African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 402


Lessons of 1969’S US Selective Service Amendment Act: Explaining US babyboomers’ civil war

George Steven Swan
  • George Steven Swan
  • North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, 1601 East Market Street, Greensboro, NC 27411 USA.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 16 September 2013
  •  Accepted: 16 August 2014
  •  Published: 31 October 2014


Studies of opinion cleavages among Americans born 1946 to 1964 are informed via Erikson and Stoller’s 2011 analysis of the impact of the December 1, 1969 Vietnam War draft lottery (which prioritized men vulnerable to 1970 callup). The scope of discussion therein and herein includes asessments of political socialization research from 1965, 1973, 1982 and 1997. Enabled there was the interpretive method, herein, of laying unfavorably numbered, vintage-1948 men’s opinions and behavior (which both mutated) within a detailed, contemporary military policy-context. This contextual perspective fleshes out, historically, that 2011 review. The results thereof revealed that those unfortunate men’s abrupt hostility to defense of South Vietnam and to public figures associated therewith (for example, President Richard M. Nixon of the Republican Party) as too “hawkish” (that is, assertively anticommunist) proved ironic. For Nixon’s prelottery Vietnam War policy already had executed the high-profile “dove” platform-plank rejected by the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Also appreciated is how published 2013 data on attitudes influenced by the Great Recession evidenced implicitly the dramatic durability of the draft lottery’s effect. This result likewise extends, comparatively, the utility of the 2011 study.

Key words: Vietnam War, draft lottery, public opinion, self-interest, loyalty.


The genesis of the public opinion cleavage among Americans born 1946-1964 marks a topic informed via published analysis of the impact of the December 1, 1969. This lottery was held by authority of the Selective Service Amendment Act of 1969. That enactment had amended the Military Selective Service Act of 1967, to permit the prioritization by lot of individuals liable to military callup. Scope of discussion in the following pages encompasses assessments of political socialization research undertaken between 1965 and 1997. Thereby-facilitated is the interpretive method of laying unluckiliy-numbered men’s opinions and behavior (each of which evolved with alacrity) within the contemporary military policy-context. Results thereof disclose that those ill-starred males’ sudden antipathy to America’s defense of the Republic of Vietnam, and to public figures linked thereto (including Republican President Richard M. Nixon) as excessively “Hawkish” (energetically anti-communist), proved profoundly ironic. Nixon’s antelottery Vietnam War policy implemented the “Dove” faction’s abortive platform-plank proposed at the Democratic National Convention during August 1968.

The Selective Service Amendment Act was born of a sluggish Congress at the behest of President Nixon. As the President supporting lottery legislation, and signing the lottery-legalizing bill into law, and as wartime Commander-in-Chief, Nixon became a public opinion lightning rod identified with this lottery draft-device. The enduring echoes of that long-ago evening were heeded during 2011 by Professors Robert A. Erikson and Laura Stoker. They acknowledged professionally the potent influence on political psychology of one’s own interests (Furthermore, the risk-aversion psychological tendency facilitates a magnification of the weighting of losses over one’s winnings). Political socialization-research-interviews of 1965 high school seniors had been followed-up with reinterviews, and questionnaires, in 1973, 1982, and 1997. The data deriving from male panelists born during the fateful year of 1948 were isolatable. How had the 1969 lottery numbers fed into subsequent opinion? The opinions and behavior of men unfavorably-numbered on that fraught December 1 changed substantially, and for a lengthy span. Partisan loyalties lurched. Enduring, not fading over the decades was the effect of attitudes toward the Vietnam War itself.

However, a striking dimension of these outcomes goes unmentioned by Erikson and Stoker. An abrupt hostility toward the Vietnam War and toward persons associated therewith (including Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew) accompanied an unprecedented receptiveness toward one or another ostensibly anti-Vietnam War figure (e.g., Senator Edward M. Kennedy) on the part of the men dealt disfavored lottery numbers. Meanwhile, the Vietnam policy effectuated by Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger was that strategy advocated by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and by Kennedy’s copartisans, at the vexed 1968 Democratic National Convention. The Nixon-Kissinger strategy had been repudiated by the Party of Senator Kennedy and his copartisans as a program excessively generous to America’s wartime enemies.

Background Issues: The 1969 draft lottery, the baby boom, and the draft

Well might the 1969 Vietnam draft lottery have triggered an outburst of emotion among America’s youth. For by 1969 the baby boomers of America (born between January 1, 1946, and December 31, 1964) had sunk their teeth into the practice of wartime conscription. According to Landon Y. Jones:

In retrospect, the confluence of Vietnam and the boom generation seems eerily exact, a hellish blind date arranged by history. Between 1964 and 1965, the months immediately after the [August 1964] Tonkin Gulf resolution, the number of draft-eligible 18-year olds went up faster than at any [prior] time in the nation’s history. In 1964, the pool of draftable 18-year old men was 1.4 million; a year later it had jumped 35 percent to 1.9 million. By July 1, 1965, the overall draft reservoir was one-third larger than in 1963.

