tv 1968 - America in Turmoil 2018 Conservative Politics CSPAN December 31, 2018 4:36pm-6:07pm EST
is michael cohen here in washington. and joining us from west palm beach, florida is kathleen kennedy townsend, the eldest daughter of senator robert kennedy. to both of you, thank you for being here. we appreciate it. next, from our series 1968, america in turmoil, a look back at conservative politics 50 years ago. perceived liberal excesses, and disenchantment with the size of government gave rise to the political right, the resurgence of richard nixon. ronald reagan ahead his debut as a presidential candidate. our guests are robert merry, editor of the american conservative, and author of where they stand, the american presidents in the eyes of voters and historians. matthew dalik, george washington
university professor in the graduate school of political management. he's the author of the right movement, ronald reagan's victory, and the decisive turning point in american politics. first, here's richard nixon accepting the republican nomination for president in miami beach august 8th, 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 envel lopped in smoke and flame. we hear sirens in the night.
we see americans dying 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 do normandy and korea and in valley forge for this? listen to the answers to those questions. it is another voice, it is a quiet voice in the tu multiof the shouting, it is the voice of the great majority of the americans, the forgotten americans, the nonshouters, the nondemonstrators. they're not racist or sick, they are black and they are white. they're native born and foreign born. they're young and they're old. they work in america's factories. they run america's businesses. they serve in government. they 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 they pay their taxes and they care, like theodore roosevelt they know that this country will 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. and this i say, this i say to you tonight, is the real voice of america. in this year 1968, this is the message that will broadcast to america and to the world, let's never forget that despite her faults, 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 centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies because we are made of sugar 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. >> america in turmoil, 1968. and that was the 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 merry, he is the editor of the american conservative, thanks for being with us. >> my pleasure. >> and matthew dalic from george washington university, associate professor and author of the book the right moment, ronald
reagan's 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, many wondering what's going to happen with the conservative movement. what changed between 1964 and 1968? matthew dalek. >> well, 1964 was seen, really, as the conservative demise. a lot of liberals after the goldwater debacle said that conservatism is dead. the extreme right has no home in the center of american politics. but the country changed dramatically as we're going to discuss, i'm sure today, vietnam, issues of urban unrest, law and order. and the republican party ultimately with the goldwater capture of the nomination in '64 signalled where the energy at the grassroots, at the donor level, ideologically in the conservative media, where all
the energy was flowing and it was flowing toward the right of the republican party and it was ultimately the goldwater type conservatives who were on the ascendant. >> a key player during the -- 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, the political obituary of richard nixon. >> my parts were junivery upset about that. >> it made him look like a victim. >> it made him look like a has been. there's an old rule in american politics, you're not finished until you say you're finished. the corollary to that is, if you say you're finished, you're finished. nixon in that famous press conference said he was finished. so he thought he was finished. but he wasn't. and his good friends, his backers in california, gave him some great advice. they 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, nomination in 1964, and then what happened between '64 and '66 that laid the groundwork for his primary campaign in 1968? >> well, he did a brilliant thing when he gave the nominating speech for goldwater. the liberals in the party were resisting goldwater. and in doing so they were resisting the goldwater constituency. you can't do that in politics. and nixon wisely understood that he couldn't do that. and so he managed to maintain his standing within the party whereas romney and rocky and scranton and percy all relinquished their standing
within the party. >> let's talk about nelson rockefeller, he was the governor of new york, he was in the race, he was out of the race, he was back in the race. what was this all about? >> well, he had run before, obviously twice, and i think the most important moment to understand in terms of '68 is that in '64, he got up on the convention stage and denounced extremism. he 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. he enacted big initiatives in state government in new york, building projects. he wanted to use government, including the federal government, as a catalyst. and he refused in the '68 campaign to reject civil rights. he said that's -- i've got to be true to who i am. so when he announced, he
announced after martin luther king was killed. he thought robert kennedy might become the nominee and that he could be the one viable republican who could actually capture the presidency. but again, he misread, as he had previously, where the party was. the strength of the conservative movement. and he really was never 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 -- now, he claimed that he was committed to fiscal discipline, which is in part -- whereas on social issues he was more progressive. but he came out of this northeastern tradition of liberal republicans and, you know, 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 says we are rockefeller republicans, lodge republicans, goldwater republicans, but we're all republicans. tactically what was he doing as he had his eye on 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, or association with the more liberal elements of his party he was the one who positioned himself. what's really interesting in 1968 is the extent to which they didn't quite understand it, the extent to which the liberals had
already been left behind. and all of those people who kind of thought that they still could sort of recapture the party from these extremists didn't understand what had hit them. >> the governor of new york, the governor of pennsylvania, the senator from new york, the governor of new york, what was happening within the republican party, these two different factions in the gop? >> well, there were remnants of moderates. they were certainly there. there were, of course, as you said, 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 he is backing republicans on the right, but also in the middle. and he gets a lot of the credit in 1966 for endorsing and helping republicans pick up dozens of seats in the midterm congressional elections.
