If we’re in political hell, I’ve been there before. I’m realizing that if you’re under 60, you probably don’t remember what was happening in 1968. When the year started, I was 18, in an 11 story dorm at MSU. The 40-mile wind blew thirty-five below air through the single pane window, and I coldly remembered turning down a scholarship that would have settled me in Florida. I was too young to vote – despite having some big concerns. Martin Luther King was assassinated. After his murder, riots broke out in over 100 cities, including DC. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. The Tet offensive was launched, hitting my classmates who hadn’t gone to college. The Gun Control Act of 1968 passed – so extreme that I had to show ID and sign to buy a box of 22 shells. Lyndon Johnson was still a president – my president – despite his multiple character flaws. A B-52 with 4 nuclear bombs crashed off the coast of Greenland. The Democratic National Convention, in Chicago, turned into a riot. In November, Nixon was elected president – I think those old enough to vote thought Hubert Humphrey would just continue Johnson’s policies. I recall the slogan “Nixon, Humphrey, Wallace – three strikes and you’re out.”
1968 passed, with the chords and lyrics of “Abraham, Martin and John” on the radio. 1969 brought the “Days of Rage” riots – brought to the nation by the weatherman faction of Students for a Democratic Society. Nixon was president, and Spiro Agnew was vice-president. You might remember how well that turned out, with Spiro resigning amid numerous corruption charges in 1973, and Nixon resigning in 1974.
Like 1968 and 69, this too shall pass. By 1976, I had a presidential candidate I could feel good about voting for. What wasn’t to like about Jimmy Carter – a farmer, an engineer, an Annapolis graduate? But the answer to that is for a different story.