Then, immediately after the number of 18-year-olds peaked in the middle of 1965, the Vietnam draft calls began. In September 1965, the Selective Service called 27,500, more than in any [other] month since [the Korean War’s closing year of] 1953. By December of 1965, the monthly call was up to 40,200. Four times as many young men were drafted in the last six months of 1965 as in the same period in [Presidential election-year] 1964 (Jones, 1980: 92).

According to conscription expert Bruce Kerry Chapman, the coming of age of the baby boomers meant it was understood before 1969 that “the ‘universal’ feature of the draft has become a sick joke, an officially sanctioned fraud.” A pretense to universality seemed to have been attempted in the naming of the Korean War era (1950-1953) Universal Military Training and Service Act (Chapman, 1968: 4-6). This 1951 Act had, inter alia, squeezed the conscription age downward to eighteen and one-half. But Congress passed no legislation pursuant thereto that would have obligated men universally to military training and service. Eventually that statute was succeeded by the more honestly-entitled Military Selective Service Act of 1967.

Was the 1961-1968 Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara sensitive to the demographic tides swirling about his Pentagon bailiwick? By 1963 some members of Congress began challenging inequities in the draft (The imminent inundation of baby boomer draft registrants might relieve recruitment difficulties to initiating a volunteer military). By 1964, Secretary McNamara was ordering a Defense Manpower Study. Found Robert K. Griffith, Jr.:

The defense manpower study group concluded its work in mid-1965, almost simultaneous with the beginning of American military intervention in Vietnam. When President Lyndon B. Johnson decided to commit American fighting men to Vietnam, he chose not to build up the active force by calling on the reserve components. Instead, selective service inductions fueled the buildup. Draft calls more than tripled by mid-1966. Of the nearly 340,000 men inducted in the first twelve months of increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, 317,500 went into the Army, 19,600 to the Marine Corps, and 2,600 to the Navy (Griffith, 1997: 11-12).

Observe the bulk of these baby boomer draftees being relegated to the Army rather than the Navy or Air Force. Robert Zelnick was a correspondent in Vietnam. He discloses: “[D]uring most of the war the Army simply assigned its draftees to combat while ‘taking care of its own’ with behind-the-lines jobs (Zelnick, 1999: 28).” Were not all of the United States Army’s soldiers its own?

The McNamara Secretaryship-era Military Selective Service Act of 1967 forbade the President to induct draftees via a lottery. Lotterization remained illegal until November 26, 1969. After all, the whole point of a forthrightly-named Military Selective Service Act is that the Selective Service System is to select (Flynn, 1993: 197). In 1992, Michael Mandelbaum of Johns Hopkins University fancied that one had every reason to presume the Selective Service System would procede in 1970 as in 1969.

On October 1, 1969, the Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee assessing the Nixon administration’s lottery proposal was F. Edward Hebert. He told associates there was no chance the bill would pass during 1969. The October 16 approval of the bill by the House Armed Services Committee was unexpected. On October 30, a Senate rebuff of the proposal until 1970 still was felt near-certain “(Mandelbaum, 1992: 14, 16). A Senate compromise resulted in Senate passage of the lottery bill on November 19, with presidential execution thereof on November 26.

Whence the October-November hustle in Congress over the Nixon lottery bill? The President on May 13 had proposed a lottery to displace the inherited draft system inherited by Nixon. His administration had introduced lottery legislation on August 19 (Maraniss, 1995: 93). But on September 19 (with the calendar year waning) Nixon cancelled the November and December draft levies and declared that were Congress to hesitate, Nixon would impose draft reform through executive order (Kilpatrick, 2009: 205). By September 19, Capitol Hill appreciated that it must tender a statute or be a bystander to executive action.

This was plain contemporaneously. The subheading of the page one lead story in the September 20 New York Times cried: “Congress Warned/Executive Order to Be Issued If Law Is Not Changed in ‘69.” That story opened: “President Nixon announced today a 50,000-man cut in planned draft calls for the balance of the year and said that if Congress did not soon vote a draft reform bill he would issue an executive order to effect basic changes himself.” The story added: “If Congress does not act on the measure before the end of its current session, Mr. Nixon said, he will move unilaterally to remove uncertainties from the group aged 20 to 25, ....” (Beecher, 1969: 1, 13). As made clear in that report, random selection definitely was in the air with or without Congress:

The moving age groups

As in the lottery system, the objective would be to shift to one year of vulnerability for those who have turned 19 or who have been deferred for college.

But if Congress does not remove the “oldest-first” requirement, this approach would be aimed at injecting a random selection quality into the system by changing the “most vulnerable” dates on a month-by-month basis. This would be done on a nationwide basis to avoid charges of inequities by local draft boards (Beecher, 1969: 1, 13).

