Professor of History Maureen Isserman

HowStuffWorks, a site that attracts 30 million visitors monthly, published an essay titled Was 2016 a Replay of 1968? in which Maurice Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History, explained the similarities and differences between the two tumultuous years.

According to the article, Isserman noted “that both the 1968 and 2016 elections were plagued by massive voter disaffection, but the frustration manifested itself in two very different kinds of protest votes. 

“In 1968, there were candidates on both the right and the left who ran as protest candidates and people voted for them to send a message. George Wallace ran on a pro-segregationist ticket and picked up 13 percent of the popular vote, mostly in the Deep South. Eldridge Cleaver, a Black Panther leader, ran as the nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party.

“Nobody who voted for Cleaver thought there was a chance he was going to win. The difference in 2016 is that it was a major party candidate, Donald Trump, who was the protest vote being used to send a message that business as usual can't go on, that something has to change fundamentally.”

Isserman compared Nixon and Trump and analyzed the performances of Sanders and Clinton, the pressures of the Vietnam War versus the economic pressures experienced by voters in this election.

His interview ended on a hopeful note, “The history of reform in America is always two steps forward and one step back. We haven't returned to the 1960s by any means. I don't think we're returning to ‘apartheid' America or Jim Crow America. It's a much more diverse and tolerant society. Just look at the achievement of gay marriage.”



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