>> 46 seats. >> yeah, yeah, so 46 seats. and nixon gets a lot of the credit for that. he is seen, increasingly, as a credible conservative. now, there's still a lot of skepticism. i don't want to play that down. but he sees also where the energy is in the republican party. and, you know, the moderates ultimately are a significant minority within the party. and if we factor in george wallace, who we haven't even talked about who would ultimately become, i think, embodying this conservative coalition, we see that the moderates are really a dying, almost spent force. and frankly in '68, to the extent that there was a threat to nixon, it was actually from ronald reagan on his right. so ultimately the moderates were on the defensive. and, you know, again, though, i think those battles had been fought in '64 and '66 and the
moderates came out on the losing end, even if romney and rockefeller didn't necessarily buy into that. >> and we're going to talk about governor wallace in a moment. >> let me make a point if i could. nixon had another problem. he had an image problem. part of it was from that performance we talked about, part of it was elements of his personality that didn't go over well with a great deal of people. he addressed both of those problems in the fall of '66 in terms of campaigning for republicans all over america. he was indefatigable. he was everywhere. he campaigned for liberal republicans, he campaigned for moderate republicans. he campaigned 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, all these major publications were writing about him and basically accepting, yes, there is a new nixon. >> the first to enter the race in 1968 was governor george romney. and in the fall of 1967 he was
the first to leave the race in february of 1968. what happened? >> romney, i don't think, ever managed to sort of graduate from state politics to national politics. i used to cover presidential campaigns for the presidential campaigns from the wall street journal. i covered a lot of governors in those days. it's a totally different situation from being governor of the state and stuff comes at you in a deluge, you can't make a mistake. margin of error is very low, when he said he had been brainwashed in vietnam, it made himself a figure of fun. gene mccarthy expressed it pretty well, when he said, i think probably a light rinse would have been adequate. i think the issue is civil rights. romney along with rockefeller, procivil rights, after the 1964, 1965 civil voting rights acts, the republican party becomes a party in '68 opposed to
mandatory bussing, opposed to federal desegregation efforts, argues that the war on poverty targeting african-americans is a total failure. and now that's not the only issue, but i think it's a central issue, it was hard to see how romney and the gaffe, the brainwashing gaffe, not to minimize it, but it was hard to see how romney in the 1968 version of the republican party being procivil rights. how he would emerge as the nominee, and he with drew even before any votes were cast in new hampshire, it was a short lived political effort. >> another candidate whose rise came in 1964 was ronald reagan as the retired actor, he ran for governor of california in 1966, he defeated an incumbent democrat, pat brown. 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 conserve movement 50 years ago. >> when we talk about the convention and the delegates, there are estimates ranging from 38%, 60% of goldwater delegates and alternates returning this year to miami. do you see yourself as the only hope of the conservatives in the party? they certainly are not going to rally around nelson rockefeller. many of them not around richard nixon, where else do they have to go except you? >> well, bill, i -- i, as you know, won't go along any more with using those labels. i've been working for two years, trying to get the party to drop the labels. >> a great many people do use them. >> we've been successful in getting them to use them. i think there's a belief in the republican party today at the grassroots level. 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 wing. there is a great desire. we've had our blood bath 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. matthew, let me ask you about ronald reagan. he was in the race in 1968. primarily as a favorite son in california, can you explain what his role was in the primary process if any? >> yeah, he had just won the governorship in california, that was his first political campaign. in november 1966, he did what richard nixon could not do, and he beat pat brown in california. and then there was this boom
among some of his aids and supporters, especially on the west coast that, you know, 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 aids said, the aids did much more work than reagan did in those primaries, 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 a nomination on a first ballot. so while 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 barry goldwater, strom thurmond, many of the other conservatives reagan would have needed to pick
off. it was ultimately -- there was not much of a credible threat to richard nixon, as opposed to 1976, where reagan almost unseated ford. >> the tactical moves by nixon paying off in 1968 by the primary process, correct? >> they did. i have to say something about ronald reagan. there's a reality in american politics. things happened that are perceived as impossible, couldn't happen. the emergence of ronald reagan is one of those things, 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's got no experience, i've never flown an airplane, but don't worry, i've always been really interested in aviation. reagan won that election by
almost a million votes, 994,000 votes and immediately he's a major figure in american politics, in '68 he was the stealth candidate. he let his guys run him in these various states, he picked up 11% in new hampshire, he picked up 22% maybe in nebraska. he picked up 20% in oregon, and he picked up 100% in california, because he was a favorite son. that gave him a base going into the skon vengs. 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 nominati nomination, and nixon was not in a great position of strength going into that convention. >> our guest is the editor of
the american conservativconserv. 1968 a year in turmoil. john in tampa, florida, go ahead, please. >> caller: 1968 was a pivotal year in american history, to understand that year, you have to go backwards in time, along distance and then 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 basically the middle class was stronger than ever. >> setting the stage for 1968, your thoughts, robert? >> i was a senior in college in 1968 and campuses were burning up. and 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 was, it appeared to many people, it was coming apart at the seams, and i think we have to put that context into our decision hear a little bit. that was driving an awful lot of what was happening, what was happening was a reaction to that, and nixon was the politician of that year, i think, who understood how to this red that needle, how to position himself as the candidate whose not a radical, who's not extremist, but who can straddle the various elements of the republican party and take the party and the nation forward. >> and 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 there were 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 team that the nonshouters as he called them, the quiet americans. and he was primarily appealing to white middle class suburbanites. white working class americans, that we've got to crack down. we've got to crackdown on the supreme court. justices who are too lenient on the politicians, who have raised expectations, who have failed to calm the cities, but i think the caller is absolutely right. that we can see '68 as a kind of
pivot about a pivot from this -- the post 1945 american order where the country emerged really as the lone superpower, untouched by the bombing. the economic growth, the nonstop expansion. the sense of military strength that nobody could challenge. and the sense that there was abundance for all. i think all of these fundamental -- and then, of course, issues of race and gender, which spilled into the fore, primarily race in '68. i think all these things spilled out in that year, and, of course, we're still living in that shadow. >> our line for republicans and democrats. our series, 1968, a year in turmoil, america in turmoil.
