The Election of President Nixon

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  • 0:03 Who Was Richard Nixon?
  • 1:34 The Election of 1960
  • 2:17 The Election of 1968
  • 5:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the election of President Richard Nixon. We will learn who he ran against and what themes were important during the presidential election of 1968.

Who Was Richard Nixon?

In this lesson, we will be talking about a man named Richard Nixon. Now, if you don't already know, Richard Nixon was (and still is) a pretty unpopular guy. He was the 37th president of the United States. He was a Republican and in office between 1969-1974. So, what made him so unpopular?

Well, he was actually quite popular for awhile. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he was a leading voice of the Republican Party. A lot of people liked him. He was Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president from 1953-1961. But while he was president, he was involved in a major scandal called Watergate. Because of the scandal, he was basically forced to resign.

We're not going to discuss the details of the scandal in this lesson (basically it involved robbery, cover-ups, and a lot of lying). But when the American people found out about it, they lost all respect for Richard Nixon. His involvement in the Watergate scandal made him one of the most unpopular presidents ever.

This information is something you may already know, and not really the purpose of our lesson. What we want to focus in on is Richard Nixon's presidential campaign and the election before all of this happened. Let's get to it!

The Election of 1960

So, as I mentioned earlier, Nixon was a leading Republican figure during the 1950s and 1960s. Before becoming Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice president, he had gained a reputation as a firm anti-communist. In the presidential election of 1960, he ran against John F. Kennedy. Nixon had a horrible performance in the first ever presidential debate (which was also televised). On TV, he looked nervous and basically old, while Kennedy was calm, relaxed, and youthful. Nixon lost the election to Kennedy, but he was determined that would not be the end of him.

The Election of 1968

Now, let's talk about the election of 1968. It was quite a tumultuous affair. There were all kinds of protests, killings, and moments of tension. So, if you remember, Lyndon B. Johnson had been president from the time Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Johnson accomplished a lot domestically (which means here in the United States), but the Vietnam War made him somewhat unpopular.

A man named Eugene McCarthy decided to try to run against Johnson to gain the Democratic nomination. This was kind of a slap in the face to Johnson, and after Robert F. Kennedy joined in, Johnson decided to withdraw and not seek another term. So, now who would the Democratic Party choose as their nominee? Robert F. Kennedy was a solid choice, but he was assassinated while campaigning. In the end, Hubert Humphrey, who had been Johnson's vice president, was chosen as the Democratic Party's candidate for president.

Meanwhile in the Republican Party, Richard Nixon beat out George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, and others to secure the party's nomination. So, there we had it; in the election of 1968: the Democratic candidate was Hubert Humphrey, and his running mate was a man named Edmund Sixtus Muskie, while the Republican candidate was Richard Nixon, and his running mate was Spiro Agnew.

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