Monday, September 19, 2016

Greatness, Again

You know, a long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody's crazy.
-- Charlie Manson

I saw George Wallace speak once.

Yes, that George Wallace.

George Corley Wallace, Jr. the infamous governor of Alabama.

Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever! That George Wallace.

It was 1972. I was ten years old. Wallace was once again running for President of the United States, this time as a Democrat.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This really begins four years previous, in 1968.

You nowadays hear people talking about the current election as the worst they’ve ever seen, the worst in American history.

But 2016 has nothing on 1968.

I was very young then, of course. And while a child, even one as bright and perceptive as yours truly (heh heh), can’t understand the complexities of the world around him in any great detail, that child can and does feel the emotional currents. A child might not understand why men are rioting in the streets, why buildings are burning and people are dying, but that child can see the uncertainty in the faces of his parents at the dinner table every night. He can sense the undercurrent of fear on the evening news even if he doesn’t have the maturity to understand why the screen is filled with burning helicopters and falling bombs and hard-eyed soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam. That child can feel the tension in the world because it’s everywhere like a foul miasma of nameless, shapeless dread.

And I remember it, the simmering fear and the rage of that time.

It was everywhere.

Though America didn’t yet know it, the 1968 Paris Peace Talks were about to collapse and as such we had only reached the middle of the Vietnam conflict and the worst years were still to come. Nguyễn Văn Lém was summarily executed by the South Vietnamese National Police Chief, Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, shot in the head at point blank range and the picture of that moment – the exact moment when the bullet tore through a human head – was plastered across every TV screen and newspaper in the world and won war photographer Eddie Adams the Pulitzer Prize. That was the moment when America was suddenly confronted for the first time with the real horror of what was actually going on over there. 1968 was the battle of Khe Sanh, the Tet Offensive, and the My Lai Massacre.  1968 was also the year Americans learned they’d been fighting a secret war in Laos. By 1968, 30,000 Americans had died in the rice paddies and the jungles of Southeast Asia.

20,000 more would follow by the time I saw Wallace speak in 1972.

In 1968, half of America was on fire. North Korea had seized the US Navy electronic spy ship USS Pueblo and was holding her crew as prisoners of war and there wasn’t a damned thing America could do about it. USS Scorpion went to the bottom taking 99 American Sailors with it and no one knew why. That was also the year the Pentagon announced it was sending more than 24,000 mostly conscripted troops back to Vietnam for an involuntary second tour and a hell of a lot of young Americans decided they’d rather live in Canada. Those who didn’t burned their draft cards and joined student war protestors occupying college campuses across the country.  Others detonated bombs and robbed banks and fought it out with The Pigs and The Establishment whenever and wherever they could. Others tuned in, turned on, and dropped acid. The counter-culture was in full frontal assault mode against the stodgy culture of their square parents. Out in California, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson picked up two female hitchhikers and set in motion a chain of events that would eventually end in Helter Skelter – one of the most infamous murder sprees in US history. That was the year Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Race riots immediately followed. Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, and Washington D.C. burned outright, but no American city was left untouched. In Oakland, Black Panthers shot it out with police in a bloody firefight reminiscent of Vietnam. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declared the Panthers to be “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” and directed the Bureau to begin “neutralization” of Black Power organizations. But neither COINTELPRO nor bullets and tear gas could stop the Civil Rights movement. Black Americans had finally had enough of second-class citizenship and they would not be silenced. And so 1968 also became the year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act (AKA The Civil Rights Act of 1968) into law, following up the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965) – unleashing yet more riots and mayhem, this time by whites and personified by none other than George Corley Wallace, Jr. 

Ironically, 1968 was also the year Star Trek episode Plato’s Stepchildren aired and William Shatner embraced Nichelle Nichols in what is widely considered the first interracial kiss between a white man and a black woman broadcast on public television causing widespread outrage.

1968 is also the year Saddam Hussein began his rise to power following a coup d'état in Iraq and it’s a small world sometimes, isn’t it?

And so, in 1968 it seemed the superpowers were on the brink of nuclear annihilation and the United States itself was coming apart at the seams. The economy was collapsing, energy costs were soaring, people were out of work, war raged, social structures disintegrated and were discarded whole cloth, and it seemed the world was falling into chaos, fear, and darkness.

People were frightened.

Naturally the politicians and pundits took full advantage of that fear.

And no one did it better than George Wallace.

Wallace wasn’t just popular in the Old South. Or with just the John Birch Society and the KKK. In my home state of Michigan tens of thousands turned out to hear him thunder his message of small government, law and order, and walling off brown skinned people from white America – because a lot of Michiganders were terrified of the dark faces looking out from Detroit and Flint.  Wallace hated the liberal hippies almost as much as he hated people of color, saying the only four letter words they didn’t know were “soap” and “work.” He swore to run over liberals with his car (that’s right, liberals. Because in those days Democrats from the South were anything but liberal). He was brash and outspoken and his supporters loved that he said what he meant without regard for his opponent’s feelings.  Wallace always put on a hell of a show and his message resonated with those who felt their country, their America, was being stolen out from under them.

When asked what he considered to be the biggest domestic issue of 1968, Wallace often responded:

What are the Real issues that exist today in these United States? It is the trend of the pseudo-intellectual government, where a select, elite group have written guidelines in bureaus and court decisions, have spoken from some pulpits, some college campuses, some newspaper offices, looking down their noses at the average man on the street.

And who would bat an eye to hear that in a speech from Mike Pence today?

Oh how the world has turned.


What does any of this have to do with that fact that I saw Wallace speak in 1972?



You see, Wallace won five states in 1968 as an independent. Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. He won 13.53% of all the votes cast in that election and took 45 Electoral College votes – nearly enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives, where he stood a reasonable chance of becoming President by legislation.

Instead, Richard Nixon won and Wallace went back to Alabama in defeat.

And somewhere in there the world, America, began to change. See that comment about Mike Pence, up above. This, right here, this time is where that began.

Which brings us to 1972.

This time Wallace was running as a Democrat.

Wallace was one of a dozen Democrats fighting his way through the primaries.

But in the four years between 1968 and 1972 the world had turned. Not much, but enough. 

Wallace was still popular in the South and in Michigan and during the first months of the election season he did extremely well and the pundits and prognosticators predicted he would clinch the Democratic nomination easily. But the Vietnam war was winding down and America was coming to grips with the idea that people of color should be viewed as equal citizens – the country wasn’t there yet (still isn’t there yet) but four years had changed things irrevocably.  The Democratic Party itself was changing and Wallace was forced by circumstance and changing attitudes to distance himself from segregation and adopt a moderate view of racial relations in America. In fact, so far had the pendulum swung Wallace declared that he’d always been a “moderate” regarding race – despite the irrefutable evidence of history and the more things change, right?

On May 15, 1972, during a rally at a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland, Arthur Bremer shot Wallace five times.

Bremer wasn’t looking to make a political statement on race or anything else.

He just wanted to be famous.

And so he was, briefly, the most famous man in America. He was the man who took George Wallace’s legs.

One of Bremer’s bullets had lodged in Wallace’s spine and left him permanently paralyzed. 

Wallace spent a month in the hospital and several more weeks recovering and then returned to the campaign trail. But it was over for him. People showed up out of idle curiosity or sympathy or pity. But Wallace’s campaign was as moribund as his legs. In 1968 and the opening months of 1972, Wallace commanded huge crowds when he came to Michigan. Now his supporters had to bus in old folks and school kids and the party faithful just to fill out a reasonably sized parking lot.

And that’s how I saw George Wallace.

I asked my mother last week if I was remembering it right. She laughed. Her memories and mine matched up. She told me how the local authorities packed all the school kids they could find onto buses and drove us out to the airport.  We were kids, what did we know of the burning world? We cheered when they told us to and clapped in glee. It was a grand adventure. A fieldtrip to see American Democracy in action, that’s how they sold it to our folks and I suppose it was even true.  And it certainly beat the heck out of sitting in a classroom learning long division or how to diagram a sentence.  I’d never been to an airport before and I had nothing to compare the dinky little backwater Kent Country Airport to.  It was, to me, a spaceport filled with shining rocket ships and I couldn’t have cared less about the angry red-faced man up on the stage, or long division for that matter.

But then the crowd parted and … I remember that wheelchair.

I remember it now four decades later clear as a bell.

I remember a cold cloudy gray fall day in 1972 and a withered man in a wheelchair shouting about desegregation and bussing and commies at a parking lot mostly full of bemused school children.


And now, many, many year later I realize I was witness to history: the very moment when the Democratic Party hit bottom.


As Conservatives are so fond of pointing out, once upon a time Democrats were the party of John Birch and the Ku Klux Klan, of racists and bigots and Confederates.

And conservatives are of course right – no pun intended.

But all of that changed on that day in 1972.

The party had been changing slowly for decades, but it began in earnest when Democrat Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 – ushering in desegregation and Affirmative Action and effectively ending Southern apartheid with the stroke of a pen. Many Southern conservatives saw Johnson’s action, himself a Southern Democrat, as treason.  They began to leave the Democratic Party. Many became Independents, and thus supported Wallace’s run in 1968.  By 1972 that trend was in full charge and even Wallace’s run as a Democrat couldn’t pull them back into the fold. And the party’s nomination that year ended up being the liberal “hippy candidate,” George McGovern – which turned the trickle of defection into a flood.

Nixon’s campaign strategy in 1972 was in part to woo these disaffected conservatives and he was largely successful at it. Exactly how this happened is subject to some debate, but while Nixon didn’t invent the political term “Southern Strategy” it was his campaign that began the polarization of American politics into Democrat/Liberal – Republican/Conservative. By the time Ronald Reagan came along all he had to do was play up the perception of conservative white victimization with terms like “welfare queens” and “states rights” and everybody knew what he meant and former Southern Democrats flocked to his banner. This was done by deliberate design. The guy behind it was Lee Atwater, the Reagan campaign’s deputy director. Atwater gave an interview after Reagan was elected (anonymously, but his name was later revealed as the quote’s source) in which he said:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now he [Reagan] doesn't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964. And that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger.” That hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like “forced busing,” “states' rights” and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me? Because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

And so here we are 30 years later in 2016.

I could write another hundred thousand words on how we got from “nigger nigger nigger” to here.