kevin is joining us from chicago, democrats line, good morning. >> good morning. i am so happy that you are doing this show. what i find is, 1968, through 1972 particularly, is a period that conservatives don't want to talk about. we certainly don't teach about it, if was a total realignment of the parties. and it cannot be discussed in any context. and you can tiptoe around it, what underguards it are two factors, race and class. >> and when we look at the decisiveness of today and what's going on in the current administration, it's underguarded by 1968 politics. a southern strategy. so like these conservative
writers and thinkers, to really explain the realignment of the two parties, the exit of the blacks away from republicans electoral politics. and the legacy that has on the president. especially going into reagan, because reagan brought goldwater back, and as a black young man of the time. goldwater's name in urban communities, that was like saying voldemort. >> thank you for the call. robert, do you want to respond? >> yeah, i think that's a very good question to be posing. when lyndon johnson passed that landmark necessary legislation, civil rights bill, the '64 bill, 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, the -- we had the emergence of george wallace, and george wallace basically won five states down there, the five deep south states, and he took the south out of the democratic party. where it was just lying there, who was going to pick it up, who was going to get it back, who was going to get if, and nixon effected this realignment that the caller is talking about, by bringing the south and those wallace voighters into the republican party. very controversial at the time, remains controversial among historians today and many others for good reason. my own view, it ultimately, and it took time, served to domesticate sort of racial issues in the south to an extent it moderated them.
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 the end of reconstruction, so we're talking about a century, that that lock was no more, and it was nixon. remember wallace too was an arch segregationist. he had stood in schoolhouse door, he defended explicitly segregation, and he ran what i think many historians consider a racist campaign, where he made -- that wasn't 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, you know, these hard -- as he put it, hardworking police and barber shop workers and beauticians who are revolting
against not just african-american unrest, but also the kind of pointy headed overeducated elites. it was in that sense a modern campaign. we do see the republican party today much of its strength still remains in the south. not just the deep south, but also the border states, and that has -- and that really happened in the '60s, it happened over time, you do see by the end of the '68 election, you do see the republican party in the south and dominant. >> very quick follow-up, are there parallels between '68 and 2016? >> history doesn't repeat itself, and it's hard to create these analogies, because the issues in '68 were different from the issues today.
for instance, the issue of trade, immigration, having said th that, donald trump -- while nixon repeat ed this notion of american carnage and crisis, i'm the voice for the forgotten americans. he really used some of that language, used some of those ideas, and i do think that some of trump's populous appeals. primarily to white voters, i think there are real echos in the wallace '68 effort. >> george wallace, the governor of alabama in '68, in the summer of that year, his appearance on cbs's face the nation. >> you were quoted as having
observed once, the people know the way to stop a riot is to hit someone on the head. >> yes, i've said something similar to that. someone goes out and begins to loot and burn a building down, that's a good way to stop it, if you let the police know -- let the police knock somebody in the head who was breaking a plate glass window, assaulting a person on the street, throwing a firebomb, i think they'd be getting off mightily light, someone knocked them in the head. frankly, that's what ought to be done, i were the president of the united states i would take whatever was necessary to prevent what happened in this city, knocking in the head of many people. when you do that, you're going to satisfy the overwhelming majority of the people of all races in this country, it's not a matter of race, but a matter of anarchist. the government is cow towed to every anarchist of the united states. we don't have any safety in the
streets of our cities right here in washington, d.c.. >> july 1968, and face the nation, courtesy of cbs, robert marry. >> wallace got 13.5% of the vote in 1968. that's a very significant margin. he held the winner, richard nixon down to 43%. making him a minority president. he was a significant figure, and he was a significant figure because of the turmoil and ferment going on in american politics, we had a realignment, not just in terms of people in the electorate, but in terms of the issues that we're going to be driving politics. >> we go to katherine from mobile, alabama. good morning. >> good morning. >> yes, gentlemen, i lived 1968 until now, i'm older than at least one of you and probably both of you, i would like to say that from 1968 until what i see now, it is really horrified me,
and in '68 what y'all are not talking about is how your party began to break up civics by using so much dogma, and the dogma became the whole deal with the republican party. you're against everyone but what you want done. that is not freedom. 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 gerrymandering and the republican party always saying that they win the vote. cheating is not winning, gentlemen. if we're going to have fair and free elections from '68 until now, we must allow all of our population to speak and be included. >> katherine, 2456rthank you fo call. >> in 1980, moving ahead a
