The American Presidency: Pivotal Elections: Luke Nichter

Public | Jan, 18 2024 4:00PM - 5:15PM

The American Presidency: Pivotal Elections: Luke Nichter

Americans will go to the polls in a few months to vote in what innumerable commentators are calling a pivotal presidential election, even one of the most consequential in American history. But it’s hardly the first time such claims have been made. Across the last 250 years, many presidential races have featured sharply contrasting agendas, political outlooks, and personal styles, with dire predictions about the nation’s future if one candidate or the other prevailed. How did these races unfold? How did presidential races encapsulate profound cleavages running through the nation? How did the outcomes shape the nation’s future? Looking back at elections from the nation’s past may provide perspective on our own moment.

This six-part virtual series explores these and other questions through lively conversations with eminent historians of American politics and the presidency. Each session will begin with a moderated discussion led by LBJ Library Director Mark Lawrence but will allow ample time for questions from the audience. Over six weeks leading up to President’s Day, we will sweep across American political history by delving into the elections of 1860, 1896, 1948, 1964, 1968, and 1980. We will examine presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan, exploring the races that elevated them to the Oval Office and the implications of the races they won.

Each session will begin at 4 p.m. and run for about 75 minutes.


Full schedule:

January 11  A.J. Baime, author of Dewey Defeats Truman: The 1948 Election and the Battle for America’s Soul

January 18  Luke Nichter, author of The Year that Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968

January 25  Edward Achorn, author of The Lincoln Miracle: Inside the Republican Convention that Changed History

February 1  Nancy Beck Young, author of Two Suns of the Southwest: Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater, and the 1964 Battle between Liberalism and Conservatism

February 8  Karl Rove, author of The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters

February 15 Jon Ward, author of Camelot’s End: The Democrats’ Last Great Civil War



We will be using a Zoom webinar. Each session will begin with a moderated discussion led by LBJ Library Director Mark Lawrence but will allow ample time for questions from the audience.


Advance registration is required. You only need to register once for the series; you do not need to register for each week’s session. Once you register, you can expect to receive an email with a link to join the event. Questions about registration? Email

Register now to join us.


About the speaker:

On January 18, 2024, Luke Nichter will join us to talk about the election of 1968.

Luke A. Nichter is a Professor of History and James H. Cavanaugh Endowed Chair in Presidential Studies at Chapman University. His area of specialty is the Cold War, the modern presidency, and U.S. political and diplomatic history, with a focus on the "long 1960s" from John F. Kennedy through Watergate. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Norwegian Nobel Institute, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Massachusetts Historical Society, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Michigan's Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies, a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford's Rothermere American Institute, and a Hansard Research Scholar at the London School of Economics. 

He is a New York Times bestselling author or editor of eight books, including, most recently, The Year That Broke Politics: Collusion and Chaos in the Presidential Election of 1968 (Yale University Press). It is the first rigorously researched historical account of the most controversial election in modern U.S. history to have cooperation from all four major sides – Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, and George Wallace. Luke interviewed approximately 85 family members and former staffers, in addition to extensive archival research and access to new evidence that dramatically changes our understanding of the election. This work was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

Luke's last book was The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the Making of the Cold War (Yale University Press). It was the first full biography of Lodge – whose public career spanned from the 1930s to the 1970s – based on extensive multilingual archival research. This work was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Grant. He is also the author of Richard Nixon and Europe: The Reshaping of the Postwar Atlantic World (Cambridge University Press), which was based on multilingual archival research in six countries, and is now at work on a book tentatively titled LBJ: The White House Years of Lyndon Johnson.

He is a noted expert on the secret White House recordings of Franklin D. Roosevelt through Richard Nixon and wrote an authoritative history of their taping systems commissioned by the White House Historical Association. His website,, featured by CBS Sunday Morning, was the basis for the New York Times bestselling The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Co-edited with Douglas Brinkley, along with a sequel volume, The Nixon Tapes: 1973 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the volumes won the Arthur S. Link - Warren F. Kuehl Prize for Documentary Editing, awarded by the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Luke is a former founding Executive Producer of C-SPAN's American History TV, launched during January 2011 in 41 million homes. A feature of the series is "American Artifacts," a weekly program that Luke conceptualized, which lets viewers experience a museum, an archive, or a historic site from behind the scenes – something different than what they would ordinarily see as a member of the visiting public. In August 2020, the White House announced his appointment to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which was created in 1966 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society initiative – transforming the role of the federal government from destroyer to protector of historic, cultural, and tribal sites. Luke's appointment ended in April 2023 after serving in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Luke earned his Ph.D. in History from Bowling Green State University, and lives in Orange, California and Bowling Green, Ohio.

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