I spent September getting ready for Oxford, saying good-bye to friends, and watching the presidential campaign unfold. I was eligible for the draft so I checked in with the local board chairman, Bill Armstrong, about when I could expect to be called. Though graduate deferments had been abolished the previous spring, students were allowed to finish the term they were in. Oxford had three eight-week terms a year, divided by two five-week vacation periods. I was told that I wouldnt be in the October call, and that I might get to stay beyond one term, depending on how many people my local draft board had to supply. I wanted to go to Oxford badly, even if I got to stay only a couple of months. The Rhodes Trust would allow people to do their military service and come to Oxford afterward, but since I had decided to be in the draft, with no end in sight in Vietnam, it didnt seem prudent to think about afterward..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
On the political front, though I thought we were deader than a doornail coming out of Chicago, and Humphrey was sticking with LBJs Vietnam policy, I still wanted him to win. Civil rights alone was enough reason. Race still divided the South, and increasingly, with the spread of court-ordered busing of children out of their local schools to achieve racial balance across school districts, the rest of the country was dividing as well. Ironically, Wallaces candidacy gave Humphrey a chance, since most of his voters were law-and-order segregationists who would have voted for Nixon in a two-man race..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
The countrys cultural clashes continued to erupt. Anti-war demonstrators went after Humphrey more than Nixon or Wallace. The vice president was also bedeviled by continuing criticism of Mayor Daleys police tactics during the convention. While a Gallup poll said 56 percent of Americans approved of the police conduct toward the demonstrators, most of them were not in the Democratic base, especially in a three-way race including Wallace. As if all this were not enough, the established order was further upset by two sets of protesters at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. A black group protested the absence of black contestants. A womens liberation group protested the pageant itself as degrading to women. For good measure, some of them burned their bras, proof positive to many old-fashioned Americans that something had gone terribly wrong..www.sebby.cc.
In the presidential campaign, Nixon appeared to be coasting to victory, attacking Humphrey as weak and ineffectual and saying as little as possible about what he would do as President, except to pander to segregationists (and court Wallace voters) by promising to reverse the policy of withholding federal funds from school districts that refused to comply with federal court orders to integrate their schools. Nixons running mate, Spiro Agnew, was the campaigns attack dog, aided by his speechwriter Pat Buchanan. His harshness and verbal gaffes were becoming legendary. Humphrey suffered loud demonstrators everywhere he went. By the end of the month, Nixon was holding steady at 43 percent in the polls, while Humphrey had dropped twelve points to 28 percent, just seven points ahead of Wallace at 21 percent. On the last day of September, in desperation, Humphrey publicly broke with President Johnson on Vietnam, saying that he would stop the bombing of North Vietnam as an acceptable risk for peace. Finally, he had become his own man, but there were only five weeks to go..cartier love bracelet replica.
By the time Humphrey made his free at last speech, I was in New York getting ready to set sail for Oxford. Denise Hyland and I had a terrific lunch with Willie Morris, then the young editor of Harpers Magazine. In my senior year at Georgetown, I had read his wonderful memoir, North Toward Home, and had become a lifetime fan. After I won the Rhodes, I wrote Willie, asking if I could come to see him when I was in New York. In the spring he received me in his office on Park Avenue. I enjoyed the visit so much I asked to see him again before I left, and for some reason, maybe southern manners, he made the time..http://www.hopeonthestreet.co.uk.
On October 4, Denise went with me to Pier 86 on the Hudson River, where I would board the SS United States for England. I knew where the huge ocean liner was headed, but I had no idea where I was going..http://www.panchro.co.uk.
The United States was then the fastest liner on the seas, but the trip still took nearly a week. It was a long-standing tradition for the Rhodes group to sail together so that they could get acquainted. The ships leisurely pace and group dining did give us time to get to know one another (after the obligatory period of sniffing each other out like a pack of wary, well-bred hunting dogs), to meet some other passengers, and to decompress a little out of the hothouse American political environment. Most of us were so earnest we almost felt guilty about enjoying the trip; we were surprised to meet people who were far less obsessed with Vietnam and domestic politics than we were..http://www.sebby.cc.
