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Lyndon Johnson made a life or death bet during his Presidential term, and lost. Intent upon fighting an extended war against a determined foe, he gambled that American society could also endure a vast array of domestic reforms. The result was the turmoil of the 1968 presidential election—a crisis more severe than any since the Civil War. With thousands killed in Vietnam, hundreds dead in civil rights riots, televised chaos at the Democratic National Convention, and two major assassinations, Americans responded by voting for the law and order message of Richard Nixon.
In The Deadly Bet, distinguished historian Walter LaFeber explores the turbulent election of 1968 and its significance in the larger context of American history. Looking through the eyes of the year's most important players—including Robert F. Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, Martin Luther King, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, George Wallace, Nguyen Van Thieu, and Lyndon Johnson—LaFeber argues that the domestic upheaval had more impact on the election than the war in Vietnam.
Clear, concise, and engaging, this work sheds important light on the crucial year of 1968.
Introduction: War and Democracy: The Life-or-Death Bet
Chapter 1: General William Westmoreland: The Tet Offensive
Chapter 2: Senator Eugene McCarthy: The College Student Crusade
Chapter 3: Lyndon Johnson: "People Grow Tired of Confusion"
Chapter 4: Martin Luther King: The Dream
Chapter 5: Robert Kennedy: The "National Soul"
Chapter 6: Richard Nixon: The Candidate from Squaresville?
Chapter 7: Hubert Horatio Humphrey: The Isolation of the Politics of Joy
Chapter 8: George Wallace: The Populism of the Vietnam War Era
Chapter 9: Nguyen Van Thieu: A Merry-Go-Round in a Chamber of Horrors