Executive orders only can be overturned by a statute (if need be, backed by two-thirds of each house of Congress to override a presidential veto). Therefore, they seldom are. (Also, court challenges to executive orders seldom prevail.) But Congress was on board. The Times quoted Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield: “He said he believed the President would have the complete support of Congress...for any draft reforms he chose to make by executive order “(Beecher, 1969: 1, 13).”


Professors Robert A. Erikson of Columbia University and Laura Stoker of the University of California at Berkeley in 2011 published an investigation of the comparative impacts upon political attitudes of socialization vs. experience. They reviewed America’s December 1, 1969, wartime draft lottery. Therein were numbers between 1 and 366 randomly allotted to the birthdates of men to be conscription-vulnerable in or after 1970. As a practical matter, men were vulnerable to callup by the Selective Service System through age 25 (that is, 26 year-olds were secure). Among those classified I-A (that is, draft eligible) by their local draft board as of any given monthly levy, the eldest listed were conscripted first, excluding preemptive volunteers for a Board’s summons (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 222). Such a volunteer, e.g., future Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis during 1955, thereby could time (e.g., following the 1953 close of the Korean War) his military service of two years as a draftee, instead of a lengthier stretch as an enlistee.

The atmosphere of conscription darkened during the enduring escalation of the Vietnam War through 1966. The 1969 lottery followed the eruption of a draft resistance movement “(Foley, 2003: 13). The lottery, as proposed in 1969 by President Nixon and legislatively provided-for by Congress, shifted to prioritizing younger over older men, among men at least 19. The prospective 1970 draftees were men born between (1944 and 1950). (The 1944 birth-cohort would turn 26 and leave the vulnerability pool in 1970, while the 1950 cohort would then turn 19 to encounter peril.) The national number-ranges on callups were ultimately 1-195 for 1970, and 1-125 for both 1971 and 1972 (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 222-23). Hence the I-As lottery-numbered 1 would be drafted (youngest first) before anyone else. Only then would remaining I-As numbered 1-2 be called (youngest first), and then 1-3, etc.

In September 1969 (shortly pre-lottery) Gallup pollsters asked public opinion surveyees: “In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam?” Respondents over age 49 replied no (that is, in support of intervention) by 25 percent, whereas those aged between 30 and 49 so replied by 37 percent and those under 30 were supportive by 36 percent. Repetition of the question in January 1970 (immediately post-lottery) elicited identical responses from those over 30, but for some reason, uncovered a support-sprout among the young, at 41 percent (vs. 36 percent four months earlier). Was this support-upsurge the Yank males to be draft vulnerable during 1970 and pleased with their lottery numbers, plus the people associated therewith?

The Selective Service System ordered local draft boards filling the February draft call to summon no one with a lottery sequence number beyond 60. It became plain that boards lacked such men in quantities to meet their quotas. By the close of March the Selective Service System had failed by 11,700 men to fill the quota (Flynn, 1993: 246). Gallup’s repetition of the aforementioned question during March 1970 revealed that the burst of under-30 support now bloomed at 48 percent (vs. 41 percent two months earlier). Was this blossoming of support males draft vulnerable but gratified by their own December lottery results?

The Erikson-Stoker’s study declared that a consensus sees strong self-interest effects upon political psychology when stakes are visible, tangible, large, and certain: “Those with low draft numbers were facing a situation that would meet these four criteria handsomely – a (relatively) high likelihood of being forced to abandon all personal plans and undertakings and to take part in a potentially life-threatening war. As one’s lottery number increased, one’s vulnerability decreased.” The salience of the self-interest motivation was enhanced because the issue was not the chance to gain, but risk of loss.

Erikson and Stoker exploit Jennings-Niemi Political Socialization Study Data. That study initiated by M. Kent Jennings was executed by the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center and Center for Political Studies. Its original core was 1965 interviews of a national sample of 1,669 high school seniors from 97 public and nonpublic schools selected with probability in proportion to enrollment. From January to April of 1973, reinterviewed were 1,119 of these while another 229 completed a questionnaire. Surveys of 1982 and 1997 yielded completed interviews with 935 individuals across all four waves. Interviewee birthdates could be married to the 1969 lottery numbers. Low lottery number-holders were slightly less than the high number-holders to drop from the panel.

Virtually every one of the study’s male panelists had been born during 1948. Many had entered the military by 1969, and of male interviewees who had not matriculated college, their military service fate already had been sealed: “Most tellingly, only 1 of the 70 respondents who lacked any college experience but who were draft eligible in 1969 entered military service post draft.” So men who had not entered the military before the lottery and who had matriculated college proved the most likely among Study respondents to remain draft-vulnerable, with their college student deferments evaporating. (Graduate student deferments had been eliminated previously.) The 2011 investigation’s primary sample was the 260 respondents who had been college bound in 1965 but as 1969 not yet in the military.

