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August 29, 2010

Remember Hubert Humphrey?

Posted in: Democrats

I do. I was old enough to vote in 1968 for the first time, and I wanted to vote for an anti-war candidate. I was opposed to the war in Viet Nam, but not part of any group because I was in the ROTC. So, I shaved off my mustache and went door-to-door in my Democratic but relatively conservative hometown in Indiana, handing out literature and asking people to vote for Gene McCarthy in the primary. McCarthy lost, and Robert Kennedy won. I doubted Kennedy’s anti-war credentials, and saw him as an opportunist who wouldn’t risk his own career until he saw that Johnson was beatable. In fact, there was a split in the anti-war movement between the two men over these issues. Kennedy was murdered in June, 1968, leaving McCarthy and the late-comer George McGovern as the only true anti-war candidates.

I had no idea of what was happening at the political level (here is one perspective on the politics). To me, it looked like as though Vice-President Hubert Humphrey emerged from the clouds as the candidate. He had the support of establishment Democrats, but not that of anti-war people. I didn’t know anything about him, or his history. What I saw was a reincarnation of Lyndon Johnson, a man who was not going to stop the war that was killing my friends and classmates, and countless Vietnamese. The anti-war movement was in the streets in Chicago at the Democratic Convention, demanding that the party select a candidate who would end the war. Eventually Humphrey got the nomination.

Voting for George Wallace was out of the question, since he was the racist candidate. I voted for Humphrey, but I didn’t lift a finger to help him. Neither did most of the anti-war people. Many of them stayed home. Why vote, they said, all of the candidates want to keep on with the killing.

Humphrey lost to the monster Nixon, who lied about his position on the war, continued killing Americans and Vietnamese, and started killing Laotians and Cambodians.

A lot of people think progressives should stop voting for the lesser of two evils; that the Democrats won’t do anything for us if they think we will vote for them whether or not they work towards our goals.

So here’s my question. Should anti-war people have actively worked to elect Hubert Humphrey?


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