CSotD: How to Suck Eggs, Explained

By the time George Cruickshank (1792 – 1878) penned this cartoon, “teaching your grandmother to suck eggs” was an established expression for explaining something to someone who knows more about it than you do. I suppose you could call it “kidsplaining” except that kids aren’t the only ones prone to doing it.

The expression has come to mind lately because of all the people who are now referencing the political turmoil of the Sixties, some of them respectfully, others not quite so, most not having been there.

Jeff Stahler (AMS) rightly recalls a time when personal behavior had a much larger impact on political viability.

Stahler was 9 when Nelson Rockefeller was divorced, an act that had prognosticators prognosticating that his political career was over, which proved untrue, as Rocky served as governor of New York for four terms and as Vice President in Ford’s post-Nixon administration.

But Stahler was easily of voting age by the end of the 1980’s, when Gary Hart’s highly promising political career was shattered in a case of too much monkey business for Hart to be involved in.

And all Jimmy Carter had had to do to draw fire and brimstone from Republicans in 1976 was admit that he had looked at women with “lust in my heart”, sinning by desire, not by any actions.

These days, Chip Bok (Creators) declares, you can have sex with a porn star while your third wife recovers from child birth, pay her to keep the dalliance out of the press and, should it emerge, and should you be charged with fraudulently hiding the payoff, she’ll be slut-shamed by your fanbase and you’ll remain the Republican Presidential Candidate with a clear shot at returning to the White House.

The Grand Old Party ain’t what it used to be, and, if you weren’t there, you may not understand how dispiriting the current day seems to us old folks.

Some of us, anyway.

What sparked today’s geezerish rant was this John Darkow cartoon, which echoes a lot of current chatter and dubious comparisons to the 1968 campaign.

It’s certainly true that the incumbent president was pushing an unpopular war, that his popularity ratings were down and that college kids were against him.

But perhaps you had to be there, and I don’t mean specifically in Chicago.

As Herblock noted, LBJ’s double announcement — of a bombing halt in Vietnam and of his decision not to seek a second term — came as a shock, but also as a triumph of loyalty to nation over personal ambition.

He explained his decision to step down at greater length than just the familiar “I shall not seek” so often quoted, and it echoes our current state of national disunity:

It had came late in the process, on March 31, blowing a large hole in both parties’ plans for the upcoming campaign, but a major difference from today: When his announcement threw our regular Sunday night coffeehouse gathering into cheering disarray, we already had two Democratic candidates in the process of replacing him.

I don’t know that anyone under 21 ever said “Bobby is groovy” but Frank Interlandi hit on the important factor, which is that both Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy had been backed by a demographic that could be sent to Vietnam but were not permitted in voting booths.

Don Hesse drew this as an insult, but he also had the facts straight in that, as Kennedy began to gain on LBJ, he was indeed seen as positive by those who did not want to go to Vietnam.

When Bobby started to look like the leading nominee, antiwar leaders considered dropping plans to disrupt the Democratic Convention. But as Abbie Hoffman put it, “Then Sirhan Sirhan stepped up and it was a whole new ball game.”

Well, not all that new, as Bill Mauldin said.

And, as Mauldin also pointed out, it wasn’t as if the party hierarchy didn’t have an ally in Chicago.

Once Bobby was dead, the last chance of beating the machine was dead, too. Abbie Hoffman knew it, Gene McCarthy knew it and that, plus Mayor Daley’s penchant for abusing disruptive citizenry (as noted here the other day), made the confrontations inevitable.

And, Mauldin pointed out, as Russian tanks clattered through the streets of Prague to put down Czechoslovakia’s bid for open democracy, Mayor Daley was deploying his own troops, and the National Guard, to do the same in Chicago.

Now, let’s pause to evaluate: It’s true that college presidents have become far more gutless in the years since, far more prone to pacify donors and conservative politicians by sending in the cops to gas, beat and arrest their students.

But LBJ was out and Biden is still in. Bobby was dead, but McCarthy was marginally viable as a rival to the machine candidate.

Once the stage was set, while Humphrey was seen as LBJ’s stunt double, he was, like Biden, running against a rightwing fringe candidate.

However, George Wallace was only a third-party protest candidate, not a real threat to the American form of government.