little bit, reagan goes to mississippi to launch his campaign and in the place where three civil rights leaders were murdered, he invokes the word states rights, which is a code for some of the massive resist answer of civil rights in the '60s, 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, i would say the republican party has been dominant in the south, primarily because it wins overwhelming numbers of the white vote everyone whites remain a majority in the south. and the democratic party wins an overwhelming majority of the african-american votes, when doug jones was able to win in alabama, there was a highly unusual coalition, that is
probably not going to repeat itself, a biracial coalition. so i think race really remains a central fault line, and it's not just of course in the south. it's around the country. but we do see in '689 68 the issue of race emerge and flowerfully. >> we'll talk about the primary and show you richard nixon campaigning. but first, on the republican line from wilkes-barre, pennsylvania. >> caller: good morning, i'd 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 a coalition that wanted him to challenge the vote in pennsylvania, and also in illinois. and as a result, he lost. if you recall that period of time, then you understand richard nixon a little better. >> robert mary? >> i think that's absolutely right. nixon did decline to challenge those vote questions. i think there was some stealing of the vote that took place in illinois and chicago under the machine of mayor daley. and in doing so, he manifested a pretty good element of character, i think he also showed some character when he became president after 1968 in
not ever talking about the mess that he had inherited from learn don johnson, he never said, i'm struggling as donald trump has done, as barack obama did. i'm struggling with what i inherited. he didn't do that. he was a flawed man in some significant ways. but in these two instances, i think he showed some significant -- >> i want you to watch, this is richard nixon campaigning in february of 1968 in new hampshire and being interviewed as he's going from one campaign event to another. >> just to restate this question, why do you want to do this? it's such a man killing thing, you've already put in time, you've already served your count country. >> that's a question that's occurred to me, and it occurs to my family. i suppose your wife and children feel even more deeply about
their father and hulsband being involved in a great battle than he himself does, the man who's in the battle he can fight back, can answer. where as those on the side lines have to suffer in silence. on the other hand the reason that i think, perhaps, motivates me more 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 of peace and freedom. we didn't ask for this, but it is a role that's been placed upon us because of the power we have, and the vacuum of power in western europe that previously had this burden. i believe the dangers of world war ii abroad. the dangers of civil war are approaching civil war in a
difficult sense at home. and other problems are greater than this country has ever had. on the other hand, i believe that never in our nation's history have we had more capability to handle these problems. the forces that can bring peace and afford war. the peace that can bring progress in our cities are now stronger than they've ever been if they're brought into play. what we need is leadership, 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, what are you hearing, what are you seeing? >> so much of politics is timing. 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 experience. he ran as a citizen politician in 1966. nixon was able to say, i have the with with all, the mettle, the toughness to restore the order that's been lost, he talked about a civil war potentially erupting at home, in 1968 is widely seen, and i think right letter so as perhaps the most divisive year in the nation's history, since the end of the civil war, nixon con fronted that, the other thing i hear is vietnam. he mentioned the -- and it was really vietnam that destroyed lyndon johnson's presidency. that gave nixon and others a major opening. nixon handled that issue deftly,
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 an honorable end to the war there, and so he was able to kind of offer himself as an answer, a solution to this horrible war, which had already 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 restore the country's sanity in a sense as he was implying there. >> our series, 1968 america in turmoil, joining us here is robert mary, the editor of the american conservative, and matthew dalick who teaches at george washington university. rachel is next from forney
texas. >> a lot of back in '64, '70s affected me when i was younger, i'm 62 right now, and back when the prayer out of school, in '64, madeleine o'hara, they claimed separation of church and state, then we had abortions, those two decisions was voted on supreme court justice without -- which was made up mostly of republican judges, and they're blaming the independent people -- independent democrats for this, and it was the republican judges that made those decisions. back when reagan was in office, another thing that 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, had that put in there, they would ask you if you ever stole anything. well, you might have stolen something when you was five years old, and that would affect your test. eventually they took it out, because it was against our rights, they're always talking about rights, who's taking our rights away. they need to look back at history and figure it out. >> rachel, thank you for the call. >> it evokes really richard nixon and other conservatives and wallace too, they attacked the warren court. they argued that the court had overstepped its bounds and interfered in american life. giving too many rights to criminals, the courts were somehow cod iling, law breakers
and that's modern, because we hear the arguments that justices are there to interpret the constitution in the strict way. and nixon implied that he would appoint justices who would respect the rule of law, who would roll back some of the injustices 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, and it was an issue they were able to use then. it's been a huge issue in american politics. >> george romney was the first to enter the race in 1967, this is what the time line looks like, november 18th of that year.
