Were people this dumb before Nixon?

I apologize in advance for such wankery on Saturday night, but I just stumbled across this in a Gail Collins article:

Back in 1971, Congress passed a bill aimed at providing high-quality early childhood education and after-school programs for any American family that wanted them. It was bipartisan, which in those days meant more than a whole lot of Democrats and somebody from Maine. “Having been a working mother, I knew what day-care problems were like,” said Martha Phillips, who was at that time a staffer at the Republican Research Committee in the House.

Then Richard Nixon surprised almost everyone by vetoing it, with a scathing message written by Pat Buchanan, claiming the bill would “commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of communal approaches to child rearing.”

The social right, which was just beginning to come into its own, was delighted! Opponents reinforced the message with a massive letter-writing campaign. They accused members of Congress of plotting to deprive parents of the right to take their offspring to church, give children the power to sue their parents for forcing them to do chores, and, in general, turn the country into a Maoist concentration camp.

Which made me think of this (from a Kathleen Parker piece):

A telling anecdote recounted by Pat Buchanan to New Yorker writer George Packer last year captures the dark spirit that still hovers around the GOP. In 1966 Buchanan and Richard Nixon were at the Wade Hampton Hotel in Columbia, S.C., where Nixon worked a crowd into a frenzy: “Buchanan recalls that the room was full of sweat, cigar smoke, and rage; the rhetoric, which was about patriotism and law and order, ‘burned the paint off the walls.’ As they left the hotel, Nixon said, ‘This is the future of this Party, right here in the South.’ ”

I’ve read much of Nixonland, but I still don’t understand how much Nixon changed American politics, since I know nothing of pre-Nixon (or even pre-Reagan, really) politics. How much did Nixon change things? I know there were all kinds of crazy rightists before Nixon, John Birchers and so on, but that seems a separate issue. It’s one thing to have crazy right-wingers, it’s another to mainstream their paranoia in a way that turns the entire nation’s politics into a crazed right-wing drama. Which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is what our politics has been for quite some time. Was Nixon the primary catalyst for this?

I think of this also because I’ve been following the silly Kaplan “Most Influential Person of the Decade” tournament, where the finalists are Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush. And I wonder: was Nixon the most influential American of the last 50 years?

I don’t mean for this to be an anti-Republican screed. What I’m referring to here is a general political atmosphere, one that some Republicans almost certainly don’t like.

DougJ +5

205 replies
  1. 1
    Comrade Jake says:

    I think there are some conservatives who truly believed that impeaching Clinton over his BJ was, in part, about getting back at liberals for what they did to Nixon with Watergate.

    You’re not exactly talking about people with a firm sense of proportion.

  2. 2
    DougJ says:

    I think there are some conservatives who truly believed that impeaching Clinton over his BJ was, in part, about getting back at liberals for what they did to Nixon with Watergate.

    Sure, but that’s typical spiteful bullshit. Even if the consequences were terrible (i.e. the election of George W. Bush), it seems distinct from the lunacy about soshulism and death panels and so on.

  3. 3
    Jonathan says:

    May I be so bold as to believe that Nixon was the first Republican to get the racist South to leave the then-fractured Democratic party? Nixon realized that getting the good ol’ boys into the Republican party would give the Republicans a hard-to-beat voting block.

    Nixon’s work obviously led to the Reagan “revolution.”

    Nixon was also always so uncomfortable in his own skin that he made it easy for other whites to believe that they were constantly getting shafted by others.

  4. 4
    Crashman06 says:

    I don’t have a degree in history but I do work in a field that brings me into close contact with the subject. This is pretty much a mostly ill-informed guess, but I think the gap in social values between the conventional left and the conventional right was not as great before the late 60s as it was after. Before then, society had an easier time policing itself of social extremism on either end.

    Also, you’ve got to think… This was in the aftermath of Civil Rights. Is it any wonder why some parts of society were more civil before the “non-Americans” were allowed to vote?

