Election 1960 – same as it always was; speculation, mulling over the issues, who was a frontrunner, what did each of the parties want – who was likely to be sitting in the White House, come 1961.
Almost a ritual, as it has been since the country got started; putting a finger (or trying) on the pulse of a nation, trying to get a sense of how the voter make their choice – what issues were the most important. Many felt it was no longer about issues but what the personality of the candidate was like – that perhaps we were becoming more simplistic in our search for a new leader.
In 1960 we were coming out of a period of moderate calm, but high anxiety. The Eisenhower years laid the groundwork for issues to bubble to the surface in the decade ahead. Civi Rights, the Cold War, the economy, the quality of life.
56 years ago we were much simpler; things seemed more cut-and-dried in 1960 than they do in 2015. The tone of political discourse has changed dramatically in those nearly 6 decades – the divisions not so sharp.
But in 1960 there was change in the air, and it was still met with a goodly degree of resistance – the generation of World War 2 was growing older and a new generation was slowly coming of age. How that would bode for political change was anyones guess. But we were still pretty entrenched in the 1950s – still afraid of Communist domination – still fearful we would lose the Space race – still wondering just how the issue of Civil Rights would be resolved, or even addressed. Certainly, huge steps were taken in the 1950s in the area of Civil Rights – and the confrontations based on resistance to that change were evident as early as 1954. But the issue hadn’t been fully addressed, the age-old discriminations were just as prevalent in 1960 as they were in 1954 when a certain Rosa Parks came into national prominence, and schools were woefully slow in desegregation, despite a Supreme Court Ruling.
Many of those issues, and many more were discussed in this episode of The Open Mind – a discussion program dealing with issues of the day. The panel was made up of pundits of the day – the moderator was Eric F. Goldman, professor of History at Princeton.
Here is that episode of The Open Mind, as originally broadcast on January 17, 1960.