I could spend hours explaining how the Democrats went from the party of John Birchers and old white Southern racists to what it is today. Or how the Republicans woke up one morning to find themselves staring in horror at the Klan and the Neo-Nazis and the dimwitted droolers shouting for segregation and walls and war from the front ranks of last night’s Trump rally. We could talk about how the GOP went from serious men in white shirts, scientists and engineers and doctors who once built and flew the ships that took us to the moon and brought us home again, to the party of creationists and science deniers.  Millions of words have been devoted to this subject by people far smarter on the subject than I am and so I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to flesh out the bare bones outlined above.

What matters is that moment in 1972.

What matters is that ruined man in his wheel chair.

What matters is that moment when Democrats hit bottom.

Sometimes that’s what it takes, you know. Hitting bottom.

My dad was a recovered alcoholic. He knew all there was to know about it. He used to tell me this: Nobody can make you quit drinking. Nobody. You can see it. You can see what the booze is doing to you, to your family, to those around you. None of that will make you stop, that’s what addiction is. You have to want to quit drinking. You have to want to. Not others. You.  You have to want to and that want has to be stronger than the addiction. And sometimes, too many times, you have to hit rock bottom. You have to lose it all, you have to destroy your life and stand right on the very edge, the very edge, before not drinking becomes more important to you than the next sip.  For my dad, it was a little kid. He hit a kid with his car while blackout drunk. That was his rock bottom. That’s what finally got through to him, that’s what was finally stronger than the addiction. It took a long time and the help of many friends, but he beat the disease – because at long last he himself wanted to change.  And when he died, more than 40 years later, after 40 years of sobriety, hundreds came to his funeral. You see, my dad wasn’t a great man in the sense of some single great achievement. They didn’t build monuments to him or raise up buildings with his name on the front in great gold letters. No, rather my dad was great in a thousand small ways. He was admired and respected and loved by hundreds, thousands, of people whose lives he’d touched for the better. Because he chose to be that person, because he’d seen rock bottom and was determined not to again.

And that brings me at long last to the point.


The Grand Old Party has reached its George Wallace moment.


The Republican party has reached bottom and in their few moments of sobriety, conservatives know it.

Republicans began as the anti-slavery party in direct and vocal opposition to Southern Racism and the Know Nothings. They fought a civil war in order to change the world for the better.

Today it is the Klan and the John Birch Society cheering the Republican candidate on. 

The first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln who gave his life to hold the Union together with the power of the Federal government.

Today Republicans talk openly of secession and burning Washington to the ground.

The Republican Party began with one of the greatest orators in American history, a man whose words continue to ring down through history sharp and pure as ruby laser light, Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…. I don’t even have to look it up. Like many Americans I know the words by heart and more than a century after they were first spoken on the field at Gettysburg they still resonate with raw power and the promise of a better world.

Today republicans nod and cheer when their candidate says, We have to come up, and we can come up with many different plans, in fact, plans you don't even know about will be devised because we're going to come up with plans, health care plans, that will be so good.

Trump is no Lincoln. He’s no Ronald Reagan. Hell he’s not even George W. Bush.

This is the nadir of the Republican Party.

And this may be where it ends. This may be where the Republican Party finally drinks itself to death, a withered ruin in a wheelchair.




Perhaps this is the point, the bitter and terrible rock bottom, that finally turns things around.

This is the crucible in which greatness might be reborn.

America is not well served by the destruction of the Grand Old Party. 

Growth, innovation, ingenuity, vigor, are all the products of stimulating competition and intellectual challenge. America needs both conservatives and liberals of reason and intellect and a willingness to work together.

And it’s ironic indeed that those spitting blood right now over recent national outrages such as the flag and the pledge of allegiance forget that they themselves put the words “one nation” into those vows. If they don’t mean it, what the hell are they so mad about?

Here’s the bottom line: Republicans don’t need to take back America, for they never lost it.

Instead they need to take back their party.

The descendants of Abraham Lincoln do not need to make America great again, for America has never lost the greatness described by Lincoln’s words.

Instead America needs to make the Republican Party great again.

Not great in some grand gesture, some fantastic achievement, but instead great in a thousand small ways. Great in the ways which make America great for all of its citizens – indeed all the citizens of the world.

Now is the time for Republicans of good intention, of reason and moderation and compromise, to wrest back their party from the bigots and the fanatics and the lunatic fringe and send them back into the margins, isolated and powerless, where they belong.

In the end, even George Corley Wallace, Jr, himself came around.

Wallace made peace with his God and apologized sincerely to America and directly to people of color for his hate and bigotry. He said of the stand that made him infamous, Segregation Now! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever! “I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over.” He said that while he had once sought power and glory, he came finally to the realization that he had to ask for love and forgiveness of those he’d wronged. He openly and publicly recanted his racist beliefs, moreover his actions proved he was sincere. In his final years as governor of Alabama, Wallace set about making things right, he appointed a record number of black people to state positions including his own cabinet and did everything in his power to make permanent the gains of the movement born in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

George Wallace didn’t change things in any great way, but his final actions were great in a hundred small ways and they changed America and the Democratic Party forever.

Wallace spent his final years holding court in a rundown diner not far from the State Capitol in Montgomery.  In constant pain, he sat in his wheelchair and held forth on politics and The South and America. He died on September 13th, 1998 and thousands, black and white, came to his funeral.

For a man who couldn’t walk, he had come far since the day I saw him speak in 1972.

That’s the man I wish I’d met.

 I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.
-- Rosa Parks


  1. Thanks Jim, this is a good read

    1. I was "out of the country" in "68" and had little idea what was happening here at home. The Army didn't want us knowing very much and censored our mail. My friend Pat writes a blog on history and the "68" convention in particular. I get the parallels of our times and have often spoken on how perilous this time is for Republicans as that time was for us. Thank you, Jim.

    2. Zach, my neighbor and friend, sent me this just now. I was 24 in 1968 and had already been thoroughly churned by the cement-mixer of our society and the whirlwinds of politics in the San Francisco Bay Area. Looking back to that time, I don't know that things would have turned out much worse with Wallace than with Nixon.I was one of "those hippie Commie demonstrators" marching and sitting for equality and peace. Some of us preferred facing straight-up racists like Wallace than the sneaky kind. I never saw or got close enough to Wallace to shoot him and didn't want to anyway.In college, I had taken an excellent class about Mark Twain from a Professor who had grown up with George Wallace. She told us that on one occasion, their 5th Grade class took a Field Trip on a boat on the Missippi River. She said that George looked over the side and said :" You know, ah cain't swim." She said that in later years that she had always wished that she had pushed him in ! Things might have been different. Or not.

    3. Wow. What a beautiful piece of literature. Thanks for this.

  2. In '68 we moved from Norfolk to Pax River, where I had my 8th birthday that Sept. Dad was flying ASW upgrading from Neptunes to Orions. Those two years, every time we'd go to D.C. to have a look, there was a protest somewhere. That's where I first became aware of hippies, per se. I was learning to read and did so prolifically. Mostly the newspaper, I gathered a lot of info on the times. I suppose that jump started my transition into a heathen liberal. By '72 we were in Mid-coast Maine at NAS Brunswick. So much to do in Maine as a 12 yr old, I forgot all about the strife I'd witnessed as a 3rd grader.

  3. Brilliant as usual, Jim. Keep up the good work, and my sincerest condolences on ShopKat.

  4. Lots of good info here that I was unaware of. I am a child of the 60s and remember George Wallace as being extremely racist and to me unstable. I remember his shooting, but was happy because he was so narrow minded and had it coming. I remember the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I thought our country was finally turning around. I am horrified by what I see in how people and Congress have treated our President because of his race. Now, I am downright pissed because of the orange faced buffoon that is trying to take over and become president. He is energizing racists and bigots that have come out from hiding. I am truly scared for our country. This is not "Make America great again," it's "Make America hate again!"

  5. Thank you. I remember 1968. I recently had to explain to a complaining Bernie Sanders supporter that I had previously backed an outlier, a candidate who ran against the system, who offered the hope of change, and I saw Eugene McCarthy's opportunity grabbed away from him by Democrats who feared him. However, the person they offered in his place, Robert Kennedy, at least offered some excitement and possibility, and he was gunned down in a hotel kitchen, so the Democrats then offered us the vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, who never won a single primary. So stop whining that we don't understand, I told the Sanders supporter. I do understand, better than you do. 1968 was an AWFUL year.

    And I hope the Republicans can recover their party. I've voted for Republicans at various levels, and they are often thoughtful, intelligent people with a genuine interest in making sure everyone has a chance to live a decent life. They aren't the people who were running during this last campaign season, and they aren't the ones who garner the headlines in Congress. But decent Republicans are out there, and I hope they can begin to rebuild.

    1. Nancy, I guess I don't understand your need to "explain" you politics to a Bernie supporter. Me: drafted, in Army helicopter flight school during '72 election, of all of the buddies on the bus that day, only 2 of us voted George McGovern. I have never regretted voting for McG, and I am proud that our system allows multiple viewpoints. You don't need to explain anything to us Berniecrats, we get it!

    2. Depends on the age of "Berniecrat." Some are very young, and/or don't know the history. It's like the teenager who's in love for the first time. They can't imagine how anyone before in all history could feel jut like THIS, or how devastating the breakup. Yeah, kid, been there.

    3. Nancy, plenty of Clinton and Trump supporters don't know that history, either. My son supports Sanders, as do I, but he's 21 and I'm 66. I can discuss the '64 and '68 and '72 elections with him, but to have lived through those from ages 14 to 22 gives me so much more perspective and information that hearing or reading about it doesn't quite convey. Even so, he seems to have taken to Sanders intuitively. We saw him speak in Ann Arbor the night before the Michigan primary. It was remarkable. We're both frustrated as hell that he isn't running as an independent, and I will probably write him in. Not sure what my son is going to do.

    4. Jill Stein is running and on almost all state ballots! Fox Business (John Stossel) giving her a Town Hall, airing Friday night, 9 PM Eastern. Bernie's policies plus. Green is long-time 'for the people' type of party, common in many other countries with better social programs and better quality of life than here. And Bernie's brother is a Green Party spokesman in England.

    5. Is Debtee and all the other excited Jill Stein supporters still excited about splitting the left's vote among Green, Libertarian, and the Democratic Party?

      Do you think perhaps Debtee looks at the madman in the Oval Office today and realizes her partial responsibility for putting him there, as she encouraged liberals to split their voting efforts among various pointless third party vanity candidates?

      Somehow I doubt it. Somehow I imagine she tells herself stores about how the margin of the Democrats defeat in 2016 was more than all the people who voted for Stein, so it just doesn't matter how many thousands voted for Greens.

      But the rest of us know better, Debtee.

