George Wallace’s Presidential Candidacy and Transformation of American Political Parties

The United States presidential elections of 1968 was a tumultuous event, which significantly changed the political landscape of the country. Notably, the 1960s were characterized by major occurrences, which shaped the history of the United States, including the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Protests, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. In that election year, George Wallace, the former governor for Alabama, sought to challenge the duopoly of the Democratic and Republican parties, which had dominated the country’s politics for decades. Wallace’s presidential candidacy wanted to exploit the perceived aversion to racial integration among the Southerners and Northerners. Although George Wallace projected himself as a progressive political transformer, his utterances and actions reflected a man who believed in racial segregation and whose views redefined America’s political system.

Although Richard Nixon ultimately won the 1968 presidential elections, the entry of former Alabama governor George Wallace into the race had a significant impact on the politics of the United States. Running under the ticket of the American Independent party, he demonstrated his profound ideological belief in racial segregationism, which he utilized to appeal to voters. For instance, on page 119, Gillespie notes that Wallace launched his presidential bid by declaring his intentions to suppress the civil rights movements. However, this was not a new occurrence since he had themed his gubernatorial administration with intensified calls for racial separation. According to Gillespie, Wallace had explicitly illustrated his desire to escalate the repression of rioters agitating for equality and entrench systems that would eternally perpetuate such movements and eventually institutionalize the segregationist philosophy (119). The depth and the extent of his separatist belief were manifested in 1963 when he blocked the entry of two black students to the Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama. These actions revealed that Wallace profoundly believed that African Americans should not work, live, or go to school alongside their white counterparts.

Additionally, George Wallace’s 1968 movement was built and sustained through sentiments which advanced anti-black prejudice. Notably, Wallace recognized the anger of white Americans who held deep resentment of the unfolding changes in the 1960s and skillfully utilized it to embolden his segregationist ideology. For instance, on page 120, Gillespie argues that Wallace targeted the disaffected voting bloc of the whites across the country who sought to decelerate the desegregation pace in the country. Moreover, the economic grievances of the citizens were blended with the color prejudice to create an impression that the rising cost of living and crime rate was attributable to the blacks. On page 120, Gillespie contends that these were paramount issues, which compelled Nixon and his campaign team to promise to ease pressure on desegregation. In this regard, Wallace’s belief in racial segregation was manifested through the actualization of his gubernatorial campaign slogan, which pledged continuity in racial separation.

Moreover, George Wallace believed in a stronger national government, which would plan and effectively address the various challenges affecting the citizens. For instance, on page 1119, Gillespie asserted that Wallace underscored the essence of a ruthless crackdown on crime to repress the riots and militancy. This view is reflected on page 121, where the American Independent Party candidate denounced the national government over its reluctance or inability to deal with the numerous challenges that affected the general population. For instance, Wallace favored the reconstitution of an administration which would resolve the riots, rising interest rates, the rebellion mounted by minority groups, and the erosion of personal liberties (Gillespie, 119). He also lamented the progressive decay of cities occasioned by the passive control and unplanned measures implemented by the federal government. From this perspective, George Wallace believed in establishing a strong national government, which could suppress the insurgency of minorities.

Although George Wallace lost the 1968 presidential bid, he garnered a sizeable proportion of the votes cast to the dismay of many. Notably, even Wallace did not expect to win the contest but strategically sought to prevent the two contenders from the dominant political formation from clinching the winning majority in the Electoral College. This implies that Wallace was a strong opponent, an attribute which could be linked to his ability to exploit the differences between the voters and develop his slogans around the major concerns of the population. For instance, a significant proportion of the voters in the South were upset by the rapid and progressive changes that were taking place as initiated by the Civil Rights Movement (. On page 123, Gillespie notes that Wallace capitalized on right-wing populism and the public’s reaction to the rapidly evolving cultural, racial, and moral liberalism. Additionally, he appealed to the conscience of the low-income white voters, who were predisposed to supporting desegregation and utilizing all necessary force to repress any riots.

George Wallace did not achieve his objective of denying the majority of the electoral vote to Humphrey or Nixon. However, his presidential candidacy created a legacy, which continues to shape America’s politics. On page 124, Gillespie contends that the Wallace factor was a defining point as it allowed the Republicans to focus on the issues that helped to solidify their support base in the South. Additionally, he legitimized the deployment of all tactics which could help a candidate to attain their political aspirations. For instance, although segregation was increasingly losing the favor of the general populace, Wallace realized that there people who were still opposed to the civil rights quest (123). Similarly, as an offshoot of the mainstream establishments, the American Independent Party normalized the amplification of social issues that upset the people as a strategy to woo voters.

