1968 Presidential Election and Vietnam
The seemingly endless Vietnam War had grown increasingly unpopular and forced President Lyndon Johnson end his race for a second term. In a nationally televised address on the Vietnam War on March 31, 1968, Johnson stunned the nation by closing with the statement: "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President." During the 1968 election, according to opinion surveys, Americans saw the Vietnam War as the most important problem facing the country (51 percent). A plurality (48 to 49 percent) thought that the United States had made a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam, and nearly two-thirds disapproved of President Johnson's handling of the war. The Vietnam War had more than a two-to-one lead over both civil rights and "law and order" issues. There were widespread demonstrations against the Vietnam War across American university and college campuses, and violent confrontations between police and anti-war protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In the weeks prior to the election, the Johnson administration searched for a way to make progress in peace talks that had begun in Paris in May. In October the North Vietnam agreed to South Vietnam’s participation in exchange for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. South Vietnam’s President, at the last minute and with apparent encouragement from members of Nixon's campaign staff, refused to participate in the negotiations. Johnson announced a complete bombing halt on October 31, five days before the election. No one can say with certainty if the beginning of serious negotiations before the election would have affected the outcome. Ultimately, it was the voters' judgment that the policies of Johnson and the Democrats had failed.