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November 04, 1970 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-11-04

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Eighty years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

if

you

liked

the

'50s...
you'll

.,he

love

the.

'70s

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich.

News Phone: 764-0552

Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1970

NIGHT EDITOR: MARTIN A. HIRSCHMAN

Ike in the good old days

By STUART GANNES
Editorial Director
FALL IN Ann Arbor is a pretty traditional affair. Dur-
ing the week, students walk to classes amid the
never-ending rainfalls which characterize the city. The
rain soaks student enthusiasm for practically everything
during the week. But fortunately the dreary week days
manage to clear up by Saturday morning and October
presents magnificent Indian Summer afternoons when
there are important football games to see. As November
arrives and the end of the semester looms, many students
become occupied with their schoolwork, spending free
time in dormitory rooms - and UGLI desks - reading
texts and working on assignments.
In contrast to this background of traditional campus
lifestyles, political attitudes among students have under-
gone more marked changes. Over the past fifteen years,
University students have changed their political attitudes
to an unparalleled degree.
What have these changes been? Perhaps it is possible
to judge the political moods of students by studying
their responses toward the election, campaigns of the
past fourteen years.
In 1956 Adlai Stevenson was challenging Ike Eisen-
hower for the presidency, and students watched the
whole affair with bemused detachment. By now the
apathy of the fifties is a literary cliche but at this Uni-
versity that cliche really describes the prevailing mood
of that time. In the week before the election that
year, the Israeli attack on the Suez Canal and the
Soviet invasion of Hungary had to vie for front page
headlines in the Daily with the Michigan-Iowa foot-
ball game.
A news story of the mood of students during the elec-
tion told of the general apathy on election night:
students gathered in the Law Quad to watch the elec-
tion returns on television and eat elephant and donkey
shaped cookies. When the TV commentators announced
Ike had won a second term "A Stevensonian conceded
defeat, but looking for a new candidate to back retort-
ed: 'Adlai lost; all I can say now is GO BLUE!'"
In the fall of 1960 the football team still drew the
biggest headlines. However, things had begun to change
a little. John Kennedy came to campus in October and
proposed the creation of a Peace Corps. While the Ken-
nedy candidacy didn't attract much student enthusiasm,
the Peace Corps concept immediately stimulated wide-
spread discussion. In 1960, with Tom Hayden as its Edi-
tor, the Daily ran endorsements for both Nixon and
Kennedy onconsecutive days. A campus mock election
however, showed University students slightly in favor
of Nixon, as they voted 2,372 to 2,048 to send the vice
president to the White House. Across the Big Ten,
Nixon's margin was greater, the vote being 21,032 to
15,058.
When Kennedy was elected some sort of signal awoke
the campus. His presidency marked a period of in-
creased involvement among students in practically every-
thing. People went into the Peace Corps, worked for
civil rights in the South and in 1962, the newly or-
ganized Students for a Democratic Society issued the
Port Huron statement - something with which most
New Frontiersmen could at least sympathize.
So it was no surprise that when Kennedy's successor
arrived in Ann Arbor in the spring of 1964 to deliver
the commencement address at the University he received
the most enthusiastic 'welcome in the institution's his-
tory. LBJ spoke to over 80,000 spectators jammed in
Michigan Stadium. According to an account in the Daily,
only "thirteen pickets from the Direct Action Com-
mittee, a militant local Negro organization, used the oc-
casion to protest alleged police brutality; 107 other Ann
Arborites petitioned Johnson to speak out on peace,
poverty and civil rights -which the President indeed
did, though he made no new policy statements."
"But the President could've quoted from the tele-
phone book, for all most of the spectators cared.
To them, the important thing was that the Presi-
dent had come to Ann Arbor."
That fall as the election drew near and it became
apparent that practically everybody was in favor of
Johnson, the presidential election evoked less enthus-
iasm than local issues. The football team was in the
midst of an exciting season, geared to fight Minne-
sota for the Little Brown Jug. The most active political
organization was Students for Staebler, the Democratic
nominee for Governor. As for LBJ, students praised his
legislative victories and forecast his re-election in 1968.
PROSPECTS LOOKED bright, even the war in Viet-
nam would end soon. Only after the election did
one student editor in the Daily cautiously note: As long
as there are no great domestic or foreign crises to create
large extemely discontent minorities . . . the system
can plod along unexcitingly, nondescript, neither whol-
ly satisfying' nor wholly dissatisfying. One only hopes
for Lyndon Johnson's sake, that there are no crises
brewing."

