tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Conservative Politics CSPAN August 10, 2018 4:03pm-5:35pm EDT
our guests to discuss conservative politics are robert mary editor of the american conservative and author of where they stand, the american presidents in the eyes of the voters and historian, matthew delick, george washington university professor and the school of political management. he's the author of the right moment, ronald reagan's first victory and the decisive turning point in american politics. first, here's richard nixon accepting the republican nomination for president at the gop national convention in miami beach, august 8, 1968. >> 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 the future of peace and freedom in the world for the last third of the 20th century and the question that we answer tonight, can america meet this great challenge?
for a few moments, let us look at america. let us listen to america to find the answer to that question. as we look at america we see cities enveloped in smoke and flames. we hear sirens in the night. we see americans dieing on distant battlefields abroad. 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 normandy and korea and valley forge for this? listen to those questions. it is another voice. it is the quiet voice in the tumult of the shouting. it is the voice of the great majority of americans, the forgotten american, the nonshouters and the
nondemonstrators, they're not guilty of the crime that plagues the land. they're black and white, they're native born and foreign born, they're young and old. they work in america's factories, they run america's businesses and they serve in government and provide 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're good people. they're decent people. they work and they save and pay their taxes and they care. like theodore roosevelt, they know that this country would not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it's a good place for all of us to live in. [ applause ] >> and this i say to you tonight is the real voice of america.
in this year 1968 this is the message it will broadcast to america and to the world. let's never forget that america is a great nation and america is great because her people are great with winston churchill we say, we have not journeyed all this way across the century, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugared candy. america's in trouble today not because her people have failed, but because her leaders have failed and what america needs are leaders to match the greatness of her people. [ cheers and applause ] >> america in turmoil, 1968 and that was a speech by richard nixon as he accepted his party's nomination after losing in 1960
and then losing his bid for california governor in 1962. joining us here at the table is robert mary, the editor of the american conservative. thanks very much for being with us. >> my pleasure. >> matthew dalic, and associate professor and author of the book "the right moment. ronald reagan's right victory and the decisive turning point in american politics." in order to talk about 1968 i want to go back to 1964. lyndon johnson wins in a landslide, barry goldwater is defeated and many are wondering what will happen with the conservative movement. what changed between 1964 and 1968, matthew dalick? >> 1964 really is the conservative demise and a lot of liberals after the goldwater debacle said conservatism is dead and the extreme right has no home in the center of american politics and the country changed dramatically as
we're going to discuss today. vietnam issues of urban unrest, law and art of order and the republican party ultimately with the goldwater capture of the nomination of '64 signaled where the energy at the grassroots and the donor level ideologically and the conservative media where all of the energy is flowing and it was flowing toward the right of the republican party and it was ultimately the goldwater-type conservatives who were on the ascendance and who prevailed for the most part in '68. >> a key player during the 1960s, richard nixon and he loses the california governorship in 1962, that famous speech, you won't have dick nixon to kick around anymore. abc news produces a documentary and the political obituary of richard nixon. >> my parents were upset about that. >> because that makes nixon look like a victim, correct? >> somewhat. they made him look like a has been, but they an old rule in american politics.
you're not finished until you say you're finished. nixon in 1962 in the famous press conference said he was finished and so he thought that he was finished, but he wasn't and his good friends who are his backers in california gave him great advice. he said get out of california. this is the scene of your demise. go to new york and you could actually rise back up and that's what he did. he places the name of barry goldwater, the nomination in 1964 and what happened between '64 and '66 that lay the groundwork for his primary campaign in 1968? >> he did a brilliant thing when he gave a nominating speech for goldwater. they 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 couldn't do that and so he
managed to maintain his standings in the party whereas romney and rocky and scranton and pursy have relinquished his standing in the party. >> let's talk about rockefeller. he was in the race, out of the race and back in the race. what was this all about? >> well, he had run before obviously twice and the most important moment to understand in '68 is that in '64, he got up on the convention stage and denounced extremism, and what he was doing was denouncing the very direction of the republican party under goldwater and 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 and he enacted big initiatives in state government and new york, building projects and he wanted to use government as a catalyst, and he refused in this -- in this '68 campaign to reject civil rights and he said i have to be true to who i am. so when he announced, he announced after martin luther king was killed and he felt robert kennedy might become the nominee and he could be the one
viable republican who could actually capture the presidency, but again, he misread are read as he had previously where the party was, the strength of the conservative movement and it never was much of a force or threat to richard nixon. >> was he in the wrong party? >> well, certainly there would be no place for him in the republican party today and arguably, he claimed he was committed to fiscal discipline which is in part and with social issues he was more progressive, but he came out of this northeastern tradition of liberal, of republicans and had he been, say, in office as a politician in the 1970s or 80s it would be a very easy fit to see him in the democratic party. >> so in 1964, richard nixon in his speech and i'm paraphrasing says we are rockefeller republicans, lodge republicans, goldwater republicans, but we're all republicans, tactically what was he doing as he had his eye in 1966 to help in the midterm elections and potentially run again in '68? >> he was trying to thread the needle. he was trying to position himself as the person who could bring this fractured party back together and because he supported goldwater and didn't go after goldwater as an extremist and because he managed to maintain some relationship
