Recently, I have been asked whether the political tension we are experiencing today is likely to erupt into violence like it did in 1968. That year was the most dramatic and violent year America has seen in recent history. Leading up to the presidential election in November,1968, we saw increasingly numerous demonstrations against the Vietnam War, sparked by one calamity after another.
Fifty years have passed since that fateful year. Here is a list of the key events of 1968:
· January 30-31 – the Tet Offensive is launched by the North Vietnamese and the Southern Liberation Front against the major cities of South Vietnam in a coordinated surprise attack leading to major casualties among the American forces. The Tet (“lunar New Year”) attack was to continue for six months before final victory by American forces in June 1968. The significance of the battle was that it proved that the enemy was far stronger than the American President Lyndon Johnson’s administration had led the public to believe. The serious casualties in the first days of the attack were shown on television and provoked widespread opposition to the War.
· February 27 – Popular TV anchor Walter Cronkite announced his opposition to the War, rumored to be decisive for President Lyndon Johnson.
· March 12 – Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) wins second vote count and 22 of 24 uncommitted convention delegates against sitting President Johnson in New Hampshire primary.
· March 16 – Senator Bobby Kennedy (D-NY) announces his candidacy.
· March 31 – President Lyndon Johnson withdraws his name from nomination, leaving Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the presumptive nominee. (Humphrey declined to run in the primaries.)
· April 4 — Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated. Weeklong riots break out across the nation in the greatest civil uprising since the Civil War, leaving 39 dead, 21,000 arrested, 2,000 injured, and $65 million in damages. Virtually every city in America saw a riot, with the two most notable being Washington DC and Chicago, Illinois where entire areas of the city were burned to the ground.
· March-June – Democratic primary contests between McCarthy and Kennedy.
· June 6 – Robert Kennedy assassinated after winning the California Primary.
· August 26-29 Democratic Convention in Chicago. 10,000 anti-war protestors clash with 15,000 police and National Guardsmen while the entire spectacle. including 300 injuries from police beatings and tear gas, as well as thousands of mass arrests were watched on television by the entire nation. A night never to be forgotten.
· November 5 – Republican Richard Nixon wins presidency over Democrat Hubert Humphrey by 7% of popular vote, less than 500,000 votes, after third party candidate, George Wallace, takes 13.5% of popular vote (nearly 10 million votes).
This review shows clearly that our present situation is nowhere near the level of division and violence which characterized 1968. It also serves to give us reassurance that America has overcome worse disruptions in the past and not only survived but flourished.
One caution, however, may indeed be in order. America does have a bloody history of assassinating prominent figures in our midst. There is a steady stream of such acts throughout our history. Assassinations, both attempted and successful, have haunted our political life
Here is a list:
1835 – Andrew Jackson (attempted)
1865 – Abraham Lincoln
1881 – James Garfield
1898 – William McKinley
1909 – William Howard Taft (attempted
1912 – Theodore Roosevelt (attempted)
1928 — Herbert Hoover (attempted)
1932 – Franklin Roosevelt (attempted)
1936 – Huey Long
1947 & 1950– Harry Truman (attempted)
1963 – John F. Kennedy
1968 – Martin Luther King
1968 – Robert F. Kennedy
1972 – George Wallace (attempted)
1972 & 1974 – Richard Nixon (attempted)
1975 & 1975 – Gerald Ford (attempted)
1981 – Ronald Reagan (attempted)
1993 – George H.W. Bush (attempted)
1994 & 1994 &1996 — Bill Clinton (attempted)
2001 & 2005 — George W. Bush (attempted)
2009 & 2011 & 2013 – Barack Obama (attempted)
2016 – (Candidate) Donald Trump (attempted)
2017 – Steve Scalise (attempted)
This is a rather chilling list of incidents. It is not at all an overstatement that our current President, Donald J. Trump, is a prime candidate for assassination attempts, especially given the hatred towards him which has been exhibited by some of his enemies. If there is any basis for fear in America’s history of violence, it appears that assassination is at the top of the list.
Nevertheless, it is sometimes useful to recall that this Republic of ours has been through many difficult periods, contending with threats from within and without, but has survived them all and continues our march toward peace and prosperity. This too will pass.
© 2018 Richfield Press, LC (All rights reserved.)