miami .each, florida
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this is the republican platform america urgently needs new leadership that will recapture the control of events, mastering them rather than preventing them from mastering canour convention in 1968 spark a republican resurgent that faces the realities of the world in which we live." matthew, as you hear that platform of 1968, what led to richard nixon's selection of spiro agnew as his running mate? guest: nixon to hold off ronald reagan's challenge had to assure without guaranteeing, but assure conservatives especially in the south that he was going to pick a vice presidential candidate who is not romney, not rockefeller, not a liberal. a lot of conservatives still did not trust them. spiro agnew had run in 1966 as a fairly moderate republican, but
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he quickly established himself as an anti-radical emblem, somebody who repeatedly attacked longhairs and protesters, anti-war demonstrators. we heard talk about anarchists i think from george wallace and spiro agnew would engage in bike-minded rhetoric, and so the selection of spiro agnew in a one, becausehrewd it was consistent with the campaign themes that nixon was going to run on, especially this issue of law and order. the other thing i will say about spiro agnew as that later on he became somewhat known for his attacks, his biting and some would say vicious attacks, on the media. at one point he called them the --tering nabobs a famouslyad
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fractious relationship with the and disliked, distrusted, the media. enemies list. an spiro agnew was a hard-hitting attack dog of sorts, and that was the role nixon wanted him to play. host: robert, who else did he consider, and was governor reagan on that list? guest: governor reagan was not on that list. governor reagan established himself as a too formidable politician for nixon to have his vice president. he could not be sure he could control somebody that command that much support, but nixon as i mentioned earlier went into that convention in a somewhat tenuous situation. took 667tion is it votes to get the nomination, and he had, he thought, he had maybe 26 votes more than that.
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that is not position of strength . reagan came in and at the convention as soon as he announced his candidacy, he picked up 19 votes, so nixon had to go to strom thurmond in south .arolina strom thurmond new that nixon needed him desperately, and nixon knew that he needed strom thurmond desperately, and strom thurmond knew that nixon knew, and therein lies political negotiations. so the two main questions were racial guidelines, guidelines on racial integration. nixon favored guidelines, and it gets into the whole question of timetables and quotas and all of was a messy, difficult issue at that time. the other issue under that rubric was school busing. nixon opposed school busing. first, gavethe
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assurance on the second, and gave absolute assurance on the third, which was the vice president, and that's how he got spiro agnew. host: john in washington dc, go ahead please. caller: good morning. what significant role did the republican party play in the ?oting rights act embracing the idea of black american voters? the u.s. writing recovery act, which am asking for judicial protection for descendents of american slaves, since we don't have that here in america. host: matthew dallek. 1965, lyndon johnson
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could not have passed the voting rights act without strong support from republicans, and there were republicans in congress and around the country who supported the voting rights act. in 1965, the republican party had a substantial moderate wing that was pro-civil rights, in the midwest, in the northeast, and the party was heterogeneous ideological as with the democratic party, but by 1968, even though it is three short years, that position was really no longer viable in the national republican party, which is why i said earlier it was hard to see a path for romney or rockefeller given their pro-civil rights few and the southern strategy, the idea that the republican electoral future was going to be by 1968, i south, so think, we see in, for example
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the nixon negotiations were strom thurmond, reagan's victory in 1966, his ascendance within the party. we see, i think, a party that on the issue of race, even though there were still some voices of pro-civil rights voices left, they were within the minority in the party. concessions, his stance against what he would describe ,s mandatory or forced busing this is one example, that was consistent with the parties view that the federal government had overreached in its efforts to enforce desegregation and integration and ensure the voting rights of all african-americans. guest: can i make a point here? host: sure. legislation, those pieces of legislation, landmark, very significant, they passed and were on the books, and what
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we are talking about is the fallout and the difficulty of adjustinge in america to that, but ultimately they had to adjust and american politics had to adjust, so what we are talking about here is that ofcess during that period adjustment and the difficulty some people had and how the political system was going to make its way through that particular period. host: melbourne, england, daniel. you are next. go ahead, sir. caller: thank you. i see the problems of policy of yesterday and today as different. in 1968-1960 nine, the soviet union was a problem and richard nixon and the republican party were ideally placed to meet that challenge, and reagan met the challenge. the problem of today is demographics. if you look at all these countries in asia, muslim countries, they are reproducing very fast. as soon as you win a war, they
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have replenished the numbers. if you look carefully at demographics and you will see they have four sons per father, so they can replenish, so countries like afghanistan can defeat russia or the united states. accidents of history, as you were explaining, the republicans became dependent on the southern and they are very religious states that opposed valuesn, opposed liberal , new liberal values, but what you need now is to educate women in these other countries to have fewer children, support contraception, so my question is this, do you think the way politics developed in america internally has compromised the ability of a republican president to actually win these conflicts abroad and be the world? host: daniel, thank you. does the caller have a point, matthew telik?
