Nineteen sixty-eight marked the start of political polarization. Contrary to current myth, the civil-rights legislation of a few years before was bipartisan. With the Vietnam War, unity began to unravel.
The late 1960s saw the beginning of left-liberal moral triumphalism. The opposition was no longer just wrong. It was morally suspect. For a new generation of Democrats, which increasingly included the theretofore politically neutral press, the Vietnam War was opposed as, simply, “a bright shining lie.”
A kind of political religiosity infused matters of sex, race and even foreign policy, and pushed the parties apart. The 1968 Kerner Commission Report on the urban riots in 1965-67 announced that America was “moving toward two societies.”
Some 10 years later, inevitably, the religious right emerged. And here we are today, fractured by politics and technology into myriad cultural subsets of separations that began in 1968. The Trump divide was a long time coming.
Nearly every chronicle of 1968 omits the last thing that happened that year. On Dec. 21, Apollo 8 lifted off. On Christmas Day, as it orbited the moon, its commander, Col. Frank Borman, read from the Book of Genesis and said: “From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck and merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.”