Monday, March 5, 2012

Then and Now - Election Year Blues - Winners & Losers

The past century has brought about more changes than any century in recorded time; however human nature changes very little over the years.  We're fallible, we're flawed, we make mistakes - but we were made in God's image so we have hope.  That underlying hope is the thread that holds us together even when things go wrong.  That hope along with our survival instincts is what drives some brave souls to seek leadership positions despite character flaws and the fact that common sense warns them not to.  I can't imagine anyone wanting to run for the office of the presidency and having all their dirty laundry on the line for all the world to see.  But somebody has to do it, right?  This is my third in a series of blog posts I'm doing on Then and Now.  I was inspired by some old magazines I found in our attic. I noticed that news stories today have a common thread with news stories in the past.

The Year was 1964, the month was February and it was just a few short months since the assassination of John F. Kennedy.   Lyndon Bains Johnson  had succeeded  to the presidency following the assassination and was completing the final year of Kennedy’s term of the office.   The February 7th edition of Life Magazine had a lead article titled THE GREAT G.O.P. LOGJAM OF PRESIDENTIAL TIMBER.  The article pulled me in as I sat skimming some of the old magazine’s I had found in my attic last week.   Then, as now, there was an incumbent Democratic Party president seeking reelection.  I was curious to see  what the political climate was like in 1964 compared to the political climate of today.  It was apparent that the nation was politically unsettled during this period of mourning following the assassination.

The article’s title was catchy and the point was that you can’t see the forest for the trees because of the large number of problems facing the G.O.P. hopefuls seeking the candidacy of the Republican Party.  Then as now, there were factors that caused tumult within the Party.  The first and foremost was New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s divorce the preceeding year and his remarriage to his new wife, Happy.  

Happy had only been divorced from her husband with whom she had four children for a month before their marriage.  The divorce issue was similar to Newt Gingrich’s predicament of his infidelity issue only more so.  Divorce and infidelity seemed to be a bit more of a liability back then.  They’re still unpopular among candidates, but not so much a deal breaker now.  Rockefeller felt that his private life should not be linked to his public record.  Don’t they all wish that?  He believed that the Republican Party professionals wanted him knocked out of the race because they disagreed with his liberal Republican Philosophy.  I think he may have been right.  Fifteen years later, in 1979, Nelson suffered a fatal heart attack while with his 25-year-old aide, Megan Marshack, circumstances which led to more eyebrow-raising.  I'm pretty sure that Happy was not very happy about that.

Margaret Chase Smith, 66, at that time the only woman to ever be elected three times to the US Senate announced that she would run for the Presidency.  She was the first woman to be placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party's convention.   She was known as a moderate Republican.  In this article Senator Smith gave a lengthy list of reasons why a woman should not run, then sweetly stated she was running anyway.  I think I would have voted for her if I had been old enough to vote in 1964.

Even George Romney’s name was in the hat in 1964.  This article was the first I knew of that – everything else I’ve read say’s that he was a candidate in 1968, but no mention of 1964.  It must have been a fleeting thought.  The article quoted him as saying he would accept the call if asked, but apparently he wasn’t asked.  The article also said his willingness to run had angered Michigan Republicans to whom he had pledged he would remain Governor.
George Romney - Doesn't his son Mitt look just like him?

Last but not least was Barry Goldwater.  The Life article stated that Goldwater volleys against welfare programs, United Nations and the Test Treaty badly damaged his candidacy but it was felt he could still carry the bulk of Southern delegates to the G.O.P. convention. 

Well, we all know the rest of the story.  Goldwater was the G.O.P. candidate for President in 1964 and was defeated by Lyndon Baines Johnson.    Goldwater’s problem was that he did not have the support from his own party and suffered from his deeply unpopular (for the 1960s) conservative political positions.

Johnson, who had successfully associated himself with Kennedy's popularity, won 61.1% of the popular vote, the highest won by a candidate since 1820.  It was the sixth-most lopsided presidential election in the history of the United States in terms of electoral votes; in terms of popular vote, it was the fith-most. No candidate for president since the election has equaled or surpassed Johnson's 1964 percentage margin of the popular vote.

Then and Now…..the similarities are spooky.   But as I mentioned in the first paragraph, there have been a lot of changes in the last century.  In 1964, there would have been no black president as the incumbent.  The majority of Blacks could not even vote in that year's election.  Not until the following year was The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed suspending literacy tests in the Deep South and providing federal enforcement of black registration and voting rights.  The Declaration of Independence's declaration that "all men are created equal" had meant nothing for Blacks up until that point.  Thank God for change.  

One thing stood out clearly to me in "looking back".  The lack of unification in a political party can spell gloom and doom.  Both parties could learn something from studying past elections.  But hey, we're just human, aren't we?  We are pretty thick headed when it comes to learning from our mistakes.

Stay tuned for more Then and Now blog posts.  I'm enjoying reading these old magazines.


  1. I cAn just imagine you sat there with your head buried in these old magazines! They're certainly making for some good blog posts . Apart from the 'black' issue and the fact that women have more say now, it would seem that nothing much has changed when re-electing our leaders! I had never heard of Margaret Chase Smith, but she sounds like my kind of woman!

    1. I am enjoying reading them Diane. Political history has always been a fascinating subject for me as my growing up years were steeped in political jargon from a father who was very active in his political party. It was impossible not to be well informed living in our household.

  2. Hi Glenda,

    I just love your post.

    I was only 8 yrs old at the time. So I really didn't know much about what was going on.

    I have never been a very politically minded person. Until now.
    I am watching CNN practically 24/7. I have seen some of the debates and most of the primaries.

    It is interesting how things are similar then and now in the lives of the candidates. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings being Super Tuesday. If there will be any that drop out of the race. Or if there will be a definate winner. Can't wait to find out. :)

    Well I should go. Take care, Janet W

  3. A great insight - if there is one thing history has taught me. We don't learn by our mistakes!

    Party disunity is a great crunch for all politicans - the minute they start their back stabbing they may as well kiss any chance of winning an Election out of the window.

    I'm old enough to remember it being the downfall of so many of our so-called Great Leaders.

    With the benefit of hindsight perhaps Happy would reflect that no matter how much you think it will - a leopard doesn't change its spots.


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