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guest: i don't know -- matthew dallek? guest: i don't know. 1968 of all in 1968, was the bloodiest year of the vietnam war. there is nothing comparable to what we have today, and the united states had about half a million troops, soldiers come in vietnam and southeast asia. the war was tearing the country , tearing theically country apart on the streets, on the campuses. , i think thewar point that color was making, was the war transform to some extent, push the parties in distinct directions. i think it has made it harder for the united states to the sustain wars overseas, the idea that the country will go to war without majority
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endless bloodnk and treasure into a place. in that sense it does remain the kind of vietnam syndrome or shadow that remains as something of a constraint on elected officials and policymakers. and i guess one last thought is , evenhe country today though this is not comparable, but the country today, there is no appetite for sending tens of thousands of u.s. troops overseas to engage in combat anywhere. whether it is syria, afghanistan, or iraq. in 1968, the country was also beginning to support u.s. withdrawal, however it happened, from vietnam. host: let me ask you about another key player in this period, we messed f buckley. who was he?
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emerged as buckley the leading conservative voice in american politics. he was a young man in 1950 when he wrote a book after graduating from yale. he took his alma mater to task ,or its liberal inclinations and then five years later -- he was born in 1925, so a 30-year-old, become a young editor of the new magazine, national review, which emerged as the leading voice of conservatism in america. i will say that i knew him a bit. i actually ended up corresponding with him when i was in college. atas in a research project the university of washington that one of my professors organized. we went off and interviewed various members of a 1947 commission on the media, on the
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american press, that was underwritten by henry lewis. i flew to new york and met with henry lewis. host: henry lewis was? guest: sorry, he was the founder, editor, time magazine and life magazine. on that trip i met a woman who worked on the commission who was a close friend of bill buckley's, and i corresponded with her, waxing naïve about what is going on in american politics, and she showed my letter to buckley, who promptly wrote to me. so i knew him over the years, met him in new york and everyone knowsd who knows anything about him was charming, funny, i'm using fellow. i think if you're talking about 1968, he had emerged on the scene by running for mayor of new york in 1965, and he had a
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gadfly campaign that got a lot of attention. again, very amusing, famous lines, and someone asked him what are going to do if you win, and he said, demand a recount. that kind of wit brought him forward, and i think gave some credibility and stature to the conservative movement, which led into the ultimate reagan administration. doll abc news hired corvo and william f buckley to debate the issues of the time. here is an excerpt from one of the programs. [video clip] >> anyone who believes these characters are int interested in the democratic process are deluding themselves. -- the sweet little girls with their sundresses. the chant between 11:00 and 5:00 this morning, from 4000 or 5000 voices, was sheer, utter
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--cenities refrain "entain , ho, ho, ho, ho chi minh." their fathers were being shot at by an enemy to which wrongly are rightly, we were nevertheless fighting. it is remarkable that there was as much restraint shown as was by cops whoight were out there for 17 hours without inflicting a single wound on a single person. host: courtesy of abc news, that is william f. buckley on the program, talking about the demonstrations going on in chicago, which disrupted the democratic party and in many respects hurt hubert humphrey.