and association with the more the extent of which they didn't quite understand it, the extent of which the liberals had been left behind and all of those people who kind of thought could still recapture the party from these extremists didn't understand what hit them. >> and these so-called liberals for the governor of new york, governor scranton and the governor of pennsylvania, the senator from new york, nelson rockefeller and the governor of new york. what was happening in the republican party and these two factions of the gop? >> they were remnants of moderates. [ please stand by. in 1964 and in fact in 1966,
frankly, in '68 to the extent that there was a threat to nixon, it was from ronald reagan or on his right. so ultimately the moderates were -- were on the defensive. and, you know, again, i think the battles had been fought in '64 and '66. the moderates came out on the losing end even if romney and rockefeller didn't buy into that. they have an image problem. and part of it is the personality that didn't go. and both of those problems in the fall of '66 in terms of campaigning for republicans all over america, he was everywhere. and he campaigned for liberal republicans. he cam panld for moderate republicans. he cam panld for conservative republicans. and in doing so, he addressed the question of the old nixon versus the new nixon and "newsweek" magazine had him on the cover, "time" had him on
the cover and the major publications who were writing about him and basically accepting, yes, was there a new nixon. >> the first to enter the race in 1968 was george romney, and he was the first to leave the race in 1968. what happened? >> romney, ever graduated from national politics. i used to cover presidential campaigns for the wall street journal and i covered a lot of governors in those days. it's a totally different situation from being governor of the state and running for presidency and the stuff comes at you at a deluge and you can't make a mistake. you have to move so fast. the margin of error is very low and when he said he'd been brain washed in vietnam it made himself a figure of fun, and gene mccarthy maybe expressed it pretty well, devastatingly when he said i think a light rinse would have been adequate. >> i think the issue of civil
rights. again, romney along with rockefeller, pro-civil rights, after the 1964 and 1965 civil voting rights act, the republican party increasingly becomes a party in '68 opposed to mandatory bussing, opposed to federal desegregation efforts and the war on poverty targeting african-americans are a total failure and an example of government overreaching and now that's not the only issue, but i think it is a central issue and it was really hard to see how romney and the brainwashing gaffe not to minimize it, but it was hard to see how romney in the 1968 version of the republican party being pro-civil rights how he would emerge as the nominee and he would from before any bullets were cast in new hampshire and they were short lived political effort.
>> another candidate whose rise cable in 1964 was ronald reagan and as a retired actor he ran for governor of california in 1966 and he defeated incumbent democrat pat brown and in june of 1968 he appeared on cbs' "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 the delegates, their estimates are ranging from i've heard 38%, i've heard 60%. of goldwater delegates and alternates this year returning to miami. do you see yourself as the only conservative hopes and they're not going to rally around richard nixon. where else do they have to go except to you? well, bill, as you know, i won't go along with using those labels and i've been working to get the party to drop the labels. >> a great many people do use them. >> we've been very successful
and i think there is a different philosophy or belief in the republican party today at the grassroots level and on up through the pros. i think you will find the republican party today is far more willing to see good in other republicans in the interest of unity and in the interest of winning. >> we've had our 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're going to have that problem. i don't think people are going to this convention, frozen into an ideological mold. >> our thanks to cbs news for that excerpt from a june 1968 interview on "face the nation." matthew delick, let me ask you about ronald reagan. he was in the race in 1968 and was a favorite son of california. can you explain what his role was in a primary process. >> the governor of california and that was his first political campaign. so in november 1966 he did what
richard nixon could not do and he beat pat brown in california, so he had just stepped into the governor's chair and then there was this boomlet among his aides and supporters especially on the west coast that this is the rising star of the conservative movement and this is goldwater, but a much more electable goldwater. >> reagan had just gotten into office, and what one of his aides said was that the aide did much more work than reagan did in those primaries and they tried to draft him and reagan really only declared himself as a candidate at the convention itself in the hopes that they could deprive richard nixon of nomination on the first ballot. richard nixon was 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 barry goldwater, strom thurmond and many of the other southern conservatives that reagan would have needed to pick off and it was ultimately -- there was not much of a credible threat to richard nixon as opposed to 1976 when reagan almost unseated ford. >> there was a strategic and tactical move by richard nixon in 1968 during the primary process, correct? >> well, they did. i have to say something about ronald reagan. there's a reality in politics, things happen that are perceived as impossible, inconceivable, couldn't happen and the emergence of ronald reagan is one of those things and as soon as they happen they become common place and the election of donald trump are examples of this. when pat brown was running against reagan and he dismissed
reagan and tried to make light of them. i've never flown an airplane, but don't worry because i've always been interested in aviation. >> reagan won that election by almost a million votes and immediately, he's a major figure in american politics. >> he was a stealth canned ad. he let them basically run him in 11 states and he picked up 11% in new hampshire and picked up 22%, maybe in nebraska and picked up 20% in oregon and 20% in california because he was the favorite son. that gave hem a base to go into the convention and the only way as we just heard, the only way he could possibly get the nomination is deny 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. >> he's the editor of the american conservative and matthew delick is the professor of george washington university and 1968, a year in turmoil, the special series, part of c-span's american history tv and we'll get to your phone call, john in tampa, florida. go ahead, please. >> 1968 was a pivotal year in american history and however, to understand that year you have to go backwards in time a long distance and go forward in time up until now. you cannot comprehend the significance of the events that led to that year being so pivotal without looking at the period from '48 to '65 when the wealthiest americans paid an income tax rate of over 90% and yet you had the middle class that was stronger than ever.
