1968 Democratic National Convention

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1968 Democratic National Convention
1968 presidential election
38 H Humphrey 3x4.jpg Edmund Muskie.jpg
Humphrey and Muskie
Date(s) August 26–29, 1968
City Chicago, Illinois
Venue International Amphitheatre
Presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota
Vice Presidential nominee Edmund Muskie of Maine
Other candidates Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota
George McGovern of South Dakota
1964  ·  1972

The 1968 Democratic National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois, from August 26 to August 29, 1968. As President Lyndon B. Johnson had announced he would not seek re-election, the purpose of the convention was to select a new presidential nominee to run as the Democratic Party's candidate for the office.[1] The keynote speaker was Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).[2]

Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and Senator Edmund S. Muskie of Maine were nominated for President and Vice President, respectively.

The convention was held during a year of violence, political turbulence, and civil unrest, particularly riots in more than 100 cities[3] following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4.[4] The convention also followed the assassination of Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, on June 5.[5] Both Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had been running against the eventual Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey.


In 1968 the Democratic Party was divided. Senators Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy had entered the campaign in March, challenging Johnson for the Democratic nomination. Johnson, facing dissent within his party, had dropped out of the race on March 31.[6] Vice President Hubert Humphrey then entered into the race, but did not compete in any primaries, compiling his delegates in caucus states that were controlled by party leaders. After Kennedy's assassination on June 5, the Democratic Party's divisions grew.[5] At the moment of Kennedy's death the delegate count stood at Humphrey 561.5, Kennedy 393.5, McCarthy 258.[7] Kennedy's murder left his delegates uncommitted.

When it came to choosing a candidate, on one side stood supporters of Senator McCarthy, who ran a decidedly anti-war campaign and who was seen as the peace candidate.[8] On the other side was Vice President Humphrey, who was seen as the candidate who represented the Johnson point of view.[9] In the end, the Democratic Party nominated Humphrey. Even though 80 percent of the primary voters had been for anti-war candidates, the delegates had defeated the peace plank by 1,567¾ to 1,041¼.[10] The perceived cause of this loss was the result of Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley, and President Johnson pulling strings behind the scenes.[10] Humphrey, even though he had not entered a single primary, had won the Democratic nomination, and went on to lose the election to the Republican Richard Nixon.[11]

Final ballot
Presidential tally Vice Presidential tally:
Hubert Humphrey 1759.25 Edmund S. Muskie 1942.5
Eugene McCarthy 601 Not Voting 604.25
George S. McGovern 146.5 Julian Bond 48.5
Channing Phillips 67.5 David Hoeh 4
Daniel K. Moore 17.5 Edward M. Kennedy 3.5
Edward M. Kennedy 12.75 Eugene McCarthy 3.0
Paul W. "Bear" Bryant 1.5 Others 16.25
James H. Gray 0.5
George Wallace 0.5

Source: Keating Holland, "All the Votes... Really," CNN[12]

Richard J. Daley and the Convention

Chicago's mayor, Richard J. Daley, intended to showcase his and the city's achievements to national Democrats and the news media. Instead, the proceedings became notorious for the large number of demonstrators and the use of force by the Chicago police during what was supposed to be, in the words of the Yippie activist organizers, "A Festival of Life."[4] Rioting took place between demonstrators and the Chicago Police Department, who were assisted by the Illinois National Guard. The disturbances were well publicized by the mass media, with some journalists and reporters being caught up in the violence. Network newsmen Mike Wallace, Dan Rather and Edwin Newman were roughed up by the Chicago police while inside the halls of the Democratic Convention.[13] The Democratic Presidential Nominating Convention had been held in Chicago 12 years earlier.[14] Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley had played an integral role in the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960.[14] In 1968, however, it did not seem that Daley had maintained the clout which would allow him to bring out the voters again to produce a Democratic victory as he had in 1960. On October 7, 1967, at a one thousand dollars a plate fundraiser for President Johnson's reelection campaign, Daley and Johnson met together for a private meeting. During the meeting, Daley explained to the president that in the 1966 congressional races, there had been a disappointing showing of Democrats, and that if the convention were not held in Illinois, that the president might lose the swing state with its twenty-seven electoral votes.[15] Johnson's pro-war policies had already created a great division within the party, and with the selection of Chicago for the convention, Johnson hoped that there would not be a need for him to confront any more opposition.[16] The Committee head for selecting the location, New Jersey Democrat David Wilentz, gave the official reason for choosing Chicago as, "It is centrally located geographically which will reduce transportation costs and because it has been the site of national conventions for both Parties in the past and is therefore attuned to holding them." The conversation between Johnson and Daley was leaked to the press and published in the Chicago Tribune and several other papers.[16]

