La decisión fue particularmente difícil para los demócratas en 1968, debido a la división del partido por la Guerra de Vietnam, y por el asesinato de uno de los candidatos favoritos, Bobby Kennedy, el preferido de las masas. Este trágico acontecimiento, unido a la evidente falta de conexión entre el aparato del partido y sus bases, hizo del proceso de nominación un auténtico caos que quedó evidenciado en la convulsa Convención Demócrata celebrada en Chicago en el verano de aquel año.
Finalmente se impuso el hombre del aparato, el Vicepresidente Hubert Humphrey. Un antiguo héroe de los progresistas y los sindicatos, convertido ahora en un villano por su defensa de la Guerra de Vietnam.
El Presidente Lyndon Johnson se disponía a presentarse a la nominación, hasta que, tras sus pobres números en New Hampshire, decidió retirarse. Entonces se disputaría la candidatura entre: el Senador Eugene McCarthy, de Minnesota; el Senador Robert Kennedy, de Nueva York; el Senador George McGovern, de Dakota del Sur; y el Vicepresidente Hubert Humphrey.
(...) Though President Lyndon Johnson had served during two presidential terms, the 22nd Amendment did not disqualify Johnson from running for another term, because he had only served 14 months following John F. Kennedy's assassination before being elected to his "second" term in 1964. As a result, it was widely assumed when 1968 began that President Johnson would be the Democratic nominee, and that he would have little trouble in winning the Democratic nomination
Despite the growing opposition to Johnson's policies in Vietnam, no prominent Democratic candidate was prepared to run against a sitting President of his own party. Even Senator Robert Kennedy of New York, an outspoken critic of Johnson's policies with a large base of support, refused to run against Johnson in the primaries. Only Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota proved willing to openly challenge Johnson. Running as an anti-war candidate in the New Hampshire primary, McCarthy hoped to pressure the Democrats into publicly opposing the Vietnam War.
Normally, an incumbent president faces little formidable opposition within his own party. However, McCarthy, although he was trailing badly in the national polls, decided to pour most of his resources into New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary election. He was boosted by thousands of young college students, who shaved their beards and cut their hair to be "Clean for Gene". These students rang doorbells and worked hard in New Hampshire for McCarthy.
En la imagen: el Senador Eugene McCarthy
On March 12, McCarthy won 42% of the primary vote to Johnson's 49%, an amazingly strong showing for such a challenger, and one which gave McCarthy's campaign legitimacy and momentum. The momentum ended, however, when Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy four days later, on March 16, as McCarthy supporters cried betrayal and vowed to defeat Kennedy. Thereafter McCarthy and Kennedy would engage in an increasingly bitter series of state primaries; although Kennedy won most of the primaries, he could never shake McCarthy and his devoted following of antiwar activists, which included many Hollywood celebrities such as Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, and Burt Lancaster.
On March 31, 1968, following the New Hampshire primaries and Kennedy's entry into the election, the President startled the nation by announcing he would not seek re-election. (Not discussed publicly at the time was Johnson's concern that he might not survive another term - Johnson's health was poor, and he had suffered a serious heart attack in 1955.)
Bleak political forecasts also contributed to Johnson's withdrawal: internal polling by Johnson's campaign in Wisconsin, the next state to hold a primary election, showed the President trailing badly, and in fact he lost the primary to McCarthy. He did not even leave The White House to campaign in Wisconsin. Johnson had lost control of the Democratic Party, which was splitting into four factions, each of which distrusted the other three.
*The first faction comprised labor unions and big-city party bosses (led by Mayor Richard J. Daley). This group had traditionally controlled the Democratic Party since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and they feared their loss of control over the party. After Johnson's withdrawal this group rallied to support Hubert H. Humphrey, Johnson's Vice-President; it was also believed that President Johnson himself was covertly supporting Humphrey, despite his public claims of neutrality.
*The second group, which rallied behind Senator McCarthy, was composed of students and intellectuals who had been the early spokespeople against the war in Vietnam; they perceived themselves as the future of the Democratic Party.
*The third group was primarily composed of Catholics, African-Americans, and other racial and ethnic minorities; these groups rallied behind Senator Robert Kennedy.
*The fourth group consisted of conservative white Southern Democrats, or "Dixiecrats." Some members (probably older ones remembering the New Deal's positive impact upon rural areas) of this group supported Vice-President Humphrey, but most of them would rally behind George C. Wallace and the Alabama governor's third-party campaign in the general election.
Since the Vietnam War had become the major issue that was dividing the Democratic Party, and Johnson had come to symbolize the war for many liberal Democrats, Johnson believed that he could not win the nomination without a major struggle, and that he would probably lose the election in November to the Republicans.
En la imagen: portada del Chicago Tribune. "LBJ won't run".