Nixon promised peace. Humphrey promised that he’d try. Wallace ran on anger.

Wallace drew Democratic votes from the mainstream because he was popular in Southern states among Dixiecrats who still resented LBJ’s Civil Rights legislation.

Trump may be an indication of hate having crawled out from under its rock, but Wallace lifted that rock in the first place.

Herblock said the Democrats damaged themselves in the streets of Chicago, but Wallace’s third party run showed how they had already fragmented in the decades since Harry Truman desegregated the military, school desegregation fell 9-0 in Brown v Board of Education and LBJ hammered through the Civil Rights Act in 1963.

I’ll predict this difference between 1968 and 2024: If RFK Jr. wins five states, 46 electoral college votes and 13.5% of the total, I’ll bring my hat, a fork and a knife, and you furnish the mustard.

But I think it’s more instructive to imagine what might have happened if Hubert Humphrey had gone head-to-head with George Wallace.

Wallace would likely have taken a few of those Nixon states, but not nearly enough to win.

And that may be the biggest difference we’re facing today.

Let’s hope Mauldin’s post-convention wrap-up remains history and not current events.

5 thoughts on “CSotD: How to Suck Eggs, Explained

  1. Summer of 1968: I’ve just graduated high school, working on deliberately failing three courses at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (PA) to keep my parents from derailing my acceptance at Gannon College in Erie. My parents are Goldwater Conservatives, my father is a screaming hippie-hater, and rock and roll music isn’t allowed in our house. Thank God for my seven transistor radio.

    The summer starts with my father waking me up one morning, white faced, stammering out, “Bobby Kennedy’s been shot!” After the shock of realizing we’ve just had another assassination, the even bigger shock is that dad is bothered by this. Dad HATED the Kennedy’s (I will never forget his racist comment expressing satisfaction over John’s assassination – at 13 and I’m not even politically conscious yet, but it was wrong!), was anti-Democratic in an almost MAGA-sense, and yet he’s scared. Scared in a way that I hadn’t seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    By the Chicago convention, he’d regained his political attitude, watching the news every night cursing the ‘hippies’ and cheering on the Chicago Police. If anything, he thought they were too gentle. Of course, he and mom voted for Nixon.

    And six months after that summer, his short-haired child (haircuts were mandatory every time I came home for the holidays, before I got to the house) was down in DC starting his own involvement as a member of the Anti-War Movement. It was a lot of years before we had any common ground to speak of, even though I kept my mouth shut whenever I was home. Which got less and less. There was a reason why I was so desperately to fail Pitt-Johnstown.

    With a background like that, it’s easy to realize that while I’m hardly pro-Palestinian, I’m absolutely anti-college administration on their handling of the current situations.

    1. On top of all the American politics, my family (both sides) is Slovak, my parents spoke the language fluently (and refused to teach it to my sister and myself), so we’re following the events in Czechoslovakia very closely. There’s a lot of family living over there.

      The following summer dad and mom went over for the only visit in their lifetime. Found out the parts of the family who were living there got thru the crisis just fine, and were doing reasonably well – due in large part of an Uncle John of mine who was a fairly prominent Party functionary. Much to my father’s disgust.

  2. I once got into an online argument with a guy who bragged about voting 3d party in 1968. I asked him if he’d do the same thing, knowing how Nixon sabotaged LBJ’s peace treaty and expanded the war, costing another 20,000 US lives (and God knows how many Vietnamese & Cambodians). He said yes because Humphrey “needed to be taught a lesson.”

    And yes, he was a Nadar voter in 2000. I don’t think it was the politicians who were slow to learn.

  3. Here is a dramatic and deadly contrast:
    I worked with John Stewart (the original one, the folk musician) when he was working with RFK’s campaign in 1968 (He put out a title ‘The Last Campaign’). We were so excited to have someone who was as honest and caring and progressive as could be found. I was ‘old enough to kill but not for votin’. But, I could not ignore the body bag assembly line of my peers caused by a useless war.

    Compare that to this ugly, ignorant, anti-vax, conspiracy theory freak:
    digbysblog.net: Headline O’ The Day – RFKjr Says Doctors Found a Dead Worm in His Brain

    That explains a lot.

Comments are closed.