The Democratic and Republican parties are the dominant political formations in the United States. Although these establishments are of national stature, there are various critical regions in the country which significantly influence the ability of any of the two parties to win major seats. The South and the Midwest are crucial voting blocs for the Democratic and Republican parties. Notably, the two regions are influential bases for the two entities and potentially influence a party’s ability to clinch a political seat. Barone notes that the ideological differences between the South and Midwest reinforce their inclination towards either of the parties. For instance, the former espoused the philosophy of slaveholding, which became the cornerstone of the region’s economy (Barone 3). Conversely, the Midwest has traditionally held anti-slavery sentiments, forming one of the fundamental bases for the Democratic Party.

Additionally, the institution of slavery was revered in the South since the region transformed from subsistence farming to expansive cotton fields. Barone, on page 3, notes that slave labor guaranteed the supply of labor, which ultimately saw the United States rank among the leading producers and suppliers of cotton globally. As the largescale farming of the product became lucrative, the region’s slave population exploded from below one million in the 1800s to almost four million 60 years later. One of the most notable figures in the South at the time, John C. Calhoun from South Carolina, deemed slavery a public good and a critical institution necessary for the survival of the region (Barone 3). Due to this profound belief in slaveholding culture, millions of slaves and whites crossed to the NorthNorth. However, the subsequent patterns in the region created a faithful and devoted voter base, which has come to be known as the Solid South (Barone 4). This implies that the South is one of the most critical voting bases for the Republican Party.

Conversely, the Midwest states espoused education and created systems which encouraged the progressive acquisition of knowledge by all people in the region regardless of race. For instance, Barone posits on page 2 that this region made provisions, which promoted the emergence of township academic institutions. Consequently, this formed the foundation on which further expansion of the institution of slavery was combated. The immigration patterns of the people opposed to slavery from the South to the NorthNorth eventually created a predominantly Democratically-inclined vote bloc. Notably, it has, over the years, played an integral role in helping the Democratic Party clinch the presidency. For instance, on page 1, Barone notes that the presidency of Obama would not have been realized if it were not for the votes from this locality (Barone 9). However, in previous years, various occurrences and events shifted the political attitude of the region, often delivering their vote to the Republicans. For instance, on page 4, Barone notes that the Midwestern region was opposed to military actions and instead embraced pacifism. This event created a revulsion among the Democratic voters, allowing the Republicans to make inroads and capitalize on the former’s miscalculation.

In the subsequent years, the Great Depression reversed the Midwest back into the control of the Democratic Party. Page 5 states that workers increasingly became frustrated, staging numerous industrial actions, including sit-down strikes and occupying factories. Similarly, the Democratic Party victories were achieved by spreading the ideologies of the labor movement, particularly expanding the welfare state, advance equal rights for the blacks, and increase public spending on areas such as education. From this perspective, it is evident that these events have continually impacted the operations of the Republican and Democratic parties and the subsequent electoral outcomes. This implies that both political formations keep observing the activities of one another to make appealing proposals. For instance, the Democrats are always seeking to exploit the political blunders of the Republicans in the South while reinforcing its foothold in Midwest. This is manifested in the revulsion of the South towards the Democratic Party after it aggressively pushed for the desegregation and adoption of laws and practices designed to end years of racially inspired separation. Ultimately, these realignments and changes directly impact the parties’ ability to win elections in the United States.

Overall, political parties capitalize on their base voters who are highly unlikely to cast their ballots for other candidates, regardless of the views and perspectives the contenders hold. Although these voters are critical in giving a political party a strong lead, the contesters are always seeking to swing the votes in regions which can be wooed by specific change of policies. In the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties have frequently utilized this strategy to skew the voting blocs in the South and the Midwest in their favor. Notably, the Democrats develop proposals that would appeal to the South while the Republicans formulate suggestions to sway the Midwest in their favor, thereby enhancing their chances of winning. Moreover, the parties study the demographics and the specific concerns of those regions which have been addressed by the incumbent and propose responsive initiatives.


Barone, Michael. How America’s Political Parties Change (and How They Don’t). Encounter Books, 2019.

Gillespie, David, J. Challengers to Duopoly: Why Third Parties Matter in American Two-Party Politics. University of South Carolina Press, 2012.

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DemoEssays. "George Wallace’s Presidential Candidacy and Transformation of American Political Parties." September 29, 2022.