The most unusual encounter I had was with Bobby Baker, the notorious political protg of Lyndon Johnsons who had been secretary of the Senate when the President was Senate majority leader. A year earlier, Baker had been convicted of tax evasion and various other federal offenses, but was still free while his case was on appeal. Baker seemed carefree, consumed with politics, and interested in spending time with the Rhodes scholars. The feeling wasnt generally reciprocated. Some of our group didnt know who he was; most of the rest saw him as the embodiment of the political establishments corrupt cronyism. I didnt approve of what he apparently had done, but was fascinated by his stories and insights, which he was eager to share. It took only a question or two to get him started..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
With the exception of Bobby Baker and his entourage, I mostly hung around with the other Rhodes scholars and the other young people on board. I especially liked Martha Saxton, a brilliant, lovely, aspiring writer. She was spending most of her time with another Rhodes scholar, but eventually I got my chance, and after our romance was over, we became lifelong friends. Recently, she gave me a copy of her latest book, Being Good: Womens Moral Values in Early America..www.sigmund-freud.co.uk.
One day a man invited a few of us to his suite for cocktails. I had never had a drink before and had never wanted one. I hated what liquor had done to Roger Clinton and was afraid that it might have the same effect on me. But I decided the time had come to overcome my lifelong fear. When our host asked me what I wanted, I said Scotch and soda, a drink I had made for others when I worked as a bartender for a couple of private parties in Georgetown. I had no idea what it would taste like, and when I tried it I didnt like it very much. The next day I tried a bourbon and water, which I liked a little better. After I got to Oxford, I drank mostly beer, wine, and sherry, and when I came home, I enjoyed gin and tonic and beer in the summertime. A few times in my twenties and early thirties I had too much to drink. After I met Hillary we enjoyed champagne on special occasions, but fortunately, liquor never did much for me. Also, in the late seventies I developed an allergy to all alcoholic drinks except vodka. On balance, Im glad I broke free of my fear of tasting liquor on the ship, and Im relieved I never had a craving for it. Ive had enough problems without that one..Cartier love bracelet replica.
By far the best part of the voyage was just what it was supposed to be: being with the other Rhodes scholars. I tried to spend some time with all of them, listening to their stories and learning from them. Many had far more impressive academic records than I did, and a few had been active in anti-war politics, on campuses or in the McCarthy and Kennedy campaigns. Several of those I liked most became lifetime friends, and an amazing number played an important part in my presidency: Tom Williamson, a black Harvard football player, who served as counsel to the Labor Department in my first term; Rick Stearns, a Stanford graduate, who got me into the national McGovern campaign and whom I appointed a federal judge in Boston; Strobe Talbott, editor of the Yale Daily News, who became my special advisor on Russia and deputy secretary of state after a distinguished career at Time magazine; Doug Eakeley, later my law school housemate, whom I appointed chair of the Legal Services Corporation; Alan Bersin, another Harvard football player from Brooklyn, whom I appointed U.S. attorney in San Diego, where hes now superintendent of schools; Willie Fletcher from Seattle, Washington, whom I appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and Bob Reich, the already famous spark plug of our group, who served as secretary of labor in my first term. Dennis Blair, a Naval Academy grad, was an admiral in the Pentagon when I became President and later commander of our forces in the Pacific, but he got there without any help from me..cartier love bracelet replica.
Over the next two years, we would all experience Oxford in different ways, but we shared in the uncertainties and anxieties of the times at home, loving Oxford, yet wondering what the devil we were doing there. Most of us threw ourselves into our new lives more than into our tutorials or lectures. Our conversations, personal reading, and trips seemed more important, especially to those of us who thought we were on borrowed time. After two years, a smaller percentage of the Americans would actually receive degrees than in any previous class of Rhodes scholars. In our own way, filled with youthful angst, we probably learned more at Oxford about ourselves, and about things that would matter for a lifetime, than most of our predecessors had..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
After five days and a brief stop in Le Havre, we finally arrived at Southampton, where we caught our first glimpse of Oxford in the person of Sir Edgar Bill Williams, the warden of Rhodes House. He was waiting for us on the dock in a bowler hat, raincoat, and umbrella, looking more like an English dandy than like the man who, during World War II, had served as chief of intelligence to Field Marshal Montgomery...
Bill Williams herded us onto a bus for the ride to Oxford. It was dark and rainy so we didnt see much. When we got to Oxford, it was about 11 p.m. and the whole town was shut down tight as a drum, except for a little lighted truck selling hot dogs, bad coffee, and junk food on High Street, just outside University College, where I had been assigned. The bus let us off and we walked through the door into the main quadrangle, built in the seventeenth century, where we were met by Douglas Millin, the head porter, who controlled access to the college. Millin was a crusty old codger who took the college job after he retired from the navy. He was very smart, a fact he took pains to hide behind torrents of good-natured verbal abuse. He especially liked to work the Americans over. The first words I heard from him were directed at Bob Reich, who is less than five feet tall. He said hed been told he was getting four Yanks, but theyd sent him only three and a half. He never stopped making fun of us, but behind it he was a wise man and a shrewd judge of people...
