In early January 1968, it appeared the United States was in position to win the Vietnam War, but by late January, the Viet Cong unleashed a coordinated attack across the entire country which became known as the Tet Offensive. By spring, the U.S. was suffering its worst political and social upheaval since the Civil War. Young men were burning their draft cards, and young women were burning their bras. Blacks were becoming more disenchanted with their status in American society, and young people were wearing dirty jeans, tie dyed shirts, sandals, and long hair in protest against the older generations.
Doves and Hawks
The country was splitting into two groups, the doves and the hawks.
President Johnson's Stunning Announcement
On March 31, Lyndon Johnson shocked the nation when he announced he would not seek re-election in 1968. The announcement threw the Democratic Party into a frenzy with Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Robert Kennedy seeking to fill the void left by Johnson. In addition, Governor George Wallace of Alabama entered the race on the American Independent Party ticket, with Air Force General Curtis LeMay as his running mate. A few days later, Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and rioting broke out in black communities across the country.
Another Kennedy Assassinated
On June 5, Robert Kennedy had just won a close victory over McCarthy in the California primary. An hour later, he was dead - killed by an assassin's bullet to the head. Kennedy's supporters rejected McCarthy and threw their support to Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.
In early August, the Republican Party held their convention in Miami, Florida, where Richard Nixon was expected to be nominated. He faced some early competition from Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York and Governor Ronald Reagan of California, but easily won the nomination. Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland was selected as Nixon's running mate.
In late August, the Democrats met in Chicago. Their convention turned into an ugly brawl inside and outside of the hall.
The Fall Campaign
During the fall campaign Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace faced disruptive crowds.
By late October, Humphrey was gaining on Nixon while Wallace was falling to a distant third. Nixon, anticipating Johnson would try to boost Humphrey's chances by starting peace talks with North Vietnam, went into action.
On November 5, Americans went to the polls. As the results trickled in, Humphrey and Nixon took turns holding the lead. The race was so close that Nixon was not declared the winner until noon the next day. Humphrey received 42.7 percent of the popular vote to Nixon's 43.4 percent and Wallace's 13.5 percent. But in the electoral college, Nixon swept to 301 votes to Humphrey's 191. Wallace was a distant third with 46 electoral votes. In Nixon's acceptance speech, he promised to bring the divided nation back together.
|Presidential Candidate||Vice Presidential Candidate||Party||Popular Vote||Electoral Vote|
|Richard M. Nixon||Spiro T. Agnew||Republican||31,785,480||301|
|Hubert H. Humphrey||Edmund S. Muskie||Democratic||31,275,166||191|
|George C. Wallace||Curtis E. LeMay||American Independent||9,906,473||46|
|Henning A. Blomen||George Taylor||Socialist Labor||52,588||0|
|Dick Gregory||Mark Lane or Dr. Spock||Freedom & Peace (Write-in Candidate)||47,138||0|
|Fred Halstead||Paul Boutelle||Socialist Workers||41,388||0|
|Eldridge Cleaver||Judith Mage||Peace & Freedom||36,563||0|
|Eugene J. McCarthy||Independent||25,552||0|
|E. Harold Munn||Rolland Fisher||Prohibition||15,123||0|
Source: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, By United States. Bureau Of The Census, Series Y 79-83.