2008? Not a patch on 68

One of the pleasures of Slugger is the ability to go counter-intuitive, to go “agin” prevailing wisdom. Is the 2008 US election campaign the most earth-shattering, the most vital ever? Nah, only if you’re about 14. Are you really saying if it had been Gore rather than Dubya it would have made no difference? And you sure can’t have been around in ’68, baby. The big thing now is to fight the predictability. Obama now looks such a shoo-in the last ditch scare stories aren’t working. But he’s nothing like an impressive as his hype ( nor for that matter was JFK except over two things, his personal life, (sex life included) and the Cuban missile crisis). Take the closing stages of the campaign. The stuffy ol’ New York Times is updating fast and going interactive a lot these days. And never better than with live analyses of the standard stump speeches, first Obama’s, and then if you have another half hour to spare, McCain’s. There’s plenty of slanging and promises but at the start of the worst turndown in the US since the Great Depression of the 1930s. I don’t believe that either of them can afford to lower taxes or that Obama even with two thirds Democratic majorities in both Houses can bring in universal health care any time soon. Does anybody seriously think so? There’s not a jot of serious thinking for serious times in either of the big compendious political websites. Huffington Post is hysterical for Obama, natch. Drudge the mudraking specialist casts about for new niches and so today headlines a rogue poll to nudge the adrenalin flow along..

Come Monday morning 8 November look out for the sudden lurch to reality after the shortest honeymoon a victor is ever likely to enjoy. Unless that is, Obama really does lose. Obama the symbol, the vehicle of African-American dreams would become the symbol of cruelly thwarted ambition. In which case, I’d fear a revised repeat of what was by a full continent’s width the most dramatic political year ever in my lifetime, though most of it happened before the election, when in the cities it was “ burn baby burn “after the King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, followed by the election of Nixon by the “silent majority.” Yes, 1968. And I really did shake that Bobby Kennedy by the hand.

  • Harry Flashman

    Remind us about the mid ’40s recession Brian, I must have missed that one in the history books.

  • wild turkey

    … ah Brian

    Mid 40s recession, huh? The USA was on war footing with full employment. The recession in the real economy, both USA and global, was in the 1930s, triggered by amongst other things the 1929 Wall Street Crash and protectionist trading and tarrif policies.

    Yeah, I was in high school in 68 and it was one hell of a roller coaster ride. In 68 following the murder of RFK the old FDR Democratic party coalition collapsed due its internal contradictions and the racism prevalent in the wider society. In 08 Obama is in the process of configuring a new Democratic coalition that has the potential for very long shelf life.

    The fundamental contradiction of american society for well over 200 years has been the stated belief that all men (people) are created equal and the reality of slavery and its ongoing legacy racism.

    Finally, I have to declare my personal bias in all this, I was a busboy at a country club which Bobby and Ethel frequented.

    On the importance and impact of an Obama I refer and defer to Colin Powells recent endorsement.

  • Brian Walker

    Sorry guys finger trouble and bad proof reading, not 1940s but 1930s recession and slow climb-out of course. Fears of depression coming out of the war were unfounded as the US did a brilliant switch from high public spending to phenomenal growth. Will correct.

  • Dewi


    “Are you really saying if it had been Gore rather than Dubya it would have made no difference?”


  • jackdutch

    once again i find it necessary to advise you to write only about things you know about and steer clear of everything else – the first time was over what you wrote about the IRA, this time it’s american politics – incidentally november 8th is a saturday not a monday and if you were trying to say that was election day in the usa, it’s not – the election is on tuesday, november 4th – as for this being the most vital election ever, that’s clearly a matter of opinion but to dismiss the notion so completely as you do, indicates that you really know little about what has been happening in america over the last eight years – to wit: the huge growth in disparity between rich and poor, the bankrupting of the economy by two wars, one flawed and both incompetently run and an ideological fixation with free markets, a white house administration that has been run by right-wing neo conservative fanatics, the triumph of stupidity and crassness in government, the huge erosion in civil liberties under the cover of anti-terrorism, the creation of a supreme court that threatens to plunge america back to the dark ages over issues like the right to choose, america’s poor standing in the world and so on – the end of all this, the possibility that america’s reactionary republican party will be cast into the political wilderness where it will hopefully tear itself to pieces in post-election recrimination, and the possibility that john mccain’s defeat may herald a modern version of the new deal certainly makes this one of the most crucial elections in recent times, if not the most important – the fact that you even raise the possibility that life in america would have been no different had al gore been elected rather than george w bush demonstrates the depth of your ignorance about america – as i say, in the future you would be better writing about things you know about. otherwise it’s just cringing embarrassment!