Among those with lottery numbers of 195 or lower 39 percent actually served military time (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 225). The Nixon White House had estimated that post-lottery military enlistees would volunteer in equal proportions from among both the low and the high lottery-numbered men (Flynn, 1993: 246). The likelihood of service between lower and upper range numbers is a smooth relationship, devoid of a cutoff at between 195 and 196, for men did not learn the 195 ceiling on callup numbers until August 1970. (Recall that February 1969 Selective Service System demand for I-As lottery-branded up to number 60, a rate that would devour numbers 1-360 of 366 had it been sustained yearlong.) Indeed, the difference in the chance of service between the number pools above/below 195 was only 15 percent.

The pivotal question addressed by Erikson and Stoker was whether 1969 numbers influenced Vietnam attitudes in the 1973 survey. (Placebo tests for lottery numbers impact upon college-bound females delivered uniformly null results.) The difference between the highest and lowest number corresponded to approximately a 20-25 percent attitudinal difference along Dove-Hawk continuum. Is the influence of military service insignificant. Is voluntary military service distinguished from involuntary? “Again, there is no military effect, not even from getting drafted.” It was the draft number as demarcation of the perceived prospect of conscription that related to Vietnam War evaluations.

Those unluckily lottery-numbered evinced a wide pattern of opinion/behavioral changes as of 1973. They were the more likely to have favored Senator George S. McGovern over President Nixon in the 1972 election, and to align at the liberal end of the ideological spectrum, expressing more liberal stances over a broad issue-array. Low lottery numbers upended partisan loyalties, whereas “The higher the number, the more party identification in 1973 resembled party identification from high school in 1965.” Much movement was by erstwhile Republicans. By 1973, they had turned decisively more Democratic or Independent. Lottery numbers related significantly to feeling-thermometer ratings of Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew (varying among the college bound by 17 points on a 100-point scale) and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (thus varying by 11 points). Such scores for “the military” indicated that individuals with the highest lottery numbers rated the military nearly 20 points more affirmatively than did those with the lowest number. But scant was evidence that low lottery number-holders had become more politically aware as of 1973.

The 1973 impacts upon 1969’s low lottery-numbered college men facing the wartime draft were already of long duration as political attitude studies go. The study of 1982 and 1977 waves revealed fading effects regarding political ideology, and indexed issues: “However, an exception is with the central variable itself – Vietnam attitude.” Why? “On the question of whether the war was a mistake, those with lucky and unlucky numbers remained as divided at age 50 as they had been in their mid-twenties.” Also, low lottery number-holders of 1973 partisan allegiances endured. Their 1965 partisanship correlated not at all with their 1976 to 1996 presidential election Democratic Party vote. (Contrariwise, the hearts of some of America’s men of 1948 beat true. High lottery-numbered Yanks’ 1965 high school partisanship entailed, even into those lads’ middle age, a measure of predictive potency. (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 225-35)). The lottery’s continuing impact raises the larger point that generational shocks can cut still deeper political scars across populaces, and more divide them from sheltered populations, than generally has been supposed “(Muchie and Baskaran, 2011: iii)”.

And what proved to have been the most vivid attitudinal effect of the 1969 lottery, overshadowing even the 20-25% divergence along the Dove-Hawk continuum between holders of the lowest and most elevated lottery number? (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 226). Erikson and Stoker discovered:

……Forn no dependent variable was the effect clearer than for reported vote in 1972. The probit equation predicting the vote reveals an average effect in terms of the probable vote of 38 percentage points as the differential from the lowest to the highest lottery number. Holding the other variables at their means, the projected percent voting for Nixon is 37% with lottery number 1 and 75% with number 366…...

(Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 231) Erikson subsequently wrote: “The salience of an issue to voters must at some level be driven by reality.” Imagine how profound to the low lottery-numbered was the reality of December 1, 1969 (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 452).

The procedure: Measuring pre-lottery Nixon Vietnam strategy vs. post-lottery response thereto by newly-draft vulnerable/Measuring draft lottery opinion impact vs. Great Recession opinion impact

In spring 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s once widely-expected renomination for the presidency con-fronted Johnson’s Democratic Party primaries challengers, U.S. Senator Eugene J. McCarthy and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Maraniss, 1995: 111). In 1967, Robert Kennedy held of the Indochina War:

“There are three possible routes before us: the pursuit of military victory, a negotiated settlement, or withdrawal.

Withdrawal is now impossible. The overwhelming fact of American intervention has created its own reality. All the years of war have profoundly affected our friends and our adversaries alike, in ways we cannot measure and perhaps cannot know. Moreover, tens of thousands of individual Vietnamese have staked their lives and fortunes on our presence and protection: civil guards, teachers, and doctors in the villages; mountain tribesmen in the high country; many who work for the present benefit of their people, who have not acceded to the Viet Cong even though they may not support the Saigon government. Many have once already fled the dictatorship of the North. These people, their old ways and strengths submerged by the American presence, cannot suddenly be abandoned to the forcible conquest of a minority”…. (Kennedy, 1967: 193-94).