      And we'll never let you forget the part you played in putting Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

  6. As always, thanks for storming the castle.

  7. Jim, this may be your best piece ever. I am a bit older than you and that period in time has shaped my life ever since.

    1. Isn't that the truth. The war for American hearts and minds we see today was, I really believed, won decades ago.

  8. "it’s everywhere like a foul miasma of nameless, shapeless dread."
    Channeling our inner Lovecraft i see. Very appropriate given the state of things.
    Well played.

    1. Actually, that was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

  9. One of your Canadian fans/would-be minions here, Jim. Thank you for this, a most coherent history lesson about my American neighbours, your history and politics, all in one shot. I am of an age with you, slightly older (I remember JFK being shot though I was a small child and didn't know what an assassination was) and I was a bemused not-teen through the late sixties and early 70s, perplexed by all that was going on in the US, politically, ecologically, culturally. I read this essay, and felt like I understand your country a little better. I'm still worried for November 8th and the days afterwards. But your perspective gives me a little hope. Cheers from a fellow writer and proud Armed Forces supporter (though my team are all Air Force. ) ;-)

  10. I was born in 67, but I'm more interested in history than most, so I know a lot of what you've written. Not all, though - not the fine-grained stuff that fills in the cracks and makes things more solid. Makes them make sense. I vaguely knew of Wallace's recanting, but reading your words made the hairs on my neck stand up. Wonderful piece.

  11. another great exposition, mr. wright!! we are about the same age, you and i. my take on 1968 was: that was the year that killed the national optimism that started 8 years earlier with the election of jfk. one of the most important moments to me from that year occurred when rfk's campaign took him to a black neighborhood on the day of mlk's death. and he spoke to the audience and told them that he too had been affected by loss just a few years earlier in 1963. and there was no rioting in that town that night, unlike many other places in america. that was the kind of healing that in my opinion this country could have used with an rfk administration. but that never got to happen, instead we got . . nixon.

  12. Brilliant. I yearn for a time where I could seriously consider voting Republican.

  13. Thanks Jim. I posited the question, on a Washington Post post, just yesterday about at what point did the Republican party go from being the party of emancipation and civil liberties, to the current ultra conservative right wing party of rednecks and douche bags that it is today. As an outsider looking in at American politics I have always been curious about the point at which the Democrats and Republican Parties switched ideologies. Now thanks to you I have the framework that begins to scaffold my understanding of it. I would offer this though. It appears to me that both the Republicans and Democrats have a lot of soul searching to do as to the future direction they take if they wish to survive. Because alienation and disenfranchisement is costing them, and the American people dearly.

  14. The Republican party, and the Democrats for that matter, will only regain their relevance when they decide that their need for individual power means less than their concern for humanity.

    1. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with parties; unless they exist solely to sustain themselves.

  15. Jim, this is the post that will allow my family (staunch Navy veteran GOP'ers) and I (veteran turned hippie liberal lesbian) to have a conversation that doesn't end in tears and shouting. We remember 1968, we remember George Wallace, we remember cities burning. But none of us could have put together the words describing the current state of the GOP like you have. I think my Dad and I can finally sigh, hug and agree. Thank you.

  16. I spent my youth worshiping George Wallace because my Father did. I was 15 years old in 1968. I remember the fear I felt when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. I remember finding small ways I could get away with being mean to the black kids that invaded my school. As time went by, I wanted to change. It took years to admit I was racist. At age 63, I know I am a racist, that has chosen not to practice the racism within me. But, my personal feeling is I have to realize it exist in me. I know it sounds like empty words, but, I had to work at it. I don't want to be a racist. I was fortunate to have co-workers, and my wife to help me along. Most of my co-workers were black, they became my friends. But I learned to see the look when I said the wrong words. "I am sorry" was part of my vocabulary, and I had the burden and opportunity to prove it. I apologize for being long winded.

    1. You, sir, are an amazing man. Thank you.

    2. Thank you for a finely written historical piece. I always feel that too often writers and journalists write with no historical memory, as though this never happened before. I am 11 years older than you, so we'll remember the times. I happened to see live Lee Harvey Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby on TV. But a few years later I married a retired Army person who was much older than I, and as I was a History student, I lover learning about history from someone who lived it. 6 years before we married he had been in Vietnam as an "advisor" with his little grey ID card. He hated that war, and as a participant in many wars both official and otherwise, his opinion had some weight. Yes, we've seen this before, and with luck we will survive, but I wish we would stop re living the past!

    3. Nothing long-winded at all. Candid, yes. Courageous, indeed. Very, very few Americans walk around without prejudice and biases of some kind, but it's how we come to know they're there and maybe come to understand how they happened, but most important what we DO about them once recognized that counts the most. I second Cheryl's assessment.

    4. Paul Sams- WOW! That was an amazing post. Bravo and thank you.

    5. Wow. It must be difficult to admit those things. Having been raised in a somewhat liberal, never outwardly racist family, I can smugly judge those that weren't - and isn't that easy, both then and now? You have and are doing the difficult work and I applaud you. Today you have restored a bit of my faith in humanity, as cliché as that may be. Thank you!!

  17. I think the Republican Party still has a way to go before hitting bottom. If Mr Cruz has another run and tries to set up the US as a religious state, they will be at the bottom. I'd recommend reading Heinlein's "If this goes on..." for details, but I'm pretty sure you've read it. For my perspective, I was in college in 1968. George Wallace didn't loom as big for me then, but he made a remarkable change. Thanks for putting that into perspective.

  18. 1968, I was 10 and parts the nearby city of Omaha were burning after George Wallace came to town. Having lived in nearby Bellevue where Offutt Air Force Base was located I never lived in a segregated community. I just didn't understand why people couldn't live like my community lived. I still don't understand.

    1. I was younger in 1968, but also lived there. A lot of it was due to official Air Force policy (we'll come down on you like a ton of bricks for overt racism), but the kids grew up modelling the behavior they saw, and it worked out. Culture shock when I left Offutt for Montgomery for the 1st year of court ordered busing. Went to a school where Wallace was venerated by the whites and indoor plumbing had just been installed. Very grateful to have been transferred back to Offutt If it was living hell for me, what was it like for the children whose lives were torn apart? None of them were to blame for the thoughts that had been poured into their heads.

  19. Since you're a former Michigander, Jim, you know that Detroit burned in 1967, not 1968, right? I left Michigan right after that and moved to San Francisco, surrounded by hippies, Vietnam protests, and Cops vs. Black Panthers. While there I remember waking up one morning to Bobby Kennedy's assassination and coming home one night to hear about Martin Luther King. My overall feelings about that time are sadness and despair. Back in Michigan now, my overall feeling about this time now is disgust and despair.

  20. Thanks for your memories and your perspective.

  21. Knocked it out of the park once again. Thanks, Jim, for posting this thoughtful, enlightening essay.

  22. Man, oh man, this is incredibly profound.

  23. These essays of yours need to be gathered in chapbooks and sold everywhere! Another timely and well put together essay. Thank you, Jim!

  24. As always, a good read Jim. But I am not sure we will ever get over this endless cycle until we confront racism head on. And I don't mean the people of color in this country, but all of us whites who are so uncomfortable acknowledging it, much less discussing and fixing it. Personally, I believe DT is a direct backlash to President Obama's election. From the day he was elected, a good share of the white majority in this country simply could not accept having a black family in the White House. That racism has been fostered over his entire presidency, if not in the form of the birthers, then his supposed "otherness", as again noted by Alex Castellanos this weekend. Given President Obama's integrity, honor, class and intellect, in addition to his near perfect family, I have never been able to understand what is so "other" about him--perhaps his compassion in comparison to the GOP? I am afraid this will be an endless cycle until it is called out for what it is and confronted. Having grown up in a 99% white small town, I understand the fear of those who have never known anything different--I actually could see my mom voting for Trump if she was still alive--while all of the "kids" moved off to big cities with their wonderful diversity. Two of the three of us are now in mixed race families. But for so many, this fear gets passed from one generation to the next and continues. But the Republicans have sunk to a new low these last 8 years and we should never forget it.

    1. Agree totally. Back when Martin Luther King was killed, my future husband was in Fort Smith Arkansas, on his way to somewhere. When he heard the news, he also tried other radio channels. Every one was playing the song "bye bye blackbird" over and over again. The race hatred is strong in this country, Trump just opened the cellar door and let the monster out.

  25. Do you remember what his slogan was? (Trivia question)

    As a Democrat in a county that's mostly red, in Alabama, I must point out the difference I see. Democrats did not choose George Wallace nationally, Republicans have chosen Trump. My daddy was a Democrat, born and raised in Alabama, and he could not stand George Wallace.

    Ironically George Wallace's political slogan was "Stand Up For Alabama" when he ran for govenor, "Stand Up For America" as a presidential candidate.

  26. 1972 was the first presidential election in which I could vote (voting age was still 21 in 1968); in December of that year, the Army brought me to Maryland and I was living just a few miles from the shopping center where Wallace was shot.

    Thanks for your usual thoughtful and thought-provoking commentary on those times and now.

  27. I was thirteen in 1968 -- earlier this year I snarled at a Bernie follower complaining about losing, that they would never really understand what losing was like until they had seen a picture of their candidate bleeding out on a hotel kitchen floor...

    My grandparents were union members, had adored JFK, and their political outlook was the one that stuck with me. I became hooked on politics in 1964 when Johnson won in a landslide, and we followed it all in My Weekly Reader (thanks, Scholastic Book Club).

    I love the Gettysburg address, and have always admired Lincoln, but my favorite passage of his is from his second Inaugural Address, the goals he didn't get to accomplish:

    With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

    I'm hoping these will be Hillary Clinton's goals -- because we have wounds in dire need of binding.

    1. thank you for reminding me of that year, I too was 13 at the time. And remember Bobby being killed vividly. I was watching Los Angeles TV that night and listened to his victory speech. And then the coverage of his being shot.

      A very sad time in our nations history.

    2. I was 13 as well. Everything about Jim's post resonates with me, and too a large extent makes me who I am today. We experienced the civil rights era and the Vietnam conflict and the dissenters and the protest music. We talked about the draft and moving to Canada. We were shocked by the asassination of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The world was on fire, and we were watching it burn.

  28. And, just to extend the metaphor a little further, those of us who have knocked around in recovery for a while also know this to be true: It's a damned small percentage of us who manage to get and stay sober. A hell of a lot more die of, or at least with, our disease.
    Gives one pause to wonder whether the GOP is going to manage to take that first step, grab 'hold of the lifeline, and choose a new path or if they'll prove to be one of the grim statistics that just can't muster the willingness to change, no matter what it takes.