>> setting the stage for 1968. your thoughts? >> i was a senior in college in 1968 and campuses were burning up and demonstrations were everywhere. we had race riots in urban areas in which tens of people were killed in detroit and newark and other places. the country was -- it appeared to many people that it was coming apart at the seams and we have to put that context into our discussion a little bit because that was driving an awful lot of what was happening and what was happening was a reaction to that and nixon was a politician of that year who understood how to thread that needle and how to position himself who is not a radical and not extremist and who can straddle the various elements of
the republican party and take the party and the nation forward. >> in some ways, ronald reagan's 1966 campaign in california was a template for richard nixon and nixon emphasized primarily the issue of law and order. the idea that the country was unraveling, that riots in cities, the berkeley protests, the anti-war demonstrations, april 1968, the columbia university unrest and nixon was able to kind of hit this theme that the non-shouters as he called them, the quiet americans and he was primarily appealing to white middle class suburbanites, working class americans that we've got a crackdown and we've got to crack down on the supreme court. justices who were too lenient
and who had failed to calm the cities, but i think the caller is absolutely right that we can see '68 and i wouldn't say this about most other years, but we can see '68 as a kind of pivot. a pivot from this, the post 1945 american order where the country emerged as the lone super power untouched by the bombing and the economic growth and the nonstop expansion and the sense of military strength that nobody could challenge and the sense that there was abundance for all. i think all these kind of fundamental and issues of race and gender which spilled into the fore, primarily race in 1968. all of these things spilled out in that year and of course,
we're still living in that shadow. >> 202 is the area code, 774-8001 and 202-774-8000 is for democrats. >> good morning. >> good morning. i am so happy that you're doing this show. what i find is 1968 and 1962 is a period that conservatives don't want to talk about. we certainly don't teach about it. there was a total realignment of the parties, and it cannot be discussed in any context and you can tiptoe around it. what undergirds it are two factors, race and class and when we look at the divisiveness of today and what's going on in the current administration, it's undergirded by 1968 politics, a
southern strategy, so i'd like these conservative writers and thinkers to really explain the realignment of the two parties, the exodus of blacks away from electoral politics and the legacy that has on the president and especially going into reagan because reagan brought goldwater back as a black young man of the time, the goldwater name in urban communities was like saying voldemort. >> thank you for the call. you want to respond? >> yeah. i think that's a very, very good question to be posing. when lyndon johnson passed that landmark necessary legislation
civil rights bills and the '64 bill and the voting rights bill of '65. he told his close friends what i've done is i've just lost the south for the democratic party and he was right and the next opportunity when after that has been completed, when the american people came together in a presidential election, we had the emergence of george wallace, basically won five states down there and he basically took the south out of the democratic party where it was just lying there and who was going to pick it up and who was going to pick it up or who was going to get it and nixon affected this realignment that the caller is talking about by bringing the south and those wallace voters into the republican party, very controversial at the time and remains controversial among historians today and many, many others for good reason and my
own view is that it ultimately and took time served to domesticate sort of racial issues to the south to the extent that moderated them, but obviously, was there a backlash to that legislation and the south was realigned. >> i mean, the republican party, the so-called southern strategy that the democratic lock on the south since the end of reconstruction that that lock was no more and it was nixon and wallace, too, was our segregationist and it stood in the school house door. he defended explicitly segregation and he ran what i think historians say was a racist campaign and that wasn't the only issue he appealed to and he did make explicit appeals to white voters in the south and industrial union members and
talked about these hard, as he put it, kind of hardworking police and barbershop workers and beauticians who were revolting against not just african-american unrest, but also the pointy-headed over-educated elites. it was in that sense a 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, want just the deep south, but also the border states and that has -- that happened in the '60s and 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. >> a very quick follow up. are there parallels to the george wallace voter in 1968 and
the donald trump voter in 2016? >> i caveat it by saying history doesn't repeat itself and you know, it's hard to sort of create these analogies because the issues in '68 were different from the issues today, for example, the issue of trade that donald trump used. immigration that donald trump used, but having said that, much of the language. for example, donald trump actually as nixon appropriated george wallace's themes in 1968 while donald trump explicit he in his convention address said and did appropriate some of richard nixon's themes on law and order and this notion of american carnage, american crisis that i'm the voice of forgotten americans and he did use those ideas and some of trump's populist appeals of primarily to white voters and there are echoes. >> the governor of alabama in 1968 and in the summer of that
year, his appearance on cbs' "face the nation". >> you were quoted as having observed once that the people know the way to stop a riot is to hit someone on the head. >> yes, i said something similar to that. >> if someone goes out and begins to loot and burns a building down which endangers the health and safety of everybody that's a good way to stop it. if you let the police knock somebody on the head who was breaking a plate glass window or assaulting a policeman or assaulting a person on the street or throwing a firebomb i think he would be getting off mighty light if someone knocked him on the head and frankly, that's exactly what ought to be done. if i was president of the united states i would take whatever is necessary to prevent what happened in this city if we had to order the knocking on the
head of many people and when you do that you are going to satisfy the overwhelming majority of people of all races in this country because it's not a matter of race and the party has cow towed and we have that in the streets of washington, d.c.. >> july 1968 and "face the nation," courtesy of cbs. robert? >> he got 13% of the vote and he's an alternate party candidate and that's a very significant margin. he held the winner, richard nixon to more than 43%, making him a minor the president. he was a very significant figure and he was a significant figure because of the turmoil and the ferment that was going on in american politics and we had a sort of realignment not just in terms of people in the electorate, but also in terms of the issues that were going to be driving politics. >> we'll go to katherine from mobile, alabama.