His presidential bid ended with Kennedy’s tragic death on June 6, 1968.

On August 10, 1968, a fortnight before the opening of the tempestuous (Kusch, 2004; Schultz, 1969) Demo-cratic National Convention in Chicago, U.S. Senator George S. McGovern walked into the U.S. Senate Caucus Room to announce:

I wear no claim to the Kennedy mantle, but I believe deeply in the twin goals for which Robert Kennedy gave his life--an end to the war in Vietnam and a passionate commitment to heal the divisions in our own society.... If I have any special asset for national leadership, it is, I believe, a sense of history--an understanding of the forces that have brought this country to a position of power and influence in the world and an appreciation of what is important in our own time. For five years I have warned against our deepening involvement in Vietnam --the most disastrous political and military blunder in our national experience. That war must be ended now--not next year or the year following, but now.... Beyond this, we need to harness the full spiritual and political resources of this nation to put an end to the shameful remnants of racism and poverty that still afflict our land. Just as brotherhood is the condition of survival in a nuclear world, so it is the condition of peace in America.... It is for these purposes that I declare myself a candidate for the presidential nomination (McGovern, 1977: 121).

McGovern put forth his announcement in the same room, and from virtually the identical spot, from which Senator Robert F. Kennedy had declared his own candidacy nearly five months previously. Almost within minutes of the McGovern declaration, that candidate had captured the endorsements of three Robert Kennedy backers: Pierre Salinger (President John F. Kennedy’s White House Press Secretary), Frank Mankiewicz (press secretary of Robert Kennedy), and the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the presidency, Dr. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (aide to President Kennedy) (Hunter, 1968: 1). Senator McGovern’s goals in running were thought to include steeling the party element pushing an antiwar plank in the Democratic National Convention opening on August 26, 1968 (Roberts, 1968: 61).

The Convention’s antiwar protesters united behind a common Vietnam plank. This proposed plank embodied a no-compromise stance of antiwar delegates against pro-Johnson Administration delegates (Finney, 1968: 71; White, 1969: 322). This plank was drafted by supporters of Senators McCarthy and McGovern, in collaboration with former supporters of the late Senator Kennedy (Finney, 1968: 71). The plank was agreed upon by way of concession among the antiwar factions by Senator McCarthy’s camp to the supporters of that late Senator. It principally drew from a speech delivered by Senator Edward M. Kennedy on August 21 before the Worcester, Massachusetts, Chamber of Commerce.

The three top anti-Vietnam War party leaders--McCarthy, McGovern, and Kennedy--united at their Party’s vexed convention for: an unconditional halt to bombing of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam); phased mutual withdrawal of American and D.R.V. forces from the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam); negotiations between the Republic of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (Vietcong); and a cutback of American offensive operations (Finney, 1968: 71; White, 1969: 322). In the floor debate over this antiwar minority plank, Salinger (himself a former U.S. Senator from California) told the delegates: “If Robert F. Kennedy were alive today, he would be on the platform speaking for the minority plank.”

The Convention rejected this antiwar minority plank by a vote of 1,567 3/4 to 1,041 1/4. As emphatically recounted, after the unilateral American withdrawal from the war, by the distinguished Stanford University diplomatic historian Thomas A. Bailey:

....The faction-rent Democrats met in Chicago late in August 1968, despite threats from anti-Viet Nam militants that the proceedings would be disrupted. Vice-President Humphrey, as anticipated, triumphed on the first ballot: his chief rival, Senator McCarthy, simply did not have the necessary machine-garnered votes. The chief battle erupted over the plank in the platform relating to Viet Nam. The McCarthyites argued for an unconditional termination of the bombing, followed by negotiations for a phased withdrawal of all foreign troops...

(Italics in original) (Bailey, 1974: 915). That week, 408 Americans were killed in Vietnam “(White, 1969: 322).

Why is such prominence allotted to this strife of 1968? The reason is the light it sheds upon the motives of many Americans after August 1969. For by August 1969, as emphatically recalled by 1973 Nobel Peace Prize- awardee Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, the Nixon administration “had offered or undertaken unilaterally all of the terms of the 1968 dove plank of the Democrats (which had been defeated in Chicago.” (Kissinger, 1979: 256) (Italics in original). Indeed, Dr. Kissinger records of the President’s May 14, 1969, first televised speech on Vietnam: “The United States agreed to the participation of the NLF in the political life of South Vietnam; it committed itself to free elections under international supervision and to accept their outcome. The President offered to set a precise timetable for withdrawal and ceasefires under inter-national supervision; it went far beyond the dove platform [sic: plank] defeated at the Democratic Convention.” (Kissinger, 2003: 80)

Nixon’s Democratic Dove policy was obvious at the time (Kissinger, 2003: 555). Held Time Magazine in its September 19, 1969, issue:

....Richard Nixon cannot be called a hawk on the Viet Nam war. He wants the U.S. out, and he would prefer to bargain toward the exit rather than fight his way there. He has begun to reduce the American force level in Viet Nam. In May the President put forward a conciliatory negotiating position, inviting the Communists to discuss it seriously.....

