Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary
Indiana University Press 2008
As some of you may be aware, there’s a big election coming up. Yes, it’s time to pick a new auditor for Iowa City, Iowa, my hometown. It’s a hotly contested race between a jerk with a drinking problem and a twenty-four-year-old who ran a cake business into the ground. The pundits are having a field day.
And then there’s the presidential race between McCain and Obama. That’s been in the news as well round these parts. It sort of reminds one of the race-that-almost-was between Richard Milhouse Nixon and RFK in 1968. Nixon wanted to give us “peace with honor” and RFK wanted us “out now.” With this parallel in mind we are happy to have Ray E. Boomhower on the show today. We’ll be talking about his fascinating book Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary (Indiana UP, 2008). It’s a very enlightening bit of scholarship. I was under the impression that RFK was somehow destined to run against Johnson in ’68. Not so! He came in only after Eugene McCarthy showed LBJ’s vulnerability to a strong anti-war message. RFK saw his chance, and took it. I was also under the impression that RFK would have doubtless won the Democratic nomination had he not been assassinated. Again, not so! McCarthy gave RFK a run for his money, and a very strong Humphrey was waiting in the wings. As Ray shows, RFK ran well in Indiana (and gave a speech on the day Martin Luther King was killed for which he is justly famous), but faltered elsewhere.
Would RFK, had he been nominated, defeated Nixon? Nothing is sure in politics, as we in the United States are about to find out on November 4. Happy Election Day!
Please become a fan of “New Books in History” on Facebook if you haven’t already.