DAVID KRAYDEN: Could 2024 be the new 1968?

The 2024 presidential campaign was characterized by several phenomena that make it eerily similar to the 1968 contest that saw Richard Nixon triumph over Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

And let’s face it – whether you were around to experience 1968 in your teenage years or adulthood or whether you know that year from written histories or documentaries – doesn’t it feel like deja vu?

In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. Although he wasn’t the third-party candidate that year, he was running as an opponent to the party establishment favorite, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, who had been President Lyndon Johnson’s running mate in 1964. Humphrey had, as all vice presidents do, staunchly and loyally backed all of Johnson’s policies including the increasingly unpopular, unsuccessful and controversial war in Vietnam. 

Johnson, who had won 61.1% of the popular vote four years earlier – still the largest electoral victory measured in those terms – had declined to run in ‘68, so embattled was this president from chronic anti-war protests and accusations from the media that he was at the center of a “credibility gap” over how his administration lied about making progress in the Vietnam War.

We will get back to that war in a moment, but Kennedy’s nomination quest would have been successful had he not been assassinated on June 4, leaving the Democratic prize to Humphrey. Kennedy’s tragic death that year – like that of his brother – remains a seminal event in American history and continues to prompt whimsical explorations of “what if” he had lived to run against Nixon. 

Obviously, there is another Kennedy running in 2024, this time as a third-party candidate. But, like his father, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is an inspiring figure for many in America – both on the right and the left, if those terms have any visceral meaning anymore – because he speaks plainly, honestly and without really caring if his family and friends in the Democratic Party ever speak to him again for his courageous crusade against a Covid-19 vaccine that was more a bio-weapon than a preventative measure and against pandemic mandates that stripped Americans of their freedom of speech and assembly while creating a new Jim Crow society based on pharmacological separation and the belief that the vax somehow made you safer and more special than the unvaxxed even though this turned out to be a cruel lie. 

As Kennedy Sr. opposed the Vietnam War, so Kennedy, Jr. is against the war in Ukraine and for the Uniparty’s tenacious and almost suicidal commitment to it as it moves from merely financing the war to ultimately participating in it. And as I write this, American and European politicians, who have always known that Ukraine cannot win this war no matter how much it costs us, are now realizing that this fact is obvious to everyone and that deeper measures will be required to save the corrupt regime of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Like war with Russia. 

This disconcerting event will inevitably but very quickly escalate to nuclear war but you would never know this outcome was even a remote possibility in a world that seems totally unconcerned with the very real potential for nuclear obliteration. People used to protest over this kind of thing; they used to gather in huge numbers at candlelight vigils and call for peace even when the chance of nuclear war was actually very slim because some over-promoted public affairs half-wit like Secretary of State Antony Blinken wasn’t promulgating American foreign policy. 

The other parallel to 1968 is a third-party candidate who is not only politically viable but who threatens to peel support from both the Democratic and Republican parties. In 2024, that is Kennedy, whose opposition to the war and fury over the crimes and antics of Big Pharma in planning and profiting from a manufactured crisis are resonating with the MAGA Republican base. 

Yes, Kennedy is a real threat to former President Donald Trump who has both bragged about his role in the creation of the vaccine but has also endorsed the Uniparty activities of House Speaker Mike Johnson, including that recent $61 billion infusion of military aid to the black hole of Kyiv. In 1968, there was a third-party candidate named George Wallace. It was never clear what George Wallace actually believed inside of that opportunistic, political head that seized any opportunity to bend his ideology to the prevailing political wind. Wallace remains a nauseating symbol of segregation as the Alabama governor who declared “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” and who stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to prevent the enrollment of two black students.. Yet he eventually courted black votes when that was in season.

If you want to see the late, great conservative voice William F. Buckley, Jr. deftly but subtly eviscerate Wallace on the classic “Firing Line,” it may be viewed here.

In ‘68 he was the populist who represented a lot of Southern Democrats who weren’t just unhappy with Lyndon Johnson over the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act but who thought the Democratic Party had drifted too far to the left on economic and other social issues. 

So from whom did Wallace take the most votes in that presidential election? Was it from the Democratic Party, where Wallace had spent his entire political life in a region of the country that often didn’t even bother to nominate Republican candidates? Or was it from the Republicans who, under Sen. Barry Goldwater’s leadership had opposed Johnson’s racial legislation on the basis that it violated states rights and property rights? Goldwater lost heavily to Johnson in ‘64 but he did open up a lifeline in the South that continues to this day for the GOP.

Whichever voter Wallace attracted more of, his participation in the election made it another of the closer calls in American history, with Nixon triumphing with 43.4% of the vote. Wallace attracted 13.5% of the vote and actually carried five states

And Kennedy could do at least that well and possibly a good deal better in 2024 – not because he reflects any of the mendacity, deviousness and race baiting of Wallace but because he will undoubtedly attract the support of both Democrats and Republicans because he too has spent his life with the Democrats but he too is popular with Republicans who are sick of the Uniparty. 

But if we can sort of compare the ineffective Humphrey with the failing President Joe Biden, can we find any similarity between Trump and Nixon?

LIke Nixon in ‘68, Trump is favored to win in 2024 and he also appeals to Americans who feel they have lost control of their country to protests, anarchy, violence, crime and general civil unrest. Law and order was a hugely popular election plan for Nixon and it remains one for Trump. 

Trump also continues to define himself as an outsider dedicated to the demise of the Deep State – even though he did nothing really to abate the power and reach of the U.S. bureaucracy – if that’s what we mean by “Deep State” – during his presidency. Nixon liked to think of himself as an outlying political force as well, a self-made man who had to pay his own way through university and law school and then had to struggle up the political ladder without the benefit of East Coast money. That premise was a leap of faith by 1968 when Nixon had served in Washington as a congressman, senator, eight years as a vice president and had already run for the presidency in 1960 and lost the gubernatorial race in California in 1962. But it’s also a bit much to see Trump as an outsider in 2024 – the man was president and knows all the power brokers in New York and Washington. 

But perception is everything in politics.

Nixon famously spoke for the “silent majority” and Trump – although he has never used that term to my knowledge – but wasn’t failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton talking about the same thing when she stupidly labeled Trump’s core cheering section as “deplorables?”  While Trump may be more cunning than intellect and lack the high degree of intelligence that often characterized Nixon, he does share Nixon’s tendency to nurture enmity and resentment against his political enemies – especially those in the media.

The 1968 presidential campaign was also marked by a Democratic National Convention that degenerated into chaos as the far-left wing of the party bolted over the nomination of Humphrey – an establishment figure who wasn’t really all that different from Nixon in the long run. The hippies, Yippies and other assorted elements of the era’s counter-culture took their fury to the streets where they were quickly bludgeoned by the Chicago police of Democratic Mayor Richard Daley who declared that the cops weren’t there to “create disorder [but} to preserve disorder.”

Ah, a classic moment in urban politics.

What will occur at this year’s Democratic convention – also planned for Chicago – or for that matter, the Republican convention? Will the anger and disbelief that the party is again nominating a man suffering from severe dementia boil over into violence and mischief? Will Republicans have buyer's remorse over Trump because of the vaccine and Ukraine? 

Anyone with politics in his or her blood knows this will be a volatile, exciting and potentially dangerous presidential election that could usher in emergency measures no matter who wins.

It will also be a close contest with Democrats and Republicans voting for Kennedy because they are sick of serving the Uniparty.

You can just feel the electricity in the air. Let’s hope it doesn’t put the country into political shock.


Image: Title: 1968
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