Instead, the United States was in the grip of tribalism and seething fear. Voters were energized by anger and resentment. The media ran red with violent language; surging crowds, cops and protesters filled city streets.
The main candidates were: a shopworn Democratic front-runner who embodied the party establishment; a white-haired, professorial anti-war protest candidate beloved by college students; a disruptive, race-baiting outsider with a knack for drawing press attention and an unctuous, beady-eyed Republican lawyer practicing dirty tricks.
At its nominating convention in a Midwestern city that summer, one of the two political parties was torn apart, both inside the hall and out, as protestors clashed with police, who, it was later determined, were the instigators of the riots.
The general election hinged on which party could woo the most votes of a white working class that had been energized in the first place by the outsider candidate, who had railed against a powerful “Them” against “Us.”
That was 1968, not 2016.
Mark Twain allegedly said that “history does not repeat itself but it does rhyme.” If that is so, then this year has been that ancient -- but still very relevant one -- in a similar form.
That's not necessarily a good thing. Progress is always painful, and there was much pain in the decade that followed the disastrous, divisive and violence-filled 1968. And we can only hope that this year does not experience a season of assassination, the likes of we had not seen since the Civil War and which we must never see again.
But that earlier election launched an era of discord and lawlessness, in high places and low. It created wounds that this election seems destined to deepen. The “political system” couldn’t handle the turmoil of 1968, and it is even less clear it can do so in 2016. more