However, by withdrawing from the race he could avoid the stigma of defeat, and he could keep control of the party machinery by giving the nomination to Humphrey, who had been a loyal Vice-President. As the year developed, it also became clear that Johnson believed he could secure his place in the history books by ending the war before the election in November, thus giving Humphrey the boost he would need to win.
After Johnson's withdrawal, Vice President Hubert Humphrey announced his candidacy. Kennedy was successful in four primaries and McCarthy five; however, in primaries where they campaigned directly against one another, Kennedy won three primaries and McCarthy one. Humphrey, for the most part, did not compete in the primaries, leaving that job to favorite sons who were his surrogates, notably Senator George A. Smathers from Florida, Senator Stephen M. Young from Ohio, and Governor Roger D. Branigin of Indiana.
Kennedy defeated Branigan and McCarthy in the Indiana primary, and then defeated McCarthy in the Nebraska primary. However, McCarthy upset Kennedy in the Oregon primary - this was considered important because it was the first time a Kennedy had ever lost an election. After Kennedy's defeat in Oregon, the California primary was seen as crucial to both Kennedy and McCarthy. McCarthy stumped the state's many colleges and universities, where he was treated as a hero for being the first presidential candidate to oppose the war.
En la imagen: el Senador Bobby Kennedy.
Kennedy campaigned in the ghettos and barrios of the state's larger cities, where he was mobbed by enthusiastic supporters. Kennedy and McCarthy engaged in a television debate a few days before the election, it was generally considered a draw. On June 5 Kennedy narrowly defeated McCarthy in California, 46% - 42%. However, McCarthy refused to withdraw from the race and made it clear that he would contest Kennedy in the upcoming New York primary, where McCarthy had much support from antiwar activists in New York City.
The New York primary quickly became a moot point, however, for on the night of June 5, Kennedy was shot shortly after midnight; he died twenty-six hours later. Kennedy had just given his California primary victory speech in a crowded ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles; he and his aides squeezed into a kitchen on their way to another ballroom to celebrate their victory. In the kitchen Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian militant who disliked Kennedy because of his support for the nation of Israel.
Political historians have debated to this day whether Kennedy could have won the Democratic nomination had he lived. Some historians, such as Theodore H. White and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., have argued that Kennedy's broad appeal and famed "charisma" would have convinced the party bosses at the Democratic Convention to give him the nomination.
However, other writers such as Tom Wicker, who covered the Kennedy campaign for The New York Times, believe that Humphrey's large lead in delegate votes from non-primary states, combined with Senator McCarthy's refusal to quit the race, would have prevented Kennedy from ever winning a majority at the Democratic Convention, and that Humphrey would have been the Democratic nominee even if Kennedy had lived. At the moment of RFK's death, the delegate totals were:
*Hubert Humphrey 561
*Robert Kennedy 393
*Eugene McCarthy 258
Robert Kennedy's death altered the dynamics of the race, and threw the Democratic Party into disarray. Although Humphrey appeared the prohibitive favorite for the nomination, thanks to his support from the traditional power blocs of the party, he was an unpopular choice with many of the anti-war elements within the party, who identified him with Johnson's controversial position on the Vietnam War.
However, Kennedy's delegates failed to unite behind a single candidate who could have prevented Humphrey from getting the nomination. Some of Kennedy's support went to McCarthy, but many of Kennedy's delegates, remembering their bitter primary battles with McCarthy, refused to vote for him. Instead, these delegates rallied around the late-starting candidacy of Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, a Kennedy supporter in the spring primaries, and who had presidential ambitions. However, by dividing the antiwar votes at the Democratic Convention, it made it easier for Humphrey to gather the delegates he needed to win the nomination.
When the 1968 Democratic National Convention opened in Chicago, thousands of young antiwar activists from around the nation gathered in the city to protest the Vietnam War. In a clash which was covered on live television, Americans were shocked to see Chicago police brutally beating anti-war protesters in the streets of Chicago. While the protestors chanted "the world is watching", the police used clubs and tear gas to beat back the protestors, leaving many of them bloody and dazed. The tear gas even wafted into numerous hotel suites; in one of them Vice-President Humphrey was watching the proceedings on television.
Meanwhile, the convention itself was marred by the strong-arm tactics of Chicago's mayor Richard J. Daley (who was seen on television angrily cursing Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, who made a speech at the convention denouncing the excesses of the Chicago police in the riots). In the end, the nomination itself was anticlimactic, with Vice President Humphrey handily beating McCarthy and McGovern on the first ballot. The convention then chose Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine as Humphrey's running mate. However, the tragedy of the antiwar riots crippled Humphrey's campaign from the start, and it never fully recovered.
The Votes at the Convention:
*Hubert Humphrey 1759
*Eugene McCarthy 601
*George McGovern 146
*Channing Phillips 67
*Daniel Moore 17
*Others 30 (...)
En el video: el asesinato del Senador Robert Kennedy la noche del 5 de junio de 1968 en Los Angeles, después de pronunciar su discurso.