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The Year That Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968

The Year That Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968

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The unknown story of the election that set the tone for today’s fractured politics
A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2023: Politics
“The book is a delightful demolition of the many political myths that continue to muddy our understanding of that election year. . . . Nichter’s book stands out for its clear, direct prose and the scrupulous research on which it’s based.”—Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal
The 1968 presidential race was a contentious battle between vice president Hubert Humphrey, Republican Richard Nixon, and former Alabama governor George Wallace. The United States was reeling from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy and was bitterly divided on the Vietnam War and domestic issues, including civil rights and rising crime. Drawing on previously unexamined archives and numerous interviews, Luke A. Nichter upends the conventional understanding of the campaign. 
Nichter chronicles how the evangelist Billy Graham met with Johnson after the president’s attempt to reenter the race was stymied by his own party, and offered him a deal: Nixon, if elected, would continue Johnson’s Vietnam War policy and also not oppose his Great Society, if Johnson would soften his support for Humphrey. Johnson agreed.
Nichter also shows that Johnson was far more active in the campaign than has previously been described; that Humphrey’s resurgence in October had nothing to do with his changing his position on the war; that Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” has been misunderstood, since he hardly even campaigned there; and that Wallace’s appeal went far beyond the South and anticipated today’s Republican populism. This eye-opening account of the political calculations and maneuvering that decided this fiercely fought election reshapes our understanding of a key moment in twentieth-century American history.

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