The 1968 Exhibit: "The Nixon Era Begins": LIFE, November 15, 1968

Election Day 1968

nixon-life-nov19681This week's 2010 Congressional elections --even though it was a non-presidential year-- got me to thinking about 1968, when Richard Nixon came to power, finally. *It was exactly 42 years ago today that the American electorate, battered and battle-weary from the violence of 1968, went to the polls. *But the numbers were so close that everyone went to bed on election night without a concession from the loser or a victory speech from the winner. *In the end, Republican Richard Nixon prevailed over Democratic nominee Hubert H. Humphrey by 512,000 votes--about one percent of the total popular vote. *The balance went to independent and Southern segregationist governor George Wallace. * Wallace, in fact, prevailed in five Southern states--the last third-party presidential candidate to carry any states in the Electoral College. *On the Congressional side, things didn't look so good for the new president, either: *Nixon entered the White House as the first president in more than a century to start off without a majority of his own party in both houses of Congress.

"The Nixon Era": *Isn't that ALL of the 1960s? *Richard Nixon would probably have thought so. *He had run -- and lost-- for president in 1960, and despite his well-publicized subsequent failures--especially the humiliating loss for California governor in 1962 ("You're not going to have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore")--Nixon was always THERE, always plotting and scheming and politicking, and making himself the inevitable nominee at the convention in Miami in August 1968.

LIFE reminded readers in this post-election issue that the campaign had been marked by "rousing unenthusiasm" for the candidates, that "the overworked word charisma dropped from the political vocabulary, because there was no one to apply it to." *Still, LIFE thought that Nixon was the better of the two major candidates, and they hoped that -- even in a "year of such shock and cleavage"-- that the new president would do as he had promised: *"Bring us together."