(The War: Stark Options for America, Time Magazine Sept. 19, 1969: 19) In 1987, former Senator McCarthy published Up ‘Til Now: A Memoir. He recounted concerning the presidential contender Nixon of 1968: “His campaign was restrained, almost antiwar. After his election, he continued the war with extended bombing and the ‘incursion’ into Cambodia. But the Vietnam War did end during his administration.” (McCarthy, 1987: 199-200). The halt to bombing of North Vietnam already in place at Nixon’s January 20, 1969, First Inauguration was sustained far beyond August 1969. The Cambodian intervention transpired in 1970. Curiously, McCarthy does not compare Nixon’s strategy of August 1969 to his own Chicago minority plank of August 1968.

In 1977, Senator McGovern published his auto-biography. He expounded the Vietnam plank struggle in Chicago. Curiously, McGovern failed to quote any actual plank that McGovern had favored (McGovern, 1977: 125). In 1979, U.S. Senator Harold E. Hughes published Hughes’ memoirs. He quoted Ethel (Mrs. Robert F.) Kennedy as telling Hughes in 1968 that Hughes was a main reason for Kennedy’s 1968 Presidential push. Hughes placed Senator McCarthy’s name in nomination at the convention, Hughes having settled upon endorsing McCarthy in July. Curiously, Hughes, too, fails to quote the actual McCarthy-backed (McCarthy, 1969: 211-12) antiwar plank (Hughes, 1979: 252-56).

Why resounds such silence? McCarthy, McGovern and Hughes could have felt embarrassed that the Indochina War policy they resisted post-1969 actually applied the antiwar plank promoted by their own McGovern-McCarthy-Kennedy coalition in Chicago. In 1968, Hillary Rodham toiled on behalf of Eugene McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam War war candidacy for president. In Boston’s suburbs, young Rodham canvassed for votes door-to-door (Brock, 1996: 13). Did she feel embarrassed in 1992 to read how (e.g., in his letter to U.S. Army Col. Eugene Holmes on December 3, 1969) her future husband had turned his back on the August 1968 Vietnam strategy (openly enforced by Nixon on December 3, 1969) of her own preferred presidential candidate (McCarthy)? (Clinton, 1969).

Dr. Kissinger lamented the spring 1975 Communist conquests of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia: “For the sake of our long-term peace of mind, we must some day undertake an assessment of why good men on all sides found no way to avoid this disaster and why our domestic drama first paralyzed and then overwhelmed us.” The Erikson-Stoker’s study arrives as if in response to Kissinger’s cry. It isolates the emotional energy the December 1, 1969, draft lottery unleashed within the psyches of those unluckily-numbered that evening.

Further, the Erikson-Stoker’s study evidences that this emotional eruption splashed its lava beyond the nethermost-numbered men (those most menaced). Instead, Erikson and Stoker emphasize that political res-ponse to the lottery accompanied draft numbers insofar as they marked the “perceived likelihood of getting drafted.” (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 229) (Italics in original) N.B.: “That is, it was the expectation of possible military service -- triggered by the draft number -- rather than the actuality of getting drafted (or not) that generated the attitude change.” (Italics in original) And Erikson and Stoker emphasize more: “It is important to stress that the relationship between actual military service and lottery number was not a step function at the cutoff value of 195. The probability of military service tends to vary little across the low lottery numbers and drop more steadily as one approaches the upper range. The smoothness of the relationship reflects the uncertainty of the time.…” (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 225).

Consequently should one expect the emotional outpouring from that fraught December first to manifest itself across a broad expanse of the Yank males to be of draft-age during 1970, and their dear ones. How broad? The entirety of those merely self-perceived as draft-vulnerable during 1970. Quaere: A lottery ranking at an elevation how exalted would have been required to preclude your own self-perception of hot war draft-vulnerability? In absolute numbers, across precisely how wide a swath of youthful men might the emotional outpouring of that grisly night have evidenced itself? The American male population, encompassed by the December 1, 1969, draft lottery numbered approximately 850,000 (Lottery Facts). That total leaves room for a lot of nervous lads, girlfriends, siblings, and parents. And what is the emphatic upshot? Political scientists, Erikson and Stoker conclude: “This case serves as a striking example of the power of self-interest to disrupt and transform political views (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 236).” Yes, striking.

It has been seen that Erikson and Stoker teach that if stakes present themselves as visible, tangible, big, and certain, then the impact of self-interest upon political psychology grows potent indeed. So, naturally arresting was the capacity of selfishness to distort, or even mutate, political beliefs on the part of millions of American men, and of those identifying themselves therewith, after December 1, 1969. The Erikson-Stoker’s study reveals the fuel for inflaming the domestic resistance to the U. S. defense of beleaguered little South Vietnam following that date.