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guest: yeah, well, a national commission later described it as a police riot. the police in chicago unleashed by mayor daley beat demonstrators. now there were a handful that were bent on provoking violence, but the majority were peaceful. this is in grant park and on the streets around the convention center, a reflection on the antiwar student movement, the feelings that the democratic party, especially by handing the nomination to hubert humphrey and endurance and lyndon johnson's strategy in the , had the trade hope that the party would become a vehicle for ending the bombing and withdrawing swiftly u.s. forces out of vietnam. what i will say about the
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buckley clip, first of all come you hear how articulate buckley is. buckley was not only a brilliant publisher, but he really was extraordinarily adept at television, at modern communications. he had his firing line show. these debates that he had with gore vidal which were quite heated. one recent documentary said this is the origins of crossfire, the origins of msnbc, fox news, today, and that is debatable, but buckley did, after goldwater's defeat in 1964, believe and increasingly engaged in the political process and endorsed nixon in 1968. as he said at one point, i want the most right candidate, meaning the most conservative candidate, who can win, so there
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was a pragmatic streak in how he ran national review and his public commentary. but he is really the leader of a whole constellation of conservative media voices, was deeply influential, and that pragmatic streak i think was critical. host: the book is called "the right moment, ronald reagan's first they treat and a decisive turning point in american politics." merry, editor of the american conservative, as we continue our conversation on 1968, a year in turmoil, america in turmoil. ruth is joining us from illinois. good morning. caller: good morning, everyone. i think my question has been answered. back when lyndon johnson asked for the civil rights law to be passed, democrats would not vote for it. republicans got it voted in, but
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before that when president kennedy took us into vietnam, that was a war that i never did understand. but since we were in it, i did -- you know, you have got to support the united states, no matter what. that is about it. host: ruth, thank you. rry.ill turn to robert me right.yes, she is as matthew was saying earlier, it took republican votes to get civil rights act passed, those various acts of the 1960's, and it was a democratic president who took us into vietnam, whether you want to attribute that to kennedy or johnson. certainly johnson, and to some extent kennedy. those reflected the ferment going on in america.
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i think that a reflection of the state of american politics is in that buckley statement during those debates with gore the vidal regarding the violence that took place at the democratic convention. in that, as matthew noted, there was a commission that said it was a police riot. there were masses of americans, millions of americans, who did not believe it was a police riot, who believed it was perpetrated, encouraged, created by the demonstrators, and they split, a chasm that went right through america at those times. to understand any of this to understand what is going on politically, you have to understand just how dramatic that chasm was. host: charles is joining us, miami, florida. democrats line with robert merry
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and matthew dallek. go ahead, charles. caller: hello. my question is, the right man, the right job. when nixon retired from the presidency, he said no longer do .ou have me to kick around insecurity, as a person, as a man, led to most of this decisions about watergate, about a lot of other things. host: charles' point, that was from 1962 when he lost the race for governor. guest: yeah, well, he attacked the media. he said after losing to pat brown in 1962, he said, you will not have dick nixon to kick around anymore. and i think it was the reason
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that moment stock in part is that it reflected his resentment towards the media. it was a kind of flash of just how much vitriol he felt, under siege by the media. but the caller makes, i think, an important point, which is smart,xon, who was very he had vast political strengths, incredible will and resiliency, and yet, really was -- and i do not want to over psychoanalyze him of course -- historians always get in trouble when they do that, but it is pretty clear now as we have a picture of him, that he was, he had these deep insecurities, as the caller put it. he was suspicious of the media, of his enemies. the irony, of course, in part
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behind watergate as he went on in 1972 in this crushing landslide win against george mcgovern -- i think he won 49 out of 50 states, and yet he was so desperate, in a sense, to ensure victory that he created the operation that allowed some of these crimes and transgressions to occur in terms of the plumbers and the break-in at the democratic national headquarters. so, you know, nixon was really ultimately undone by many of his deep-seated insecurities. guest: if i could just add, it i think it might be worth noting the difference between nixon and reagan. nixon thought the media was mostly liberal, and he was right. they were. and therefore they will be against me. he took it seriously and took it personally and read what they were saying, and got outraged at the breakfast table.
