The 1968 Presidential Election was a watershed event in both American and World politics. The Vietnam War had been raging for nearly a decade and had become an increasingly contentious issue.
Lyndon Johnson was the outgoing President and the two Presidential candidates were Richard Nixon (Republican) and Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat nominee.
Vietnam was a crucial factor in the election and there had been a marked shift in public opinion away from American involvement, as well as rising opposition to the highly volatile issue of “the draft”, that had seen many young Americans forced on to the battlefield.
Nixon sensed this sentiment and ran for President on a platform that opposed further American involvement in the war. But he faced a major dilemma. The Paris Peace Talks that were begun earlier in 1968 had the potential to end the war before the Presidential election, therefore derailing much of his campaign.
In 2013 secret tapes released from Lyndon Johnson’s Presidency pointed to the possibility that the Nixon camp set about convincing the South Vietnamese to walk away from the Paris talks – promising a much better deal if Nixon was elected. Claims that Nixon sabotaged the Paris Peace talks to enhance his presidential campaign are not new but appeared to gain some credibility following release of the tapes.
However these claims have been disputed with many pointing out that Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, the President of South Vietnam, would have been unlikely to attend the talks anyway and that a peace accord would have been impossible to reach before the Presidential election.
Richard Milhous Nixon became the 37th President of the United States in January 1969, with much of his Presidency dominated by the Vietnam War. Despite this he finally managed to extricate the United States from the war in 1973, brought the American prisoners of war home and ended the highly unpopular military draft.
He eventually resigned in 1974 following the Watergate scandal.
Image: Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.