The 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention (DNC) occurred at the pinnacle of a year marked by political tension, even within the Democratic party itself. Read an overview of the convention and the candidates and learn what happened during one week in August.
In early 1968, a number of potential candidates were jockeying for the Democratic presidential nomination, with the ongoing Vietnam War serving as the main point of contention. By April, Vice President Hubert Humphrey had announced his intention to run, a move viewed as a desire to prolong President Lyndon Johnson’s pro-war policies. Johnson himself had already decided not to run for re-election.
When popular candidate Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June, following the California state primary, other anti-war candidates stepped up to vie for the nomination, including Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. Prior to his death, Kennedy had won the California primary by a narrow margin—he received 46.3 percent of the vote to McCarthy’s 41.8 percent.
When August 1968 and the Chicago DNC came around, the Democrats were angry and tense. Democratic delegates fought throughout the convention, with anti-war factions rallying hard against Humphrey, who was considered the lead candidate with the most delegates. Debates raged and peace delegates protested vocally, fighting to unseat Humphrey’s pro-war delegates.
With the party fractured and the mood tense, Humphrey was nominated the Democratic party’s presidential candidate, winning by more than 1,000 votes. He chose Edmund Muskie, a Maine senator, as his vice presidential nominee.
While anti-war delegates were protesting inside the convention headquarters, anti-war activists were protesting outside on the streets. Tens of thousands of demonstrators clashed violently with tens of thousands of police officers, National Guardsmen and members of the Army and the Secret Service.
Over the days of the convention, 589 people—protesters, as well as journalists and innocent bystanders—were arrested. More than 200 injuries occurred, both among police officers and protesters.