Of course each election stands on its own. Rules governing the nomination have changed; money is playing an even more important role in the process. But some aspects of the race for the Democratic nomination in 2016 have similarities to the 1968 Democratic fight for the nomination.
In 1968, there was anger in America. The war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, rioting in the streets in many major cities. Currently, our citizens’ anger is directed towards government in general, feeling that nothing is getting done to address the nation’s problems, income inequality, a weak economy, deteriorating race relations.
Look at the major political players in 1968 and 2016. Lyndon Johnson, incumbent president assured of renomination. A relatively unknown senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy challenges Johnson and almost beats him in the New Hampshire primary. Robert Kennedy, who up to that point wasn’t going to challenge the president despite the urging of many political leaders and a public that looked to him to end the war, enters the race. He is assassinated as he wins the California primary. Chaos closes in around the Democratic Party. At the end of the fight for the nomination, the sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey wins the Democratic nod and almost wins the presidency.
Today, many Democratic leaders and citizens look to the inevitability of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on MORE’s nomination. But what if the 2016 nomination fight starts to shadow what happened in 1968. Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting MORE (I-Vt.), playing the role of Eugene McCarthy heavily damages Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire. The left wing of the Democratic Party who really always wanted Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats narrow scope of IRS proposal amid GOP attacks Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter FDA proposes rule to offer over-the-counter hearing aids MORE (D-Mass.), who is Robert Kennedy in this scenario, urges her to change her mind about running. She enters the race knowing that Sanders can’t win the general election.
At this point, what we would call the establishment wing of the party starts to panic, feeling that Warren is too far to the left. Democratic Congressional leaders will fear their opportunity to recapture the Senate and gain seats in the House would disappear with a Warren candidacy. Organized labor would feel that if a Republican gains the White House and the Republicans keep both Houses of Congress, they will be a main target.
Who does the Democratic Party turn to? Vice President Joseph Biden. The feeling being that he can unite the Party, run on the issues most Americans are concerned about and pull off a victory in November.
So Joe BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE, even if he doesn’t officially enter the race for president stands an excellent chance of being the 45th President of the United States.
Linhardt is president of Strategic Services Inc., a public affairs firm and an adjunct in Political Science at Fordham University.