History since 1964 is still fresh in our memories. The
University experienced a rise in activism unprecedented
in modern times. Protests against the war, the draft
and society in general mounted with each year. 1968
marked a turning point for many of us. During the
spring hundreds of students left school to work for
McCarthy in Wisconsin or Bobby Kennedy in Indiana.

But the spring ended with Columbia, the summer saw
Kennedy killed and students returning that fall, while
confused and uncertain, were definitely interested in
doing something.
Over the summer the Peace and Freedom Party
gathered in Ann Arbor and nominated Eldridge Cleaver
as its candidate for President. But as the semester got
under way, everybody was thinking about Chicago where
the Democratic National Convention had just begun.
When classes were just getting started, the news of
Chicago began to fill all our thoughts. Headlines in the
Daily competed with Walter Cronkite in retelling the
gruesome story.
The fall of 1968 was a time for activism. But activism
for a cause did not mean enthusiasm for either candidate
that year. Many students saw the choice between Nixon
and Humphrey as little more than a choice between
tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. While a few supported
Humphry as the lesser evil, others supported Nixon as
not being tied to Johnson's policies in Vietnam. All
support, however, was half-hearted. A sign spray-
painted on the walls .of Angell Hall cynically stated:
"What Election?"
As the term got under way, students grew increasingly
upset and disillusioned. An editorial in the Daily com-
mented: "Chicago was the culmination of four years
of political frustration . . . This is the tragedy of 1968.
This is the bitter taste of realizing there is never
going to be a regenerated America."
Some students hoped to begin a write-in campaign
for McCarthy, as the only possible moral choice for
President. However, those hopes were soon quashed when
the State Attorney General declared the write-in would
be invalid. The final blow which destroyed the McCarthy
movement was the man himself. For Eugene McCarthy
endorsed Humphrey for President, making many wonder
what had been the point of his campaign in the first
place.
WHEN HUBERT Humphrey came to Flint to cam-
paign, students chanted and booed until the vice
president was forced to interupt his speech. However, as
it became apparent that no amount of wishing could
change the old Nixon, that George Wallace was gaining
increased support -among blue collar workers and that
there was no other realistic choice students reluctantly
looked back to Humphrey once more. A Daily editorial
lamented "1968 must be, unfortunately a year for lesser-
evilism, simply because not only the other candidates but
all the alternative courses to electoral politics constitute
worse evils."
During all this time, Young Republicans were working
hard for Nixon but despite the logic for supporting Hum-
phrey, student enthusiasm never materialized. For weeks
and, months, the vice president refused to differentiate
his policy toward Vietnam from those of LBJ. At the
end of September, the University's Young Democrats
passed a resolution refusing "to actively support the
candidacy" of Humphrey.'
Some students talked of voting for Cleaver, but no-one
could bring himself to take the ineligible presidential
candidate seriously.
Frustration mounted. On Oct. 15 a bomb exploded
in the University's Institute of Science and Technology
on North Campus. By the end of October, SDS was call-
ing for a student sttike to protest the non-choice offer-
ed in the upcoming election.
As the election drew near, the mood of frustration
grew to one of desperation. One student wrote: "Voting
in 1968 has the same therapeutic value as going to
church or going to class.
"You can tell me that if I'm not part of a solu-
tion (I'm not voting) then I'm part of the problem
I I sanction the status quo or worse alternatives).
I will tell you that the politics of yoursolution are
just as inhuman and corrupt as the politics of the
-problem.
"You talk to me in terms of lesser political evils.
I answer you in terms of lesser degrees of humanity.
"I do not believe the political system can be human."
The senior editors of the Daily, also dismayed at the
choices in the election preferred to address themselvs
to the tasks facing the nation rather than endorsing any
candidate. "It is evident," their elections editorial said,
"that there is no exponent of our views this November.
No candidate even comes remotely close.
"Faced with a deep cleavage between the kind of
Administration we believe is needed and the b a r r e n
ideas expressed by the major candidates in this election,
we cannot in good conscience endorse anyone."
On the day of the election, the SDS sponsored boycott
of classes failed to draw much student support. How-
ever, that night, as election results began coming in,
more than 2000 students took to the streets in despera-
tion. After marching practically all over campus, the
shouting crowd massed in front of President Fleming's
house demanding an end to University war research,