  29. I turned 21 in '68. Lost a boyfriend in 'Nam. Grieved all the rest that happened in that awful year. Hated Wallace, then loved him, a man redeemed. So much of what I hear from Trump's camp drags my heart back into that unhappy time. Thank you for a thoughtful essay, Jim. Saints preserve us.

  30. My Dad was Air Force,and we were at Craig AFB, Selma, AL in 1968. I was in the 8th grade. White kids on the base were bused to the white Junior high in Selma, and all the non-white kids went to another school. We crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge every day to and from Selma to the base. An unbelievable year between Wallace, the election, rioting, war, assassinations,and everything else. We had a mock election in my class--of 30 kids, I was the only one not to vote for Wallace. Not a friend anywhere off base. Laughed at, picked on--the absolute worst year of my life. 2016 seems bad, but to me, 1968 was as close to Hell as I ever got.

    1. And Jim, I suspect you are right about the potential rebirth of the GOP. I thought that when Oompa Loompa was nominated--that action was the nadir of the GOP as we know it, IMO. The sensible people (and yes, there are many of them out there) need to take back their party (or start a new one). Time will tell. I do wonder what will happen to all the racists, misogynists, and gun fondlers who have been emboldened by the Great Cheetoh--will they slink back into the mud from which they arose, or will they continue to be a hugely divisive and disruptive force in America. So well-written and well-thought out, as always!

  31. I keep thinking that the change (the taking back of the GOP from the far right fringe) won't be able to happen until the Boomers are no longer the greater number of voters. The Millenials just caught up this year with eligible voters. They will start being the voter to appeal to, and that is when we'll really start seeing the change. Millennials are less into guns, more agreeable to reproductive choice, more agreeable to LBGT causes, want affordable health care for all... The GOP will have to change because empathy is HUGE among the younger generation. This election is so interesting for so many reasons, but I'm truly interested to see what the next 15 years or so is going to bring...

  32. A powerful essay, yet again.

    The touchstones from the sixties and seventies you write about were largely my own. I came into political awareness with the Watergate hearings on TV and the sick fire of Mutually Assured Destruction hanging over the heads of myself and everyone I cared about. Corruption and destruction seemed to be what I could expect from the nation’s leaders. Vietnam was a fucking meat grinder and I was coming to that age. Down the street was the guy who came home from Vietnam, a lucky one, a junky, a spook.
    They say a cynic is a disillusioned idealist. What are you if the idealism had no soil to grow in?
    I hope you are right about the republicans having the capacity to redeem themselves. We do indeed need them. Power should not be a monopoly no matter who has it. Ideas should pass through a crucible before becoming policy.
    But hate is riding the republicans like a rented mule.
    Hate is a drug for a politician. If you can make them hate. Hate and fear, you can just lead them around. Start with just a little bit. You know, just to get things started, get that party rolling. Then you'll sober right up and get down to business. Unless you don't, but that OK. You can quit any time. Unless you don't
    The only thing I don’t absolutely agree on in the essay is “America needs to make the Republican Party great again”
    Nah. We can’t. They gotta want to. It’s on them.

    I really hope they do it. I don’t want to carry this fucking cynicism to my grave.

  33. Oh my! I can identify. My family went to see Wallace in OKC. My family was Democrat, then Republican, then independant , back to Republican, except for my brother and I.
    My folks were John Birchers, which I never knew until about 20 years ago, I had a flashback at the State Fair, of my dad at their booth. Yikes!
    I could write a very similar story! Yikes!

  34. I was born right smack in the middle of 1968. June 1968. I, obviously, have no memory of this time. My parents said it was dark and frightening, and I've read the history books, as my youngest reads about 9/11 and shortly thereafter because he was 5 and has no real memory of it. Your words take me there, and back again to now. I can see it all then and it's the same, isn't it? Very different, and so much the same. Once again, you're words paint the picture in vivid 3D. And I agree. We need the Republican Party to be great again. I will hope for that.

  35. Excellent piece. I was 9 years old in 1968 and know exactly what you mean.

    So many of today's "crises" are over-hyped BS by a 24/7 media with lots of hours to fill and relentless self-promotion.

    Back in '68 the network TV news was on for 30 minutes once a day. If you needed more, there was AM radio or newspapers.

    I thought the Republicans hit bottom years ago and every day I'm proven wrong.

  36. I might argue that America would not be well served by making the Republican Party great again. Or at least not as well served as it would by making multiple parties viable. If we can't even do that, then I'd be much happier to let the DNC become the official conservative party that it most nearly resembles, and let's create an actual liberal party to once again balance out the interests of big business.

  37. Wonderfully written. Unfortunately, there's another way this can go. If Trump wins, and I wish there was some scientific way to rule that out, the GOP could rise again in his image. If Trump wins, he has control of a supine congress, and will have the chance to appoint multiple supreme court justices. He could turn America inside out like an old gym-sock.

    1. Just reading your comment put shivers down my spine. It can't go that way. We, as a nation, can not let that man win. It would be absolutely disastrous in so many ways.

    2. Brilliantly written. My hat's off to you.

  38. This essay was like reading history that I remember living through. I graduated high school in 1966 and through my innocence witnessed from the side lines all you wrote about. I was older than you in 1968, but sometimes failed to understand the significance of all the news and headlines of the day. The Vietnam War raged and I finally realized the daily numbers of men and some women killed and reported on the news started to look obscene. The 1968 election year was nasty in Chicago and I didn't understand why Bobby Kennedy and MLK were shot and killed, it seemed really senseless. When George Wallace was shot at the Laural Md shopping center, I think I might have thought, that racist man deserved what he got. But maybe not, in the long run, Wallace so many years later apologized and as you so clearly wrote, made the wrongs he espoused, right with his own words and actions. Times are different for Republican party today, for sure. It's about ready to roll over and die and Trump is hammering the last nails in the coffin if the party goes along with him. I don't know what else to say, but thanks for the great history lesson and hopefully those who have forgot or never studied those times, gets it now.

  39. I attended Wallace rallies for both of his campaigns, (just to annoy folks: I was a longhaired, anti-war college kid working construction when I could). I, like you, accepted and admired his change of behavior as well as change of heart.

  40. Excellent read Jim. I was 23 in 1968 - living in Oklahoma City. To this day, I have a hard time realizing how pitifully misinformed and self-centered that I was then - and thinking I was so smart. I had a lot of growing up to do. Thankfully, it didn't take too long. But, my fear is that DT could win due to the apathy of the Left combined with the zeal of the Far Right. All that would accomplish would be to prove that George Orwell was just too optimistic - by 33 years.

    May your wonderful memories of ShopKat offer you peace in your heart as you go forward.

  41. Very well said, sir - a wonderful history lesson, both personal and national. 1968 was my first voting election, and I was a delegate to the Jefferson County, CO, GOP assembly - didn't want to be but my Dad, a County committeeman, thought it'd be "good for me." I was pretty much anti-everything the GOP wanted that year, especially Nam and Nixon, so I was about as popular as tabby cat at a schnauzer convention. A few of us like-minded young delegates (not to be confused with the formal 'Young Republicans') set up a table in the lobby with anti-war petitions. We also tried to get an anti-war plank into the county platform. In regard to the latter, we were shouted down; to the former we were literally kicked out and pour credentials revoked. We set up on the front lawn until threatened with arrest by too many cops to feel comfortable with. And I remember Wallace, and the hate he spewed on TV. I have been a liberal ever since. Kepp up the good work, man, and nil illegitum carborundum!

  42. We thought Wallace was a terrible, but fringe candidate. We were lulled into thinking Nixon would be better. We were wrong - we actually was worse than Wallace, but the true bottom was absolute lying, conniving, union-busting Reagan.

  43. The way you articulate the core of an issue is nothing less than inspiring. Will this post go "viral"? It would be encouraging if it does but this election year is so deeply down the rabbit hole I don't know. Thanks for continuing to make us think.

  44. In 1963, I was in high school art class when I learned of JFK. In 1968 I was home on leave from the Navy when RFK died. I spent most of the rest of that year on a rusty old destroyer plying the waters of the Tonkin Gulf. I didn't understand it then, and I still don't understand. I look at the Trump campaign, and it's a living nightmare. I have friends who have bought into the craziness, and revel in it. People are losing friends and family because of this maniac, and I am trying valiantly not to fall into that action myself. Every day I get a little sadder.

  45. Thank you, again Mr. Wright.
    I, too, remember 1968, and I've told friends too young to know that this year is a lot like then (fortunately, without overt assassinations).
    The nation appeared to be coming apart at the very moral seams that hold us together. The same appears true today. After eight years of a black President, and the probability of a woman President, I have seen, and fear what I might see, of the angry white men responding with weapons. Their cognitive dissonance will compel them toward violence, with more Oregon/Bundy Ranch stand-offs.
    Despite my liberal leanings, I enlisted in the Marine Corps in '73. I swore an oath to defend the nation and constitution from all enemies, both foreign and DOMESTIC.
    My greatest fear is that I may need my skills to fight my neighbors.
    I hope that I'm mistaken.
    I've told many others who speak about their fears regarding where the country will go if (fill in the blank) is elected, "our nation has seen worse, and we've always found a way to survive".
    Your strength of conviction, and your eloquent dialogue, give me the hope that my words will be proven true.

  46. Yes, you are just one man with just one voice, but you speak for so many and you give voice to the passion and ideals so many share but never get to articulate. Thank you!

  47. Thank you for putting this together - it is a really good read. I was 10 in 1968 so we're not far apart. This brought back so many memories from the 60s and 70s. I couldn't agree with you more. This election may well be the end of the GOP. Or maybe the rebirth of it. Will conservatives languish in the cesspool they've created or rise from the ashes? If they've reached their bottom, as you put it, will they choose to acknowledge it and begin the process of change or will they sink still further to an even more heinous bottom? Time will tell. As a lifelong liberal, I hope they choose well. We need all hands on deck to move forward in this crazy world we live in.

  48. I think if I can ever write on politics a tenth as good as you do, I'll consider myself pretty damn lucky.

  49. Thanks for this essay Jim. I am always trying to help my 35 year old son understand the issues and anxieties of the 60s and 70s. I have passed on your wise words to help further his insight.

