In 1968, defeated Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Strom Thurmond announces he will remain in the race, as the candidate of the newly-formed American Independent Party. Georgia governor Marvin Griffin will serve as his running-mate.The all-Southern ticket will capitalize on lingering resentment in the South over President Kennedy's use of federal troops to quell the widespread anti-integration violence of October 1962.
All-Southern ticket by Eric LippsIt will draw heavily from conservative Southerners who have become alienated from the Democratic Party but who cannot forgive the Republicans for being the party which presided over the defeat of the Confederacy, the abolition of slavery, and Reconstruction. These will include Governor Griffin's supporters, who had re-elected him in a landslide in 1962 following his narrow victory over the more liberal Carl E. Sanders in that year's Democratic primary.
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson meets privately with a group of influential members of Congress, who tell him bluntly that the efforts he has begun to make in favor of a federal civil rights bill in the aftermath of Birmingham must cease or his entire legislative agenda will be stopped dead in the water. 'It's your choice, Mr. President,' Senator Strom Thurmond informs Johnson. 'You can have your civil rights, or you can have your Medicare, your education programs and such. But it?s one or the other, Mr. President. Push for your civil rights bill, and you won't get another piece of legislation through Congress till the end of your presidency.'Bluff Called by Eric LippsJohnson does not yield. 'Senator,' he tells Thurmond, 'you want to take me on, you go right ahead and do it. Won't be the first time a President's had to deal with a hostile Congress. But if all you do is say no to everything - well, I can say no, too. How long d'you think it'll be before your constituents start noticin' how federal money's not coming their way anymore, how the construction projects and defense contracts aren't coming in? And who do you think they'll blame for not delivering the goods?'
The meeting ends on a bitter note. No one doubts that if there is an open confrontation, it will be costly to both sides, yet neither side seems willing to compromise.
Two weeks later, omnibus legislation to create 'Medicare,' a federal health insurance program for the elderly intended as a companion to Social Security, and a parallel 'Medicaid' program for younger Americans too poor to afford medical care without assistance, is defeated in the Senate by one vote. Afterward, Thurmond calls President Johnson. 'Maybe now, Mr. President, you'll believe I wasn't bluffing,' he says. 'You want your socialized medicine, or anything else, you back off civil rights.'
'I wasn't bluffing either, Senator,' Johnson replies. 'You want to see just how much I wasn't bluffing, you just wait.' That evening, after contacting the heads of the three major television networks, he delivers a national TV address in which he describes his July 16 meeting with Thurmond's cabal and recounts the Senator's phone call to him after the Medicare vote. Carefully omitted from the President's account is his threat at the July 16 confrontation to cut off federal funds going to the home states of his antagonists.