good morning. >> good morning. yes, gentlemen, i lived in 1968 until now and i'm older than one of you and probably both of you. i would like to say from 1968 until what i see now it has really horrified me and in '68 what you all are not talking about is how your party began to break up civics by using so much dog ma and the dog ma became the whole deal with the republican party you're against everyone, but what you want done. we the females in the south and the minorities did not have voting rights like the rest of you and we still don't there are many problems with the gerrymanderings and the republican party saying they win the vote. cheating is not winning, gentlemen. if we will have free and fair elections from '68 until now we
must allow all of our population to speak and be included. >> katherine, thank you for the call. who would like to take that? >> one thing i'll say is that in 1980, moving a head a little bit ronald reagan went to his campaign and where civil rights workers were murdered, he invokes civil rights, from the '60s and there have been efforts despite the passage of the 1965 voting rights act to suppress the votes of primarily african-americans in the south, but ultimately the republican party has been dominant in the south because it wins overwhelming number of white votes and it remains a majority
in the south and the democratic party wins the overwhelming majority of african-american votes so when doug jones was able to win in alabama, that was a highly unusual coalition that is probably not going to repeat itself of biracial across racial coalition. race remains a central fault line and it's not just a course in the south. it's around the country, but we do see in '68 the issue of race emerge and flower full. >> we'll talk about the primary and show you richard nixon campaigning in new hampshire and byron joins me on the wilkes bury, republican line. good morning. >> good morning. i would like to make a comment on the reason why the republican party was able to support
richard nixon as well as they did in '68. richard nixon did something in 1960 that was quite unusual in politics. you have to remember he refused to come forward and be a part of coalition that wanted him to challenge the vote in pennsylvania and also illinois and as a result, he lost. if you recall that period of time. >> nixon did decline to challenge those questions, i think that there was some
stealing of the votes that took place in illinois and chicago under the machine of mayor daly and in doing so he manifested an element of character and i think he showed character when he became president after 1968 in not ever talking about the mess he inherited from lyndon johnson as donald trump said with what barack obama did. he didn't do that. he was a fraught man in very, very significant way, but in these two instances, i think he showed significance here. >> i want you to watch, this is richard nixon campaigning in february 1968 in new hampshire and being interviewed as he's going from one campaign event to another. why do you want to do this? it's such a man-killing thing and you've already put in time and you've already served your country?
>> well, that's a question that, believe me, has occurred to me, too and has occurred to my family. i suppose that your wife and your children feel even more deeply about their father and husband being involved in a great battle than he himself does because the man who is in the battle, he can fight back and can answer whereas those on the sidelines have to suffer in silence, but on the other hand, the reason that i think perhaps motivates me more than anything else is very 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 of peace and freedom for the balance of this century. we didn't ask for this, but it is a role that has been placed
upon us because of the power that we have and the vacuum of power in western europe which previously had this burden. i believe the dangers of world war iii are broad, the dangers of civil war or approaching civil war in a very difficult sense of home and other problems are greater than this country has ever had and on the other hand, i believe that never in our nation's 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 america and reconcile america and bring progress in our cities are now stronger than they have ever been if they were just brought into play. what they need is leadership and leadership that will take america's great, harnessed power and unharness 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 dalick, what are you seeing and how much are you hearing? so much of this is talent and what i hear in part, at least is nixon projecting a sense of calm, of confidence, of experience which is, of course, a dirty word in american politics now and look, ronald reagan ran against experienced politician in 1966 and nixon was able to say that, look, i have the wherewithal, i have the meddle and the toughness to restore the order that's been lost. you talk about a civil war potentially erupting at home. in 1968 is widely seen and rightly so as the most decisive year and nixon confronted that and the other thing i hear, though, is he mentioned vietnam and he mentioned and it was
really vietnam that destroyed lyndon johnson's precedence they gave nixon and others a major opening and nixon handled that issue very deftly in the sense that he didn't talk much about it. he implied that he had a secret plan to win the peace in vietnam. he said he would bring a peaceful end and an honorable end to the war there and he was able to have a solution to this horrible war which has taken tens of thousands of american lives and without really divulging what it was he was going to do and project that kind of confidence to restore order and you know, restore the country's sanity in a sense as what he was implying. >> america in turmoil and robert mary is the editor of the american conservative and matthew dalick who teaches at george washington university and
the author of a number of books. rachael is next, forney, texas. independent line. good morning. >> caller: good morning. back in aye 64, '70s and i'm 62 years old right now and back when they were out of school in '64, and they claimed the separation of church and state and then we had abortions and those two decisions were voted on a supreme court justice which was made up mostly of republican judges and the independent people and the independent democrats for this, and it was the republican judges that made those decisions back when reagan
was in office and another thing 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. reagan passed that and had that put in there where they could give you a lie detector test and they'd ask you if you'd ever stolen anything. you might have stolen something when you were 5 years old and that would affect the test and eventually they took it out because it was against our rights and they always talk about rights and who's taking our right away. they need to look back at history and figure it out. >> rachel, thank you for the call. >> well, what it evoke, really is that richard nixon and other conservatives and wallace, too. they attack the warren court. the court for the chief justice earl warren. they argue that the court had
overstepped its bounds and interfered in all these sorts of ways and the miranda decision giving too many rights to criminals that the courts were somehow coddling lawbreakers and that and this, i think, is very modern because we hear the origins that justices are there to interpret the constitution in a strict way. the so-called strict constructionists and nixon implied that he would deploy justices who would respect the rule of law. who would roll back the justices, in a sense, committed by the war in court and i think it tied into this larger theme of law and order that nixon tapped into and that was a powerful issue that they were able to use then and that, of course, it is a huge issue in american politics today and it has been ever since. >> let's put the year in perspective.