the tet offensive takes place. george romney withdraws on march 12th, president johnson announcing he will not seek re-election, nelson rockefeller, richard nixon accepts the nomination on august 8th that year. and he's elected on november 5th. >> caller: good morning, can you hear me? >> we can. >> one of the things nixon can't come out and speak the words
george wallace is speaking. he begins to request dog whistle politics. being able to speak the unspoken thing that to the white news southern strategy, that cannot be spoken in a way, but elegantly is spoken by nixon in a way that is picked up by ronald reagan. and the state of how we have to crackdown. we have to crackdown on the violence and innercities. >> those same dog whistle politics that's picked up in our politics today with donald j. trump. >> robert mary, you want to respond? >> we still hear about dog whistle politics today. and various people, msnbc and others are very quick. there's no question that some of that takes place. we also have 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 it's all a question of how the political leaders are going to marshall political resources and pressures and forces and move the country forward. that's our system. >> timothy's point is a perfect segue to what we want to talk about now, which is the republican convention meeting in 1968, an excerpt reads as follows, america urgently needs new leadership that will recapture the control of the events, mastering them, rather than permitting them to master us. our convention in 1968 can spark a republican resurge ents to face the realities of the world in which we live. and matthew, as you hear that platform of 1968, what led to richard nixon's selections of spiro agnew as his running mate. >> nixon in part to stave off, 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 was not romney, not rockefeller, who was not a liberal. a lot of conservatives didn't trust him, agnew had run in '66 as a fairly moderate republican, but he quickly established himself as an anti-radical emblem. somebody who repeatedly attacked long hairs and protesters. anti-war demonstrators, we heard talk about anarchists, from george wallace and agnew would engage in like minded rhetoric, and so the selection of agnew in a sense was a shrewd one, because it was consistent with the campaign themes that nixon was going to run on, especially again this issue of law and order, the other thing i'll say
about agnew, he later on became somewhat knowing for his attacks, his really -- biting and some would say vicious attacks on the media. at one point he called them the nattering naybobs of negativity. that is a modern idea too, and it echos in our own politics. but nixon had a famously track shouse relationship with the media. and disliked, distrusted the media. and agnew was also a hard hitting, kind of attack dog of sorts, and that was the role that nixon wanted him to play. >> robert, who else did he consider and was governor reagan on that list? >> governor reagan was not on the list, i think governor reagan had established himself as too formidable a politician for nixon to have as his vice president. he couldn't be sure he could
control somebody that commanded that much support. let me say nixon as i mentioned earlier, nixon went into that convention in a somewhat tenuous situation. my recollection is, that it took 667 votes to get the nomination. and he had he thought, maybe 26 votes more than that, that's not a position of strength. reagan came in, and at the convention, as soon as he announced his candidacy, he picked up 19 votes. he had to go to strom thurmond, nixon needed him desperately, nixon knew he needed strom thurmond desperately. and strom thurmond knew that nixon knew, and that therein lies political negotiations, so the two main questions were racial guidelines, guidelines on
racial integration. nixon favored guidelines, it gets into the whole question of timetables and quotas and all of that, which was a very messy, difficult issue at that time. nixon opposed school bussing. he finessed the first, gave him assurance on the second, and gave him an absolute assurance on the third, which was the vice president and that's how we got spiro agnew. >> john in washington, d.c., go ahead, please. >> caller: good morning, i have a simple question to ask both of your panelists there. what significant role, did the republican party play in a voting rights act for decendents of american slavery. past and modern daytime. were they imbracing the idea of black american voters, and also
i'm writing the u.s. recovery act, which i'm asking for judicial protection for decendents of american -- we don't have that. hear in america. >> matthew dally, 1965, lyndon johnson couldn't pass the voting rights act without a strong support for republicans, there were republicans in congress, and around the country who, of course, supported the voting rights, in 1965 the republican party had a substantial moderate wing that was procivil rights, it was in the midwest, in the northeast, and the party was hetero genius, as i'd yo logically, as was the democratic party, by 1968. even though it's three short years. that was probably no longer viable in the national republican party.