  50. Great essay, Jim. This Philadelphia fan and wannabe minion graduated high school in 1968. Bobby Kennedy was shot the day of my senior trip. I worked on JFK's campaign as a kid, alongside my mom, later worked for Gene McCarthy and George McGovern.
    I've spent the last eight years aghast at the way this worthless Congress and the hatemongers of the GOP have treated our President and his family simply because of the color of their skin. I've thought of Wallace -- the old Wallace -- often. I fear that we have indeed gone back to 1968 or, worse, a more insidious copy of the original. As the once remote possibility of a Trump presidency begins to look like it could actually come to pass, I wonder if there is indeed anything that could pull us back from the brink. 1968 had some very frightening moments. This is far more frightening.
    Barb Cohan-Saavedra

  51. Jim - Thank you. Again

  52. Thank you. I've said something similar (about the GOP) but not with the full fleshing out you gave it. (I reposted to Facebook because it needs to be shared.)

    My folks (Idahoans) voted for George Wallace. I grew up around the Birchers. But I remember what the GOP used to be. I used to consider myself one - and then the party went to hell in a hand basket and I'm going what the hell just happened to my world?

    I've spent 50 years wondering what just happened. I don't like the racism. I don't like the science denial. I don't like the frezkazoid religious fundamentalism. I don't like virtually any of what the party has become. I'm absolutely floored.

    We need a third party for the bigots, religious whack jobs, and and other malcontents to join so they can appropriately isolated from the rest of us sane people. I long for the days of the loyal opposition rather than the people we want to exterminate.

    1. Please be careful what you wish for. We did that here in the UK and ended up with UKIP, that steaming pile of excrement Farage and Brexit - the biggest mistake Britain will ever make!

  53. I'm a few years older, Jim. Robert Kennedy was assassinated on my 11th birthday. There's a what if. How would things have been different if _that_ Kennedy had survived and been elected?

    1. "Some men see things as they are and say, Why?
      I dream of things that never were, and say, Why not?"

      Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy, his campaign slogan

  54. '72 was the first election in which I was old enough to vote. I campaigned hard for McGovern in the small northwoods town where I was finishing up college; I attended the county Democrats' "victory party" in a local hotel suite and watched the B&W TV as McGovern not only lost the Michigan primary, but lost to Wallace.

    I thought that was the end of the world. I was young and naive - and wrong (the worst efforts of the Nixon administration to the contrary).

    I'm too damned old now to be freaking out about the current state of US politics. But here I am, freaking out. At the moment, I feel like anyone who fails to cast a vote *that counts* against Trump is not my ally.

  55. I graduated from high school in June 1967. I was in the last half of my freshman year when MLK Jr. and RFK were killed. It was a bad year for the country. RFK was on my college campus just a couple of weeks before he was killed. I was inspired and ready to volunteer for his campaign, though I was not old enough to vote (21 was still the voting age, then). You captured the feel of the time very well.

  56. This is one of your best political essays of all times.

  57. As a long time reader and admirer, a great history lesson. My mind, unbidden was seeing the movement of the parties as a graph and with each milestone I could see the changes as I read, the lines crossing and moving in opposite directions, both from one another and each from its own history.

    One thing puzzled me though, "And so here we are 30 years later in 2016." 30 years ago was 1986 and that wasn't a year, prominent in this essay, 1968 was though. Did you really mean 30 yrs ago, or has the late hour dulled my logic?

  58. Just the other day I had a conversation about the America of compromise - the America that works together for the benefit of all its citizens - regardless of race, creed, religion, political ideology, gender identity, or economic status. That America exists in spite of the hate and loathing at the forefront of the Republican presidential nominee's rallies and speeches. The America I believe in is struggling to break through the trampled ruts of bigotry and backwardness that the sad and frightened 'good 'ol boys' of the GOP have been traversing for so many decades. This essay reminded me of that conversation and of the faith I have in the movement toward the equality of which Lincoln spoke. While we (the collective we - as a nation, a people) have progressed toward the reality of equality, much work is left to be done. The current GOP presidential nominee will not bring greatness 'back' to this nation through bigotry, bullying, and hatred; our greatness rises in a thousand (or a hundred thousand) small acts of compromise, compassion, commitment, and collaboration working toward a "nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

  59. This is why people love you, Jim.

  60. I remember growing up during that time. You captured this in a way that I've been able to express. Thank you!

  61. I believe my grandmother was at that event, she grew up in Ionia, which is in the county to the east of Kent and was a Wallace supporter (and an old person by 1972) and so would have been all for being bussed 15 miles to the airport. Any hoo, wonderful essay that puts all of this into much better perspective.

  62. Donald Trump may be tearing the Republican Party in one direction, but I worry as much about the Koch Brothers tearing America in another direction. They have a very effective Astroturf campaign (looks like a "grass roots" campaign, but it's not) that is entrenching their version of the Republican Party at the local and state levels, partly by gerrymandering, partly by all the same "pro-business, anti-tax," rhetoric. In their case, I doubt it's at all racial; it's pure greed, leavened by some Libertarian, Ayn Rand-ian pseudo-intellectualism.

    If you fix Trump's influence on that party, you still have the Kochs, ALEC, and the rest of that Gordian knot.

  63. Wow. Your essay is a tour de force! Just when I think I've seen your best you soar ever higher.

    My bottom came on Dec. 21st, 1991. I am a friend of Bill as I suspect was your father.

    When living GOP past-Presidents come out and say they are voting Democrat, one has to know that scary shit is going down. I too came to the conclusion a while back that this scary shit might be exactly what the GOP and the rest of the country needs to wake the fuck up. They need this "bottom" as much as, evidently, your dad and I did.

    Echoing some earlier responders, I too think that the dark bigoted underbelly of America is only one piece of the puzzle. America simply must overturn Citizens United and take control of democracy back from the wealthy and corporate oligarchs.

    They have perpetrated a coup d'état in slow motion. Americans are like a frog in a pot of water where the heat has been turned up incrementally over time - the pot is boiling and they haven't jumped out - yet. But it is coming. I can see the signs.

    Again, well done Jim! Thank you for your large part in bringing sanity back to the discourse.


  64. I knew this essay was going to be great when it started with a Charles Manson quote.

  65. I was 22 in 1968. Your words brought back all the emotions and frustrations and chaos of those times. I was taught "all men are created equal," but I saw that all men and women were not treated equal. I never protested against the war, but I questioned the assumptions behind the alleged reasons to go to war. No one gave me any reasons why those assumptions were legitimate. "Love it or leave it," they told me, implying that a bunch of old men in Washington knew much more than a young girl in the Midwest. I didn't believe them then and have been proven right since then. Eventually, I convinced my husband to move to Canada in order to evade the draft. Little did I know it would be the best move I would ever make. I thought that since Canada was a smaller country, there would be more of a chance to make positive changes, to solve social problems. Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister and had declined to join the US in sending troops to Viet Nam. That was a message to me that they did things differently. So I, in my naivete moved to Winnipeg(!) in order to be closer to my then-husband's family.

    I have now lived in Canada twice as many years as I lived in the US. I look at what is happening in the US election and do not understand nor do I recognize the people I cared about who have moved so far to the right. However, I recognize those who have maintained an accepting, understanding, questioning attitude toward government; those who still want to seek equality of all, those who accept refugees and immigrants without being threatened. There is a core of people who still believe in the traditions and values of the United States and they, if allowed, can be the saving of the country. I hope they will be able to overcome the ugliness this year.

  66. Well done, but with one caveat. In 1968, the Democrats were simultaneously the party of George Wallace and the bastion of liberalism. The Democrats still held the legacy of FDR activism for the disadvantaged, the idealism of Kennedy's rhetoric and the commitment to integration that LBJ sponsored. It was a deeply divided party.

  67. Nothing like reading one of your essays with coffee and google for an educational morning. Thank you Jim.

  68. But if the code is still there, how will it ever get better?

    If the Dem's bottom gave birth to the GOP of today, what will the GOP's bottom give birth to? As far as I can see, the GOP has always been a silent Trump, a coded Trump, but a Trump all the same.

    When you can't get anyone to the table to have the conversation, how will it ever get better?

    Not wanting to be negative, really enjoyed your article. But I don't see a light shinning at the end of this tunnel, unless you are not one of the oppressed.

  69. Thank you. This made me cry. I was born in 1968, and never imagined we would be in the same place again. But thank you so much for writing this. I needed this. Gonna share this will all my loved ones.

  70. Mr. Wright I so enjoy your essays and your presence on Facebook. You are a beacon of reason and information in a very complex and often less than honest world of pseudo journalism and opinion. Thanks for all you do and keep it up, we need more like you. My condolences on the passing of your friend, ShopKat.

  71. “America needs both conservatives and liberals of reason and intellect and a willingness to work together.”

    This will never happen because there is too much money to be made on hyper-partisanship. Conservatives hate liberals because they have been told to by countless hours of Fox News propaganda – which rakes in Billions by telling rubes what to think. Republicans will not work with HRC any more than they did with Obama because their campaign contributions depend on it. Whether they admit it or not, each side is addicted to money, and will do anything, say anything to get it.

    If money is the root of all evil it sure has found fertile soil in American politics. Getting that money out of politics is one good way to start the healing.

    Chris in S. Jersey

  72. I remember 1972 too, but vaguely. My parents were Democrats. And I asked, since my mother's maiden name was Wallace, why we didn't support him? In my little kid brain that didn't understand politics much, I had no idea who or what George Wallace was. My parents supported McGovern but they knew he had little chance of beating Nixon. What a shame. What a disaster. Some clueless Trump supporter yesterday posted that Obama has divided America worse than it has every been. Obviously this is a ridiculous statement. Sadly one of the things lacking in Trump supporters is a lack of perspective and no appreciation for the fact that "we've been here before". On the other hand, have we ever had a candidate for president that is this dangerous? Even taking into account Nixon and Bush Jr., I don't think we have. And I don't think I need to tell this either. Great read!

  73. If Trump comes close to winning the presidency (as now seems likely) or, worse yet, actually wins it, the people who control the Republican Party will certainly not see it as "rock bottom". If Trump loses by only a few percentage points (the most likely scenario right now), he will immediately claim the election was "stolen" from him by some tinfoil hat conspiracy and openly encourage his fear-crazed followers to pick up their many guns and do something about it. The resulting rise in far right terrorism *might* be seen as "rock bottom" but the way things are going now I'm not optimistic.

  74. I don't remember the Detroit riots of '68. I do remember the '67 riots, which spilled over into Flint, but not in any wise so badly as Detroit burned. Of course, Flint was a vibrant, affluent town back then. We even had clean water to drink.

