The State of the Union in 1968

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The Tet Offensive and the Vietnam War (1968)

Background - Tet Offensive:

  • Truman + Kennedy + Johnson aimed to prevent Communist Vietnam - fear of Domino effect
  • by January 1968 - half a million US soldiers trying to stop North Vietnam from destroying South Vietnam state

Significance -  Tet Offensive:

  • when US media showed Communists on ground of US Embassy  - exposed American failure in Vietnam + 'credibility gap' in truth and beleif of events of Vietnam War
  • as a result of Tet, Johnson did not seek Democratic nomination in 1968 
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Martin Luther King and Black Americans (1968)

Assasination of MLK:

  • shot by white racist the night after a speech reviewing the triumphs of the civil rights movement
  • asassination provoked major black riots in 100 cities in which 3000 injured + 27,000 arrested 

Significance of Assasination:

  • demonstrated black divisions and white racism
  • suggested US was racially divided society in which political diaglogue had been replaced by acts of violence
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Bobby Kennedy and America’s Poor, May-June 1968:

Assassination of Bobby Kennedy:

  • Two candidates for Democratic nomination in 1968: Eugene McCarthy + Bobby Kennedy
  • Kennedy assassinated by loner who did not agree with Kennedy’s position on the Middle East

Significance of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination:

  • Easier for President Johnson to reassert control over the Democratic Party
  • Death demonstrated the violence that bedevilled American society in politics 
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Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Stud

Student riots in Chicago:

  • Organised by Youth International Party to disrupt Democratic National Convention – produced pig for candidate as President and throw bags of urine at police = retaliation
  • Background to the student unrest in Chicago:
  •  Escalation of Vietnam War = cause of dissatisfaction with their parents’ generation and with the ruling elite
  • Students adopted alternative lifestyle (counter culture) to that of the dominant culture -  emphasised communal living + harmony
  • Hippies – experimented with sexual freedom, drugs eg. marijuana and LSD, rock music

New Left:

  •  Increasingly politically active, attacked racism, the Vietnam War and the influential figures who profited from war and violence

Significance of Chicago students:

  •  Emphasised vote for Nixon who focused upon law and order 
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Miss America Pageant + Women 1968:

  • Betty Friedman book = emphasis on publication of discrimation, showed success of legislative reform eg. Title VII + showed power of pressure groups (NOW)
  • Women’s movement became known as ‘women’s liberation’
  • Women’s job statisitics = 10% of teachers, 7% of doctors and 3% lawyers

Significance of ‘Miss America’ disruption:

  • Raised awareness of gender equality – reflected increasing assertiveness of women 
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November 1968 Presidential Election:

·     Candidates =Hubert Humphrey (Democrat) and Richard Nixon (Republican)  and George Wallace (Independent)

  • Results = 43.4% Nixon + 42.7% Humphrey + 13.5% Wallace
  • Middle America= believed they were working hard and patiently to get a decent home 
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President Nixon: Why did Nixon win in 1968?

1.       Loyal Republican: worked tirelessly as a party fund-raiser and campaigner - contributed greatly to Republican success in 1966 Congressional elections

2.       Moderate Republican: especially compared to extreme candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964

3.       ‘America needs new leadership’: many felt Johnson had gone too far, been to liberal, mishandled the Vietnam War, Nixon articulated concerns about anti-ghetto riots + anti-war protestors

4.       New electioneering technique: Nixon was sincerely committed to values in speeches, raised funds for TV, appeared statesman like, dignified and experienced, ensured public appearances had 1000+ crowds + effective TV ads

5.       ‘Sex appeal’ + Eisenhowers: Julie Nixon (Nixon’s daughter) + David Eishenhower (grandson) had marriage plans in 1967: pushed Eisenhower to support Nixon for President

6.       Gaining the Republican nomination: had been vice-President under popular Eisenhower + Republican nomination rivals had made some mistakes

7.       Selecting a running mate: chose Spiro Agnew who appealed voters more than rival

8.       Winning over Middle America: promised less government and reducing welfare

9.       The Southern Strategy: voters had deserted their original party because of Civil Rights Act 1964 = equality to black people

              Peace in Vietnam: branded in “Johnson’s war”

      Let the Democrats implode: chaos of Democratic Convention highlighted divisions and failures of the Democrats – riots suggested they could not maintain law and order

·         Political skill of Nixon

·         Context of America

·         Failures of the Opposition 

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How did Nixon get re-elected in 1972? (60.7% of th

  • 1.       Race: continued Southern Strategy, criticised Affirmative Action (the policy of giving minorities priorities in jobs), appointed Conservative Warren Burger as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court in 1969 (appealed to Southerners) and cracked down on Black Panthers
  • 2.       Law and Order: the District of Columbia Crime Control Act (1970) made bail harder to obtain
  • 3.       Defeating George Mc Govern:  Democratic opponent was very liberal and unpopular in South
  • 4.       Standing against counter-culture and protests:  criticised protest and withheld Federal scholarships and loans from convicted student protestors
  • 5.       Women:  pro traditional families (vetoed Child Development Act which provided free childcare for the poor)
  • 6.       Environment : passed laws on Clean Air (1970) and set up Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and set up 642 National Parks
  • 7.       Economy : from 1971, pursued New Economic Policy which froze wages and devalued the dollar – 75% approval rating
  • 8.       Revenue sharing with states:  ‘New Federalism’ which gave more power to US States was popular
  • 9.       Foreign Policy – promised peace in Vietnam, signed SALT with USSR which limited weapons
  •  10  Ensured Middle America vote – shared feelings of anti-war protests and  liberal calls for busing
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