October 23, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 45th was held in 1964, less than a year after the assassination of the popular young President John F. Kennedy. The Kennedy years had been marked by dramatic and bloody confrontations between civil-rights demonstrators and Southern racists. Kennedy's successor, Texan Lyndon B. Johnson, pledged to honor JFK's memory by forcing through Congress the first comprehensive civil-rights bill since Reconstruction. He did, in a masterful demonstration of his skills as a manipulator, learned as majority leader of the Senate.

Most Republicans supported the effort, but the party nominated for president Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who voted against the civil-rights bill. He was also an outspoken ''hawk,'' that is, an advocate of forceful U.S. military action in the conflict in Vietnam. Johnson advocated restraint.

It was no contest. LBJ won 61-plus percent of the popular vote, the most by any Democrat before or since. He got 486 electoral votes, the second most by a Democrat ever. Democrats won 2-1 majorities in House and Senate. Many commentators said the Republican Party would not recover for a generation.

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