    I remember the fear, also: Living with my grandparents and watching Grandpa (who'd fought with the Bushmasters in WWII) being very quiet and very concerned for the soldiers on the news reports. He was a veteran of jungle warfare, and when he'd quietly say "Oh, that's not good." or "Oh, they're in trouble. They're in a lot of trouble." it rang with a sincerity and depth of knowledge which I could sense as a child but couldn't nearly appreciate.

    '68 was the year that we started locking the doors at night, when we went to bed, and Grandpa put the new chain-bolts onto both doors. Everyone was asking what the world was coming to, when you had to lock the doors at night when you were in your own house. Why, next thing we knew, we'd have to lock them during the day! And close and lock the windows when we went out to work or to the market. It was inconceivable.

    Wallace was far more popular on your side of the state, back then, then on ours. We tended more toward the liberal, with the UAW endorsing candidates and the GM workers voting for labor. Of course, labor started peeling-off from the Democrats, the more they started championing civil rights, as labor feared (again that word) that the White folks working in the plants would lose their jobs to Black folks. That...didn't work out too well for labor, a decade later and it hasn't recovered since.

    As I'm about two years younger than you, I never got to see Wallace speak, and at the time I wouldn't've been allowed to go, anyhow. Grandma tended to vote Democratic, and Grandpa Republican, but even Grandma wouldn't be caught dead voting for Wallace.

    I hadn't ever heard (or read) that he'd come to his senses and reformed, though. For that, if for nothing else, thank you for writing this. I'll apologize to his ghost, and stop excoriating a man who apparently hasn't deserved it for years. Gods know, if Wallace saw reason and recanted, there's hope for Trump and the GOP. (Not that I'd vote for the man any more than I'd vote for Wallace in '68 or '72, but....)

    Heh. My two primary recollections of the '72 election are pieces of washroom grafitti: "Nixon! Nixon! in '72! Don't change Dicks in the middle of a screw!" and "If you voted for Nixon, you can't shit here. Your asshole is in Washington."

    As I mentioned above, I grew-up in Flint. We all hated Nixon, deservedly in retrospect, but even he pales before Dubya and Dubya can't hold a candle to Trump. What have we become? (No, we're not the Evil Empire, yet. But when I look at where we were trying to go, once, and then at where we are now....)

  75. Terrific piece, Jim. I was born in Michigan in 1961. One vivid memory of mine is being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to meet Eugene McCarthy's plane coming into the Lansing airport during the 68' campaign. My Mother--her oldest son already enlisted in the Army--was fighting against the war tooth and nail to keep my other brothers from getting drawn into the draft. She wrote letters to Sen. Phil Hart about weekly--she would have been protesting on college campuses if she hadn't had 6 kids to take care of and chores to do on the farm.

    All of this left a big impression on me as a child. Mom passed away a year ago April, but she would have liked you for speaking truth to power. Thanks for your voice.

  76. Losing the South was a gift for the Democratic Party. Freed from prejudice the party was able to mature intellectually, spiritually, and morally. Where will the unenlightened find a home if the Republicans come to their senses?

  77. Thank you, sir. from a 60 year resident of Oklahoma. I was ready to be leaving the bible belt, but had no idea I had landed on the buckle when I moved to Grand Rapids, MI, 15 years ago!

    I am sorry for your loss, Jim. ShopKat was a joy to see and read about.

  78. I read your post about the guy saying you're so partisan it makes him gag before this, so maybe my perception is colored more that way. I really do hope this is the nadir of the Republican Party and that it recovers to a place of, well, sanity at the very least. I am astounded that Trump and his alt-right following has a large non-zero chance of winning and I am not a little bit afraid. I see this election as a battle for the soul of America. One side is for tolerance, love, moderation, and looks for the good in people. The other is into cynicism, hate, violence, and truly doesn't believe in anything. The latter is so thoroughly anti-American as I see it that I worry about the future of my country.

  79. I was a small kid in 1968, but I remember the feeling of fear and hate very well and I knew it spewed from Wallace and his ilk. I empowered myself by ripping off Wallace bumper stickers from the parked cars I passed while riding my bike to elementary school.

  80. I was a small child in 1968, but I remember very well the feelings of fear and hate and I knew it spewed from Wallace and his ilk. I empowered myself by ripping the Wallace bumper stickers off from the parked cars I passed while riding my bicycle to and from elementary school.

  81. whew, every time your write, my brain is set on fire. YES ! HOw I wish your words were required reading in schools all over the country.

    I was 18 in 1968, seeing RFK shot down in that hotel kitchen broke my heart, and I thought, that we would never see his like again, until Bernie Sanders got up and told the truths for all of us to hear. I have often wondered where we would be now, if RFK hadn't been shot and killed.

    in 1968, I was one of those hippie liberal anti-Vietnam war protesters. it was specifically that war I hated and all the politicians who put and kept us there. I had been to a TV factory when I was 16, and saw that 40 % of that factory was making munitions. As the daughter of a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Germany and interred in Stalag Luft 1, I knew that not all wars were fought for greed, that sometimes you have to stand up for humanity, just as I knew full well that we had no business being in Vietnam. The same way I know that we have had no business being in ANY of the wars we have entered since Korea. I listened to Dylan's "Masters of War" when I was 14, and it ran true then, just as it rings true today.

    But I see all of the problems we have now, started with Ronnie Rayguns as being the work of the very top elite of the entire planet, not just the US. They're pulling all the strings of the politicians, with just a couple of rare cases, Bernie and Warren, can't really think of any others. Unless we get money out of politics and get control of the banks and Wall Street, we are doomed. And they are using everything in their considerable power to confuse and push the masses into going along with their program, and in no part of that program do we the people count for s***. We are their milch cows, we exist to work out our little lives so that they can sit in their multiple large houses high above the crowd and feel they are the only people who deserve to live.

    You, Jim Wright, have some of the best comments by well written folks in any site. I often enjoy and am delighted by the comments nearly as much as by your original post.

    Thank you for the information about George Wallace, I have spent the last several decades despising that man, and it's awfully nice to read that he saw the wrongness that he stood for, and then did something about it. That takes a rare courage, I did not know he had it in him.

    Lastly, I am so sorry about Shopkat, she was a pip. Funny how those little furry critters crawl so close to our hearts, thousands of people all over the country are mourning her loss with you, your stories and photos made her part our kitty too.

  82. Beautifully done. I was in college in 1972, and remember being repelled by George Wallace. What was worse was learning that someone I knew or admired was a Wallace supporter. Not unlike today, unfortunately.

  83. Excellent as ever.

    As a meaningless point of trivia there'd been at least 2 interracial kisses on British tv by the time of the Kirk/Uhura one.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_%E2%80%93_Ward_10

  84. Very impressive essay, Jim. I was a young adult in 1968 and lived through much of what you describe, and, like your mother, agree about what went down for the most part.

    I have to say that it was Johnson's Presidency in my household that began the process of moving my parents into rabid Repubicanism, though. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its related acts infuriated the racists in my family. Growing up, I lived in the segregated south for five years; I recall how whites behaved toward blacks and how people like Wallace were revered, for a time. Later, I was living in Chicago, walking past picket lines to high school, and listening to the epithets my family used for blacks and their sympathizers on a daily basis. The very idea of busing for racial integration could make my relatives apoplectic.

    The Vietnam War radicalized me. You could watch it unfolding on television news every night, without a single understandable reason for our being there and remaining there from news analysts and commentators. Both my brothers had the potential to be drafted, due to their numbers in that "draft lottery", as did my boyfriend at the time who became a conscientious objector to the war. A few of my friends left for Canada.

    Then came the fateful year, 1968, the year that all hell broke loose. At least that's how it felt, not only to me but to everyone around me. The polarization of the nation was evident. I've often said that this election cycle holds reminders of those days. Nixon used unrest to vault himself into office, but it didn't help that Democrats ran candidates that could not be elected (in 1968 and then again in 1972). Fear-mongering and paranoia worked for him. Nothing like Trump has ever run in my lifetime. But I've seen this polarization before. And I'm seeing fear-mongering and paranoia generating support for someone who's honestly unsupportable.

    1972 brought a shift. I agree. The reasons may be more complex than Wallace and racism. Lying about the war, the sheer numbers of casualties, the use of television to highlight what was actually happening (unfiltered), and of course the loss of trust in government that was the infamous event called Watergate (as well as the knowledge that many had been placed on a government "enemies list") were factors as well. When I think of my personal history, it's 1968 that stands out. The years between then and 1972 I'd call a personal "gradual awakening". And perhaps the nation had a similar experience.

    Anyway, thanks for this essay. Brought back a flood of memories for me.

  85. Well done Jim Wright, well done.

  86. I was in grade school when a lot of what you describe happened, but I also remember the way things felt. It was a terrible time in American history and the after-effects are indeed still being felt in a lot of ways-and, sadly we are not that much further ahead of the game in terms of equality or equity. I really hope that the Repubs can pull back from the brink and that they do take their party back-things were more fun when you could have an intelligent conversation/debate with them. I'm not much for the variety of shit-flinging monkey that seems to dominate most of the 'discussions' that I see currently on boards on the internet and in person in discussion with people that lose all rationality when they begin to speak of 'taking our country back'. There are members of my own family I actively avoid now for that reason.

  87. I'm much to young to have 1968 as anything more than a page in a textbook, useful for trivia on a pub night.
    But I have found even that low level knowledge of recent American history gives me some context for current events.
    Shaves the edge off the fear I pick up by osmosis.
    Thanks for this article, Mr. Wright.

  88. Heavens, this brought back a flood of memories of those years I spent in Washington as a Federal employee, silent lunchtime protests on the curbs, tinted black vans you couldn't see inside slowly driving by but you didn't need to because we all knew we were being filmed for future reference. But it also reminded me of growing up in New York where we had Republicans like Javits, and Dewey, and Rockefeller and Lindsay, now all as dead as the dinosaurs and with no one remotely close to their stature left in their ranks. Hell, I even changed my registration in the district so I could vote for Rockefeller in the primary in hopes of pressuring Johnson to bow out which he did before I got a chance to cast the ballot.

    I agree. We need responsible,enlightened would be nice, realistic, logical political parties who are respectful of knowledge and show the capacity for magnanimity. But that isn't what we've got and without them we can never dream of realizing the best of which we are capable. Thank you for yet another powerful lesson for the ages.

