Chapter 15: America "Come Home"
Senator George McGovern – Acceptance Speech at the 1972 Democratic Convention
Vice President Hubert Humphrey – Salt Lake City Speech
The election of 1968 was a seminal moment in American politics; a true before-and-after moment that brought extraordinary in the political destiny of the nation. For Democrats, 1968 represented the beginning of the dissolution of the so-called New Deal Coalition, which had kept Democrats as the dominant political party in America for more than 35 years. While racial issues would represent a critical cleavage in the party, the divisions among Democrats on national security and foreign policy would prove, over the long-term, to be equally destructive.
Fairly or unfairly, the image of Democrats as feckless and weak on military matters was born out of the tumult of 1968. The party’s growing skepticism about the direction of American foreign policy and the use of force led Hubert Humphrey to side with the anti-war wing of the party in September 1968 and call for a conditional halt to bombing in Vietnam. The rise of the doves would fully take flight in 1972 and the nomination of the liberal George McGovern, who called, at the party’s 1972 Democratic Convention, for Democrats to “come home.” To this day few political stereotypes have done more damage to a political party than the twinned images of national security weakness and the Democratic Party. It is a divide that remains crucial to understanding American politics in the 21st century.