I spent a lot of time over the next two years talking to Douglas. In between the bloody hells and various other English epithets, he taught me how the college really worked, told me stories of the main professors and staff, and discussed current affairs, including the differences between Vietnam and World War II. Over the next twenty-five years, whenever I got back to England, I dropped in to see Douglas for a reality check. At the end of 1978, after I had been elected governor of Arkansas the first time, I took Hillary to England for a much-needed vacation. When we got to Oxford, I was feeling pretty proud of myself as we walked through the front door of the college. Then I saw Douglas. He didnt miss a beat. Clinton, he said, I hear youve just been elected king of some place with three men and a dog. I loved Douglas Millin.
My rooms were in the back of the college, behind the library, in Helens Court, a quaint little space named after the wife of a previous master of the college. Two buildings faced each other across a small walled-in space. The older building on the left had two doors to two sets of student rooms on the ground floor and the second floor. I was assigned to the rooms on the left side of the second floor at the far entrance. I had a small bedroom and a small study that were really just one big room. The toilet was on the first floor, which often made for a cold walk down the stairs. The shower was on my floor. Sometimes it had warm water. The modern building on the right was for graduate students, who had two-story flats. In October 2001, I helped Chelsea unpack her things in the flat with a bedroom directly opposite the rooms I had occupied thirty-three years earlier. It was one of those priceless moments when the sunshine takes away all lifes shadows.
I woke up on my first morning in Oxford to encounter one of the curiosities of Oxford life, my scout Archie, who took care of the rooms in Helens Court. I was used to making my own bed and looking after myself, but gradually I gave in to letting Archie do the job he had been doing for almost fifty years by the time he got stuck with me. He was a quiet, kind man for whom I and the other boys developed real affection and respect. At Christmas and on other special occasions, the students were expected to give their scout a modest gift, and modest was all most of us could afford on the annual Rhodes stipend of $1,700. Archie let it be known that what he really wanted was a few bottles of Guinness stout, a dark Irish beer. I gave him a lot of it in my year in Helens Court and occasionally shared a sip with him. Archie really loved that stuff, and thanks to him, I actually developed a taste for it too.
University life is organized around its twenty-nine colleges, then still divided by gender; there were far fewer womens colleges. The Universitys main role in students lives is to provide lectures, which students may or may not attend, and to administer exams, which are given at the end of the entire course of study. Whether you get a degree and how distinguished it is depends entirely on your performance during examination week. Meanwhile, the primary means of covering the material is the weekly tutorial, which normally requires you to produce a short essay on the subject to be discussed. Each college has its own chapel, dining hall, and library. Most have remarkable architectural features; some have stunning gardens, even parks and lakes, or touch on the River Cherwell, which borders the old city on the east. Just below Oxford, the Cherwell runs into the Isis, part of the Thames, the massive river that shapes so much of London.
I spent most of the first two weeks walking around Oxford, an ancient and beautiful city. I explored its rivers, parks, tree-lined paths, churches, the covered market, and, of course, the colleges.
Though my college didnt have large grounds, and its oldest buildings date only to the seventeenth century, it suited me fine. In the fourteenth century, the fellows of the college forged documents to show that it was Oxfords oldest, with roots in the ninth-century rule of Alfred the Great. Indisputably, Univ, as everyone calls it, is one of the three oldest colleges, founded along with Merton and Balliol in the thirteenth century. In 1292, the governing statutes contained a set of strict rules, including a ban on singing ballads and speaking English. On a few rowdy nights, I almost wished my contemporaries were still confined to whispering in Latin.
Universitys most famous student, Percy Bysshe Shelley, enrolled in 1810 as a chemistry student. He lasted about a year, expelled not because he had used his knowledge to set up a small still in his room to make liquor, but because of his paper The Necessity of Atheism. By 1894, Univ had reclaimed Shelley, in the form of a beautiful marble statue of the dead poet, who drowned off the coast of Italy in his late twenties. Visitors to the college who never read his poetry can tell, just by gazing on his graceful death pose, why he had such a hold on the young people of his time. In the twentieth century, Univs undergraduates and fellows included three famous writers: Stephen Spender, C. S. Lewis, and V. S. Naipaul; the great physicist Stephen Hawking; two British prime ministers, Clement Attlee and Harold Wilson; Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, who still owns the college speed record in beer drinking; the actor Michael York; and the man who killed Rasputin, Prince Felix Yusupov.
