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Is the past prologue? What 1964 says about 2024.

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Is the past prologue? What 1964 says about 2024.

Jun 11, 2024 | 6:38 am ET
By Mary Catherine Dunphy
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Is the past prologue? What 1964 says about 2024.
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Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and President Gerald R. Ford on Aug. 28 1975 in the White House. They were discussing the situation in Saigon, Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.

One good thing about aging: If you are lucky, you remember things.  Sometimes they are historical things. Living history so to speak. So, here is an historical tidbit about presidential politics that is worth considering after former President Donald  Trump’s felony conviction.   

In 1964, Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, who was Governor of New York, wanted to be president of the United States.  This was 10 years before he became Gerald Ford’s Vice President.  The country was very different in 1964 than it was in 1974.  One could say standards of morality and personal accountability were very strict in 1964, and then relaxed substantially in the years between 1964 and 1974. 

So, what happened in 1964 – an election year?  

Well, Governor Nelson Rockefeller was D-I-V-O-R-C-E-D.  (A very big deal back then.)  The divorce had happened a year earlier in 1963.  According to Wikipedia:  “Rockefeller, as the leader of the Republicans’ ‘Eastern Establishment,’ began as the front-runner for the 1964 nomination against conservative Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who led the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

In 1963, a year after Rockefeller’s divorce from his first wife, he married Margaretta “Happy” Murphy, a divorcee with four children, which alienated many Republican married women. The divorce was widely condemned by politicians, such as liberal Sen. Prescott Bush of Connecticut, (father of President George H. W. Bush) who condemned his infidelity, divorce, and remarriage.”

Rockefeller’s divorce and remarriage caused him to lose the California primary and the birth of Happy and Nelson’s child three days before the California primary didn’t help voters who were concerned about infidelity, divorce and re-marriage.     

Rockefeller was booed and heckled for 16 minutes at the 1964 Republican National Convention. Needless to say, (if you know your history) Barry Goldwater became the Republican nominee and went up against the Democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson.  The rest, as they say, is history.  

Obviously, things have changed drastically from 1964 to 2024.  I can’t help but wonder what the voters of 1964 would think about the 2024 Republican presumptive nominee being involved with a porn star, paying hush money to keep her silent, then falsifying business records, and then being convicted of 34 felony counts.  It’s probably safe to say they may be turning in their graves.  

All this history has got me wondering if history is prologue and what is going to happen at the Republican National Convention in July.  Are the Republicans going to stick with their man — presumptive candidate, Donald J. Trump now that he has been convicted of 34 felony counts, and who will be sentenced four days before the Republican convention starts on July 15?  Have standards of accountability relaxed so much from 1964 to 2024 that Republicans won’t be bothered that their presumptive candidate is a convicted felon?  Will Trump potentially be campaigning from jail? Or, while he is under house arrest? Or, on probation wearing an ankle bracelet?   

Time will tell.  And then someday (as usually happens) it all will all be history.