1968 Democratic Convention.

The Democratic National Convention of 1968 was one of the most turbulent  that the Democratic Party has ever had to face. Chicago, a prominent political stage at the time was to host the conference. Political unrest divided the Democratic Party. This unrest would ultimately cost the party the presidential vote. During the Convention, there were three main players: Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, Richard J. Daly, the mayor of Chicago, and the constituents of the anti-war party[1].

Inside the convention center

To understand the events of the Convention as a whole, it is essential to acknowledge the political climate of the United States in 1968. This was the year President Johnson sent troops into Vietnam to fight the Communist Party. This decision was very controversial and eventually caused extreme division and chaos on American soil. Many anti-war groups developed in the hope of bringing the war to an end[2]. Chicago planned to host the Democratic Convention and many protestors saw it as a rallying point and an opportunity to be placed on a national stage [3]. They planned to gather in Chicago to influence the election of an anti-war delegate[4].

The mayor of Chicago at the time was Richard J. Daly. Daly was a Democrat that did not stand for anti-war delegates who spoke against the orders of their president. Due to his residual memory of the Democratic Convention, Daly made it his mission to protect the integrity of the Convention and the Democratic Party. By not allowing any anti-war protests near the assembly. He wanted Americans’ public memory of the party to be one of unity and strength in the race to the White House. The  protesters pushed back by bringing thousands of people to Chicago to protest the war.[5] Daly restricted any live coverage of the protest outside of the arena during the convention. He told reporters that they were only allowed to broadcast a certain distance from the stadium, blaming the electric workers’ strike that made the streets unsafe for reporters.[6]

Richard J. Daly

Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, was running for the Democratic nomination. With fear that Johnson might denounce Humphry’s platform and his ability to be head of the Democratic Party, Humphry kept his thoughts on the war aligned with Johnson’s actions. Humphry has been quoted saying that “One person and one place dominated my life that election year.”[7] Humphrys’ inability to compromise between peace and war served to heighten the tension even more between the Democrats and the peace delegates[8]. This buildup of tension made the 1968 Convention a powder keg, that would to soon blow up in the Democrat’s faces.

Hubert Humphrey

On Tuesday, August 27, 1968, “peace delegates had been promised a televised debate on Vietnam in prime time”[9]. However, this promise was never made right. In hopes of attracting a smaller audience, the Convention managers delayed the Convention.

This delay infuriated the peace delegates they demanded that the debates be rescheduled for the following day and the Convention be dismissed for the night. Peace delegates broke out into protests at the conference, singing songs and holding up their signs in hopes to stir up enough trouble that Daly would delay the debates to the following day. Finally, chaos erupted, and Daly was forced to move the debates[10].

Peace delegates inside the convention center.

Wednesday, August 28, 1968, marks the day that the powder keg exploded. Outside of the arena, protests were becoming  violent between the police and the protesters.[11] On the inside of the Convention, tensions between the peace delegates and other Democratic delegates were snowballing. The representatives took the stage to talk about their views on the peace movement and to vote on whether or not the Democratic Party would be supporting the war. After many speeches, the party voted to show the support for the war. Peace delegates immediately broke into song, publicly showing their disdain for their party’s decision. The Convention managers ordered their band to start playing to drown out the sounds of the peace delegates. The playing of the two songs on top of each other was one of the many public symbols for the divide among to Democratic Party. Making many people question the ability of the Democrats to run a country[12].

With the vote to support the war concluded the only thing left to do was elect the Democratic Party representative. While the votes were being cast inside the arena, protest outside were moving towards the Convention where the media had jurisdiction to broadcast. These protests were immediately broadcasted for all of America to see, showing police brutality among the young men and women protesting.[13] This coverage assisted in tainting of the public memory of the Democratic Convention.

Protest outside of the Democratic Convention

Soon votes were back, and Humphrey had been chosen to represent the party.[14]This decision forced the peace delegates to storm the stage in protest and shortly thereafter to leave the area in another candlelight demonstration[15]. Humphrey was now the leader of the hugely divided Democratic Party that many believed had just lost the entire presidential election in one day.

Humphrey wins!!

The chaotic Democratic Convention of 1968 will forever be remebered. This memory of the assembly is one of many that has shaped the official, processual memory of many Americans when they reminisce about 1968. It was a turbulent time for many Americans and will remember it as a chaotic year.

 

[1] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[2] Caitlin Gibson, “What Happened in Chicago in 1968, And Why Is Everybody Talking About Tt Now?”2016

[3] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[4] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[5] Haynes Johnson, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2008

[6] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[7] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[8] Haynes Johnson, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2008

[9] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[10] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[11] Caitlin Gibson, “What Happened in Chicago in 1968, And Why Is Everybody Talking About Tt Now?”2016

[12] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

[13] Haynes Johnson, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2008

[14] Haynes Johnson, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2008

[15] John Mounier, “1968 Democratic Convention,” 2007.

Bibliography:

Gibson, Caitlin. “What Happened in Chicago in 1968, and Why Is Everyone Talking about It Now?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 July 2016.

Johnson, Haynes. “1968 Democratic Convention.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 1 Aug. 2008.

Mounier, John, director. 1968 Democratic Convention. 1968 Democratic National Convention, 2007.

“1968 Democratic National Convention.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2018.

 

2 thoughts on “1968 Democratic Convention.”

  1. Nice informative piece on the Democratic Convention. Your points are valid, and I especially like your ideas on how broadcasted media that reached a wider audience than those directly involved altered the public memory of the event. Are there any other major events affected by this especially in an age where online media sharing is more available then it was 50 years ago, some that may be more impacting in a modern context? I mean nowadays just about anyone can say anything and it can reach anyone, and response to something such as police brutality would be bigger and more immediate than in 1968. But doesn’t this expediency also leave room for misunderstanding so some events are blown out of proportion?

  2. You did a great job of compacting a lot of information into this post. As a political science major, I enjoyed this post because I am well aware that the public has become more polarized with time; however, I do not know as much about conflict within party lines, so I was able to gain a lot of knowledge by reading this. In today’s society, most people would agree that the political environment is pretty chaotic. Reading this post allowed me to see that this is not a new phenomenon; instead, there has been chaos in the political arena in the past, it just is not very fresh in the public memory. This post makes me wonder if there was any conflict amongst the Republican Party at the time. Also, I wonder if the memory of Hubert Humphrey has become more positive or more negative with time. Overall, great job. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

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