which is why it said earlier, it was hard to see a path for romney or rockefeller, given their pro civil rights view. and given the southern strategy, the idea that the republican electoral future was going to be through the south. in 1966, his acen dense in the party, we see a party that on the issue of race, even though there were some voices of pro civil rights voices left, they were really in the minority within the party, and nixon's -- whether or not you want to call him concessions or not, his stance against what he would describe as mandatory or forced bussing. just as one example, that was consistent with the party's view that the federal government has
overreached in its efforts to enforce desegregation and integration and ensure the voting rights of all african-americans. >> i think it needs to be noted. that that legislation, those pieces of legislation, they were on the books. what we're talking about is the fallout, the difficulty of people in america in adjusting to that. ultimately, they had to ajust, and american politics had to adjust, what we're talking about here is that process during that period of adjustment, and the difficulty that some people had, and how the political system was going to make its way through that particular period. >> from melbourne england, daniel, go ahead, you're next. >> thank you, i see the problems of foreign policy, of yesterday and of today as being quite
different. the soviet union was a problem, and i think richard nixon and the republican party were ideally placed to meet that challenge, right? and reagan met the challenge. the problem of today is demographics, if you look at all these countries in asia, the muslim countries, they're producing very fast, as soon as you win a war, they've replenished the numbers, you look carefully at demographics, you will see they have four sons per father, so they can replenish, a country like afghanistan can defeat russia or the united states. >> my question to you is this, accidents of history, as you were explaining, the republicans became dependent on the southern states, and the rereligious states that oppose abortion, they oppose liberal values, what you need now is to educate women in these other countries to have
fewer children, support contraception. my question to you 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 to leave the world? >> thank you. >> does the caller have a point? >> i'm not so -- i don't know. it's a little hard to say, first of all, in 1968, it was the bloodiest year of the vietnam war. there's nothing comparable to what we have today, in the united states, they had about half a million troops, soldiers in vietnam in southeast asia, the war was tearing the country apart i'd yo logically, it was tearing it apart on the streets, on the campuses. i think that war, the point the caller was making too, is that
the war then transformed to some extent, it pushed the parties, the republican and democratic matters in distinct directions. i think it has made it harder for the united states 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 -- and i think 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, one last thought is the country today even though this is not comparable, 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, and i think in 1968 the country was also beginning to support u.s. withdrawal, however it happened from vote signal. >> let me ask you about another key player in this period, william f. buckley, who was he? >> well, bill buckley emerged as the leading voice on the conservative side of american politics, he was a very young man in 1950, i believe, when he wrote a book after having graduated from yale. which he took his alma matter to task, for it's liberal inclinations. and then five years later, became the very young. it was 30-year-old, 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 is that one of my professors at the university of washington organized and we went off and interviewed various members of a 1947 commission on the media, on the american press. that was underwritten by henry luz. >> henry luz was? >> i'm sorry, he was the founder and chairman and editor in chief of time magazine and life magazine. and i met on that trip also a woman who worked on the commission who was a close friend of buckleys, i ended up corresponding with her, and probably waxing naive about what's going on in american politics, and she showed my letter to buckley who promptly
wrote to me. i knew him over the years, had lunch with him a few times in connecticut. and as everyone knows, who knows about him, was the most charming, most funny amusing fellow. i think that if you're talking about 1968, he had emerged on the scene by rung for mayor of new york in 1965. he had a gad fly campaign that got a lot of attention. and again, very, very amusing, famous line when someone asked him, what are you going to do if you win? no one thought there was a prospect he could possibly win. he said, demand a recount. and that kind of wit sort of brought him forward, and i think gave some credibility and stature to the conservative movement which led to the ultimate reagan administration. >> at the democrat ic conventio, abc news hired gore vidal to
host the debate. >> anyone who believes these characters are interested in the democratic process are deluding themselves. i was 14 at the time, and the chant between 11:00 and 5:00 from 4,000 was obscenities directed at the president of the united states, at the mayor of this city, plus, also the intermittent refrain, ho, ho, ho, ho chi min, this is their way of costing american society, their fathers who are being shot at by an enemy to which wrongly or rightly, nevertheless we are fighting. i think it is remarkable that there was as much restraint shown as was shown for instance last night, by cops who were out there for 17 hours, without
inflicting a single wound on a single person even though that kind of stuff is being thrown at them. >> courtesy of abc news, and that is william f. buckley, who was on the program, and talking about the demonstrations that were going on in chicago, which disrupted the democratic party and in many respects, hurt hubert humphrey. >> well, the national commission described them later as a police riot. the police in chicago unleashed by mayor daley, demonstrators, now, there were a handful that were bent on provoking violence, but the majority were peaceful. and this is in grant park and the streets around the convention center, a reflection of the ant on the anti-war student movement. the feelings that the democratic party, especially by handing the
nomination by hubert humphrey and endorsing lyndon johnson's strategy in the vietnam war had betrayed the hone that the party would become a vehicle for ending the bombing and withdrawing swiftly, u.s. forces out of vietnam. and, you know, what i'll say about the buckley clip, you hear how articulate buckley is. and 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 documentary said, this is the origins of crossfire, the origins of msnbc and fox news and cnn punditry today. that is debatable but buckley
did -- after goldwater's defeat in 1964, believe, and i think increasingly engage in the political process, and endorse nixon in 1968. as he said at one point, i want the most right candidate, meaning the most conservative candidate who could win, is there was also 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 was critical. >> the book is called the right moment, ronald reagan's first victory. robert mary, 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.