  • Brian Walker

    Prof jackdutch

    I said:
    “Are you really saying if it had been Gore rather than Dubya it would have made no difference?”

    You said at the end of your rant:
    ” the fact that you even raise the possibility that life in america would have been no different had al gore been elected rather than george w bush”

    If you weren’t so keen to be so venomous, you’d have noticed I was saying that the difference did matter!! Rather more possibly than the choice between Obama and McCain, (although your description of the Bush record is typically overheated).

    I’ll give you the Saturday for Monday date – I was allowing a few days of euphoria after the election before reality sets in..

    However this is the last time I’ll reply to your tiresome personal abuse. You should learn that you don’t have to be rude to be noticed.

  • Dewi

    “Are you really saying if it had been Gore rather than Dubya it would have made no difference?”

    I misread that as well – sorry.

  • KieranJ

    “to plunge america back to the dark ages over issues like the right to choose”

    Your post was interesting, JACKDUTCH, until you used the euphemism above to color the right to murder an unborn child in a fancy term.

    Why not call it what it is.

  • Mick


    Please try to pick a name and stick to it. I’m not totally against sockpuppets. Some people feel compelled to use a pseudonym to protect their professional status, but sticking to a single identity at least provides the facsimile of integrity.

    Besides, attacking someone who blogs under their own identity whilst going to some considerable length to conceal your own, is hardly playing by the rules of cricket now. Is it?

  • Dave

    I think you have a fan, Mr Walker. Wellcome to the Internet.

    I think it’s interesting that some disciples of the messiah who have been busy telling us all that change is a-comin’ are now changing tack and hinting that change isn’t a-comin’ after all. Why is that? A desire to minimise expectations among certain social classes that the messiah deliberately raised to wholly unrealistic levels for selfish purposes? Hardly. It is because the messiah outted himself in an unguarded moment as a socialist to Joe the Plumber, and now Joe and Josephine Public is starting to wonder what ‘changes’ they are actually letting themselves in for. It is the disciples using their modest platforms in the US media to offer reassurance along the lines of “That stuff about change… don’t worry about it. Taxes, policies and patriotism et al will more or less be the same in Obamaland as they are now.” Naturally, the main disciples can’t proffer this message without de jure contradiction of their principle mantra, so the minions do it for them as Obama narrows his vague message of ‘change’ to mean ‘the opposite of Bush’ and tries his best not to make anymore gaffes about redistribution of wealth.

    The race card is largely irrelevant, and it is not a good argument to claim that a person must be elected as president because if he isn’t then black people will riot. If he loses, he’ll be just another forgotten also-ran. In three years time, it’ll be “Obama who? Oh yeah, that socialist black guy who ran for president… what’s he doing now?” Americans don’t remember losers.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why not call it what it is.

    I’d have thought this was obvious, Kieran. Because not everyone sees it the same way as you do.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    1968….This fetishisation of that year is really getting a bit thin. Isn’t it all about babyboomers who reached maturity in that year confusing their own emerging adulthood with ‘changing the world’, and ‘discovering’ sex drugs and freedom?? Now the baby boomers are just beginning to shuffle off the perch or leaving the world of work. they are once again imagining that ’68 was a real turning point,and losing themselves in a fog of nostalgia,and self administered reminiscence therapy. The western 68 generation of simplistic chic politics became the ‘me’ generation of crackpot west coast therapy which in middle age supped the cream off the economic boom of the eighties. Jeesus,and to think I’m going to have to share a fold with these people and their community singing of Sonny and Cher’s greatest hits…somebody take that tartan blanket off me knees and smother me with it.

  • susan

    Nice to see you posting, Wild Turkey! I will try to knock back a blast of your namesake in your honour if all goes well.

    Brian, ne’er mind ‘im. I for one often appreciate your take on things, including but not limited to your stalwart resistance to the Palin Fever that swept, cough, wheeze, many of your peers.

  • Brian Walker

    Babyboomers’ nostalgia can be annoying, the luckiest generation ever, free education, walk into a job, things like affordable mortgages etc etc..

