The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 56, No. 5, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 3, 1968 Page: 3 of 8
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voice in the wilderness
Wallace shuns specifics for unity
By LES BENEDICT
Many political observers find the strength of
George Wallace the most surprising and disturb-
ing manifestation in this most surprising and
disturbing election year. He seems to be riding
the crest of the most popular third-party presi-
dential movement in history.
Analysts have propounded various explana-
tions for this strength. They have pointed to
latent American bigotry, a reaction to greater
left-wing militancy, and a conviction on the part
of many Americans that they are the forgotten
people in our society.
But the existence of all these factors does not
explain why this disenchantment has been chan-
neled out of the two-party system and to George
Wallace. In the past, other movements have
arisen to answer similar cries by disaffected
Americans. But neither the Populists, nor the
State Rights party of 1948, nor the Progressive
parties of 1924 or 1948 came close to garnering
the twenty or twenty-five percent of the vote
Wallace's candidacy seems destined to receive.
There is, in fact, a fundamental difference
between the Wallace campaign and those of pre-
ceding third-party movements. Previous third-
party candidates have offered specific programs
to deal with the situations which disturbed them.
They were issue-oriented, and by taking definite
stands on specific issues they lost votes.
This is the result of our political system, in
which only two or three candidates ever run for
a given office. To win in a two- or three-way
race one needs a very large number of votes.
One must develop a coalition made up of large
numbers of people who share a basic position on
general issues but who may disagree violently on
specific programs. Therefore one of the main
objects of a campaign is to keep from alienating
those who normally would support you. This is
why political candidates try to speak in gener-
alities as much as possible.
The failing of third party protest movements
has always been in basing their appeals on spe-
cific programs, thus alienating many of those
dissatisfied voters who otherwise might have
Wallace has carefully avoided this pitfall. He
has managed to unite many of those people—
especially Democrats—who share a general posi-
tion on civil rights and racial disorders, without
enunciating a specific program which might lose
some of them.
Most commentators overlook the basic dis-
agreements between elements of the Wallace
coalition. There are fundamental differences be-
tween what we call "racists" and what we call
Racists make up an overwhelming majority of
Wallace's Southern following, although there are
many out-and-out racists in the North also. These
people believe in enforced, state-condoned sepa-
ration and repression of black Americans. They
are opposed to the entire course of legislation
since 19.57 and court decisions since 1954. They
want to repeal the civil rights laws and resegre-
gate those areas of American life which have
been integrated. They share a commitment to
inequality, enforced and perpetual.
The "backlasher" is quite a different speci-
men. Backlashers make up a large proportion of
Wallace's Northern support. Racists would be
surprised to find that they do not share the racist
disposition to support enforced, perpetual in-
equality. On the contrary, most backlashers ve-
hemently deny any such beliefs. They emphasize
that they believe in equal opportunity for all
In a poll of Wallace supporters, Sam Lubell
found that a majority of them did not favor the
repeal of any of the civil rights laws. Opposition
centered upon those measures the backlashers
felt save advantages to Negroes. The backlash-
ers seem to feel that since laws now forbid dis-
crimination by the state and national govern-
ments, Negroes should be able to lift themselves
by their boot-straps.
Northern backlashers are largely members of
the more recently arrived ethnic groups. These
immigrants and children of immigrants believe
they have achieved their positions through hard
work and individual initiative, and see no reason
for such "governmental handouts" as increased
welfare payments, bussing, and "forced" housing.
'But central to this position is a commitment to
the idea of equality of opportunity, the convic-
tion that an individual's efforts should be re-
warded regardless of his color. These convictions
are quite different than those of the racists.
Wallace's position might be shaken by a con-
certed effort to force him to deal in specifics.
He could be asked certain questions: If elected,
do you intend to press for repeal of the civil
rights laws? Until they are repealed, will you
enforce the civil rights laws? Will you allow a
resegregation of Southern school systems? If
Wallace answered "yes" to any of these questions,
his Northern strength very likely would be re-
duced. If he answered "no," he could be damaged
in the South
Nixon staying out
However, it is very unlikely that Wallace will
be made to answer such hard questions. It is now
clear that Wallace's campaign support is coming
from former Democrats rather than Republicans.
On the face of it, this is to the advantage of
Richard Nixon. Nixon, refusing to appear on the-
same stage with Wallace, is leaving well enough
alone. He will not formulate the questions which
will drive Wallace from his ambiguity. Humph-
rey's position, on the other hand, seems to be
impossible. He has lost much of the Democratic
strength to Wallace, but any loss in Wallace
strength seems likely to accrue to Nixon. Humph-
rey's only hope is that the liberal support he
retains will be greater than the conservative vote
split between Nixon and Wallace.
So the real source of Wallace's strength may
well be the unwillingness of the other two can-
didates to attack it by pinning him down on the
issues. Each sees Wallace's strength as an ad-
vantage, and each fears that its reduction would
aid his opponent. Therefore Wallace seems des-
tin§d to receive the largest third-party protest
vote in the history of American presidential
gandalf and the invasion force
Austin scene is where it's at
Things are happening fast in Austin, so fast
that Austin is becoming well known in under-
ground circles. It is certainly the best scene in
the South, probably because of such things as
the University of Texas' thirty thousand stu-
dents, "The Rag," an underground newspaper
mentioned as among the best by a national maga-
zine, Mother's Grits, a traveling troupe that pre-
sents Love-ins throughout Central Texas, and the
Vulcan Gas Co., a hard rock emporium with a
mind-bending light show, along the lines of the
two Fillmores and the Avalon Ball Room (similar
to Love Street but on a much larger scale).
Accepted that Austin is cool, what about
Houston ? First of all, "The Rag" is occasionally
available in Houston, although no one knows on
which occasions. The library subscribes to the
Village Voice, the foremost underground news-
paper. It comes out once a week and can be found
in the Humanities Reading Room with the other
newspapers and magazines. Second, efforts are
being made to bring Mother's Grits to the Rice
Third, a visit to Austin is not totally out of
the question. It's about three and a half hours
each way but a well-planned trip would be well
worth it. Such a trip should include an evening
at the Vulcan. The Shiva's Head Band, a local
band recognized as one of the two best from
Austin, is scheduled to play there Oct. 19 and
Nov. 2. The Vulcan also has tentative bookings
with B. B. King, the Quicksilver Messenger
Service, the Steve Miller Blues Band and Bo
Diddley. Again, details when they are available.
A concert by Big Brother and the Holding
Company with Janis Joplin, sponsored by UT,
will be held on Nov. 20. Supposedly, this is the
last performance before Miss Joplin leaves the
Last, Houston is not dead, though definitely
not alive and well. It is advertised that Cream
will be in Houston on Oct. 24. However, it was
reported that the group had split up after their
"Wheels of Fire" album. Who knows?
P.S. One word about the Shiva's Head Band.
They have a single out, "Kaleidoscoptic" and
"Song for Peace." In addition to organ, guitars
and drums, the group uses an electric violin and
a recorder. Both cuts would be excellent live, but
a monoaural single is not the best possible re-
production. If a reader would like to hear the
single, or has a comment or complaint, leave a
message for Frodo on the bulletin board at the
Thresher Office, 2nd floor RMC. —frodo
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the rice thresher, october 3, 1968—page 3
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Bahler, Dennis. The Rice Thresher (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 56, No. 5, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 3, 1968, newspaper, October 3, 1968; Houston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth245037/m1/3/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Rice University Woodson Research Center.