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reagan felt the same thing. he thought the media were largely liberal and not in favor for what i stand for, but he did not care. and he pretty much ignored it. i covered reagan and his campaign and the white house. and he never seemed to pay much attention to us. he was always cordial and very friendly if you are meeting him and shaking his hand, but he just did not worry about it. and a little bit of that would have gone a long way for poor dick nixon. host: you pointed out that you worked for the wall street journal and congressional quarterly, and side note, one another conversation for another time, your latest book on president mckinley, title architect of the american century. on c-span3's american history tv, we are taking your questions and your comments, your vote, i should say, at htv at c-span3. the question is which party
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changed the most since 1968? the vote now with more than 24,000 casting their votes. the majority saying the democrats changed the most. 56%. republicans at 44%. we go to tony in henrietta, texas on the republican line. good morning. caller: good morning, gentlemen. i was a high school kid in 1968. in 1972, i voted the first time, absentee from overseas for richard nixon. i have voted republican since then, and tell 2016. i have noticed that our party has changed a lot. we have people that are calling themselves conservative that really don't conserve anything. and the other thing is, i would almost venture to say that the gentleman in the white house, our president, mr. trump, may he may just as well have been a democrat as well as our former president, president obama. because of the age difference.
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mr. trump, i believe he transitioned or changed the republican party in the 2010, somewhere era. is politics is changing. it is inverting. we have people that do not understand that conservative values are you conserve. you conserve the union, your fiscal resources, international national and strategic resources. as of politics, we get wrapped up into a political party right or left, or democrat, republican. and we lose the truth, and just like we think about the american civil war as a war between the north and the south, wars are not usually started just by the people. it is inspired by the military. host: tony, thank you for the call. guest: so it is interesting that the caller in 2016 was the first time he did not vote republican.
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trump obviously was a democrat for many years, to the extent that he had beliefs. some of his views now obviously invert the party's long-standing support of free trade agreement. but trump is -- in some ways, he does spring out of an alternative tradition within the conservative movement. and there are echoes, for example in george wallace and richard nixon, in terms of how they talk about law and order. when you hear wallace talking about, just let the police kick their heads in. that is this idea of this kind of talk, this incredibly tough talk, to crack down on those who break the rules. a lot of people would say, a lot of historians would say too, that it is racially infused. we see that with trump. pat buchanan, who ran a 1992 republican campaign against the incumbent president george h
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w bush, was anti-free trade, was anti-immigration. he believed that international institutions that had propped up the united states in terms of its role in the world, that those institutions were eroding american sovereignty. and i think, so i think there is an alternative tradition on the right that has not necessarily always been ascendant, but there are lines we can draw from trunk to say the 1960's, elements of the conservative movement in the republican party in the 1960's. host: i want to turn to the general election in a moment, but first, pamela from maryland, democrats line. good morning. caller: thank you for taking my call. i want to say that an earlier caller, kevin, is absolutely correct about the republican party and the conservative movement, how it is undergirded by race and class. in an anonymous interview in
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1981, lee atwater laid out, the strategy used in 1968, and he said in 1954, you can say the n-word in 1968. you can't say the in-word. it will backfire on you. forced busing, state rights, civil unrest, and fiscal responsibility. in one of your guests there said ronald reagan was the electable goldwater. i am listening to the radio so i can't see who said that, but goldwater was a vocal opponent to desegregation and the civil rights act of 1964, and won his home state of arizona and the five states in the deep south -- alabama, georgia, louisiana, mississippi, and south carolina. history does repeat itself, and this country has a history of racism and classism. if it is left unchecked, it can metastasize, and that is what we see today. host: pamela, thank you for the
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call. guest: it is a widespread view of what is underlining american politics. i do not agree with it entirely. atwater was not a significant person with regard to the 1968 election. he came later, in the 1980's largely. i have to say, i will go back to what i was saying earlier, the country was struggling with these issues at that time. i think we are struggling with these issues still, but in a much different way, and in a much less intense way. i think that represents a certain amount of racial progress. i think to suggest that there has not been any racial progress, as some dollars are suggesting is a-historical. host: george wallace won a number of states in the south. let's look at the map from 1968. in terms of the popular vote, richard nixon went in with about 500,000 votes. with the electoral vote, richard voteswith 301 electoral and george wallace at 46.