Dan Rather incident

While trying to interview a Georgia delegate being escorted out of the building, CBS News correspondent Dan Rather was grabbed by security guards and was roughed up.[17] While Rather was reporting from the convention floor,[17] CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite turned his attention towards the area where Rather was reporting from. Rather was grabbed by security guards after he walked towards a delegate who was being hauled out, and asked him, "What is your name, sir?" Rather, who was wearing a microphone headset, was then heard on national television repeatedly saying to the guards, "Don't push me" and "Take your hands off me unless you plan to arrest me" to the guards.[17]

After the guards let go of Rather, he then told Cronkite, "Walter... we tried to talk to the man and we got violently pushed out of the way. This is the kind of thing that has been going on outside the hall, this is the first time we've had it happen inside the hall. We... I'm sorry to be out of breath, but somebody belted me in the stomach during that. What happened is a Georgia delegate, at least he had a Georgia delegate sign on, was being hauled out of the hall. We tried to talk to him to see why, who he was, what the situation was, and at that instant the security people, well as you can see, put me on the deck. I didn't do very well."[17] Cronkite then replied by saying, "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan."

Protests and police response

In 1968, the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Youth International Party (Yippies) had already begun planning a youth festival in Chicago to coincide with the Democratic National Convention. They were not alone as other groups, such as Students For a Democratic Society also would make their presence known.[18] When asked about anti-war demonstrators, Daley kept repeating to reporters that "No thousands will come to our city and take over our streets, our city, our convention."[19] In the end, 10,000 demonstrators gathered in Chicago for the convention where they were met by 23,000 police and National Guardsmen.[11] Daley also thought that one way to prevent demonstrators from coming to Chicago was to refuse to grant permits which would allow for people to protest legally.[20]

After the violence which took place at the Chicago convention, Daley said his primary reason for calling in so many Guardsmen and police was reports he received indicating the existence of plots to assassinate many of the leaders, including himself.[21]

While several protests had taken place before serious violence occurred, the events headed by the Yippies were not without satire. Surrounded by reporters on August 23, 1968, Jerry Rubin, a Yippie leader, folk singer Phil Ochs, and other activists held their own presidential nominating convention with their candidate Pigasus, an actual pig. When the Yippies paraded Pigasus at the Civic Center, ten policemen arrested Ochs, Rubin, Pigasus, and six others. This resulted in Pigasus becoming a media hit.[22]

The Chicago police riot

August 28, 1968 came to be known as the day a "police riot" took place. The title of "police riot" came out of the Walker Report, which amassed a great deal of information and eyewitness accounts to determine what happened in Chicago.[20] At approximately 3:30 p.m., a young man lowered the American flag at a legal rally taking place at Grant Park. The demonstration was made up of 10,000 protesters.[10] The police broke through the crowd and began beating the boy, while the crowd pelted the police with food, rocks, and chunks of concrete.[23] Police fought with the protesters and vice versa. The chants of the protesters shifted from "Hell no, we won't go" to "Pigs are whores".[24] Tom Hayden, one of the leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, encouraged protesters to move out of the park to ensure that if they were to be tear gassed, the whole city would be tear gassed, and made sure that if blood were spilled in Chicago it would happen throughout the city.[25] The amount of tear gas used to suppress the protesters was so great that it eventually made its way to the Hilton Hotel, where it disturbed Hubert Humphrey while in his shower.[24] The police were taunted by the protesters with chants of "Kill, kill, kill". They sprayed demonstrators and bystanders indiscriminately with mace.[26] The police assault in front of the Hilton Hotel the evening of August 28 became the most famous image of the Chicago demonstrations of 1968. The entire event took place live under the T.V. lights for seventeen minutes with the crowd shouting, "The whole world is watching".[24]