For the strategy engendered by the 1968 Democratic National Convention Dove Plank and incarnated by the Nixon administration by August 1969 had been proved bootless well-prior to that date of the draft lottery. Thus, discredited should have been both the 1968 champions of that failed program and the 1969 White House adherants to their failed project. Thereby, Senators McGovern, McCarthy, Kennedy and Hughes logically would have become leaders devoid of followers. But no such rational outcome transpired. Instead, between December 1, 1969 and January 1, 1971, renunciation of and denunciation of the Vietnam War intensified in America.

To reiterate: There obtained a faction in wartime national debate that, by 1969 theater of war events, logically would have been chastened into humbled silence. Contrariwise, that very faction (which in 1968 endorsed that Dove Plank plainly proved a failure in execution during 1969) redoubled its demands for increasingly amenable-accommodations of the wartime common enemy of the United States and its embattled little ally overseas. Moreover, to a certainty was this not because that faction had been reinforced by informed argumentation from freshly-fervent Vietnam War opponents recently slapped with low lottery numbers. Erikson and Stoker discern that slender is evidence that an unfavorable lottery outcome impelled an expanded political awareness demonstrable by 1973: “Thus, although war-related political learning undoubtedly did take place in the wake of the lottery; and although those most attentive did come to express more negative opinions regarding the war, this dynamic does not account for the large differences of opinion that emerged between those holding adverse versus safe lottery numbers (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 230).” The 1972 struggle in the United States for the presidential nomination of a major national party witnessed com-petition among candidates (e.g., Senator McGovern) to outbid one another in proposed placation of the regime warring, upon the soil of her ally, against the armed forces of the United States of America.

Erikson and Stoker in 2011 delivered a partial explanation of this 1969-1972 Alice in Wonderland history. The cause-and-effect was less logical than psychological. A complete worldview can be synthesized to rationalize self-interested behaviors. Erikson and Stoker concluded with these words: “Vulnerability to the draft induced by the 1969 lottery not only structured attitudes toward the Vietnam War, but also provoked a cascade of changes in basic partisan, ideological, and issue attitudes. The breadth, magnitude, and, in some respects, persistence of these attitudinal changes illustrate how powerful self-interest can become when public policies directly touch our lives (Erickson and Stoker, 2011: 236).”

Erikson and Stoker teach that regarding the issue of whether the war was an error, the higher and lower lottery-numbered men divided as deeply at age 50 as they had the quarter-century earlier. Early emotional investment in a stance can blind one to hard facts (Through their post-lottery attachment to the element behind the Democratic National Convention minority plank, embittered bearers of low lottery numbers embraced August 1968 proponents of the program discredited by its public failure as of August 1969.) Reconsideration of one’s position risks requiring repudiation of an array of pronouncements and rationalizations reaching back decades. How many men are so strong as to prove so daring? Instead, a tactical blanket-discrediting of the opposition might afford comfort the sweeter.

And such truths could apply far beyond the specific populations investigated in the Erikson-Stoker study. In 2011, Tom Jacobs, the social policy journalist, accurately reported the Erikson-Stoker study as confirming that, for studied lottery high-numbered men, their 1965 party identification was as stable in 1973 as that of female counterparts. Hence proved those men America’s truehearts. The self-interested, draft-vulnerable males had totally rethought their partisanship (Jacobs, 2011).

Whereas, less accurately, syndicated columnist and public policy author David J. Sirota (Sirota, 2007) that same year emphatically cited the Erikson-Stoker study thus: “It suggests that many Americans’ aggressively pro-war ideology may fundamentally rely on their being physically shielded/disconnected from the human cost of war” (Italics in original). Although Sirota admits that it was the draft-vulnerable men who became party-abandoners (especially such as were erstwhile Republicans), Sirota argues that a high lottery number fostered a “pro-war” tropism: “By contrast, ‘for men with safe lottery numbers, the continuity of party identification’ -- and militarist ideology – ‘was relatively unaffected by the draft’ (Sirota, 2011).”

How does the wartime steadfastness of lottery high-numbered males expose the truehearts’ “pro-war” pro-pensity? Erikson and Stoker found that the partisan self-identifications by women studied survived unaffected by the lottery, as were partisan self-identifications by high-numbered men (Erikson and Stoker, 2011, 230 and 231). Did this female partisan fealty signify distaff pro-war tropism? Some might speculate that continued partisan self-identification by high-numbered men (as faithful as was the partisan self-identification by women studied) suggests those men to be no more “aggressively pro-war” than, well, those very girls. (They, as females, were “sheltered/disconnected from the human cost of war.”). And how “aggressively pro-war” were those very women? How bloodthirsty are the girls in Sirota’s neighborhood?

