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Election Night 1960 – CBS News – November 8-9, 1960 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
November 8 and 9, 1960 – America votes – America waits – America bites its collective nails.
Lest you all think the election of 2020 will be over within minutes of the polls closing, and a winner will be decided even before the West Coast polls have closed – that was 1980 and that was an anomaly. Election night has usually dragged on, sometimes for days – as in Election 2000, when the final outcome (which, to this day is in question) didn’t arrive until weeks later.
Will it be the same in 2020? Right now, this minute, it’s anyone’s guess. But while we’re waiting, here’s a look at what election night 1960 was all about. And how much of a tug-of-war it had become. Some states were declared for Senator John F. Kennedy and later switched to Richard Nixon. Some states were declared for Nixon and then votes trickled and the balance went to Kennedy. It dragged on like that well into the 9th of November, when votes were being counted and analyzed for hours later.
Books have been written about this election, speculation has run rife for decades after the winner was announced and the concession speech finally given. Outcomes have always come into question and speculation over outcomes have almost never been right. It has historically been an unsure thing, how an election turns out. Which is why voting is essential and always has been.
This one hour glimpse into the election of 1960, anchored by the Newsman Americans Trusted Best; Walter Cronkite, gives some flavor of how that night transpired. It may prove to be prophetic over events of 2016, or it may not. Technology has changed dramatically in those 56 years – so have people – so have issues. So has the nature of the election itself. News was made over the re-election of Margaret Chase Smith who had the distinction as being the first woman ever elected to both houses of Congress (in 1940). There was still segregation – the Civil Rights movement was about to enter it’s most bloody stage and we still had a Cold War to contend with.
But then as now, it was an election and there were hopes and polls and projections and ballot boxes.
And then as now, it all came down to being at one in your voting booth – just you and your conscience.
Some things just don’t change.