the abolition of entrance requirements and greater
participation in University affairs. While no one knew
exactly how the march came about, the indirect cause
was obviously the election.
While student moods during the course of that
fall could be described as enthusiastic, cynical, frustrat-
ed, revengeful or even desperate, it was always appar-

a

Ad on SJJS

r 'HIS BRINGS tus to this fall and these elections. Yes-
terday we had an election, an election which could
have taken place in 1956. This is not tossay that people
are more concerned about the football team than poli-
tics or that this year there was no Suez crisis or Hun-
garian invasion. Indeed, the problems confronting our
society: the war, racism and the economy constitute
issues which should logically become central to any
election campaign. Moreover, students have been labelled
as the new demons of society. Logically, 1970 should
have been a- year of tremendous political activity.
But aside from a few desperate terrorists, our apathy
has been overwhelming. This year, the election has been
marked by active campa'igning for no major candidate.
On the editorial page of the Daily,' the , apathy of the
fall was transformed into cynicism for the future. Writ-
ers expressed doubts about the value of participating in
electoral politics. One student advocated "refusing to
vote for Levin" because this would be "one way of telling
the Democratic Party that when they nominate gut-
less, issueless, convictionless media candidates t h e y
lose your vote." The writer proposed writing-in John
Sinclair's name as a "symbolic gesture" against the na-
ture of society, and went on to add: "But perhaps more
importantly, writing-in John Sinclair for Governor would
be kind of fun."
Another article noted: "What kind of choice can the
system offer if you realize political participation is pos-
sible only to the extent that you are willing to play
the politicians' games, sell yourself on a television set and
compromise your ideals?" A third writer quoted Senator
Hart as saying: "If the voter ever had the opportunity
to vote for none of the above, the political, system
would be destroyed." He went on to, say that when
his alarm rang on election day: "If I decide-to shut the
buzzer, turn over, and go back to sleep, what the hell?"
Fourteen years have passed since Eisenhower was
elected to his second term. And electoral politics, while
managing to disillusion a generation of students, have
changed little. For many of us, elections, like so many
institutions in our society, appear to be ritual affairs
whose character is molded more by tradition than events.
Despite the introduction of instantaneous publicity and
mass media campaigning, candidates' still have basically
the same task to perform in order to be elected to a
public office. And those who are elected can expect to
accomplish about as much as any other American poli-
tician. A few programs netted for one's constituents at
the expense of compromising some moral and philoso-
phical principles comprise the sum total of most poli-
ticians' careers.
So where have we come from and where are we going?
A person from the fifties awakening from a long sleep
would have little trouble adjusting to the.political climate
at universities. He might need to become accustomed
with the use of marijuana instead of liquor as the local
weekend diversion. But otherwise things haven't chang-
ed too drastically. During the week you can count on the
weather to be rainy. At night you study for school.
On Saturday afternoon you still watch the football team
-another great one-battling valiantly on the field. On
weekend nights the same movies and parties call to
you. As for the election, student interest is more vicar-
ious than concerned. After all, elections never really
change anything, do they?

*
4

ent that huge numbers were concerned and emotionally
involved to a greater extent than ever before.
Probably the ultimate expression of this concern oc-
curred two days after the election when an advertise-
ment covering two full pages appeared in the Daily.
One page displayed an enormous picture- of an SDS
sponsored march with the letters SDS's appearing
in huge three inch letters. The other page was totally
blank except for one small corner saying: "Help fill
these pages with tomorrow's news," and asking people to
come to the Diag that night. That night, more than
150 people showed up - some to help SDS, others to
overcome it. As people stood around wondering what
was supposed to happen, it became clear that no
organization had placed the ad. In fact, no-one ever
found out who was responsible for it. What was aston-
ishing was that 150 people were willing to act upon the
slightest call. 1968 was not a time to just sit around.

4

4

John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960

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