we talked about governor george romney. he was the first to formerally enter the race and this is what the time line looked in that year. the tet offensive took place on january 30, 1968. vice president richard nixon formally enlters the race on february the 1st. george romney with draws on february 28th. nixon wins on the new hampshire primary on march the 12th and then president johnson announcing march 31st that he will not seek re-election and he earns the race on august 8th of that year and he was elected president on november 8th. maryland, democrats line. good morning. >> good morning. can you hear me? >> we can. >> yes. one of the things that i hear
when i hear nixon speaking is the thread of what nixon is beginning to craft taken along the lines that he can't come out and speak the words as harshly as george wallace is speaking and he begins to use politics, being able to speak the unspoken thing that to the white new southern strategy that cannot be, that cannot be spoken, in a way, but eloquently 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 down on the violence in the inner cities and the politics that's been picked up in our politics today with donald j. trump. >> robert mary, do you want to respond? >> we still hear about dog whistle politics today and various people and msnbc and others are very, very quick. there's no question that some of
that takes place and 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. that's all part of american politics and a question of how the political leaders are going to marshal political resources and pressures and forces and move the country forward. that's our system. >> timothy's point is a perfect segway toward what we wanted to talk about now which is the republican convention meeting in miami beach, florida. this is from the republican platform of 1968, an excerpt that reads as follows, quote, america urgently needs new leadership that will recapture the control of event, mastering them rather than permitting them to master us. >> our convention in 1968 can spark a republican insurgence to face the realities of the world in which we live.
school bussing, nixon opposed that. so he finessed the first. he gave assurance on the second. and gave them absolute assurance on the vice president. and that's how we got agnew. >> we'll go to john in washington, d.c. go ahead, please. >> caller: good morning. i have a separate question to ask both of your panelists.
what significant role of the republican party to have the voting rights act for defendants of american -- past and modern day. were they embracing the idea of black american voters? and also, i'm writing the u.s. recovery act. which i'm asking for judicial protection for defendants of american. since we don't have that here in america. >> matthew. >> well, 1965, lyndon johnson couldn't have passed the voting rights act without a strong support from republicans. and there were republicans in congress and around the country who, of course, supported the voting rights. i mean, in 1965, the republican party had a substantial moderate wing that was a pro-civil rights. it was in the midwest. and the northeast.
and the party was -- as was the democratic party. but by 1968 even though it's 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 view. given frankly the southern strategy of the idea that the republican electoral future was going to be through the south. so by 1968 we see in the negotiations with strom thurmon. if we see a party on the issue of race, even though there were still some voices -- pro-civil
rights voice left, whether you want to call him concessions or not but his stance, for example, what he would call against bussing one example. that was really consistent with the party's view that the federal government had overreached in its efforts to enforce desegregation and integration and ensure the voting rights of all african-americans. >> our next caller -- go ahead. >> i think it needs to be noted that that legislation, those pieces of legislation landmarked very, very significant. they passed. they were on the books. and what we're talking about is sort of the fallout, the difficulty of some people in america particularly in the south but elsewhere, too, in adjusting to that. ultimately they had to adjust. and american politic hs to adjust. what we're talking about here is during that period of adjustment and the difficulties that some people had and how the political system was going to make its way
through that particular period. >> from melbourne, england, you are next. go ahead, sir. >> thank you. i see the problems of foreign policy of yesterday and of today as being quite different. yesterday in '68 or '69 the soviet union was a problem. they were placed to meet that challenge, right? and reagan met the challenge. the problem of today is demographics. if you look at these countries, they are producing very fast. as soon as you win a war, they replenish the numbers. if you look carefully at demographi demographics, they have four sons -- six sons per father. so a country like afghanistan can defeat the russia or the united states. and my question to you is this. accidents of history as you were explaining, the republicans
became dependent on the southern states. and the very religious states that oppose abortion. they oppose liberal values. but what you need now is to educate women in these other countries to have your children support contraception. my question is this. do you think the way politics develop in america internally has compromised the ability of a republican president to actually win these conflicts abroad and to lead the world? >> daniel, thank you. does the caller have a point? >> i don't know. it's a little hard to say. first of all, in 1968, it was, i think, '68 was the bloodiest year of the vietnam war. there's nothing comparable to what we have today. the united states have about half a million troops, soldiers in vietnam and southeast asia.