While beginning to learn about Oxford and England, I was also trying to follow election developments from afar and was eagerly awaiting the absentee ballot with which I would cast my first vote for President. Although urban violence and student demonstrations continued, Humphrey was doing better. After his semideclaration of independence from LBJ on Vietnam, he drew fewer protests and more support from young people. McCarthy finally endorsed him, in a typically halfhearted way, adding that he would not be a candidate for reelection to the Senate in 1970 or for President in 1972. Meanwhile, Wallace committed a crippling error by naming former air force chief of staff Curtis LeMay as his vice-presidential partner. LeMay, who had urged President Kennedy to bomb Cuba during the missile crisis five years earlier, made his debut as a candidate by saying nuclear bombs were just another weapon in the arsenal and that there are many times when it would be most efficient to use them. LeMays remarks put Wallace on the defensive and he never recovered.
Meanwhile, Nixon kept at the strategy with which he was coasting to victory, refusing repeated invitations to debate Humphrey; he was bothered only by the universal unfavorable comparison of Spiro Agnew to Humphreys running mate, Senator Muskie, and by the fear that Johnson would achieve an October surprise breakthrough in the Paris peace talks with a bombing halt. We now know that the Nixon campaign was being fed inside information about the talks by Henry Kissinger, who, as a consultant to Averell Harriman, was involved enough with the Paris talks to know what was going on. We also know that Nixons campaign manager, John Mitchell, lobbied South Vietnams president, Thieu, through Nixons friend Anna Chennault, not to give in to LBJs pressure to join the peace talks along with the governments South Vietnamese opposition, the National Liberation Front. Johnson knew about the Nixon teams efforts because of Justice Departmentapproved wiretaps on Anna Chennault and the South Vietnamese ambassador to Washington. Finally, on the last day of October, President Johnson announced a full bombing halt, Hanois agreement to South Vietnams participation in the talks, and U.S. approval of a role for the National Liberation Front.
November opened with high hopes for Humphrey and his supporters. He was moving up fast in the polls and clearly thought the peace initiative would put him over the top. On November 2, the Saturday before the election, President Thieu announced that he wouldnt go to Paris because the NLF was included. He said that would force him into a coalition government with the Communists, and he would deal only with North Vietnam. The Nixon camp was quick to imply that LBJ had jumped the gun on his peace initiative, acting to help Humphrey without having all his diplomatic ducks in a row.
Johnson was furious, and gave Humphrey the information on Anna Chennaults efforts to sabotage the initiative on Nixons behalf. There was no longer a need to keep it from the public to avoid undermining President Thieu, but amazingly, Humphrey refused to use it. Because the polls showed him in a virtual dead heat with Nixon, he thought he might win without it, and apparently he was afraid of a possible backlash because the facts didnt prove that Nixon himself knew what others, including John Mitchell, were doing on his behalf. Still, the implication was strong that Nixon had engaged in activity that was virtually treasonous. Johnson was furious at Humphrey. I believe LBJ would have leaked the bombshell if he had been running, and that if the roles had been reversed, Nixon would have used it in a heartbeat.
Humphrey paid for his scruples, or his squeamishness. He lost the election by 500,000 votes, 43.4 percent to 42.7 percent to 13.5 percent for Wallace. Nixon won 301 electoral votes, 31 over a majority, with close victories in Illinois and Ohio. Nixon got away with the Kissinger-Mitchell-Chennault gambit, but as Jules Witcover speculates in his book on 1968, The Year the Dream Died, it may have been a more costly escape than it appeared. Its success may have contributed to the Nixon crowds belief that they could get away with anything, including all the shenanigans that surfaced in Watergate.