>> good morning, everyone. i think my question has been answered. back when lyndon johnson asked for the civil rights law to be passed, they 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, i did, you know, 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, and as matthew was saying earlier, it took republican votes to get the civil rights
act passed, those various acts of the '60s, it was a democratic president who took us into vietnam, whether you want to attribute that to kennedy or to johnson. certainly johnson, and to some extent kennedy. and those reflected the ferment that was going on in america. i think that a reflection of the state of american politics is in that buckley statement during those debates with gore 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 didn't believe it was a police riot. who believed it was perpetrated, it was encouraged, basically created by the demonstrators.
and therein lay a split, a casm, that went right through america in those times, and you have to really understand -- understand any of this, in terms of what's going on politically, you have to understand how dramatic that casm was. >> charles is joining us, miami florida, democrats line with, robert mary and matthew dalick. >> go ahead, charles? >> caller: hello, my question is, the right man for the right job. when nixon retired, was retired from the presidency, he said, no longer do you have me to kick around. as a person, as a man i think led to most of his decisions about watergate about a lot of
other things. >> to charles point again, that was from 1962. >> it was really an attack on the media. after losing to pat brown in 1962, you're not going to have dick nixon to kick around any more. and i think it was -- the reason that moment stuck in part is that it reflected his resentment toward the media, it was a kind of flash of just how much very tree ole he felt under siege by the media. the caller makes an important point, which is that nixon who had -- was very smart, he had vast political strengths, incredible will and resiliency, and yet really was -- and i don't want to over psycho analyze him, of course, you know, historians always get into
trouble when they do that, it's pretty 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, of his enemies, the irony of course, in watergate, he went on in 1972 to this crushing landslide win over 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 committee headquarters, nixon was really ultimately undone by many of his
deep seeded insecurities. >> i think if i could just add this it may be worth noting the difference between nixon and reagan in this regard. nixon thought the media were liberal, and he's right, they were. they're going to be against me, and he took that seriously, and he took it personally, and he read what they were saying and he got outraged at the breakfast table. reagan felt the same thing, he thought the media were largely liberal, and, therefore, they're not in favor of what i stand for, what i'm trying to accomplish, but he didn't care. and he pretty much ignored us, i covered reagan, and i covered his campaign and the white house, when he was in the white house. and he never seemed to pay much attention to us, he was always cordial, he would always be friendly if you were meeting him and shaking his hand, et cetera, but he just didn't worry about it, and a little bit of that would have gone a long way for poor dick nixon. >> you worked for the wall street journal and congressional
quarterly. another conversation for another time, your latest book on president mckinley titled architect of the american century. we're also taking your questions and your comments, your vote, i should say at ahtv at c-span history. which party changed the most since 1968, the vote right now with more than 24,000 casting their votes, saying the democrats changed the most, 56%, the republicans at 44%. we'll go to tony in henrietta texas on the republican line good, morning. >> caller: good morning, gentlemen, i was a high schoolkid in 1968 and 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. and we have people that are calling themselves conservatives that really don't conserve a
thing. and the other thing is, i would almost venture to say that the gentlemen in the white house are present 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, the point is, politics is changing. it's inverted. we have people that do not understand that conservative values are -- you conserve. and you conserve the union, your fiscal resources, you corn serve your national and strategic resources, and because of politics, we get wrapped up into a political party of right or left, or democrat and 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, our words aren't started by the people, it's inspired by the military. >> tony, thank you for the call. >> so it's interesting that the caller in 2016, was the first time he didn't vote republican. you know, trump obviously was a democrat for many years, to the extent that he had beliefs. some of his views now invert the parties -- for example, longstanding support of free trade agreements, but trump is -- you know, in some ways, he springs out of an alternative tradition within the conservative movement. and there are echos in george wallace and richard nixon in terms of how they talk about law and order. you hear wallace talking about, just let the police kick their heads in. that's a -- this idea of this
kind of talk -- this incredibly tough talk to crackdown on those who break the rules, a lot of people would say, a lot of historians would say too, it's racially infused, i think we see that with trump, pat buchanan who ran a 1992 republican campaign against the incumbent george h.w. bush was anti-free-trade. he was anti-immigration. he believes in international institutions that have propped up the united states in terms of its role in the world post 1945. that those institutions were eroding american sovereignty, and i think there's an alternative tradition on the right that hasn't necessarily always been ascendant, but there are lines we can draw from trump to say the 1960s elements of at least the
conservative room movement. >> i will turn to the general election in a moment but first pamela and good morning. >> thank you for taking my call. i wanted to say an earlier call, kevin is absolutely correct about the republican party and particularly the conservative movement, how it is guided by race and class. in an anonymous interview, lee atwater laid out, spelled out the southern strategy. it was used in 1968 and he said in 1954 you could say the n- word in 1968. so things like state rights, civil unrest and fiscal responsibility, and then one one of you gets there, ronald reagan was the electable goldwater. i'm looking to rado radio so i can't say who said that but goldwater was a vocal opponent to desegregation and the civil rights act of 1964. and he won his home state of
