In the United States, instead of radical change, the year’s events opened the door for a conservative reaction. Turmoil in the streets produced a demand for public order. Black militancy produced white “backlash,” which played an increasing role in politics. The fact that the unelected Supreme Court was inventing and protecting “rights” fed the argument that faraway bureaucrats rode roughshod over local traditions.

In August, Richard Nixon capped a remarkable political comeback by winning the Republican nomination. He campaigned as the champion of the “silent majority”—ordinary Americans who believed that change had gone too far—and called for a renewed commitment to “law and order.” Humphrey could not overcome the deep divide in his party. With 43 percent of the vote, Nixon had only a razor-thin margin over his Democratic rival. But George Wallace, running as an independent and appealing to resentments against blacks’ gains, Great Society programs, and the Warren Court, received an additional 13 percent. Taken together, the Nixon and Wallace totals, which included a considerable number of former Democratic voters, indicated that four years after Johnson’s landslide election ushered in the Great Society, liberalism was on the defensive.

The year 1968 did not mark the end of the 1960s. The Great Society would achieve an unlikely culmination dining the Nixon administration. The second wave of feminism achieved its largest following during the 1970s. Nixon’s election did, however, inaugurate a period of growing conservatism in American politics. The conservative ascendancy would usher in yet another chapter in the story of American freedom.

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