January 1968 saw the Tet Offensive, in which Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops launched well-organized uprisings in cities throughout South Vietnam, completely surprising American military leaders. The intensity of the fighting, brought into America's homes on television, shattered public confidence in the Johnson administration.
In March, aided by a small army of student volunteers, McCarthy received more then 40 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. In March, Johnson stunned the nation by announcing that he had decided not to seek reelection.
In June, a young Palestinian nationalist assassinated Robert F. Kennedy, who was seeking the Democratic nomination as an opponent of the war.
In August, thousands of antiwar activists descended on Chicago for protests at the Democratic national convention, where the delegates nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey as their presidential candidate.
Massive antiwar demonstrations took place in London, Rome, Paris, Munich, and Tokyo, leading to clashes with police and scores of injuries. In Paris, a nationwide student uprising began in May 1968 that echoed American demands for educational reform and personal liberation.
Unlike the United States, millions of French workers soon joined the protest, adding their own demands for higher wages and greater democracy in the work place. The result was a general strike that paralyzed the country.
Martin Luther King Jr. was organizing a Poor People's March, in hope to bring thousands of demonstrators to Washington to demand increased anti-poverty efforts. On April 4, having traveled to Memphis to support a strike of the city's grossly underpaid black garbage collectors, King was killed be a white assassin.
In August, Richard Nixon capped a remarkable political comeback by winning the Republican nomination. He called for renewed commitment to law and order. With 43 percent of the vote, Nixon had only a razor-thin margin over his Democratic rival.
George Wallace, running as an independent and appealing to resentments against blacks' gains, Great Society programs, and the Warren Court, received an additional 13 percent. Taken together, the Nixon and Wallace totals indicated that four years after Johnson's landslide election ushered in the Great Society, liberalism was on defensive.