How Did The 1968 Democratic Convention Change America’s Political Landscape?

Editorials News | Aug-03-2023

How Did The 1968 Democratic Convention Change America’s Political Landscape?

An important turning point in American history, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, had a profound effect on the political climate of the country. The convention was held amid a time of social turmoil, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, and generational conflict.
The events that took place at this convention had far-reaching effects, altering the course of American politics and influencing activists and politicians in later generations.

1. Increase In Anti-Vietnam War Protests:
The growing opposition to the Vietnam War was one of the most important topics that dominated the 1968 Democratic Convention. The American people had grown more and more opposed to the war, particularly the younger generation who thought it was unfair and resulted in needless human casualties. During the convention, thousands of anti-war demonstrators gathered in Chicago to express their opposition. This led to conflicts with the police and a string of violent encounters that were carried on national television.

2. Democratic Party Fragmentation:
During the convention, there were internal conflicts and disagreements within the Democratic Party. Conflict broke out between supporters of Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was viewed as the establishment candidate, and those of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who had been slain just months earlier. Democrat's chances in the general election were weakened by the party's inability to coalesce behind a single candidate, signaling a change in party dynamics.

3. The Rise Of Law & Order Politics:
The 1968 Democratic Convention's displays of unrest and violence benefited Republicans, notably Richard Nixon, who seized the opportunity to promote a "law and order" stance. In an attempt to win over the "silent majority" who were fed up with the protests and social turmoil, Nixon focused on restoring law and order. This strategy struck a chord with many Americans and served as the basis for a new kind of conservatism.

4. Impact On Political Action:
The convention's activities sparked fresh political action by rekindling the anti-war and civil rights movements. Disenchanted with the current political system, young people moved to grassroots organizing, protests, and other forms of direct action to bring about change. The conference strengthened the notion that citizen action and dissent could be effective weapons for influencing governmental decisions.

5. Political Conventions Are Dying:
The 1968 Democratic Convention brought attention to the problems with the established structure of party conventions. The scenes of unrest and internal strife caused many to question the value and efficacy of such gatherings. Political conventions thus started to lose their significance and changed into more ceremonial, choreographed gatherings that lacked the drama and power they formerly did.

In summary, the 1968 Democratic Convention was a turning point in American politics. It exposed significant rifts within the Democratic Party, helped "law and order" policies gain traction, and stoked the flames of grassroots agitation. The convention changed how Americans interacted with politics and demonstrated the strength of popular opposition in shaping societal debate. The political environment in the United States has changed, and the following generations of activists are evidence of its enduring effects.

By : Abhiyash Maheshwari