The 1960’s and 1970’s were a very tenuous political time for the country. This was not relegated to only large universities like the University of California, Berkley where the famous free speech protests took place. Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho was a place where many different political opinions were heard over the years through the chronicling of the university newspaper.
The student body of Idaho State College as it was known at the time, became engaged early in the 1960 Presidential race when a “Political Forum” was documented in the February 26 ISC Bengal. This forum was meant to engage the students at ISC in order to discuss what they believed to be important issues in this presidential election. The ISC Bengal also draws on the campus’ own experience in hotly contested student presidential debates to what is likely to be seen in the election for President of the United States. When the election cycle came into full swing by September 9, the Bengal documents the support that Democratic Presidential Nominee John F. Kennedy has from the large College Democrat contingent that exists at ISC. Later on that same month the Bengal reports on Idaho Democrat Senator Frank Church going to campus to attack Republican nominee and current Vice President Richard Nixon while rallying support for JFK. Because the voting age at the time was 21 years of age a straw poll was taken among all of Idaho’s college students who overwhelmingly support Kennedy. The most important supporter of JFK that came to the campus of ISC was his younger brother and future Massachusetts Senator Teddy Kennedy as the ISC Bengal notes in the October 14 edition of the paper.
The conclusion of the ISC Bengal’s chronicles of JFK occurs in the December 6, 1963 edition of the paper. Following the assassination of the President all members of the student body both Democrat and Republican were in shock. The President of the University, Donald E. Walker was quoted as feeling “shocked and a personal loss”. Based on the impact that the assassination had on the campus community all events were cancelled and some classes were postponed. The campus of Idaho State College was a microcosm of the United States at the time with the whole nation feeling grief for the fallen member of the “American Royal Family”.
The next general election in the United States occurred in 1964. The newly re-named Idaho State University has itself seen a change in which party received the most coverage. The ISU Bengal focused most of its political energy in this election year on the Young GOP as opposed to the prior general election year where a majority of the coverage was of the College Democrats. On October 28 the paper wrote an article about Senator Frank Church and his support for President Lyndon B. Johnson and his attempt to rally the support for the President on the college campus. In the December 2 article covering the election results the Bengal discusses LBJ’s decisive victory over Republican nominee Barry Goldwater. Idaho who voted for the Republican Nixon in the prior election supported Democrat President Johnson in the 1964 general election. This was bolstered by ISU’s Bannock County, which is a democratic stronghold in the state during this time.
The 1968 election was contentious from the start with President Johnson deciding not to run for re-election and his abysmal approval ratings leaving the Democrat party in disarray. Former Vice President Richard Nixon again received the nomination from the Republican Party to run against Current Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Democrat Segregationist George Wallace. The ISU Bengal focused on the election in the October 2 edition of the paper in an article titled “Nixon Forms Youth Group”. This youth group focused on analyzing and coming up with solutions to the Viet Nam War. This strategy by Nixon was to mobilize the youth in order for him and his party to gain a better understanding of how they feel on the war.
On October 23 the ISU Bengal wrote an article titled “Nixon will win the Presidency, Demos are still divided”, this article focused on the belief that LBJ’s unpopularity would hurt VP Humphrey’s chances of replacing his boss. Nixon was an appealing candidate to many at Idaho State because of his objective of winning College age voters. The first edition of the Bengal after the Presidential Election was released on November 13 with the main article about the election being titled “Pro’s React to ‘68”. This article focuses on Nixon handily winning the state of Idaho, but Democrat Senator Frank Church won re-election. Bannock County and ISU heavily voted in favor of Senator Church and other democrat candidates in the area. ISU and Pocatello as a whole voted in favor of Nixon, likely because the two Democrat candidates split the Democratic voters of the area.
The final election year to look into is the dominant re-election of President Richard Nixon in 1972. This was an important election for College campuses because President Nixon recently certified the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution changing the voting age from 21 to 18. This is highlighted in the newly named ASISU Speculum in the January 21st issue with the article “Democrats claim edge in 18-20 Registration.” This article writes that the Dems have a 2.5 to 1 advantage in registering college age students. The April 21st issue of the Speculum discusses the Dem caucuses in an article titled “Dem Caucus Gives McGovern Sun Valley Nod” in this piece it is noted that George McGovern won all 3 Pocatello districts showing that Poky democrats have similar views of who the frontrunner is for the nomination. The issue of the Speculum that closes out the election was on November 21 where they write about Nixon being re-elected defeating George McGovern 49 States to 1.
Idaho State University newspapers are a very good source of information for political history questions. The mood of the Idaho State campus and much of Pocatello from the election of 1960- 1972 was similar to that of the country, but not always the state itself. Bannock County as a whole was very much a “swing” area voting for presidential candidates of both parties, regardless of how the state voted. The campus of ISU was a hotbed of political conversation involving both political parties and was encouraged by those at the different ISU newspapers to be involved.
– Dalton Kelley
Idaho State University Special Collections and Archives. ISC Bengal. Jan.- Nov1960.
Idaho State University Special Collections and Archives. ISU Bengal. Jan- Nov1964.
Idaho State University Special Collections and Archives. ISU Bengal. Jan- Nov1968.
Idaho State University Special Collections and Archives. AISU Speculum. Jan- Nov1972.