  89. Bravo! Jim you are simply amazing !

  90. 1972 was the first election I could vote in. You have done very well at capturing the national mood. So who did I vote for?
    "Don't change Dicks in the middle of a screw, vote for Nixon in '72"

    Once again, thanks Mr. Wright.

  91. To David Hahn: I was moved by your comment. The year that you moved to Brunswick my wife and I were both teaching in the Brunswick schools, she at Longfellow Elementary and I at the high school. These were times of turmoil in this town, often split by the college community and the NAS families. I hope you found strength in Brunswick to retain those "heathen liberal" ways. We needed you then; we need you now.

  92. I met George Mcgovern at the PowderHouse Lodge in Keystone, SD in 1975. I was still on active duty with the USAF and basically apolitical, I'll never forget what I consider his most prescient words, ... “I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”
    These are the words of a real, no shit , war hero.

  93. Why exactly should America make the republican party great again?

    For 216 years, every race has been the Democrats against the Other Party. The Others started with the Federalists, and then rotated a bunch of others until the GOP came along. Well, the GOP had a good run, but if they get killed off and replaced, what's the harm?

    If the Republican National Committee dissolves, what do we lose?
    If the right wing think tanks around the Beltway get shaken up and replaced, what do we lose?

    The grassroots level organizations aren't a big loss either. For 30 years or so, they mostly relied on Koch Brothers funding to be able to match the Democratic grassroots organizations, rather than doing anything to cultivate loyalty among regular citizens. If they go away, what do we lose?

    1. I believe he covered that in his "loyal opposition"statement.
      The idea of unchecked, un-argued liberal policy that could come with the loss of the GOP could be just as dangerous as the theocracy the GOP base wants.

  94. (And I say this as one of those engineers who's supposed to be a republican. The party's war on science has expanded to a war on engineering and a war on engineers. Screw these guys. I'll vote for bean-counting right-of-center conservatives as soon as some step forward who are not tainted by association with the current motley crew.)

  95. Well written Jim. History is said to teach us something, but often we forget to look at the real history, beyond the bits now served in all these platforms that no one but we monitor.
    The trickle down effect from Reagan och Thatcher as they started down the path of Corporate Power and consumrism for the rest of us. Let's hope att all the World soon have hit rock bottom and come to grips with what true påeace, true compassion and true solidarity means to all countries. Otherwise I weep for my grandchildren and the World they will be forced to live in.
    Anders , Sweden

  96. I remember the Reagan Democrats a bit differently. My family has always been politically active and as such there were discussions about the race riots, Selma, the assignations of MLK, JFK, RFK. even with we children. My parents considered this our country and so we were allowed an opinion. I have to say I thought burning the cities was over the top but in my mind, I was 13 in 68, I thought I could get the anger. My feminist self was evolving and women in Tx had few rights. I watched my world change quickly. SO I see the defection of the Reagan dems here as more of a fear of being taxed. Texans -are/still/always worried about being taxed ( frustrating fact) . I remember during what we call the Texas 2 step where the party faithful showed up after voting to vote yet again the people grousing about Mondale stating unequivocally that taxes had to be raised or the fed deficit would become unmanageable and threaten the nation. Ironic, no? Reagan promised no new taxes and frankly the Texans did not care who took the hit as long as it was not one of them or one of their employers as I recall. The observations about hitting rock bottom? Each and every one resonates. I wonder how the Bush Legacy members of North Texas think of the Bush family endorsing Clinton- of stating that she will have their vote. Great essay. Shared and hopefully will go viral .

  97. "As Conservatives are so fond of pointing out, once upon a time Democrats were the party of John Birch and the Ku Klux Klan, of racists and bigots and Confederates."

    I beg to differ, if only somewhat. The Dixiecrats, as they were called, the southern wing of the Democratic party, were indeed racists. But Charles Lindberg and his original "America First," anti-semitic, learning-toward-Hitler bunch were Republicans. So was Senator Joseph McCarthy, the so-called red hunter, who ruined the lives of thousands of productive Americans until he was shamed into silence by Joseph Welch and went home to either drink himself to death or die of a heart attack, depending on whom you wanted to believe. The John Birch Society positioned itself as "Anti-Communist" and pro-McCarthy and pro HUAC (The House Un-American Activities Committee) which also persecuted anyone it didn't like on the grounds of "anti-Communism."

    The sad truth is, neither party has historically clean hands when it comes to bigotry in America.

    The New York Crank

  98. Splendid article, flashbacks galore. Pithy and pungent writing for the ages. Thanks!

  99. Damn, Jim. Beautifully written. I wish I could comment on your FB stuff, 'cause that's pure gold, too. Especially when you hammer the trolls. Glad I found you.

  100. That was such a beautiful essay you literally made me cry. In a good way. Thank you.

  101. Jim, this is a great matter of fact report on the people, events and politics of that time. And how people who are basically good, can always become better.

    I was bone and raised in Ferguson Missouri (That Ferguson), I’ll have to tell that story another time.

    My parents were post WWII middle class Americans both College educated and voted Republican.

    Why Republican? Because they believed Republicans of the 1960s supported being Conservative, conserving American lives and resources. Resources being the country, people, jobs and the economy. There was never any mention of God being involve in these ideals, it was just right. Neither of my parents were racist, although my father was upset for a while when a black family moved in one house over. I was taught to treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect no matter what color.

    I truly can’t believe how far away from these conservative ideals Republican leaders have gone.

    Today Top Republicans are about facilitating Big Corporate pillaging this country of every public resource and every cent possible, while constantly giving lip-serves to the middle class and middle class values. Promoting Big Corporate America and/or God as the answer to all problems. Constantly shifting more of the responsibility to run the Government into Big Corporate hands for reasons of efficiency, when actually it is all about maximizing Corporate personal profits using tax dollars. And the race issue is always used as “The” rally point to drive policy against the Democrats, who are portrayed as liberals who hate white middle class America and their values. This Republican baloney does nothing for the rest of us but keep us moving steadily back ward into just getting by or worse.

    OK, there are Republicans out there that are Old School (Not Good Old Boys) and I vote for them. But mostly it is a party barren of real leaders who “Truly” care about the American people anymore, even though that is what they constantly say.

    Then there’s the Democrats who believe they are more educated and knowledgeable than Middle America, so they should tell us how to live and behave based on their more educated opinions. They constantly play the “Suck Up” race card, telling whatever race is standing in front of them they will make their lives better, for sure. And we will pass laws to make you all get along singing Kumbaya, minus the Lord part. And we will make sure there are plenty of Blue pills to go around but they will require a schedule 2 prescription.

    And Nobody is willing to work together and actually get anything done that truly helps Americas citizens, who are made up of every race out there. So when “Good Folks” say we are going to help millions of non-citizens they don’t understand why all the other “Good Folks” in this country get upset. And let me tell you most American Citizens are all good folks whether Blue or Red, Black or White, Brown or Yellow. And when Democrats say Republicans have become the scourge of this country, it is not the Republican voters in my neighborhood. It is the Leaders who have made an about-face, painted a smile on the back of their head and walked away from using the “Right Stuff” to do the “Right Thing”.

    Politics today is about knee-jerk issues to get the most bang for the buck and what the other guy/gal did wrong weather it’s true or not. The Bigger The Race problems can be portrayed the better, especially for the networks. And as always no concrete or plausible suggestions to actually fix things. I guess you could say the The Wall is concrete but not plausible. In fact truth and real information in politics doesn’t matter, it’s all about what Fox News and MSNBC can spew out to increase viewership for profit.

    I have to say this is so F----d Up now I can’t believe it, I really really want to check the box “None of the above” and start over “Please”.

    Sorry, I got off the track from Race, but it is used to drive the bad policy on both sides.
    We must shift attention to what’s real and good, while thinking “Beyond Normal”
    Rich Elam

    1. @Rich Elam, I see a lot of holes in what you wrote. I don't want to interrogate your claim about your parents, but that comment about your father being "upset" when a black family moved near? My parents worked for fair housing, marched in Washington in '63, were deeply committed to equity and fairness, and I'd say that THEY were in fact racists. As am I. Because I was raised in a racist country and culture and it's rather unavoidable that we are tainted by that experience. The question that arises is: what do you do once you recognize the reality of racism? I don't beat myself up over it, but I don't pretend that we're now living in a color-blind society or that my liberal upbringing has led me to live an exemplary life.

      That aside, your description of so many issues above is partially right, but it hits me as more influenced by that Fox News spigot than you might realize. Kumbaya? Seriously? And Democratic politicians not mentioning "God"? Other than Bernie Sanders, I can't think of anyone in the race for POTUS who didn't make sure to insert "God's" name into the campaign on a regular basis. Maybe I heard different speeches on primary nights and at other times throughout this last year.

      Regardless of what networks are up to to boost ratings, some of the things they are reporting are real. They aren't inventing the black guy in Tulsa shot to death by the police when his car broke down. That one has even Trump speaking out. You can't sweep America's deep racial problems under the rug by suggesting they are a media creation, even if the media exploits these issues to sell advertising. We are a nation that was founded on genocide and slavery. No way that doesn't come back to bite us all on the ass. We're not past it, and the problem isn't people who are trying to get us to wake up and smell the coffee.

      I would suggest that all sorts of identity issues are used to keep people at each other's throats and that behind all of that remains a lot of folks with absurd amounts of $$ and power. They gain the most from keeping the rest of us divided and angry. Pointing fingers at liberals who may not have magic wands but at least recognize that there's something seriously wrong at the heart of America is not making things better. Comments about blue pills and schedule 2 prescriptions just sound like more rhetoric and cliches that miss the mark.

      It's fine to want to find what's real and good and to try to create more of that, as long as you see that happening in a context where we all get a reasonable share. Business as usual in this country has been that most of us are left fighting over crumbs, and instead of doing something about the system, we point fingers at immigrants or people of other ethnicities or religions or sexual preferences and blame them. And the rich get richer and laugh all the way to the bank.

      So you've got an analysis, but it's only right up to a very limited point. I think you need to take it further and scrape off some of the barnacles. As it stands, you're not as far from the Tea Party as you might wish to believe, or so it seems to me.

  102. Let's hope Trump's defeat marks the nadir of the (once) Grand Old Party. A win could mark the end of this republic. The problem is, even if Trump loses, which is still the most likely outcome, the causes of Trump are still out there and still unaddressed by either major party. And whoever Trump 2.0 will be, come the fire next time, he or she is already out there, younger, more articulate, better looking, less crazy, less awkward and less ugly in all kinds of slick ways, but aimed at the very same thing and three times smarter when it comes not just to coding the message but to organizing the threat behind the message. If we do manage to stand up and stop the bastard, don't even stop to rest because the bitch that bore him is already in heat again.