    But 1968 was more than that – even apart from the year of revolt in Europe (and NI) about which I made more programmes than I care to remember. The US came as near to anarchy as it ever did, with the King and B Kennedy assassinations and the burning of the cities and Vietnam protests inside his party forcing LB Johnson to stand aside form the election and begin talks with N Vietnam. The generational conflict was captured in bright colours by Norman Mailer’s book of imaginative reportage of the 2 party conventions, Miami and the Siege of Chicago. Ironically the election of Nixon by “the silent majority” appeared to lance the boil though there were after-echoes like the Kent State shootings and renewed protests at the backdoor continuation of the Vietnam war.

    Today the US is a calmer nation, richer and more content, with a middle class amazingly mobile but still with huge social gaps and not therefore a radically different one. An Obama defeat might not lead to comparable riots but black disillusion combined with increasing competition for jobs between the races would increase divisions. Much is made for “change” and the impact of a grand slam of the presidency and both Houses, maybe even a landslide. They would hope that might repeat a Roosevelt 1933, but this time the economy is structurally more complex and global and anyway the New Deal took years to work. Even with an Obama victory, America will have to rely on repeating its fabled powers of recover to avoid great tensions and maybe even unrest. US politics after the election will be very different. The impact of the rhetoric, I suspect, will begin to fade quickly.

  • picador


    CNN haven’t updated their electoral map for some time now.

    The Real Clear Politics map is updated daily and it currently puts Obama even further ahead:

    Real Clear Politics


    If you can learn to use capital letters at the beginning of sentences – indeed if you can learn to use sentences at all – I might take the trouble to read one of your posts.

  • picador

    And I must learn to preview!

    Here’s that link:

    Real Clear Politics

  • Harry Flashman

    “Ironically the election of Nixon by “the silent majority” appeared to lance the boil”

    I always find that fascinating, the actual majority of Americans despite the fetishing of 1960’s generation were at the time, deeply conservative, patriotic and supportive of the war in Vietnam and went on to elect Nixon in a landslide.

    Despite this fact, the activities of a few thousand pampered spoilt brats, who abused the security and prosperity of being the luckiest people ever in the history of mankind and who threw an oversized adolescent tantrum is invariably put forward as the true picture of American society in those years.

    I have read UK GCSE history syllabus texts which perpetuate this thoroughly unhistorical nonsense by teaching children today that the people of the US were deeply opposed to the Vietnam war and wanted “change”.

    They weren’t, and they didn’t

  • Alan

    Bar something outrageous, it does look increasingly like a victory parade for Obama. I was concerned that such a clear lead might distract voters and have them think they did not need to vote, but early voting seems to be telling a tale.


    Does anyone have any more up to date detail on this?

  • Greenflag

    Alan ,

    Obama attracted a crown of 100,000 in Denver and another 45,000 crowd near Boulder , Colorado ,
    Colorado has been a ‘red State ‘ for the past two elections if not longer. It was a so called ‘battleground’ state as was Virginia , North Carolina , Ohio and others .

    I can see Obama gettin 350 plus electoral college votes .

    As always when voter turn out is up it means the people are coming out to get rid of the incumbents .

    The message election this appears to be

    ‘ If you’re in (incumbent) you’re out ‘

    Neither Mrs Dole in North Carolina and Republican majority leader McConnell in Kentucky are safe and could lose their seats.

  • wild turkey


    checkout fivethirtyeight.com. compendium of national and state level polling results

  • kensei


    I always find that fascinating, the actual majority of Americans despite the fetishing of 1960’s generation were at the time, deeply conservative, patriotic and supportive of the war in Vietnam and went on to elect Nixon in a landslide.

    “Deeply conservative”? I don’t buy it. 1968 or even 1972 wasn’t built on a revolt against the Great Society measures: that would come much later. I don’t even think the war mattered as much as the domestic chaos that surrounded it. What won 1968 for Nixon was 1. Race finally splitting the “Solid South” from the democratic party, make concrete in the Wallace 2. a break down in law and order that spooked a lot of the white working classes base of the Republican Party 3. The disrespect towards US institutions shown by the radical left.

