Once upon a time there was a Republican candidate for president who was reviled and distrusted by a fairly large segment of the public. The media barely concealed its dislike and contempt for the candidate. After winning the GOP nomination, this candidate chose as his running mate a governor unknown on the national stage.
The Democrats nominated their heir apparent but not with the ease that conventional wisdom assumed. A candidate from the far-left fringe of the party emerged, said candidate giving the Democrat warhorse a much tougher battle for delegates than anyone thought was possible. This caused the Democrat establishment to go to “DefCon 1” to smack down the insurgent. The heir apparent was nominated at a contentious convention marked by protests from leftist Democrats and chose as a running mate an unknown U.S. Senator.
The fall campaign was an unpleasant one, highlighted by continuous press attacks on the character and mental stability of the Republican and left wing sniping at the Democrat. Election night was a cliff-hanger, with the Republican candidate being assured of victory only after a mid-western state that had been trending Democrat fell into the GOP column. He won with far less than a majority of the popular vote.
Extra credit and a tip o’ the hat to any who realized that the above describes the 1968 election. The Republican candidate was Richard Nixon. His running mate was Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew. The Democrat candidate was Hubert Humphrey, who defeated leftist Senator Eugene McCarthy at the now-infamous Chicago convention. Humphrey chose Maine Senator Ed Muskie as his running mate.
The general election campaign seemed to be a contest between the Nixon-hating media and the Humphrey-hating left to see who could set new lows for public discourse. Alabama Gov. George Wallace was the wildcard in the race. On election night the decision came down to Illinois – a previously reliable GOP state that had voted Democrat for president the last two elections. When all the votes were counted, Nixon received 43.4 percent of the popular vote, Humphrey 42.7 percent, while Wallace drew 13.5 percent.
And the Left went wild.
They had been protesting against the Vietnam War for a couple of years, but really didn’t ramp up the venom and violence until Richard Nixon, longtime anti-communist and therefore object of hatred to the Left and much of the media, became president on January 20, 1969. Hundreds of thousands of people marched, burned American flags, spit on police, overturned and burned police cruisers, broke windows in businesses during their marches, etc. et. al. Hatred of the president was always front and center in their frequent demonstrations and riots. The protesters made a specific effort to push into the spotlight all the hideous, bizarre, offensive-to-middle-America counter-cultural mutations and freaks of their movement. The media, almost unanimously in sympathy with the anti-Nixon mobs gushed and fawned over the demonstrations, covering any gathering of two or more protesters as the second storming of the Bastille and a great day for America.
Any of this beginning to sound familiar? I hope so, as that’s the point.
The Left had their moment in the spotlight for four years, and paid a heavy price for it in the alienation of non-radical voters of both parties. After losing the ’68 election to Nixon, the Democrats engaged in months of navel gazing and soul searching about a path back to power. Their answer, becoming more liberal and counter-cultural, was exactly the wrong one. Non-liberal Democrats were driven from the party. Internal party reforms insured the nomination of the Liz “Pocahontas” Warren of the day, radical “peace candidate” Senator George McGovern to oppose Nixon in 1972.
The judgment of the American people on four years of non-stop protest, vulgarity and violence was swift and harsh. Richard Nixon, the object of hatred and hysteria from the Left and the press (redundant, I know) turned his narrow 1968 win into a landslide of historic proportions. He carried 49 states, received 61 percent of the popular vote and 520 electoral votes to 17 for McGovern.
The Left and the media had over-reacted and over-reached. The American people reacted by reaching for the Republican Party and its president.
I remember this vividly, as it happened during my formative political years. My first political activity was in 1964 for Barry Goldwater. In the ’64 election the eight “sub-units” of my close family – my mother, father and his seven siblings – were 6 to 2 in favor of Lyndon Johnson (my mom and dad were strong Goldwater fans). In 1968 the family units voted 5 to 3 in favor of Humphrey.
These were all first generation Americans, culturally conservative, respectful of FDR and deeply patriotic. The Left’s vehemence and violent protests against Nixon had a dramatic effect on my family. By 1972 there was not a Democrat vote among them. They were part of Nixon’s “silent majority” and their votes were unanimous for Nixon and the Republicans, and stayed that way permanently.
And so we have Yogi Berra’s “deja-vu all over again” in 2017. The Left and the media are unhinged, in some cases literally deranged. There are open calls for assassination, military coups and other extra-constitutional means to remove President Trump. As disgusting and disturbing as these things are, they should also bring a smile – at least subliminally. Realize that the excesses and over-reach of today’s Left will very likely have the same effect on typical American voters as did their predecessors of 1969 – 1972.
Flag burning, police hatred, window smashing and unthinking vitriol toward a duly elected president has, thankfully, never been a path to power in America. Angry, purple haired, “F” bomb spewing women dressed as giant vaginas are not the way to the hearts and minds of middle America. And lest we forget, it was precisely “middle America” – both politically and demographically – that elected Trump.
While the Left parties like it is 1969, it happily appears they are so overcome by Trump Derangement Syndrome that they have forgotten the American people’s verdict of 1972. They have also forgotten George Santayana’s famous admonition, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Party on Lefties … please oh please party on. Wear those pussy hats. Burn those flags. Throw those “F” bombs. Keep those vagina suits handy. It may seem like 1969 now, but 1972 and 2020 are just around the corner. It’s going to be “yuge.”
Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.