George Will: Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign spoke "for people furious about the '60s tumults"


In his column in the July 2 edition of Newsweek, George F. Will described former Alabama Gov. George Wallace as an independent candidate who "succeed[ed] in giving an aggrieved minority a voice." According to Will, the "aggrieved minority" Wallace's 1968 presidential campaign spoke for was made up of "people furious about the '60s tumults." In fact, Wallace openly campaigned against civil rights legislation, and, in the words of The Washington Post's obituary of Wallace, ran a presidential campaign "in which he vilified blacks."

Will wrote in his column:

The most consequential American third-party candidate was Ralph Nader in 2000. But for his 97,488 votes in Florida, which George W. Bush won by 537 votes, Al Gore probably would be finishing his second term. But even successful independent or third-party candidates have one thing in common: They lose.

A candidate can succeed in giving an aggrieved minority a voice -- e.g., George Wallace, speaking for people furious about the '60s tumults. A candidate can highlight an issue, as Ross Perot did with the deficit in 1992. A candidate can advertise an entire agenda that the two major parties are slow to consider, as Socialist candidate Norman Thomas did several times.

Wallace ran for the presidency in 1968 as part of the American Independent Party. The American Independent 1968 campaign platform is posted online at as a primary source document for a documentary titled George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire. According to the platform:

[T]he Federal Government has adopted so-called "Civil Rights Acts," particularly the one adopted in 1964, which have set race against race and class against class, all of which we condemn. It shall be our purpose to take such steps and pursue such courses as may be necessary and required to restore to the states the powers and authority which rightfully belong to the state and local governments, so that each state shall govern and control its internal affairs without interference or domination of the Federal Government.

According to a transcript of the documentary, Tom Turnipseed, a 1968 Wallace campaign staffer, described the campaign as follows:

Race and being opposed to the civil rights movement and all it meant was the very heart and soul of the Wallace campaign. I mean, that's what it was all about. And I remember I was in a little town in south central Massachusetts called Webster. I went to the Polish-American Club And the manager says, "Well," says, "when Governor Wallace is elected president," he said, "he's going to line up all these niggers and shoot them, isn't he?" And I said, "Oh hell, no." You know, I was being honest with him. I said, "He's just worried about agitators and things like that." But this guy was dead serious.

According to Wallace's September 14, 1998, obituary in The Washington Post:

George C. Wallace, 79, the four-time governor of Alabama and four-time candidate for president of the United States who became known as the embodiment of resistance to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, died last night in Montgomery, Ala. He had battled Parkinson's disease in recent years.


Wallace was elected governor the first time in 1962, with what was the largest popular vote in state history and with the declaration: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

For the next 15 years he made a political career, usually on the national stage, as a man who opposed the advancement of rights for blacks, as well as the powers of the federal government. After notable clashes with Washington over school integration in Alabama, he took his campaign to the nation.

In 1964, Wallace was a candidate in several Democratic primaries, scoring what were then surprisingly large vote totals in such states as Maryland and Wisconsin. In 1968, he ran for president on his own American Independent Party ticket, winning nearly 10 million votes, about 13 percent of the total, in a campaign in which he vilified blacks, students and people who called for an end to the war in Vietnam. He carried five Southern states and won 46 electoral votes.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
The Washington Post
George F. Will
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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