The 1968 Exhibit: Hubert H. Humphrey at One Hundred (and in 1968)

Hubert H. Humphrey was born on this day, May 27th, one hundred years ago.  He thus shares a birth year with another towering figure in American political history, Ronald Reagan.   And at one time early in their public lives the two men actually occupied roughly the same side of the political spectrum---the liberal Democratic side.  Reagan, of course, swung far to the right by the 1950s, becoming the great standard bearer of American conservatism, while HHH remained devoted to liberal political ideals until his dying day, which sadly came too soon, in January 1978, when he was only 66.  

The career of Hubert Horatio [one of the great middle names in history] Humphrey has been beautifully chronicled by Minnesota filmmaker Mick Caouette in his 2010 documentary Hubert H. Humphrey: The Art of the Possible (look for the trailer here), and in numerous biographical works.  


The year 1968 was -- or should have been -- Humphrey's year.  The year's HHH narrative is well known:  In March, the man he served under as Vice President, Lyndon Johnson, under brutal pressure from a failing war in Vietnam, decides not to run for a 2nd full term as President.  A full month later, HHH-- facing stiff opposition from two anti-war Democratic senators who had entered the race for the nomination-- Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy-- throws his hat into the ring, announcing that his will be a "politics of joy."  McCarthy's campaign stumbles, Kennedy is killed in early June, and HHH emerges as the front-runner for the nomination, though still fighting to become his own man, independent of the twinned curse of LBJ and Vietnam.  The nominating convention in Chicago in late August (the Republicans had gone first, and nominated former VP Richard Nixon, not without some heavy baggage and "negatives" himself) becomes a near disaster, both inside the convention hall and outside with pitched battles between out-of-control Chicago police and violent, angry, antiwar "hippies" and "Yippies" spoiling for a fight. HHH emerges a winner, but is severely bruised by the riots and Democratic disarray.   The full Fall campaign-- just a little more than two months long-- is rocky, and further complicated by the strong presence of arch-segregationist and former Alabama governor George Wallace, running on a third party.  HHH is way behind for a while, then pulls very close in the waning days of October, only to lose-- barely-- to Nixon on November 5th.  

HHH appeared on a lot of magazine covers in 1968, and if he were still around, he might have liked this one from LIFE, showing a winning pose with his running mate, Maine senator Edmund Muskie (though the headline --"But What a Week"-- pulls you back into the ugly reality of the convention debacle).  


Surely, he would NOT have liked this one from Ramparts, the poster with his earnest face crumpled into a trash basket.  Look for this from an earlier Covering 1968 post.