Annus horribilis

Danniel Henninger devotes his Wonder Land column to a remembrance of 1968 and its relation to the Clinton campaign. On a personal note, I recall the evening in August 1968 when the police took after the radical protesters at the Democratic convention in Chicago. I went to see Brecht’s “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis that night. It was hard to miss the point; LBJ had become, well, you know who, kind of like George Bush today. And America had of course become Amerika. For the Democratic Party, 1968 is year zero.
Henninger’s column is marred by two errors. He asserts that Minnesota Senator Gene McCarthy defeated LBJ in the New Hampshire primary. He actually won 42.4 percent of the vote to LBJ’s 49.5 percent. But McCarthy may have been the first Democratic candidate to “win” the New Hampshire primary by “exceeding expectations.” Nineteen sixty-eight looks like year zero in that respect too. (In The Age of Reagan, Steve Hayward adds that write-in votes for McCarthy in the Republican primary brought him almost even with Johnson in total New Hampshire votes. Steve suggests that some New Hampshire primary voters may have confused him with Joe McCarthy and cast votes for McCarthy out of a hawkish critique of the Vietnam war.)
Henninger also discusses George Wallace’s contribution to the annus horribilis of 1968. He adds that “[f]our years later, George Wallace was shot dead while running for president.” Actually, Wallace was only crippled by Arthur Bremer’s assassination attempt. Indeed, Wallace survived to run for president again in 1976, ultimately coming in third in total primary votes and endorsing Jimmy Carter for president. He was reelected governor of Alabama in 1982 as a born-again Christian and lived until 1998. His favorite politician was “himself.” (I remember a lot about Wallace, but I needed some help from his Wikipedia entry.)
Henninger gives the breakdown of the 1968 presidential vote, almost evenly divided between Nixon and Humphrey, and asserts that “half the country went left and half went right.” He discounts Wallace’s 13.5 percent of the vote, which was certainly more right than left. Henninger’s take on this point is misleading at best. (Thanks to Joe Vass for making a related point in a message this morning.)
Henninger gets most things right in the column, including the inspired reference to Bill Clinton as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Henninger does not note that the song of the same name was released as a single by the Rolling Stones in year zero.
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