On November 1, I began to keep a diary in one of two leather-bound volumes Denise Hyland had given me when I left the United States. When Archie woke me with the good news about the bombing halt, I wrote: I wish I could have seen Senator Fulbright todayone more instance of vindication for his tireless and tenacious battle. The next day I speculated that a cease-fire might lead to a troop reduction and my not being drafted, or at least allow many of my friends already in the service to escape Vietnam. And maybe some now in those jungles can be saved from early death. Little did I know that half our deaths were still to come. I closed my first two installments by extolling the same virtue: hope, the fiber of my being, which stays with me even on nights like tonight when I have lost all power of analysis and articulation. Yes, I was young and melodramatic, but I already believed in what I was to term a place called Hope in my 1992 Democratic convention speech. Its kept me going through a lifetime.
On November 3, I forgot about the election for a while during a lunch with George Cawkwell, the dean of graduates at Univ. He was a big, imposing man who still looked every inch the rugby star he once had been, as a Rhodes scholar from New Zealand. At our first meeting, Professor Cawkwell had really dressed me down about my decision to change my course of studies. Soon after I arrived in Oxford, I had transferred out of the undergraduate program in politics, philosophy, and economics, called PPE, and into the B.Litt. in politics, which required a fifty thousandword dissertation. I had covered virtually all the first years work in PPE at Georgetown, and because of the draft, I didnt expect to have a second year at Oxford. Cawkwell thought Id made a terrible mistake in passing up the weekly tutorials, in which essays are read, criticized, and defended. Largely because of Cawkwells argument, I switched courses again, to the B.Phil. in politics, which does include tutorials, essays, exams, and a shorter thesis.
Election day, November 5, was also Guy Fawkes Day in England, the observance of his attempt to burn down Parliament in 1605. My diary says: Everyone in England celebrates the occasion; some because Fawkes failed, some because he tried. That night we Americans had an election-watch party at Rhodes House. The largely pro-Humphrey crowd was cheering him on. We went to bed not knowing what happened, but we did know that Fulbright had won handily, a relief, since he had prevailed in the primary over Jim Johnson and two little-known contenders with only 52 percent of the vote. A great cheer went up at Rhodes House when his victory was announced.
On November 6, we learned that Nixon had won and that, as I wrote, Uncle Raymond and his cronies carried Arkansas for Wallace, our first deviation from the national (Democratic) ticket since achieving statehood in 1836. . . . I must send my ten dollars to Uncle Raymond, for I bet him last November that Arkansas, the most liberal of the Southern states, would never go for Wallace, which just goes to show how wrong these pseudo-intellectuals can be! (Pseudo-intellectual was a favorite Wallace epithet for anyone with a college degree who disagreed with him.) I noted that, unlike the South Vietnamese government, I was terribly disappointed that after all that has occurred, after Humphreys remarkable recovery, it has come to the end I sensed last January: Nixon in the White House.
Adding insult to injury, my absentee ballot never arrived and I missed my first chance to vote for President. The county clerk had mailed it by surface mail, not airmail. It was cheaper but it took three weeks, arriving long after the election.
The next day, I got back to my life. I called Mother, who had by then decided to marry Jeff Dwire and was so blissfully happy she made me feel good, too. And I mailed that ten-dollar check to Uncle Raymond, suggesting that the United States establish a national George Wallace Day, similar to Guy Fawkes Day. Everyone could celebrate: some because he ran for President, the rest of us because he ran so poorly.
The rest of the month was a blizzard of activity that pushed politics and Vietnam to the back of my brain for a while. One Friday, Rick Stearns and I hitchhiked and rode buses to Wales and back, while Rick read Dylan Thomas poems to me. It was the first time I had heard Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night. I loved it, and love it still when brave souls rage against the dying of the light.
I also took several trips with Tom Williamson. Once we decided to do a role reversal on the bad stereotypes of subservient blacks and racist southern overlords. When the nice English driver stopped to pick us up, Tom said, Boy, get in the backseat. Yes suh, I replied. The English driver thought we were nuts.
Two weeks after the election I scored my first touchdown, called a try, for Univs rugby team. It was a big thing for a former band boy. Though I never really understood its subtleties, I liked rugby. I was bigger than most English boys and could normally make an acceptable contribution by running to the ball and getting in the oppositions way, or pushing hard in the second row of the scrum, a strange formation in which the two sides push against each other for control of the ball, which is placed on the ground between them. Once, we went to Cambridge for a match. Though Cambridge is more serene than Oxford, which is larger and more industrialized, the opposing team played hard and rough. I got a blow on the head and probably sustained a minor concussion. When I told the coach I was dizzy, he reminded me that there were no substitutes and our side would be one man short if I came out: Just get back on the field and get in someones way. We lost anyway, but I was glad I hadnt quit the field. As long as you dont quit, youve always got a chance.