arizona, and the five states in the deep south. alabama, georgia, savannah, mississippi, and north carolina. history does repeat itself. this country has a history of racism and classism. if it is left unchecked, a chemist asked emphasize and that is what we are seeing today. >> pamela, thank you for the call. >> well, it's a widespread view from what is underlying american politics. i don't agree with it entirely. atwater was not a significant person with regard to the 1968 election. he came later in the 80s, largely. and i have to say i think i will go back to what i was saying earlier, that the country was struggling with these issues at that time. i think we are struggling with these issues still, but in a much different, less intense way. i think that represents racial progress. i think to suggest that hasn't
been any racial progress as some colors seem to be suggesting is ahistorical. >> the caller pointed out george wallace, who won a number of states from 1968. in terms of the popular vote, richard mixon inning with a half-million votes but the electoral college vote on the screen. richard mixon with 301 electrolytes. humphrey had 101. george wallace at 46. what was the nixon strategy in the general election? >> one, it was to try to not talk a whole lot of specifics about vietnam. he didn't really have a plan for how he was going to end the war, peace with honor for example. he wanted to keep the focus on the unrest in the country and how he was going to be a voice as he said in his convention address, the forgotten americans. what he was later term during
his presidency the silent majority. that included some of the wallace voters although a lot of them went for wallace. but working class, primarily white americans in the south and the north, all over the country. middle-class, suburbanites, and the idea too that the cities were out of control, that campuses were out of control, that these were really kind of hotbeds 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 in the center-right. he had wallace 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 were antiwar 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 democrats and liberal politics. this time on republican and conservative politics. all of it is available at www.c- span.org. >> my question has to do with bobby kennedy. of course, the historic, tremendous feud he had with lyndon johnson. would he be an easier candidate for nixon to defeat them hubert humphrey to turned out to be? the way that bobby kennedy has been portrayed to be anyway, i was five is old in 1968, that it was far from inevitable in june 1968 that he would become the democratic nominee, and the
elected president in november. johnson would have come through. he would have done whatever he could have to sabotage him after the convention in chicago. >> we talk about nelson rockefeller as being a hamlet in 1968. not sure whether he is in or out. bobby kennedy was a hammer. he wanted to be in a position to win. he thought growing up against a weekend sitting president, lyndon johnson, so it fell to gene mccarthy who was more of a poet than a politician. and basically, he didn't get a majority in new hampshire but basically knocked lyndon johnson out in new hampshire and was going to win in wisconsin, which led lyndon johnson to get out of the race.
bobby kennedy 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 oregon. bobby won in california. he won in nebraska but totals show he was succumbing to the shift in alignment that we have been talking about. he was maybe getting his victories with a narrower and narrower base within the democratic party. that could have been bad for him. >> in the general election, there was one speech in salt lake city utah. was that a turning point for hubert humphrey. did that narrow the race?
>> he declares he's his own man. >> nixon i'm sorry humphrey got support from first of all the afl-cio and the unions started to organize on his behalf in the general election. that gave him a bump but then when he declared essentially that he was his own man on the vietnam war, that what he was going to support a total stoppage of the bombing, of vietnam, and essentially breaking from lyndon johnson, that did help him. i think most historians would agree and the polls suggested he began to close the gap. as we discussed earlier, the popular vote, the electoral college vote was a blowout. 301 votes, nixon won big but the popular vote i think was less than 1%. 43.5% for nixon, 42 and change for humphreys.
one of the reasons he was able to close that gap was due to that speech, and the sense that he could bring back eugene mccarthy supporters. robert kennedy was very fascinating. we will never know of course, no. in some ways it might have been harder for him to have won the nomination than the general election because if he had won the nomination, he would have had more daylight between the democratic party, which he would then lead in lyndon johnson. because he was an opponent of johnson. because he was much more of a sleeper antiwar, and because of 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 was one of the
great what if debates i think of modern american history. >> but i think it's worth noting those working-class white voters were getting very restless about where the democratic party was taking the country or where the democratic party wanted to take the country. my view would be it's very difficult for kennedy to pull that off. >> very quickly, the economy was relatively strong in 1968, correct? let's go to jerome in columbus, ohio. >> i just want to ask you very quickly about the neo-political movement that came on the scene in the late 60s, early 70s called the neoconservative movement. where did they come from ideologically? how did they change the influence for the republican party since 1968? >> thank you. >> these were people who are
largely intellectual. they were largely very far on the left. many of them were trotskyist going to college at nyu and elsewhere. they came up through the democratic party. but i think they became disenchanted on two things. number one foreign policy. i think america wasn't prosecuting the cold war as aggressively as it ought to have. and concern about some of the racial quotas and those kinds of things emerging in the late 60s and early 70s. so, they began to move more towards a conservative point of view. a national view during that time. i think it was during 1972. welcoming them to the movement, and the headline was come on in, the water is fine. so they became very significant. my own view is they may be became more significant than we may want them to be in terms of their foreign-policy views
today. >> from grand prairie college, texas. harold, you have the final question. please, be brief. >> in 1968, lyndon johnson was upset that richard nixon sabotaged the peace talks in october 1968. had lyndon johnson come forward and spoke out against richard nixon, what results with that have had? johnson could have played a lot more in that role. thank you very much. >> my own view is that is a lot more ambiguous than historians have given that issue to be. but nevertheless, it was very incendiary and a could have blown up. it would have been a detriment to nixon. >> let's conclude with richard nixon's comments during the early morning hours of november 6, 1968. some were very friendl.