Year
1968

McCarthy announces his presidential candidacy

Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minnesota) announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

McCarthy had been a contender to be President Lyndon B. Johnson’s running mate in the 1964 election, but since then he had become increasingly disenchanted with Johnson’s policies in Vietnam and the escalation of the war. In 1967, he published The Limits of Power, an assessment of U.S. foreign policy that was very critical of the Johnson administration. When announcing his candidacy, McCarthy said he hoped to harness the growing antiwar sentiment in the country, particularly among the young. In March, much to the astonishment of most political pundits, McCarthy came within a few hundred votes of beating Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. Johnson, frustrated with his inability to reach a solution in Vietnam, announced on March 31, 1968, that he would neither seek nor accept the nomination of his party for re-election.

The rest of McCarthy’s campaign was almost an anticlimax. Robert Kennedy entered the race and won most of the Democratic primaries until he was assassinated in June 1968. When the Democratic National Convention opened in Chicago, a conflict immediately erupted over the party’s Vietnam platform. While demonstrations against the war took place in the streets outside the convention hall, Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the party nomination.

Humphrey was defeated in the general election by Republican Richard Nixon. McCarthy retired from the Senate in 1971, but his brief run at the presidency demonstrated that there was a strong antiwar sentiment in the country that demanded to be heard.

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