  5. 5
    srv says:

    Just because Nixon was the first to benefit from the south that LBJ delivered unto them does not a Lee Atwater make.

  6. 6
    DougJ says:

    Yes, I see where people are coming from in terms of the idea that at some level this was all about civil rights, all about race.

    But how does a northern scare-monger like Peter King fit into this? Is it simply that his district consists largely of white-flighters?

    I think that probably this is mostly about race at some level. But I think maybe there is something more as well. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s just that once you’ve embraced xenophobia as your primary theme, the other themes that you can attach to this are all of a certain hue.

  7. 7
    J Bean says:

    There’s a reason why Perlstein is writing a trilogy. It’s hard to say whether Nixon or Reagan is the more influential. Nixon was clearly the first to play the race card, but Reagan perfected the art. In the same way he started the modern anti-elitism/anti-intellectual/anti-government movement, but Reagan perfected it.

    It’s hard to type with one hand while scratching a dog with the other.

  8. 8

    What is up with the Saints?

    ETA: Got the quarter wrong. Thought it was the third. Nevermind…

  9. 9
    Crashman06 says:

    @DougJ: It’s got to have something to do with the accelerating pace of technology. In the past, tech was busting holes through social institutions every couple of centuries. It’s no mystery that the Protestant Revolution spread in part because of the printing press. But over the last couple centuries, technology has been advancing with increasing speed, to the point that our social institutions can’t keep up with it any longer. We’re blowing through social conventions every ten years now, instead of every hundred. People can’t adjust fast enough; it scares the crap out of them, and they react like a Peter King.

  10. 10
    Laura W says:

    Don’t you have a Viognier to be writing about?
    You’re just way overthinking everything lately.
    Was this blog this dumb before wine blogging?

  11. 11
    brat says:

    For Nixon, it was about hate, particularly hating African Americans. Take a look at his “law and order” speeches. They’re thinly veiled swipes at racial resentments of the white working class. You see Buchanan and Chris Mathews (who’s no liberal) talking about “real Americans” to this day….It’s all code.

    The GOP went from the party of Lincoln, of the Union, of Emancipation, to the party of White Citizens Councils during the Nixon era. It got much worse under Reagan.

    A good primary source is the “Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents” which is a verbatum account of presidential speeches and Q& A sessions, until Bush the Younger comes into office.

    Enjoy!

  12. 12
    DougJ says:

    Don’t you have a Viognier to be writing about?

    I’m still working on that. I wanted to fit it into a grand AVA/viognier piece.

    You think I’m kidding but I’m not!

  13. 13
    Jonathan says:

    Re: Pete King

    I’m from Long Island, DougJ; don’t hold it against me, please. At any rate, Pete King’s district is full of Italians originally from Brooklyn and the Bronx, surrounded by minority communities to the east and west. So, yeah… white flight for sure. Long Island is one of the most segregated areas of the Northeast.

  14. 14
    cat48 says:

    I lived thru both. Repubs will say Reagan was “most influential”, but it all started with Nixon. Reagan was just an improved version of Nixon.

  15. 15

    I think Nixon was able to pull something of a twofer. By giving the South a presence in national politics that it had not had before, Nixon created a space for those conservative backlash elements that had always existed in the North to build their strength.

  16. 16
    khead says:

    I’ll bet there were welfare queens driving around in their Cadillacs in 1970 too.

    BTW, I wonder if Sears would let me borrow this for a few hours tomorrow.

    Edit: khead +3

  17. 17
    R-Jud says:

    @Jonathan: All of this.

