The Rise of the New Right – OpenBUCS


With Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for the Presidency in 1968 the Democratic Party places its mantle on Hubert Humphrey
of Minnesota. Humphrey had been Johnson’s vice
president during Johnson’s administration and that
carries with it for Humphrey a considerable amount of baggage. That Humphrey should be linked to the
Johnson Administration is a non-starter with many potential voters in the United States. But there’s more
than that to Hubert Humphrey. For one thing Hubert Humphrey has a long
pedigree in the Democratic Party. As a politician from Minnesota, he is well known for his activities
during the 1948 Democratic convention, which, as you know from a previous
lecture, was one of those sort of important presidential elections. Harry Truman, you may recall, had come out
for Civil Rights but it was in many ways Hubert Humphrey and a faction of Democratic politicians at the
’48 convention who really forced Truman’s hand. You never
know what’s behind someone’s intentions
historically unless they very clearly spell out and in an honest sort of way
and an unmanipulated way what they intend. And
even then, you can have doubts. But in the case of the 1948 convention, Hubert Humphrey and a fraction of Democrats want
to force a Civil Rights plank into the Democratic platform. And remember, Truman is already under
considerable pressure trying to hold that Roosevelt coalition
together. And ultimately he compromises with Humphrey. It’s also worth noting that as a result of Humphrey’s efforts, the the pressure in the Roosevelt coalition
will push Southern democrats out of the ’48
convention. This business about including a Civil
Rights plank in the 48 platform will literally push Southern Democrats,
not literally, figuratively, push Southern Democrats to leave the
convention and form the State’s Rights Party or Dixiecrats,
as they’re also known, and run independently in 1948 outside
the Democratic Party apparatus. So Hubert Humphrey brings with
him both for his actions in ’48 and
for his very strong support for the 1964 Civil
Rights Act he brings this huge pedigree with Civil Rights. Working for
Civil Rights. That’s not going to sit well with, you know, Southern Democrats. It’s not going to sit
well with many white Americans who are growing disenchanted with the
sort of liberal politics of the Johnson administration. And I’ll talk a little bit more about that
later but the whole point of this is to tell you a little bit about Hubert Humphrey but
it’s also then to suggest the political baggage that
Hubert Humphrey carried. In the end of course Humphrey’s the candidate for the
Democratic Party. And it’s notable that his election– the prospects look
quite dim. But one of the things he does is as
the election approaches he will shift his position on Vietnam and holding the
Johnson line you know holding this strong, strong sort of anti-Communist streak where Vietnam’s got to
be held and we’ve got to continue Johnson’s policies,
Lyndon Johnson’s policies. Just toward the end of the election
campaign Humphrey gives on Vietnam. And within a relatively short amount of
time… it’s a fascinating kind of statement here… within a short amount of time he begins,
his numbers began to rise, his support seems to begin to rise, and arguably if
if he had more time it may have been a very
different outcome for the Democratic Party in 1968 than what ultimately occurred. And that has
ramifications for sort of the argument that
I’m trying to make in this lecture in regard to the
emergence of a sort of new conservatism in the mid to late 20th century, really
from the 1960’s and 70’s and 80’s. Because if Hubert Humphrey had won in ’68
then perhaps the election in 1968 wasn’t that much of
a bellwether after all. Maybe it wasn’t so much of a watershed. Maybe it didn’t so much open the door to
the emergence of conservatives in American politics. And yet, another way of looking at this
particular presidential election in ’68 is sort of through the lens of another former Democrat who will run in 1968 as an independent. And that of course is George Corley
Wallace of Alabama. Now Wallace, I’ve already mentioned in conjunction
with the schoolhouse door. You may recall that in 1963 Governor
Wallace of Alabama did some political play-acting, stopping
a federal marshal just long enough for Wallace to give a
speech. And in that speech, he basically decries, and this is going to become a theme
for Wallace, he decries the growing power of federal
intervention in state and local affairs. He speaks for the continuance of
segregation. Then he steps aside and integration takes
place. So on the one hand you know he didn’t
accomplish much except in terms of a symbolic victory. And it’s
a victory, a symbolic victory, only for those constituents in Alabama
or, and this is important, on a national
stage who feared, who feared that big federal power that Wallace is talking about. As far as segregation
goes, Wallace is elected
governor of Alabama in 1962. When he’s inaugurated in 1963, Wallace, standing in the capital of
Montgomery, Alabama, basically where Jefferson Davis had
stood some few years earlier — Jeff Davis you may
recall had gone on to become president of the Confederacy — George Wallace says he uses this sort of
this well-known phrase, let’s put it that way.
