Is History Repeating Itself?

 

By Richard Colman

The president is unpopular.  He cannot go anywhere without attracting hoards of demonstrators.  The nation is sharply divided.  There is war without end.  The stock market is erratic. 

Is this America in 2019?  No.  This is America in 1968, one of the worst single years in American history. 

In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, was presiding over an unpopular war in Vietnam.  Over 500,000 troops were fighting in Vietnam.  There was no end in sight to the war.  The only safe places in America that the president could visit were military bases.  Violent crime was rampant.  There was unrest on many university campuses. 

In 1968, the American economy was prosperous.  Unemployment and inflation were low.  But the Vietnam War dragged on. 

In 2019, the economy has been strong.  Unemployment is low.  But many Americans are dissatisfied.  Prices for homes are, in many cities, not affordable.  The middle class seems dissatisfied. 

In 2019, and presumably in 2020, President Donald Trump is facing similar problems to those faced by Johnson in 1968.  

During the summer of 2019, Trump criticized four freshman Congresswomen — all women of color and American citizens — telling them to “go back” to their ancestral nation if they didn’t like America.  A week later Trump criticized a black Democratic congressman, Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, Maryland.  Trump also criticized Baltimore as a “rat-infested” city. 

In July and August 2019, in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, dozens of people were killed and injured in gun violence. 

In January 1968, communist forces in Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive.  Americans fighting in Vietnam were killed.  The communists were even able to enter the grounds of the American embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam’s capital. 

CBS News anchorman, Walter Cronkite, sensed the futility of the Vietnam War.  In his nightly news broadcast of Feb. 27, 1968, Cronkite said, “But it is increasingly clear to this reporter [Cronkite] that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate. not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.” 

On March 31, 1968, Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election that year. 

In April 1968, the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  Cities all over America exploded in violence.  In June 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was assassinated in Los Angeles. 

In August 1968, Richard Nixon, the Republican vice president from 1953 to 1961 and the unsuccessful Republican candidate for president in 1960, was renominated for president in Miami Beach, Florida. 

In what was considered a brilliant acceptance speech, Nixon, on the evening of August 8, 1968, said, “We are going to win [the 1968 election] because at a time that America cries out for unity that this Administration has destroyed, the Republican Party — after a spirited contest for its nomination — for President and for Vice President stands united before the nation tonight. 

Nixon continued:  “As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flames.  We hear sirens in the night.  We see Americans dying in distant battlefields abroad.  We see Americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other at home.” 

Nixon also said:  “When a nation that has been known for a century of opportunity is torn by unprecedented racial violence; and when a president of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration — then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America.” 

Nixon concluded his remarks by saying:  “The time for us to leave the valley of despair and climb the mountain so that we may see the glory of the dawn — a new day for America, and a new dawn for peace and freedom in the world.” 

The elections of 1968 and 2020 are not identical.  But, in both elections, there was and will be bitter division in the nation. 

Nixon’s 1968 acceptance speech is really a gift to the 2020 Democratic nominee for president.  If that nominee, whoever he or she is, promises to bring the nation together, then President Trump could face a difficult, and perhaps unsuccessful, campaign for re-election. 

Trump has made many enemies as president.  He has insulted scores of people (like the late Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and a Vietnam veteran).  Trump has made enemies of such groups as African-Americans and Latinos.  In surveys, Trump has an approval rating that rarely goes above 40 to 45 percent.

 All that Trump’s Democratic opponent has to do in 2020, is to echo Nixon promise of 1968:  bring Americans together.

Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company.  He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.  He lives in Orinda, California.


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One Response to Is History Repeating Itself?

  1. c e voigtsberger August 23, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Remember the chant that followed Johnson everywhere, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

    You want to talk about a gross, callous, lying embarrassment of a president, recall the anecdotes about Johnson and his crass manners. Maybe the leftists should raise the rumor about Trump that he tweets while sitting on the toilet.

    Oh, but Johnson was a great humanitarian. No, he was a power grabbing, self-aggrandizing — and just for starters, one wonders how a poor school teacher who was employed in “public service” for his entire life was able to amass such a sizable fortune.

    Too bad he didn’t give lessons to Harry Truman so that Harry could have retired in a little more comfort. He retired to the same house he had owned since he first established himself in Independence Mo., no ten thousand acre ranch. In fact, if I recall correctly, it didn’t even belong to Harry, it belonged to his mother in law.

    Reply

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