the war z was tearing the country apart. i think that war, i think the point maybe the caller was making, too, was that the war then transforms to some extent, it pushed the parties in distinct direction. i think it has made it harder for the united states to the good to sustain wars overseas. the idea that the country is going to go to war without majority support. and just kind of sink endless blood and treasure into a place. in that sense, it does remain the kind of vietnam syndrome or shadow. it remains as something of a constraint on elected officials and policy makers. but -- and i guess, you know,
one last thought is that the country today even though this is not comparable, but the country today i think there is no appetite for sending tens of thousands of u.s. troops overseas to engage in combat anywhere. there is no -- whether it's syria, afghanistan, or iraq. i think in 1968, the country was also beginning to support u.s. withdrawal however it happened from vietnam. >> let me ask you about another key player in this period. william buckley. who was he? >> bill buckley emerged as probably the leading voice on the conservative side of american politics. he was a very young man. after graduating from yal.
and then five years later became very a very young editor of the brand new magazine national review. which emerged as the leading voice of conservatism in america. i will say i knew him a bit. i actually ended up corresponding with him when i was in college. i was in a research project that my professors organized. and we went off and interviewed various members of a 1947 commission on the american press. that was underwritten by henry lewis. i flew to new york from seattle. met with henry lewis and a woman -- >> and henry lewis was? >> he was the founder and chairman and editor in chief of "time" magazine and "life" magazine. and i met also a woman who
worked on the composition who was a friend of buckley's. i corresponded with her probably waxing naive about what's going on in american politics. she showed my letter to buckley who wrote to me. i had lunch with him a few times. and he -- as everyone knows who knows anything about him, was the most charming. most funny amusing 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 campaign that got a lot of attention. and again, very amusing famous line when someone asked him, what are you going to do if you win? of course no one thought there was a prospect that you would win. and that said demand a recount.
>> at the democratic convention, abc news hired william buckley to debate the issue of the time. here's an exempt from one of the programs. >> anybody who believed that these characters are interested in the democratic process is diluting himself. these sweet little girls with their sun dresses we heard described a moment ago and the chant between 4,000 voices was sheer obscenities directed at the president of the united states as the mayor -- being
shot at by an enemy nevertheless we are fighting. it is remarkable there was as much restraint shown as for instance last night of cops that were out there for 17 hours without inflicting a single wound on a single person even though that kind of thing is all of american society. >> courtesy of abc news. and that is william buckley who was on the program and talking about the demonstrations going on in chicago which disrupted the democratic party and in many respects hurt humphrey. >> national commission later described it as a police riot. the police in chicago unleashed by mayor daly beat dem-- there e a handful looking to provoke
violence. but the majority were peaceful. and this is in grant park and on the streets. a reflection of the antiwar student movement. the feelings that the democratic party especially by handing the nomination to huebert humphrey and endorsing johnson's strategy in the vietnam war had betrayed the hope for ending the bombing and withdrawing swiftly u.s. forces out of vietnam. and what i'll say about the buckley clip, first you hear how articulate he is. and buckley was not only a brilliant publisher, but he really was extraordinarily adept at television, modern communications. these debates that he had with vidal were quite heated.
one recent documentary said this is the origins of cross fire. the origins of msnbc and fox news today. what buckley did after the gold water in 1964 was engage in the political process and endorse nixon in 1968. and as he said at one point, i want the most right candidate. meaning the most conservative candidate who could win. also there 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. >> the book is called the right moment. ronald reagan's first victory and the turning point in
american politics. and robert mary is the 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 before that when president kennedy took us into vietnam, that was a war that i never did understand. but since we were in it, you got to support the united states no matter what.
so that's about it. >> ruth, thank you. we'll turn to robert mary. >> well, yes. the -- she's right. it took republican votes to get the civil rights act passed. those very facts. and it was a democratic president who took us into vietnam whether you wanted to attribute that to kennedy or to johnson. certainly johnson and to some extent kennedy. sometimes a reflection of the state of american politics is in buckley's statements with vidal regarding the violence that took place at the democratic
convention. in that, as matthew noted, they said it was a police riot. there were masses of americans, millions of americans who didn't believe it was a police riot. who believed it was perpetrated, that it was encouraged. it was basically created by the demonstrators. and therein lay a split, a chasm that went through america in those times. and you have to really understand -- understand any of this in terms of politically. you have to understand just how dramatic that was. >> miami, florida, charles. go ahead. >> caller: hello. my question is the right man, the right job. when nixon retire d from the presidency, he said no longer do you have to kick around.
i think led me most of his decision about watergate, about a lot of other things. >> that was from 1962 when he lost the race for governor. >> yeah, well, he attacked -- it was really an attack on the media. he said after losing to pat brown in 1962, you won't have dick nixon to kick around anymore. i think it was the reason that moment stuck in part is that it reflected his resentment toward the media. was a kind of flash of just how much vitriol he felt under siege by the media.
nixon who had -- who was very smart. he had vast political strengths, incredible will and resiliency. and yet really was -- and i don't want to over psychoanalyze him but it's clear now 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 and his enemies. in part behind watergate is he went on in 1972, this crushing landslide win over george mcgovern. and yet, he was so desperate in a sense to ensure victory that he, you know, created the opportuni
opportunity. some of these discretions to occur with the break in of the national democratic committee headquarters. so nixon was really ultimately undone by many of his deep seeded insecurities. >> i could just add this, i think it might be worth noting the difference between nixon and reagan in this regard. nixon thought that the media were mostly liberal. and he was right. they were. and therefore, they're going to be against me. and he took that very seriously. and he took it personally. and he read what they were saying. and he got outraged at the breakfast table. reagan thought the same thing. he thought the media were largely liberal. therefore, they're not in favor of what i stand for, what i'm trying to accomplish. but he didn't care. and pretty much ignored us. never seemed to pay much attention to us.