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what was the nixon strategy in the general election? guest: well, one, it was to try to not talk a whole lot of specifics about vietnam. he did not really know, did not really have a plan for how he was going to end the war with peace, with honor. he wanted to keep the focus on the unrest in the country and how he was going to -- as he said in his convention address, the forgotten americans, what he would later term during his presidency "the silent majority. " that included some of the wallace voters, although a lot of them went for wallace. working-class, primarily white americans in the north and south, all over the country. middle-class suburbanites. the idea that the cities were out of control, that campuses
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were out of control, that these were kind of hotbeds of really affronts to fundamental american guys. i think he tapped into that strain, and as well the strategy was that on the left he could be in the center right. he had wallace far to his right. he had the democrats, including some of the democratic primary candidates who made a part of the coalition, who were antiwar. on his left. and that he could appeal as the center-right, calm, confident who as he argued, as he put it, although this turned out not to be true, that he could bring the country together. host: last week we focused on the democrats and the liberal politics. this week, our focus is the republicans and conservative politics. and all of it available on our website at
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david from san jose on the republican line. good morning. caller: good morning. my question has to do with bobby kennedy and the historic, tremendous feud he had with lyndon johnson. and would he have been an easier candidate for richard nixon to defeat than hubert humphrey turned out to be? the way that bobby kennedy has --n portrayed, to me anyway i was five years old in 1968, that it was far from inevitable in june 1968 that he would become the democratic nominee and elected president in november. and that johnson would have come through and would have done whatever he could to sabotage him at the connection in chicago. thank you. guest: we talk about nelson rockefeller as being kind of a hamlet in 1968, not sure whether he is in or whether he is out.
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bobby was a little bit of a hamlet also. he wanted to run for president . he did not want to put himself in a position of losing. he thought going up against a sitting president, even a weak president, was going to be too formidable. it fell to gene mccarthy, who was more of a poet and a rock to go up against lyndon johnson, and basically, he did not get a majority in new hampshire but basically knocked lyndon johnson out and was going to win in wisconsin, which led to johnson getting out of the race. bobby immediately got in the race and ran a very dramatic and fascinating campaign, but it was not absolutely clear that he was running a campaign that was going to get him into a position of being able to win either the nomination or the presidency. if you look at his vote totals, on, gene mccarthy won in
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oregon. bobby won in california and nebraska, but his vote totals showed he was succumbing to a shift in alignment that we have been talking about, and he was maybe getting his victories with a narrower and narrower base within the democratic party. and that could have been bad for him. host: in the general election, there was one speech, september 30, salt lake city, utah -- was that a turning point for hubert humphrey? did that narrow the race? guest: where he declares that he is his own man? nixon -- i'm sorry, humphrey got support from the afl-cio, and the unions started to organize on his behalf in the general election. that did give him a bump. but then when he declared essentially that he was his own man on the vietnam war, that he was going to support a total
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stoppage of the bombing of vietnam, and essentially breaking from lyndon johnson, that did help him. i mean i think most historians would agree that in the polls, , and the polls suggested, that he began to close the gap. as we discussed earlier, the popular vote, the electoral college vote, was a blowout. nixon won it big, but the popular vote was less than 1%. 43.5% for nixon, 42% and change for humphrey. one of the reasons he was able to close that gap was due to that speech, and the sense that he could bring back in the anti-war supporters. robert kennedy, very fascinating. we will never know, of course. in some ways, it might have been harder for him to have won the nomination than the general election.