    1. "Let's hope Trump's defeat marks the nadir of the (once) Grand Old Party"
      The possibility of a President Trump, which once seemed like a joke, is becoming more and more likely. Smug is the last thing one should be right now. I'm afraid things will have to get much darker before the light returns.

    2. I hope you don't think I was being smug, far from it. My point was we'd be very lucky indeed if Trump marks a nadir. Myself I think we haven't even come close to the nadir with Trump, catastrophe though he is. Bad times am a'comin.

    3. I meant smug in the positive rather than negative. Perhaps not the best choice.
      Regardless, I agree completely about bad times.

  103. Jim, I was born in Sept. 1943 and will be 73 in a couple of days. I guess that someone cursed me with the old Irish curse “May you live in interesting times”. We lived on a wheat farm in southern Washington State and didn’t have electricity until 1949, but shortly after that I remember seeing TV for the first time as we drove about 50 miles to an uncles house to watch the World Series as Pop was a baseball fan. It wasn’t long until my dad had got a TV, and put together two windmill towers to get the antenna high enough to get the Portland stations. I remember the McCarthy hearings but they didn’t mean much at the time, but what I still remember vividly was soldiers escorting a little girl to school as an bunch of crew cut guys and permed girls screamed at her, and Bull Connors cops spraying fire hoses and turning the dogs on children. I was up in the barbett of the MK37 gun director on an old 2100 class destroyer when the news of JFK being shot came on. My thoughts then were: Jesus Christ aren’t we supposed to be a civilized nation? By the time that ‘68 rolled around, I was out of the Navy and was driving truck around the Pacific Northwest or working for farmers, but was aware of the draft card burners, and the murders of King and Kennedy. Then Nixon, Carter, Regan and Bush one, and I became a (sort of) libertarian for the Clinton and Bush years as I was, and still am, pro gun and pro abortion and the Republican party really left me behind with their anti abortion pseudo christian bullshit. Moral Majority my ass, more like the Moron Minority. Obama came along and I guess I became a democrat as I voted for him twice, as the Rs left me absolutely no choice just as they have now with that asshole Trump.

  104. I too have been thinking 2016 looks a lot like 1968. Can't decide if Trump is like Wallace or Pat Paulsen or a combination of both??

  105. Ever hear the song "Three Great Alabama Icons" by The Drive-By Truckers? It's about Wallace (and Bear and R Van Zandt)when he was running for Governor. You should give it a listen.

  106. Ever hear the song "Three Great Alabama Icons" by The Drive-By Truckers? It's about Wallace (and Bear and R Van Zandt)when he was running for Governor. You should give it a listen.

  107. lest we forget that Kissinger killed the Paris Peace Talks for Nixon's election or that Supreme Court Lewis Powell wrote the "Powell Memo" that led to America's Corporate take over by Wall St. businesses we see today. thus, Republican and Business got together to "buy" America through Congress and the Judiciary by Right Wing Courts,funded by "Foundations" who believed in Party over society. Or the Democrats who never once stopped any of the attacks on Social Security/aka Grand Bargain or Fair Trade/aka TPP when they could, no the Democrats are a "Evil Lite" version. Bill Clinton sent our jobs to overseas and to Mexico/NAFTA along with the money workers once used to buy things with at Walmart, Costco,. Jimmy Carter sold us out with the deregulation of Business. goodbye competition. His aide Brzezsinki sold into Wars in the Mideast the Neocons have us mired in and broken society over. of course my favorite Evil spokesperson is still St. Reagan with his folksy screw over of us all. Madison Ave. excellence, bar none.

    My mother protested against school integration. Wallace was a true hero. i was with her out in the streets that time, too young to be left at home. way back when. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was liberal then, now it is extreme Right now. funny how things turn and somethings never change.

    Trump aka Frankenstein is payback for such heresy.

    Washington forewarned of standing armies. But Money!! Congressional Pork Barrel and all that. Corruption Greed and Power. lol. Life sure is interesting and full of "excitement" too.

  108. I can't work out quite which 'heresy' you might mean, but it's clear as day to me that Trump is payback for 30 years of letting so many people, who once were able to earn enough to pay for a life they thought was decent, go to the wall as the (inevitable) result of globalisation and technological advance. We could have buffered against the change, we could have spread the pain, but our God (The Hand Invisible) told us that would be immoral. Same payback gave Britain Brexit, and is bringing neo-nazi parties out of the dank woodwork all over Europe.

  109. Thanks for writing this; I was born in 1972 so I missed all of this. I am grateful for your perspective.

  110. I don't think the GOP has hit bottom. Why? Because in the days you write about so eloquently, we had a functional news media that actually reported news and did journalism. Now?
    Monday night, as the debate starts, Trump could walk out onto the stage, yank down his pants, pull a goat out from under the podium, and proceed to fuck it on live TV. The next day, the talk show pundits would be laughing and telling us, hey, who doesn't want to fuck a goat sometimes? At least he's honest about his fetishes and not afraid to show us. Trump is so honest and truthful and genuine!
    Trump insulted a Gold Star family. He has obvious and unsavory ties to Russia. His foundation is a crock. He's engaged in bribery of public officials. Not to mention that he's a racist, sexist dickhole. But none of that matters because we have a media that falls all over itself to normalize his behavior or, worse, simply ignores it and leaves it out of the public eye entirely. Until this is fixed, we're screwed.
    I think HRC will win this election. Four years from now, after struggling with a hostile congress, she'll face a re-election fight against an opponent who will call for mandatory Christian church attendance, the death penalty for refusing to salute the flag, revocation of voting rights for women, minorities, and the poor, and the immediate deportation of all persons not actually born in the USA, naturalized or not. This person will, of course, get at least 40% of the vote, because GOP voters would vote for Satan or a rotting fish over a Democrat, no matter what. And if they lose? The next GOP candidate in 2024 will call for the immediate nuking of the entire world to bring on the rapture, and spend all interview time simply staring into the camera and giggling softly... and the media will be there to tell us how brave and principled that insane giggling actually is.

  111. My thoughts from late last night.

    Basically Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate. Not because of her capabilities because she is more than capable of being President. She had two strikes against her although they are somewhat related. First, she just triggers a visceral hatred from the right which was in part caused by the second strike. Second, she has so much baggage that could be dragged out and dumped on her. Yes, much of it is bogus but it makes for great sound bites that can be used against her. The Comey letter clearly didn't help but a big reason is they fed into the baggage story which fed the haters.

    Pragmatically, I don't think Bernie Sanders would have done well, either. He would have been portrayed as a wild idealist and a socialist to scare up the votes against him. I don't think the numbers would have been much different for him. Maybe a little better with millennials and third party voters coming out for him, but still not enough votes in the right places.

    I really wish Hillary had not been anointed years ago as this years candidate. Maybe there was someone else who could have been positioned between her and Bernie but I don't know who.

    I vote for Bernie in the primary and Hillary in the general. I wanted one of them to win.

  112. A minor question:

    I remember reading that Wallace 'decided' to run as a Democrat instead of as an independent after a meeting with Nixon, on a plane, I think.

    There was never any information on whether Nixon offered Wallace a deal, or whether it was just Nixon's powers of persuasion. But Wallace was an independent candidate when he got into the plane and a Democratic one when he got off.

    Did any of your research shed light on this?


  113. Thank you for your writing. This and many other articles. I am a Christian and tend to be conservative. And you have such a clarity in viewing a topic, I find I am changing my stances on some topics.

  114. I never knew that George Wallace's middle name was Corley. That is my maiden name. I had to make this comment after reading the first sentence so I wouldn't forget. Now, on to read it in it's entirety.

  115. As painful as that was, thank you. I'm from Alabama - I lived there in 1961, when segregation was everywhere. 11 years later, in 1972, I was working for George McGovern and shocked my family when I took one of my black female co-workers to dinner. At a GOOD restaurant, and we weren't turned away. At 63, it seems Alabama's gotten worse again, and the violent and racist are on the rise again. I'm living in Kentucky now, after 33 years in California, and it's not much better here. I'm really tired of the anger, and the pain, and even the self righteousness of the liberals, even if I am one. I'm scared now. I'm frightened for the fate of our nation, because that creature in the Oval Office has no clue what he's doing, and much of his rhetoric incites and excuses the racist behavior of others.

  116. You can tell an alkie, but you can't tell him much.

    (Friend of Bill W.)

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  118. Absolutely BRILLIANT! An amazing piece, the writing was spectacular and as a history junkie, I came away sated. Plus, it brought me to tears. Although as a polytheist, I can't honestly say you are "my God" (because I worship many, with an equal number of Goddesses, of course) I was so overwhelmed, I had to give this the highest rating. Thank you!

  119. 1968! For me, Billy Harris, I was going on 14 years old. 1969, my family moved to South Dakota, home of George McGovern! 1972 looking at one more year of high school and already enlisted in the US Air Force (Delayed Enlistment) on the hope I wouldn't have to die in a rice paddy in southeast asia!

  120. This was a brilliant piece. Thank you.
    We're the same age, by the way.

  121. Outstanding! One of your best! Born in 56 in Michigan and had a father who supported Wallace. I know exactly where you are coming from. Thanks

  122. Another good read. Couple points...

    As someone who was already home from Vietnam, I've always thought of 1968 as the year of the Great National Nervous Breakdown. I suggest Lawrence O'Donnell's "Playing With Fire" for those who want to experience that breakdown.

    As to the Know Nothings, they were one of the three legs of what became the original Republican Party, the other two being the former Whigs (the Lincoln wing) and the Abolitionists (like my great-great-great grandfather, a Quaker abolitionist and one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Republican Party). The Know Nothings have remained in the party, becoming the McCarthyites, and the rest of the GOP Goons, before the arrival of the Confederates. Birchers were more Republicans than Democrats (outside the South at least).

    But you definitely got all the Essential Points right here.

  123. I just reread this. It is as good this time as the first. When you put out a book of your essays, I hope this one is included. I'm a bit older than you; it was my classmates who were being shipped off to Viet Nam. I just wanted to say that there is a book out, a "juvenile fiction" book (A category we teachers use), that captures that period from the point of view of a ten year old boy. It is "The Wednesday Wars" by Gary Schmidt, and it is excellent. I highly recommend it. It adds details to the picture for those of us who are always interested in figuring out what the hell was actually happening. -Martha Zimmerman


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