he was always cordial. but he just didn't worry about it. and a little bit of that would have gone a long way for dick nixon. just one side note, another conversation for another time but your latest book on president mckinley. by the way, on c-span3's american history tv, we're also taking your questions and comments. and the question is, which party changed the most since 1968? and many saying the democrats changed the vote. the republicans at 44%. we'll go to tony in 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 had voted republican since then until 2016. i have noticed that our party has changed a lot. we have people who are calling folks conservative. they really don't conserve a thing. and the other thing is i would almost venture to say that -- excuse me -- the gentleman in the white house right now, mr. trump, he may just as well have been a democrat as long as our former president, president obama. because of the age difference. mr. trump, i believe he transitioned or changed the republican party in the 2010 era. i'm not sure. but anyway, the point is that politics is changing. and we have people that do not understand that conservative values are, you conserve.
and you conserve the union. you conserve your fiscal resources. you conserve your national and strategic resources. and because of politics, we get wrapped up into a political party of right or left. or democrat, republican. and we lose the truth. the american civil war as between the war of the north of the south. wars aren't usually started by the people. >> thank you for the call. >> so it's interesting that the caller in 2016 was the first time he didn't vote republican. trump was a democrat for many had years to the extent he had beliefs. some of it's used now, obviously, invert the party's long standing support of free trade agreements. but trump is, you know bb 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, for example, talking about just let the police take their heads in. that's a -- this idea of this kind of talk. you know, 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 it's racially infused. i think we see that with trump. pat buchanan who ran against george h.w. bush was antifree trade. he was anti-immigration. he believes that international institutions that -- i think
there's a tradition on the right that hasn't always been ascended but there are lines that we can draw from trump to say the 1960s elements of the republican party in the '60s. >> first pamela from maryland. democrats line. good morning. >> caller: yes, hello. thank you for taking my call. i wanted to say that an earlier caller kevin is absolutely correct about the republican party and particularly the movement how it's undergirded by race and class. and an anonymous interview is 1981, lee atwater, he laid out, he spelled out the southern strategy that was used. and he said you can say the "n" word. in 1968 you can't because it'll back force on you. say things like states rights. civil unrest. and fiscal responsibility. then one of your guest there is
said ronald reagan was the electable gold water. i'm looking to the radio, so i can't see who said that. but goldwater was a vocal opponent. and he wants his home state of louisiana and 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's left unchecked. it can metastasize. that's what we're seeing today. >> thank you for the call. >> well, it's a widespread view of what's underlying american politics. i have to say, i think i'll go back to what i was saying
earlier. the country was struggling with these issues at that time. struggling with these still. but in a much different way and much less intense way. i think that represents a certain amount of racial progress. i think to suggest there hasn't been any progress is un-historical. >> and the caller pointed out george wallace. look at the electoral college map from 196. in terms of the popular vote, richard nixon winning. with the electoral college vote, richard nixon with 301 electoral votes. what was the nixon strategy in the general election? >> well, one, it was to try to not talk a whole bunch of specifics about vietnam.
he wanted to keep the focus on the unrest in the country and how he was going to be a voice, really, for as he said in his convention address, the forgotten americans. what he would later term during his presidency, the silent majority. and that included some of the wallace voters. although they obviously a lot of them went for wallace. but working class primarily white americans and the south and the north all over the country. middle class suburbanites. the idea, too, that the cities were out of control. that campuses were out of control. that these were really kind of hot beds of really fronts to fundamental american values. i think he really tapped into that strain. and as well, the strategy was on the left he could be kind of in the center right. he had wallace, you know, far to
his right or to his right he had the democrats including some of the democratic primary candidates who made up part of the coalition. who are anti-war. on his left and that he could appeal as the center right calm, confident candidate who as he argued, as he put it although this turned out obviously not to be true, that he could bring the country together. >> last week we focused on the democrats and the liberal politics. this week it was on republicans and conservative politics. david in san jose on the republican line. good morning. >> caller: good morning. my question has to do with bobby kennedy. and of course the feud he had with lyndon johnson. and would he have been a much easier candidate for nixon to have defeated in 1968 than
huebert humphrey turned out to be? and the way bobby kennedy has been portrayed to me -- i was 5 years old in 1968. that it was far from inevitable in june of 1968 that he would become the democratic nominee and the elected president in november. and that johnston would have come through. and would have done whatever he could have to sabotage him at the convention in chicago. thank you. >> we talk about nelson rockefeller being a hamlet in 1968. not quite sure whether he's in or out. bobby was a bit of a handler also. he wanted to run for president. he didn't want to put himself in a position of losing. and he thought going up against a sitting president even a weakened sitting president lyndon johnson was going to be too formidable. >> so it fell to gene mccarthy who was more of a poet than a rock 'em sock 'em politician to
go up against lyndon johnson and basically he didn't get a majority in new hampshire but he basically knocked lyndon johnson out in new hampshire and was going to win in wisconsin big time. bobby immediately got into the race. and he ran a very dramatic and fascinating campaign. but it wasn't 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, he won in -- gene mccarthy won in oregon. bobby won in california. he won in nebraska, but his totals was showing he was succumbing to what was the shift in alignment we'd been talking about. and he was maybing getting his victories with a narrower and
narrower base within the party. and that could have been bad for him. >> in the general election, there was one in salt lake city, utah. was that a turning point for huebert humphrey? did that narrow the race? >> declare he's his own man? yeah. well, so nixon -- i mean, sorry. humphrey got support from the unions that started to organize on his behalf. 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 stoppage of the bombing of vietnam and specially breaking from lyndon johnson, that did help him. i mean, i think most historians would agree and the polls suggested he began to close the gap. and so as we discussed earlier, the popular vote, the electoral
college vote was a blowout. nixon won it big. 301 votes, i think. but the popular vote was i think less than 1%. 43 1/2% 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 the gene mccarthy supporters. now, robert kennedy, very fascinating. we'll never know, of course. we'll never know. and in some ways, it might have been harder for him to have won the nomination than the general election. because if he'd won the nomination, he would have had for daylight between the party. because he was more of anti-war. and the great unanswered question was could he sustain
electorally a coalition of african-americans, latinos, and working class white voters. around issues of economic justice. and of course, you know, we'll never know. but that was -- that's one of the great what if debates, i think, of modern american history. in terms of that debate, it's worth noting that those working class white voters were getting very restless about where the democratic party was taking the country. where the democratic party wanted to take the country. so my view would be, it was going to be very difficult for kennedy to pull that off. >> and quickly, it was the war. because the economy was relatively strong in 1968, correct? let's go to jerome in ohio. good morning. >> caller: good morning. i want to ask you about the political movement that came on the scene in late '60s, early '70s called the neo-conservative movement.
