A new book by author Michael Schumacher looks into how the 1968 election between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey shaped the country’s politics into what it is today.
In “The Contest: The 1968 Election and the War for America’s Soul,” Schumacher explores how the players in that election — Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Eugene McCarthy, George Wallace, Nixon and Humphrey — as well as the political climate and historical events affected that election.
Schumacher will be at the Buena Vista Branch Library, 300 N. Buena Vista St., on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to discuss his latest book.
The Wisconsin-based writer said the 1968 election was the catalyst that led the country toward a more conservative way of thinking. When Nixon won the election, Schumacher explained that it was like he unseated the old Democrat establishment and allowed Republicans to be the dominant party in the White House.
“There was a little bit of a respite with Jimmy Carter, but I find it almost unbelievably funny when the Republicans blame the Democrats for what has transpired, even though since 1968 it’s been largely Republican rule,” Schumacher said.
In the author’s perspective, Schumacher said the 1968 and 2016 elections has many similarities to one another. He compared Humphrey to Hillary Clinton, McCarthy to Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Wallace to President Donald Trump.
“Their messages were similar and their methods were very similar,” Schumacher said. “It all has this echo effect…I don’t think there was continuum from what happened in 1968. I think it’s more of a repeat.”
He explained that people were on the cusp of a revolution in the late 1960s, and the author believes something similar happened in the country leading up to the 2016 election.
Schumacher said that the alt-right wanted a revolution in the country and they succeeded. Looking back at things, had the late-John McCain not had Sarah Palin as his running mate, he believes “the alt-right would have been kicked out.”
“History is so full of ironies, twists and turns and just outrageous occurrences that it’s hard to understand it sometimes,” he said. “You have to put them all in context.”
Having seen what has transgressed over the past years, Schumacher said he does not believe people will learn from their mistakes.
Though many red flags have popped up, he said people have chosen to ignore them.
“I don’t want to be cynical, but I think we’ve hit a tipping point in our history where learning from our mistakes is not on the table anymore,” Schumacher said. “We have a president that tells us that the media is our enemy, who insists that there’s fake news.
“Do I believe we can learn from our mistakes? I think we could, but I don’t think we will,” he continued. “No matter how bad it got, this country has always managed to pop back up. I’m not sure it’s going to take anything short of something bordering a civil war to make us come to our senses.”