Will 2024 be 1968?


Many historians claim that 1968 was a turning point in American history. It was a tumultuous year with war, assassinations, a President deciding not to run for re-election, protests and controversial political conventions. Many Americans wondered if the country could survive such upheaval, uncertainty, and unrest.

Yet, here we are. Still the nation many countries seek to emulate or envy. Still the refuge for those huddled masses yearning to be free. Still viewed as the nation of opportunity, the bright city on the hill.

However, I wonder for how long. 

I was just three years old in 1968. The world was still a place I wanted to explore. It was a time where I would get deep into my World Book encyclopedia collection and believed in endless possibility. As an adult, I miss that time in my life when I was oblivious to the chaos.

Now I can't be oblivious to what I am seeing and hearing and feeling. I am watching the nation I grew up in devolve into something I don't care for. Something I thought we were moving past.

What started me thinking about a possible comparison to 1968 is the chatter I am hearing from the political talking heads wanting, suggesting and encouraging President Biden not run for re-election. President Joseph Biden is performing in his capacity as president beyond his expectations. He has passed major legislation, guided us through a pandemic, and has shown empathy and strength at the correct time. He has made historic appointments and encouraged us to be our better selves, much like the president in 1968, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Johnson's presidency saw the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the enactment of the Great Society, and the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Astronauts were on the verge of landing on the moon and we were, as a nation, respected around the world, politically and culturally. However, our police action in Vietnam became his undoing.

Amidst the protests and the graphic devastation of war appearing on American televisions daily, Johnson felt that his leadership of the nation was being questioned and it became too much of a burden to bear. He died four years later.

Now the talking heads are suggesting that President Biden go the same route as LBJ. Step aside. Don't run for re-election, even though you'll probably be re-elected. Allow someone younger to assume the mantle. The protests against war have begun anew, with the conflict between Israel and Hamas growing deadlier by the day. And just like 1968, there is a foreboding conservative nationalist threat on the horizon. 

Is there an equivalent of  a Robert Francis Kennedy waiting in the wings of the Democratic Party? I would say, emphatically, no! Would Kamala Harris face the same fate of Hubert Humphrey if there wasn't? I sincerely hope not.

Yet, here we are. Facing the uncertainty of a world where Donald Trump, and his cult-like following, would regain the seat of power. Watching white supremacy generate a following through fear and misinformation. Engulfed by an atmosphere of division and acceptance of the lowest common denominator of decency.

Another Democratic president admonished us by saying we have nothing to fear but fear itself. However, without fail, we are allowing our fear to create paralysis through analysis. This is not the time to cower in fear. This is the time we show that we learned the lesson taught to us in 1968.

We cannot continue to allow our enemies to set the tune for us to dance to. Their talking points cannot be our talking points. Their misinformation cannot be our source of information. Their fear cannot define and restrict us.

We must rally around true leadership and clear vision. We must exude confidence and value intelligence. We must move forward, not repeat the mistakes and missteps of our past. We cannot afford to let our righteous dissidence divide us to the point where supremacy and fascism become palatable. Again.

Before we make 2024 another 1968, I suggest that we assess what we have accomplished, look at the big picture, and strategize the defeat the true enemy of the ideal of America: ignorance. The majority of the American people have shown us that they do not want to end the democracy experiment at every election since 2020. Now is not the time to stop heeding their wishes.

In 1968, we ceded to Richard Nixon. In 2024, we cannot cede to Donald Trump. However, if we keep wanting to make the same mistake we made 55 years ago, our worst fears will become our worst reality.


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