As part of his inauguration speech he says, “… segregation today, segregation
tomorrow, segregation forever.”
And those were the words of a staunch segregationist. This is
someone who appears to be highly committed to the continuance and the perpetuation
of segregation, certainly in Alabama but arguably far more broadly. And yet, Wallace’s own biographers have explored
and conveyed the degree of complexity that really was caught up in what seemed to be
some pretty straightforward segregationists rhetoric. Wallace, like most human beings, is a
complicated individual made more complicated perhaps by the necessities of political
life. To hide one’s own true feelings, if you
have any, and listen to your constituents
and appear a certain way for political gain. Understand that in 1948 when the
southern delegation walked out of the Democratic National Convention, in 1948 George Wallace stayed behind. Wallace, when he begins his political
career, it’s really under the tutelage of Big
Jim Folsom of Alabama. And he is understood to be on the issue of
race, which by the 1950’s is a
growing issue of importance to Southerners, Wallace is
seen to be at most a moderate. You know he’s willing to accept segregation
but he’s trying to hold this middle way and hold if off perhaps for a certain
amount of time but nothing like segregation forever. But in the late 1950’s his biographers tell us
Wallace endured a political defeat that
really shifted his, shifted his political campaigning,
shifted his positions. Basically, he was defeated over the issue of race. Over whether or
not he was truly committed to segregation. And he promised himself that he would
never be defeated in another election on the issue of race. That he would be more staunch in defense of
segregation than anyone else. And lo and behold he’s
elected governor in ’62. And when he is elected
governor, notice that like at the University of Alabama, he is he is making himself the best known of the segregationist governors on a
national stage. You know, he’s taking the limelight.
When we think of Southern segregation in the 1960’s the
struggle against Civil Rights and integration you often think of George
Wallace not Ross Barnett or others. Well, in 1964 Wallace decides to make a run for the Democratic nomination. It’s really
quite foolhardy. It’s pretty clear that Johnson’s the man
for the Democrats and Johnson will have this huge win as I suggested in 1964. But what’s intriguing is that within the
Democratic party you can see, and this is part of that fracturing
and factionalism, you can see the success that George
Wallace has in the primaries. George Wallace will have successes. He will make successful showings in
Wisconsin, in Indiana, in Maryland and just to give you some sense of this, in Wisconsin — notice we’re not
talking about Georgia, we’re not talking about Mississippi, we’re talking about
Wisconsin here. I mean, how close is that to Hubert
Humphrey’s Minnesota, right? In Wisconsin in ’64, George Wallace will take approximately a
third of the Democratic vote. If you move forward to Indiana, it’s
about 30 percent. In Maryland, Maryland, you know Southern state right on the Mason-Dixon
kind of deal, in Maryland we’re talking about something like 47 percent of the vote, the Democratic vote. Is he winning the
primaries? No, but think about this. A Southern
segregationist in places like Indiana, Maryland and Wisconsin who is making headway outside the specific regions
where segregation plays so well. And you may ask yourself how does he do
it? Well, I think there are two things to think about: first of all let’s think back to the
1920’s Klan, right? The Klan started way back when as a Southern phenomenon but by the
1920’s the Klan had morphed into something with a more national appeal. It’s in much the same way that George
Wallace’s candidacy will morph him or alter his image from that of a Southern segregationist governor, to a national player who stands if not to win elections then to so change elections that he can shape the
outcome of America’s political elections. In other
words, George Wallace doesn’t have to win
outright primary victories if his successes can
be such that he can throw the Democratic Party a curveball. Force the Democratic Party to negotiate. And even potentially, you know, be the
deciding factor if elections are truly close in the electoral college. Getting the
election itself thrown into the House of Representatives. That’s
sort of how third parties can work. They don’t have to win outright to be able to
shape policy and shape election outcomes. Same thing is true with George Wallace.