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because if he had won the nomination, he would've had more daylight between the democratic party, which he would lead, and lyndon johnson. he would not, because he was an opponent of johnson, because he was much more subversively vociferously antiwar, and the great unanswered question -- could he sustain electorally a coalition of african americans, latinos, and working-class white voters around issues of economic justice? and, of course, we will never know, but that is one of the great what if debates of modern american history. guest: but in terms of that debate, i think it is worth noting that those working-class white voters were getting very restless about where the democratic party was taking the country and where the democratic party wanted to take the country. my view is it would be difficult for kennedy to pull that off. host: it was a war, because the
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economy was relatively strong. is that correct? let's go to jerome in columbus, ohio. good morning. caller: good morning. i just want to ask you very quickly about the political movement that came on the scene in the late 1960's and early 1970's about the neoconservative movement. where did they come from ideologically? how did they change the influence of the republican party in 1968? host: thank you, jerome. guest: well, it was a very significant movement. these are people who are largely intellectual. they were largely very far to the left. many of them are trotsky-esque in the 1930'sok and they were going to college at nyu and elsewhere. they came up through the democratic party. but i think that they became disenchanted on two things, number one, foreign policy. they felt america was not prosecuting the cold war's as aggressively as it ought to
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have, and concern about some of the racial quotas and those kinds of things that were emerging in the late 1960's, early 1970's. so they began to move more towards the conservative point of view. national review during that time, i think it was 1972, had an editorial welcoming them to the movement and the headline was "come on in, the water is fine." and so they became very significant. my view is that they became more significant than we want them to be in terms of their foreign-policy views today. host: our last call is from grand prairie, texas, harold. you get the final question. please be brief. caller: yes, in 1968, lyndon johnson was upset that richard nixon sabotaged the peace talks. in october of 1968, had johnson come forward and spoke out against richard nixon, what results were that it had? johnson could've played more in that role.
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thank you very much. host: thank you, harold. guest: my own view is that is a little more ambiguous than a lot of historians have given credit. was verytheless, it incendiary and it could've blown up and it would have been detrimental to nixon. host: let's conclude with richard nixon's comments. the early morning hours of november 6, 1968. pres. nixon: i saw many signs in this campaign. some of them were not friendly. [laughter] pres. nixon: some were very friendly. but the one that touched me the most was one that i saw in ohio at the end of a long day of whistle stopping. a little town, i suppose five times the population was there in the dust. it was a most impossible to see, but a teenager held up a sign -- "bring us together." and that will be the great objective of this administration at the outset, to bring the
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american people together. this will be an open administration, open to new ideas, open to men and women of both parties, open to the critics as well as those who support us. we want to bridge the generation gap. we want to bridge the gap between the races. we want to bring america together. and i am confident that this task is one that we can undertake and one in which we will be successful. host: richard nixon declaring victory in 1968. ry as you hear mer that and sit here 50 years later, what is the political legacy of that year and for the conservative movement? guest: i think the most three significant figures leading to the election of ronald reagan and the triumph of conservatives in american post-were conservatism where barry goldwater, richard nixon, and bill buckley.
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what nixon did in creating the coalition that ultimately went on to bolster him and lead to that landslide of 1972 that matthew was talking about, and ultimately the election of reagan, was very significant. host: matthew dallek, 50 years later, the legacy? guest: one legacy is that the republican party became conservative, much stronger on national defense, promilitary, pro-using aggressive military power overseas, and the democratic party became much more antiwar. in that sense, the issue of race, i think is central to this discussion. the republican party really became the party of white working-class americans, much more so than democrats, really disrupting or exploding the roosevelt-lyndon johnson national electoral coalition,
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and became the party essentially opposed to civil rights, in most instances. and i think on those two central fronts at least and the party of law and order, at least for a while. i think those areas domestically and overseas, the republican party was able to gain for several decades a lock more or less on the electoral college in national politics. host: matthew dallek from george washington university, serving as an associate professor, and , the editor of the american conservative. thank you for a reflective conversation 50 years later. we continue our series "1968 america in turmoil" with a look at women's rights. protests of the 1968 miss challengedeant
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long-held assumptions about american womanhood.women's liberation became part of the national conversation, transforming households across the country and society. it is live next sunday, april 22, at 8:30 eastern on american history tv. >> next on "the presidency," jon taylor discusses the political alliance between harry truman and kansas city political kingpin tom pendergast. pendergasty 1930's, became a significant figure through his use of strong-arm tactics and personal wealth. the kansas city public library hosted this hour-long event. >> so good evening, ladies and gentlemen, once again. thank you all for being here. i am the director of the kansas city public library. we are excited tonight to talk


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