where did they come from id lod eologically? >> thank you, jerome. >> well, it was a significant movement. these are people who are larg y ly intellectual. and they came um through the democratic party. they felt america wasn't prosecuting the cold war as aggressively as it ought have. and concerned with some of the racial quotas and those kinds of things that were emerging in the late '60s and early '70s. and so they began to move more towards a conservative point of view. national view 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's fine. and so they became very, very significant. my only view is they became more significant than we may want them to be in terms of their foreign policy views today. >> our last call is from grand prairie, texas. herald, you get the final question. please be brief. >> caller: yes. in 1968 lyndon johnson was upset that nixon sabotaged the peace talks. if lyndon johnson had come forward and spoke out against richard nixon, what results would that have had? johnson could have played a lot more in that role. thank you very much. >> thank you, herald. >> my own view is that's a little more ambiguous. and have given that issue to be -- given credit. but nevertheless, it was very incendiary. and it could have blown up. and it would have been detrimental to nixon. >> let's conclude with richard
nixon's comments. the early hour of november 6th, 1968. >> i saw many signs in this campaign. some of them were not friendly. some were very friendly. but the one that touched me the most is one that i saw in ohio. the end of a long day of whistle stopping. a little town, i suppose five times the population was there. almost impossible to see. but a teenager held up the sign, bring us together. and that will be the great objective of this administration at the outset to bring the american people together. this will be an open administration open to new ideas, open to men and women of both parties. we want to bruj the generation gab. we want to bring them out with
america together. and i am confident that this test is we can feel successful. >> richard nixon declaring victory november of 1968. robert, as you hear that and you reflect 50 years later, what's the political legacies of that year and for the conservative movement? >> i think that the three most significant figures leading to the election of ronald reagan and the triumph of conservatism were goldwater, nixon, and buckley. and 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, very significant. >> matthew, 50 years later, the legacy? >> i think one is the republican party -- conservative movement
became much more stronger on national defense. pro military. p pro-using aggressive military power overseas. and the democratic party became much more anti-war 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 the democrats. really disrupting or exploding the roosevelt/lyndon johnson national electoral coalition. 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 awhile. and i think in those areas domesticicly and overseas the republican party was able to gain a kind of for several decades a lock on -- more or
less on the electoral college in national politics. >> matthew from national university. serve k as an associate professor and robert mary the editor of the american conservative. do both of you, thank you. as we reflect 50 years later on 1968. appreciate your time. >> thank you. our look at conservative look at politics 50 years ago will continue in a moment. this is american history tv. programs normally seen only on the weekends here on c-span3. but congress is on break and we're using this chance to expand our coverage during the august recess. coming up, a half hour richard nixon for president film of him campaigning in new hampshire and wisconsin. that's followed by an interview with a perdue university professor on how richard nixon changed his media strategy for 1968.
then the life and career of a leading conservative woman from that era. congresswoman, ambassador, and author claire booth lewis. and later a look at the conservative influence of 1968. here are some of the programs you'll see this weekend on american history tv. here on c-span3. saturday night at 10:00, a world war ii film directed by frank capra on the orders of general george marshall to explain the cause of the global war to u.s. troops. part of our reel america series. then on oral histories, sunday morning at 10:00 eastern, a continuation of our interviews with former congress woman the first republican female representative from north carolina talks about her life and her election. and sunday afternoon at 2:00 eastern, george mason university professor rose mari zagari looks
at women in america's founding era and their value to patriot leaders seeking support for the revolution. it gave women a basis for demanding more rights in the future. that's this weekend on american history tv. next on reel america, a look back at the 1968 presidential campaign. this half hour richard nixon for president campaign film shows the republican and former vice president meeting voters in new hampshire and wisconsin. nixon would go on to win primaries in both of these states on his way to securing the gop nomination. he then defeated democrat huebert humphrey in the general election winning 32 states. this half hour film is courtesy of the richard nixon presidential library and museum.