Back to the Future? 2020 Reflects 1968

Hal Dash
Chairman and CEO of Cerrell & Associates

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

(Philosopher George Santayana, 1905)

“Nixon, now more than ever.”

 (Richard Nixon campaign slogan, 1968)

  1. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinated. American cities on fire.  Protests and civil unrest across the country. Vietnam escalates and thousands of American soldiers die. A very unpopular LBJ doesn’t seek a second term. Progressives challenge the establishment. College campuses in an uproar. Chicago Convention tabs VP Hubert Humphrey for President and protests in Grant Park spark Chicago PD brutality.  Nixon wins the Presidency and things become even grimmer. 

Ugh!  1968 was truly a forgettable year. And I voted for the first time.

Flash forward to 2020.  1968 and those two quotes above resonate with me and I see a lot of parallels. We’re still in Afghanistan, our longest war. The scourge of COVID-19, police brutality and huge protests over the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans and people of color. Depression era unemployment. Students under crushing school loan debt and living at home. Schools closed. Mental health issues skyrocket. America’s plummeting standing and image in the world.  And a HUGELY unpopular President. Is that an understatement?

As a political person, and consultant, I always think about campaigns, voting and the consequences of elections. In 1968, Richard Nixon, former Vice President and failed gubernatorial candidate in California, capitalized on all the bad news of 1968 to beat Hubert Humphrey, who was one of the most decent, honest and progressive politicians ever (he spoke up for civil rights at the 1946 Democratic National Convention and Southern Conservative Democrats—Dixiecrats stormed out).  But HHH was saddled with being LBJ’s VP, and young, progressive Democrats and many, many older liberals could not and did not vote for him and stayed home. 

This year, staying home or not voting because Joe Biden isn’t Bernie or any other Democrat is NOT an option.  Now, more than ever, there must be change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The very future of the Republic depends on it!

2016 still bothers the hell out of me for what happened as unhappy Dems stayed home or didn’t care because Hillary (flawed for sure, but compared to Trump?) was too old, not Bill, not dynamic, didn’t appeal to many millions of young people. As I mentioned, elections have consequences and the past four years have more than validated this premise.

Sure, Joe Biden has negatives and is not Obama, Clinton or Kennedy.  Voters, especially younger ones must think past ideological purity and look at decency, civility, domestic and international experience, humanity and the ability to heal. And a woman VP, one step away from history, adds to the urgency to vote in unprecedented numbers.

We older folks vote more reliably than younger people and, hopefully, that will change in 2020.  I am optimistic seeing all the amazing and impressive energy, passion, calls for justice, reform and societal sea change we have seen these past many weeks. Now that has to be channeled into voting on November 3rd.  Without the White House and don’t forget the Senate, nothing people have and continue to march for will get done and things could arguably become worse!

We have four months to go until November 3. Now more than ever:  VOTE!

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