August 17, 2012

1968 — the election we should have had!

Seeing this election unfold, I’ve been thinking about what could have, and should have been, a classic of an election back in 1968. Having read about Nixon's end-of-October 1968 arguable treason (to me, it meets the definition; it certainly violated the Logan Act) in gutting the peace talks, through back door channels to Saigon, and including the Christian Science Monitor killing a scoop about it, plus, reading a great new book called “The Ex-Presidents’ Club, I keep thinking about this “classic” presidential election we never got to have.

What a "great" election we would have had with Tricky Dick vs. LBJ. (And, had he wanted to, with 1968 still largely dependent on caucuses, and the machine politicians who controlled them in many cases, LBJ probably could have gotten the Democratic nod, if he wanted to fight. After all, well in advance, he had picked Chicago to host the 1968 convention not for the beauties of Lakeshore Drive but the undeniable eminence of His Honor Richard Daley, mayor of Chicago.

Just think ... the two most paranoid presidents ever, running against each other. Epic.

And, let’s keep the one other actual element from 1968, speaking of paranoiacs — George Wallace as a third-party candidate.

It’s probable, that with nobody even coming as close as Humphrey’s almost-last-minute call for a bombing halt, that many people who voted in the Democratic primaries for Bobby Kennedy or Eugene McCarthy would have stayed home. (That then said, the authors of the book above claim that half of McCarthy’s votes in New Hampshire, it was later discovered (later because exit polling was primitive to nonexistent in 1968) backed him because they didn’t think LBJ was hawkish enough.

LBJ kept public silence about the Nixon campaign’s duplicity with Saigon. But not private silence; he let both Nixon and Humphrey know directly that he knew. (I’m not sure about Wallace.)

Had he been in the race himself? Different story. There would have been some leaking to the press, plus hints that he was going to send somebody to talk in Paris before election day, whether anybody from Saigon showed up or not.

But, let’s not stop there. Per a Facebook friend, this would be a great Harry Turtledove alt-history book.

Especially if Wallace were also in the race, as in reality, and, let's say, nobody got 270 electoral votes and this baby went to the House. Can you imagine the wheelings and dealings? Nixon would be the one more simpatico to Wallace on domestic issues, but, could Wallace deliver Southern Democrats in the House to Nixon?

And, yes, if you look at the actual 1968 results, per Wikipedia, the race could have gone to the House. Give Wallace and/or Johnson, combined, any three of these five Southern states that went for Nixon — Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia — and the race is in the House.)

Then, per the last election that did go to the House, what if, after Wallace were eliminated, Johnson and Nixon deadlocked at 25 states each? Neither would have been any more willing to step aside than, before the 12th Amendment, Aaron Burr was for Thomas Jefferson.

Under the Presidential Succession Act, that would have made the Speaker of the House, who would also be presiding over this deadlocked election, acting President.

Would the then-current Speaker, the aging John McCormack, have angled to keep the vote deadlocked, to benefit? Or done anything partisan to try to help Johnson?

Meanwhile, here's the election I really wish we had had — Bobby Kennedy beating Nixon and Nixon's Veep, Reagan.

This, in turn,  is another reminder that the U.S. Constitution is antiquated in a number of ways.

1 comment:

PDiddie, aka Perry Hussein Dorrell said...

I often imagine how different things might have been had Henry Wallace succeeded FDR instead of Harry Truman.