Nixon Administration Targets John Lennon

Amid the anti-war activists of the early 1970’s, John Lennon and Yoko Ono marked for deportation due to their support of fellow musician and activist John Sinclair.

  • John and Leon make their arguments public.
    Photo courtesy of the Wildes Family
  • John proudly shows his green card he fought so hard to secure.
    Photo courtesy of the Wildes family
  • Senator Thurmond's cover letter to the attorney general.
    Photo courtesy ABA Publishing
  • Senator Thurmond's letter that climbed the chain of command to revoke John's visa.
    Photo courtesy ABA Publishing
  • Yoko Ono with Leon and Michael Wildes.
    Photo courtesy of the Wildes family
  • “John Lennon vs. The Unites States,” by Leon Wildes, follows the story of the most influential deportation case in United States history which remains relevant today as immigration has become a divisive issue in American politics.
    Cover courtesy ABA Publishing

President Nixon up for re-election and faced with new voters between the ages of 18 and 21 thanks to his recent ratification of the 26th Amendment. John Lennon vs. The U.S.A. (ABA Publishing, 2016) by Leon Wildes, shares an eyewitness account from inside the American justice system detailing the abuse of authority by politicians who would stop at nothing to hold on to power.

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On July 5, 1971, President Richard Nixon certified the Twenty Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, lowering the voting age to eighteen. The president expressed all sorts of misgivings but didn't mention his main objection — this new constituency threatened his reelection prospects in 1972.

Who could imagine that the emergence of the youth vote would lead to one of the strangest and most bitter, politically motivated government prosecutions in history — aimed at a figure who couldn't even vote in American elections? But the Nixon administration feared John Lennon — feared that he could galvanize the more than ten million new American voters under the age of twenty-one, so they set the machinery in motion to deport Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono.

Nixon's concern about young voters was understandable. Supporters of the amendment had framed the argument bluntly. "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote." America was in the middle of the Vietnam War, and opposition to the conflict, especially from young people, kept growing louder. Antiwar protests rocked the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Street fighting resulted in criminal convictions for Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, Lee Weiner, and Abbie Hoffman — the infamous "Chicago Seven." After that debacle, Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey never regained his footing as he campaigned against Nixon. That summer also saw the assassinations both of presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Riots in cities nationwide after King's death added to the feeling of national upheaval.

Nixon campaigned on the themes of law and order and claimed to have a "secret plan" to end the war. He carried the election, but by an extremely narrow margin. In the popular vote, he won by 500,000 votes — approximately one percent of the total votes cast. In three key electoral states, he won by only three percent of the vote — 200,000 votes in California, 140,000 in Illinois, and 90,000 in Ohio. The effect of the youth vote on such thin majorities made for difficult political calculations, especially since Nixon's "secret plan" turned out to be a mere continuation of fighting in Vietnam.

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