In late November, I wrote my first essay for my tutor, Dr. Zbigniew Pelczynski, a Polish migr, on the role of terror in Soviet totalitarianism (a sterile knife cutting into the collective body, removing hard growths of diversity and independence), attended my first tutorial, and went to my first academic seminar. Apart from those meager efforts, I spent the rest of the month sort of wandering around. I went twice to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeares home, to see plays of his; to London twice, to see Ann Markusens former Georgetown housemates Dru Bachman and Ellen McPeake, who were living and working there; to Birmingham to play basketball badly; and to Derby to speak to high school students and answer their questions about America on the fifth anniversary of President Kennedys death.
As December began, I made plans for my surprise homecoming for Mothers wedding, filled with foreboding about my future and hers. A lot of Mothers friends were dead set against her marrying Jeff Dwire, because he had been to prison and because they thought he was still untrustworthy. To make things worse, he hadnt been able to finalize his divorce from his long-estranged wife.
Meanwhile, the uncertainty of my own life was reinforced when my friend Frank Aller, a Rhodes scholar at Queens College, just across High Street from Univ, received his draft notice from his hometown selective-service board in Spokane, Washington. He told me he was going home to prepare his parents and girlfriend for his decision to refuse induction and to stay in England indefinitely to avoid going to jail. Frank was a China scholar who understood Vietnam well, and thought our policy was both wrong and immoral. He was also a good middle-class boy who loved his country. He was miserable on the horns of his dilemma. Strobe Talbott, who lived just down the street in Magdalen College, and I tried to console and support him. Frank was a good-hearted man who knew we were as opposed to the war as he was, and he tried to console us in return. He was particularly forceful with me, telling me that, unlike him, I had the desire and ability to make a difference in politics and it would be wrong to throw my opportunities away by resisting the draft. His generosity only made me feel more guilty, as the angst-ridden pages of my diary show. He was cutting me more slack than I could allow myself.
On December 19, I landed in a huge snowfall in Minneapolis for a reunion with Ann Markusen. She was home from her Ph.D. studies at Michigan State and as uncertain about her future, and ours, as I was. I loved her, but I was too uncertain of myself at that point in my life to make a commitment to anyone else.
On December 23, I flew home. The surprise came off. Mother cried and cried. She, Jeff, and Roger all seemed happy about the coming marriage, so happy that they didnt give me too much grief about my newly long hair. Christmas was merry in spite of last-ditch efforts by two of Mothers friends to get me to try to talk her out of marrying Jeff. I took four yellow roses to Daddys grave and prayed that his family would support Mother and Roger in their new endeavor. I liked Jeff Dwire. He was smart, hardworking, good with Roger, and clearly in love with Mother. I was for the marriage, noting that if all the skeptical well-wishers and the really pernicious ill-wishers are right about Jeff and Mother, their union can hardly prove more of a failure than did its predecessorshis too, and for a while, I forgot all the tumult of 1968, the year that broke open the nation and shattered the Democratic Party; the year that conservative populism replaced progressive populism as the dominant political force in our nation; the year that law and order and strength became the province of Republicans, and Democrats became associated with chaos, weakness, and out-of-touch, self-indulgent elites; the year that led to Nixon, then Reagan, then Gingrich, then George W. Bush. The middle-class backlash would shape and distort American politics for the rest of the century. The new conservatism would be shaken by Watergate, but not destroyed. Its public support would be weakened, as right-wing ideologues promoted economic inequality, environmental destruction, and social divisions, but not destroyed. When threatened by its own excesses, the conservative movement would promise to be kinder and gentler or more compassionate, all the while ripping the hide off Democrats for alleged weakness of values, character, and will. And it would be enough to provoke the painfully predictable, almost Pavlovian reaction among enough white middle-class voters to carry the day. Of course it was more complicated than that. Sometimes conservatives criticisms of the Democrats had validity, and there were always moderate Republicans and conservatives of goodwill who worked with Democrats to make some positive changes.
Nevertheless, the deeply embedded nightmares of 1968 formed the arena in which I and all other progressive politicians had to struggle over our entire careers. Perhaps if Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had lived, things would have been different. Perhaps if Humphrey had used the information about Nixons interference with the Paris peace talks, things would have been different. Perhaps not. Regardless, those of us who believed that the good in the 1960s outweighed the bad would fight on, still fired by the heroes and dreams of our youth.