Sirota thinks party-loyalist men of November 30 still standing true on December 2 evidenced militarist patho-logy (“militarist ideology”), not stouthearted consistency. Meanwhile, Erikson and Stoker associate “militarist ideology” with no partisan affiliation at all. For in the Erikson-Stoker study “militarist ideology” goes unmentioned. Whence derived Sirota’s “militarist ideology” phraseology?

The continuing import of the long-discounted or dis-regarded 1969 draft lottery was evaluated by Professors Erikson and Stoker as a continuing one. And the political impact of ill-starred lottery numbers proved longterm compared to what? One panel study reported during 2013 by Columbia University political scientist Yotam Margalit addressed a national sample of respondents. It consisted of four waves of surveys wherein identical respondents were interviewed to elicit data on both their political attitudes and evolving labor market contexts between July 2007 and March 2011 (Margalit, 2013: 80). Those years immediately followed the close of the global Great Moderation and the onslaught of the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009. The latter contained the financial hurricane of 2008 and 2009.

Sure enough, the firsthand ordeal of economic hardship (especially jobloss) entailed a major effect on increasing welfare expenditure support. Appreciably more pro-nounced was this effect upon Republicans. Yet shortlived proved this attitudinal lurch. The effect evanesced upon improvement of an individual’s employment status (Margalit, 2013: 80). Hence, one sees how the political punch of disfavored draft lottery numbers was long-lasting even when compared to the wallop of the Great Recession.


The first Vietnam War draft lottery was held on December 1, 1969. The requisite statutory authority for this lottery Congress had delivered to the White House imminently-beforehand by way of the Selective Service Amendment Act of 1969, amending the 1967 Military Selective Service Act. President Nixon was bound to take the heat to emanate from the lottery conscription-tool. Nixon was the Chief Executive endorsing lottery legislation, signing into law the bill legalizing the lottery, and performing as the military’s Commander-in-Chief. There was already a draft resistance movement afoot. The lottery was held to draw, randomly, birthdates. The lottery was thereby to prioritize the muster-liabilities of any Selective Service System registrants consigned to the I-A classification during 1970.

Unidentified by the Erikson and Stoker work reviewed herein was a particularly noteworthy facet of post-December 1, 1969, protracted political opinion-outcomes. For an unprecedented receptivity, to one or another avowedly anti-Vietnam War public figure, e.g., Senator Edward M. Kennedy, on the part of the men burdened with less-favorable numbers paralleled something of a hairpin-turn by them against the Vietnam War and opposition by them toward personalities linked thereto, like Nixon and Vice-President Agnew. Intensely ironic proved this latter political opinion evolution.

Why? Because that 1969 Vietnam War strategy which actually was carried out by the Nixon administration (con-spicuously through Nixon’s National Security Adviser Kissinger) mimicked that war-program endorsed prospectively by Senator Kennedy personally, as well as by Kennedy’s allies in the turbulent Democratic National Convention of 1968. Their August 1968 preferred policies for the Vietnam War had been repudiated then by their own Party as objectionably beneficial to the wartime foes of the United States. Yet their very own agenda, once incarnated by the Nixon Administration, failed to attract the backing of men unhappy with their 1969 lottery numbers. Something beyond an idealistic and abstract embrace of the supposed August 1968 wisdom of the antiwar movement truly fueled 1970 aversion to President Nixon and to the Vietnam War. And such aversions were discovered by Erikson and Stoker to flame (not simply to smolder) for many years beyond the 1975 Communist conquest of South Vietnam.

Regrettably, professional confidence in the Erikson-Stoker reading of events is somewhat compromised when those authors propound: “At the end of 1965, a system of conscription was nominally in place, but the armed forces were almost entirely manned by volunteers (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 222). Contrariwise, an autumn 1964 Defense Department survey of regular enlisted men in their first term of duty (that is, each superficially a peacetime volunteer) revealed only 61.9 percent of them as true volunteers (that is, not draft-motivated) (Oi, 1967: 221, 232). In the wartime fiscal year July 1, 1965 to June 30, 1966, draftee inductions ran at a proportion at least two-thirds the number of alleged volunteers (many themselves being, as just seen, draft-motivated) (Dunnigan and Nofi, 1999: 18; Sanders, 1966: 117). Erikson and Stoker denominate the age of draft eligibility as 19 (Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 222). But it was eighteen years, six months (Rothenberg, 1968: 139).

Too, they submit: “In 1967, for example, the deferment for graduate study was eliminated “(Erikson and Stoker, 2011: 222).” Yet this happened on February 16, 1968. (Maraniss, 1995: 106) Nor is this last a trifle, irrelevant to the science of American politics.

For on that bygone date was William J. Clinton scheduled to graduate from Georgetown University in June 1968. Clinton learned that he could not expect wartime security for three more years as a draft-deferred student in a law school. On the contrary, he would become elgible for military induction by July 1968. And there hangs a tale.


The author has not declared any conflict of interests.


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