    Richard Milhous Nixon Republican New York[23] 31,783,783 43.4% 301 Spiro Theodore Agnew Maryland 301
    Hubert Horatio Humphrey Democratic Minnesota 31,271,839 42.7% 191 Edmund Sixtus Muskie Maine 191
    George Corley Wallace American Independent Alabama 9,901,118 13.5% 46 Curtis Emerson LeMay California[24] 46

    Looking at those figures, without Wallace there was a good chance of the Democrats holding on. The great unknowable is also RFK, who was opposed to the war but who doesn’t fit in a radical or hard liberal box.

    Nixon undoubtedly exploited his win to great effect, exploiting using the advantage of incumbency while the Democrats tore themselves apart over Vietnam. Oh, and the charming Southern grab strategy:

    From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats

    1968 started a shift rightwards that is possibly only beginning to ease off now. But it didn’t have to be that way. If RFK had lived, if the Democrats had hung on, lots of unknowns. The shift wasn’t due to some inherent conservative nature of the US populace, but due to a combination of the right leading the country that way. And in fairness, they did it well. Part of it was the right ideas for the right times, and part of it was completely ruthlessness and nastiness.

    This one is going to be consequential, and there will be fairly major differences depending on who wins, particularly if the Dem gets a supermajority. But there’ll be a policy shift regardless of who wins. In that sense, Brian is right, it isn’t as consequential as 1968 when it was hard to know what the hell was going to happen.

  • Harry Flashman

    Actually if Obama does get a supermajority I think the resultant change in US and world politics will make 1968 look like a minor hiccup.

  • Was it the next election that Nixon won on the basis of promising peace then?

  • Greenflag

    ‘Curtis Emerson LeMay ‘

    ‘Holy sh*t’ an even worse choice then than Palin is today .

    Le May was the former Commander of the US Airforce when Kennedy was in power . Kennedy was more scared of Le May than he was of Kruschev .
    Le May was in favour of a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the Soviets in Oct 1962 and was prepared to send 60 million Americans to a vaporised death, based on his ‘ideological ‘ conviction that the Godless Russians were ‘evil’ . Fortunately for the USA and the rest of the world, Kennedy was in power at that time and not the Nieman Marcus Vice Presidential Mrs Joe (150,000 dollars worth of clothes and fashion accessories )six pack Palin .

    Nixon in 1972 actually proposed bringing in universal health care for all Americans and it would have been a lot easier then than now . The ‘beast ‘ has now grown to a 2 trillion dollar monster which is gobbling up more and more of the US economy each year and yet it leaves 20% of the population uninsured and sends tens of thousands into bankruptcy every year not to mentioning wasting hundreds of millions in duplication and administrative costs .:(

    2008 has imo the possibility of being a much more significant turning point in the USA’s political history than 1968 . We’ll never know what could have happened under an Robert Kennedy Administation but it is safe to say that LBJ’s policies would have been continued apart from Vietnamese war which would have ended sooner .Would the USA have become a social democracy like the EU States ? I doubt it .

    The Democrat infighting gave the Republicans an opening .Wallaces candidacy was a reaction to the Civil Rights agitation . Had he not run would Southerners have voted ‘Republican ‘ in numbers enough to defeat Humphrey ?

    IIRC Nixon’s paranoia about his close win was enough to cause him to establish ‘CREEP’ ‘the committee to re-elect the President ‘ which ultimately led to Watergate , resignation and a Carter victory in 1976 . By 1980 the USA was looking to ‘restore’ it’s national pride and belief in itself following the Vietnam shambles and the Iranian ‘hostages ‘

    Enter one ‘voodoo economics ‘ purveyor of neo conservatism but overall nice guy Ronnie Reagan and the USA was on it’s way to political victory in the cold war with the USSR but economic defeat at home – although it’s taken 25 years to get there 🙁

    Overall ‘debt’ in the USA has quadrupled since Reagan took office .

    Neo conservative economic policies do not work in health or education and they can destroy both national and international financial systems as we have seen these past few weeks 🙁

  • jackdutch

    to mick fealty:
    it’s quite noticeable how little you protest when your friends in sinn fein use multiple aliases – and when they go to some trouble to conceal their identities, it’s no problem somehow – but then double standards by you in relation to that group is nothing new, is it? by the way, does anyone on this site use their real names except the egotists or underemplyed hacks who blog? i don’t think so.

  • Donnacha

    “does anyone on this site use their real names except the egotists or underemplyed hacks who blog? i don’t think so”

    I do. Should I change it d’you think? From now on, I want to be known as Loreta…