Michael A. Cohen, author of American Maelstrom  Photo credit: New America / Flickr  (CC BY 2.0) and Oxford University Press

How the 1964 and 1968 Elections Set the Stage for Trump

Historical Context for Trump v. Clinton


The dystopian world view of Barry Goldwater in ‘64 and, in ‘68, the nativist populism of George Wallace, the racial tinge of Nixonian politics, and the promise of a “silent majority” are all antecedents of this year's election.

Riots, racism, assassinations and long-seething anger and resentment all played a role in the supercharged politics of 1968. The events tested the country, but journalist and historian Michael Cohen tells WhoWhatWhy’s Jeff Schechtman that these events also set the stage for so much of what we see today.

But there is a big difference, he argues: The main players in those days were far more politically savvy. They arguably created the issues, resentments and anger that fueled the political inferno, whereas Trump and Clinton are merely exploiting what history has handed them.

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CC BY-SA 2.0), Clinton sign (Bridget Eileen / Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0),  LBJ button (LBJ Library / Flickr), Goldwater poster (Cliff / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), RCN Nixon (Florida Memory / Flickr), RNC Reagan (Florida Memory / Flickr) and Wallace sign (damian entwistle / Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0)


  • Jeff Schechtman

    Jeff Schechtman’s career spans movies, radio stations and podcasts. After spending twenty-five years in the motion picture industry as a producer and executive, he immersed himself in journalism, radio, and more recently the world of podcasts. To date he has conducted over ten-thousand interviews with authors, journalists, and thought leaders. Since March of 2015, he has conducted over 315 podcasts for

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