The Impact: Vietnam and the 1968 Democratic Primary

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“The Impact: Vietnam and the 1968 Democratic Primary”

It was the late Beatle, John Lennon who once said that “We live in a world where people must hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.” This refers of course to his distain of the Vietnam War and frankly when you ask someone who was a citizen in America at that time, you will most likely get the same melancholy response. For the better part of 15 years, the Vietnam War was at the forefront of American society in ways that were political, social, and economical. As time went on, public opinion plummeted, leaving President Lyndon Johnson no choice but to decline the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 1968 presidential election. As the Johnson administration transformed into a lame duck, damage control factory, an incredibly intriguing race for the Democratic nomination was brewing. The race included the likes of Senator Robert Kennedy of New York, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Down the stretch, the Vietnam War proved to be the critical issue that mattered most to the electorate. The reasons were that we were spending countless dollars, risking hundreds of thousands of lives, and not making any progress. Kennedy, McCarthy, and Humphrey all agreed that it be brought to a close, however, the ways of which to go about it were in stark contrast. Throughout the majority of the race, Kennedy was the clear favorite to win. However, once he was struck down things changed much to the detriment of the Democratic Party. They would not see a successful President come of office until the early 1990’s due to the complete lack of governmental trust and the way Democrats, in particular, LBJ, handled Vietnam. The mismanageme...

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... of history, duds. To me, Vietnam was the root cause of this. Johnson had botched his handling of the war and the level of mistrust in the party and in the government for that matter was at a record low. Democrats would not see a successful president until Bill Clinton in 1992 brought them back and charging again.

By 1968 the Vietnam War was a time by which Americans saw deep divide, disappointment, and tragedy. Their government had let them down, the figures they could trust had been killed, and their loved ones were scared by the effects of war. Rightfully so, the American people were upset and angry. The dynamic I have explored that made Vietnam such a critical piece in America’s history that influenced and entire party and a nation will only magnify in time not just in 1968 and not just for one primary election, but for all who shared a stake in this window.
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