I worked for the election of Hubert Humphrey in 1968, a time when the Democratic party was badly split because of the Vietnam War. Supporters of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy threatened to sit out the election. My campaign group planned an event to get out the liberal vote. On October 31, 1968, at a dingy union hall on West Thirty-fourth Street in Manhattan, a glittering array of liberal Democrats was invited to endorse the Humphrey-Muskie ticket. Coincidentally, the Nixon campaign had scheduled a major rally across the street at Madison Square Garden.
Just as John Kenneth Galbraith began to speak, a young man and woman came forward, threw off their raincoats, and stepped naked onto the stage. Someone pulled the woman back, but the naked man handed Galbraith the head of a pig on a platter. A security guard chased the man around the stage, Shelley Winters (the toast-mistress) threw a pitcher of water at him, and the audience sat stunned. Meanwhile, a troupe of Yippies (Youth International Party) marched in at the back, carrying Vietcong flags and chanting, “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! Vietcong, got to win!” Across the street Nixon’s campaign event was undisturbed.
At that moment, as the campaign event turned into a shambles, I felt strongly that Humphrey would lose the election and that it would be a long time before the Democratic party would have the coherence and strength to govern again.