And, what’s equally true is that Wallace very subtly shifts his
message outside the South. And you can see some
of that in what he has to say about federal
intervention, his notion of interposition, that state authorities can
stand in the way or block negative or
unconstitutional federal law. Well, what that’s all about is, it’s not using
words that are directly related to race. Rather he’s shifting the focus, still talking
about race, but he’s shifting the focus to a contest between local and national
or federal power. He’s talking about the growing power
of national government that we’ve seen with the New Deal, that
we’ve been seeing, you know, just reenergized in a
major way with the Great Society and Lyndon Johnson. And the thing is, that plays outside the South. He’s going to dull down this race issue but he’s gonna denounce federal
interference in local affairs, like school integration. In later campaigns he’s going to talk more
and more about busing. More and more about busing. But in 1964 you can already begin to see the
elements that will lead, lead George Wallace toward his
independent run in ’68. In 1968 he runs for President but he runs as an Independent and so
he’s not going to be in the primaries. But the rhetorical plan, the
structure, you can begin to see emerging out of ’64. Well, in ’68 I guess then he’s going to denounce federal interference as he sees it, and that will
include, especially as we move forward, forced
busing to achieve integration of public schools. He’s going to denounce government
overregulation and he’s also going to talk about the social programs,
government spending. And he’s going to start focusing
challenges to this liberal agenda, this progressive agenda, of Johnson. He’s
going to start focusing the challenge on, for instance, welfare and public housing. Again tied to this
growing, this expansion of the federal
government and its social engineering, its undertakings. He’s also going to come out in a big way
in ’68 for what you might call law and order. And
he’s going to suggest that a good bit of the rioting and the violence
and also rising crime rates, particularly in inner-cities, are the actual results of the policies of the Johnson
administration and the Kennedy administration, and more importantly, the consequences of
their ideologies, the ideas behind their
policies. Notice at no point here is he talking
about race and yet, in terms of school integration, and often
in terms of inner-city neighborhoods that are racked by violence, you’re looking at distinctions that often have a racial characteristic. That allows Wallace to speak to
potential constituencies without having to use the language of segregation. The other side to this would be those
constituencies. And I want to talk more about this in another segment just a bit. But understand the tensions that are
growing in America’s cities and ultimately growing within that old
Roosevelt Democratic coalition. The tensions are such that they’re just
about to burst that coalition apart. And race, race will be at the center of that political shift. It’s for that
reason, it’s for that reason predominately, that
George Wallace can appeal in places like Wisconsin and
Indiana and Maryland. Because it’s there where the blue collar
workers, the blue collar workers, are most
impacted by these federal policies. And it’s actually their support
that he begins to garner. So, how does this tie in perhaps to the larger conservative movement? Well, if we just look at what will later
be understood as the Reagan Coalition, especially in his
first election going back to 1980, it’s worth
noting, that Reagan, Ronald Reagan will pull into his
support base the so-called Reagan democrats Often blue-collar industrial workers who have traditionally been included in
that Roosevelt coalition of labor, but who will find for reasons of their own, largely
the very reasons that Wallace is talking about, will find a new place in the Republican
party under Reagan. Now, the third candidate I’m going to mention in
the next segment is none other than our old friend
Richard Nixon. And I’m going to argue in that segment that what we begin to see as early as 1968 is how George Wallace’s candidacies begin to influence the Republican Party. And some have even argued that Wallace opens the door for a complete restructuring
of American politics, certainly for Southern politics. You may
recall that traditionally the South had been the
solid Democratic south. In 1968, we’re going to see that change. And we’ll pick up there in the next segment.

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