Meanwhile, in the convention hall, Connecticut Senator Abraham Ribicoff used his nominating speech for George McGovern to tell of the violence going on outside the convention hall, saying that "And, with George McGovern as President of the United States, we wouldn't have to have Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago!"[27] Mayor Daley responded to his remark with something that the television sound was not able to pick up. Whatever Daley said, Ribicoff replied, "How hard it is to accept the truth!" That night, NBC News had been switching back and forth between the demonstrators being beaten by the police to the festivities over Humphrey's victory in the convention hall, making it clear to the nation that the Democratic party was sorely divided.[28]

After the Chicago protests, the demonstrators were confident that the majority of Americans would side with them over what had happened in Chicago, especially because of police behavior. They were shocked to learn that controversy over the war in Vietnam overshadowed their cause.[13] Daley shared he had received 135,000 letters supporting his actions and only 5000 condemning them. Public opinion polls demonstrated that the majority of Americans supported the Mayor's tactics.[29] It was often commented through the popular media that on that evening, America decided to vote for Richard Nixon.[30]

The Chicago Eight

After Chicago, the Justice Department meted out conspiracy and incitement to riot charges in connection with the violence at Chicago and gave birth to the Chicago Eight, which consisted of Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale.[31] Demonstrations were held daily during the trial, organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the Young Lords, and the local Black Panther Party led by Chairman Fred Hampton. In February 1970, five of the remaining seven Chicago Conspiracy defendants (Seale's charges had been separated from the rest) were convicted on the charge of intent to incite a riot while crossing state lines, but none were found guilty of conspiracy.

Judge Julius Hoffman sentenced the defendants and their attorneys to unprecedented prison terms ranging from two-and-a-half months to four years for contempt of court. The convictions were eventually reversed on appeal, and the government declined to bring the case to trial again.[31]

See also


  1. "Past Convention Coverage". The New York Times. Retrieved April 20, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Keynoter Knows Sting of Bias, Poverty". St. Petersburg Times. Associated Press. August 27, 1968.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "1968: Martin Luther King shot dead". On this Day. BBC. Retrieved August 27, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Blake, Bailey (1992). The 60s. New York: Mallard Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr. (1968). Robert Kennedy and His Times. New York: Ballantine Books. p. xi.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. LBJ Address to Nation, LBJ Presidential Library
  7. The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy, Dan E. Moldea
  8. Farber 1988: 100.
  9. Farber 1988: 93.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Gitlin 1987: 331.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Jennings & Brewster 1998: 413.
  12. "AllPolitics - 1996 GOP NRC - All The Votes...Really". CNN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Gitlin 1987: 335.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Farber 1988: 115.
  15. Farber 1988: 116.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Farber 1988: 117.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 "Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers". CBS News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Farber 1988: 5.
  19. Gill, Donna. "LBJ-Humphrey Slate Seen by Party Leader." Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1968, p.2.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Gitlin 1987: 319.
  21. CBS News, Convention Outtakes, Daley/Cronkite Interview August 29, 1968.
  22. Farber 1988: 167.
  23. Farber 1988: 195.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Gitlin 1987: 332.
  25. Farber 1988: 196.
  26. Gitlin 1987: 333.
  27. Farber 1988: 201.
  28. NBC Morning News, August 29, 1968.
  29. https://books.google.com/books?id=0RrsMRsvkHIC&pg=PA235&lpg=PA235&dq=daley+1968+public+opinion+polls#v=onepage&q=daley%201968%20public%20opinion%20polls&f=false
  30. Farber 1988: 206.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Gitlin 1987: 342.

Further reading

External links

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