It makes me laugh to hear commentators on the cable news outlets marvel about how the campaign to elect the successor to Barak Obama in 2016 is a unique event the likes of which has never been seen before. Hillary, The Donald, Jeb, Bernie, Carly, Joe, Dr. Carson, Marco, and the rest of the gang are depicted to be transcendent figures unknown to American politics.

This is clearly not the case.  All we must do is travel back in a time capsule to 1968 when Lyndon Johnson was finishing his first and last elective term in office.  At that time LBJ was bogged down with fighting an unpopular war In Vietnam, where the mighty USA was being humiliated in an engagement that could never be won.

Sounds familiar?  How about comparing the failures of the Johnson administration to the collapse of United States influence in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, where Isis and assorted terrorist groups have brought the American military to its knees.

In this tumultuous environment a new President will need to be elected. Much like the credibility gap that existed in the late 1960’s, a similar environment exists today where trust in government and politicians, in general, is at an all-time low.   A polarized electorate existed then as it does now.

In 1968 a close race was won between Republican standard bearer Richard Nixon over Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey.  Third-party candidate George Wallace, representing the right wing American Independent slate, came in third.  Before this outcome transpired we had the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy earlier in the year not to mention the chaos at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

How does 1968 compare with what is transpiring today?   Actually, a lot.  Comparing candidates separated by 47 years in time we have:

Republicans:  In 1968, it was former Vice-President Richard Nixon who served under Dwight Eisenhower only to be defeated by John Kennedy eight years earlier, who headed the ticket. Nixon represented a party that had been fractured in 1964 with the disastrous defeat of Barry Goldwater. (“In your heart you know he’s right”)   This time around the mantle belongs to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush whose father and brother once resided in the White House.  As bearer of the torch for the GOP, Bush has the financial backing from the party apparatus within the organization yet has creating little enthusiasm from the rank and file.

Democrats:  In the earlier election, Lyndon Johnson loyalist Hubert Humphrey faced off against Nixon.   In those days, one did not have to participate in primaries to win the nomination.  Humphrey gained it by using surrogates or “favorite sons” to gain him delegates.  This did not set well with those who supported Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy who claimed the fix was in.  As it turned out they were right.

By comparison Hillary Clinton is in a similar situation to Humphrey.  A large number of elected officials and influential party members have endorsed her in an attempt to squelch opposition.  This heavy-handed approach has not worked very well as indicated by opinion polls where Hillary’s popularity does not measure up to the support she has received from party regulars. Much as 1968 critics have pointed out, coronating an individual whom few trust is not what democracy should be all about.

Eugene Mc Carthy & Bernie Sanders: Back in earlier times in the spring of 1968, it was the liberal, more intellectual Senator who stunned Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary by garnering 42% of the vote.  Although he narrowly won there, Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the race, bringing in Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey into the fray.

McCarthy, much like Bernie Sanders, was never considered to be a serious contender because he was perceived out of touch with the middle of the party.  Sanders is thought of in much the same way by playing the role of a stalking horse for others. This is evidenced by his current lead in New Hampshire opinion polls.  Most people expect if Sanders mortally wounds Clinton in early primaries, he will give way to Elizabeth Warren or Vice President Joe Biden to become the Democratic nominee.

George Wallace and Donald Trump:  Although these two men are much different with Wallace, a segregationist governor from Alabama and Trump an entrepreneur from New York, their messages have a lot in common.  Both of these individuals who were out  the mainstreams of Democratic and Republican politics  have capitalized on the frustration of segments of societies which were estranged from the government in Washington D.C. Wallace was known as a  charismatic speaker-orator in much the same way Trump is perceived by his followers. Their opponents refer to this behavior as being demagogic.

As a lifelong Democrat Wallace ran on a third party ticket in 1968 winning a few States in the Deep South.   At this time Trump is campaigning as a Republican but has threatened bolt and run as an independent if he feels the GOP is mistreating him.

In 1968 there was unhappiness among the so called counter-culture of disenfranchised citizens who believed the government was not effectively representing them.  Their displeasure was evidenced at the Democratic Convention in Chicago where many people felt Hubert Humphrey’s defeat was sealed.  In 2015 social upheaval illustrated by “Black Lives Matter”, Occupy Wall Street, and problems at the border with undocumented immigration  streaming from Mexico and Central America,

In addition to social upheaval today and what was going on almost 50 years ago, the one common thread between both eras has been the lack of success in the military. Back in 1968 with the quagmire in Vietnam and recently with Isis and terrorist groups having their way in the Middle East, the American people have shown little patience with military failure.

President Obama’s leading from behind policies have not proven to be very popular.  Typical is the Iran peace accord which the majority of congress and the American people oppose. Despite this, the agreement negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to become law because the President can use a veto to prevent Congress from rejecting it.  Such an outcome could hardly be considered a victory,

How what transpired in 1968 will compare with 2016 remains to be seen.  Hopefully the presidential elections next year will prove to be less violent than what happened back then.

I can remember as a cub reporter working for the Oregon Daily Emerald sitting on the floor of the Eugene Hotel conversing with an exhausted Bobby Kennedy who invited the student press to his post election function on May 29th. It was at that moment I was so filled with hope that a candidate had been found that connected with my generation though few of us were eligible to vote back then.

Change for the good seemed to be inevitable.  A week later on June 5, 1968 this all ended in the kitchen at Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where Sirhan Sirhan mortally wounded Robert Kennedy.

Forty-Seven years later we can only hope the outcome will be better this time around.