    I’ve only just turned 30 (and am +1.5… bottles of wine) so take this for what little it’s worth, but a lot of my reading in history over the years has led me to believe that that Nixon’s personal tics and tactics continue to shape to a large extent our national dialogue and policy– everything from the politics of resentment to the myth of the “liberal media”. Both McCarthy and Reagan were, in a way, Nixon’s proteges. And, as you’ll know from what you’ve read of Nixonland, he had others.
    Roger Bleeding Ailes, for heaven’s sake, got his start in politics as Nixon’s media adviser in ’66 (when Nixon’s second presidential campaign started), and Karl Rove was drafted to work for the ’72 campaign from the College Republicans. Nixon was a hugely influential president, much more so than Reagan, and I’ve felt since my late teens that every presidential election is just a rehash of 1968. Squares vs. Hippies, forever and ever. I think that is part of what drew people to Obama: he was too young to be caught up in all that, (Bill Ayers notwithstanding) and represented a break from that tiresome squabbling.

    To answer the question, “Were people this stupid before Nixon?”: of course. They just didn’t have a huge, completely subservient, instantaneous multimedia complex capable of giving them airspace or feeding them the latest catchphrases. Another thought: you could say that the people cynically manipulating the crazies, as Nixon did, have died off or faded away over the last 40 years, and in their place we’ve been electing a bunch of the true-believing crazies, who’ve grown up on the Republican groupthink their entire lives. The crazy just keeps boiling down and down to its pure essence.

    TL;DR: There have always been stupid people, but they only had influence after Nixon and 24-hour “news” empowered them.

    This is how I see it anyway. But like I said, I am a) drunk; and b) relatively young. So YMMV.

  18. 18
    mcd410x says:

    I suggest Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail 1972. Thompson posits that Nixon moved the party as far right as possible because of his fragile ego and his need to crush the Democrats in 72, even if it meant a backlash in 76. (Of course, times being different, this is the same man who instituted price and wage controls that fucked the economy for the better half of the decade. Bloody soshulist).

    And look into Barry Goldwater, a man before his time.

  19. 19
    Ruckus says:

    Doug
    I seem to recall that there felt like a shift around that time, but my view of things was clouded by the war and the draft. But I think it started to shift with LBJ. I remember feeling that LBJ had gone all in with Vietnam, trying to sell it almost like king george was trying to sell Iraq. That seems to me to be when the change in the political winds happened. That there was no respect for the citizens, only the political/government objectives. Nixon was just better at being a slimy weasel than anyone from the end of WWII till his time. It felt like he didn’t believe most of his own crap, but if you bought it then he sounded rational. Sound familiar? Today’s republicans sound like they believe their own crap. It makes them sound absolutely stupid, which Nixon didn’t always sound like.

  20. 20

    Nixon was a creature of McCarthyism and Ike took him to placate that bunch. Nixon’s victory and the direction politics took was based on the politics of fear. Race, hippies, Weathermen, rock n roll, sex, drugs… WAR.

    The GOP still runs against the hippies, today, oh and the rest of it. It doesn’t matte that the middle is right of Nixon, enemies matter. Wonks knew what a piece of shit RMN was, he’d proved it as a lawyer but wonks don’t win elections.

    There is the little matter of LBJ and the war killing Democratic propaganda efforts with in their natural allies. But then, that’s about the left.

  21. 21
    scarshapedstar says:

    When right-wingers started rationalizing Watergate, well, it was a straight line to them rationalizing My Pet Goat.

  22. 22
    mattH says:

    They accused members of Congress of plotting to deprive parents of the right to take their offspring to church, give children the power to sue their parents for forcing them to do chores, and, in general, turn the country into a Maoist concentration camp.

    I heard this all the way into the 90s. This idea that government was going to take over all of your parental rights, and force you to be a damn hippie. But I live in Utah, so I’m deep in the red here.

  23. 23
    R-Jud says:

    @Chuck Butcher:

    Nixon was a creature of McCarthyism

    Pretty sure it’s vice versa. Nixon gained national attention with Alger Hiss and the pumpkin, in 1948 or so. McCarthy’s first attempt at Commie-hunting, the “I have here in my hand a list of 205 names…” speech, was in 1950.

    McCarthy was better at it, and Nixon must’ve hated that. But you’re right, Ike picked him up because Nixon placated McCarthyites while still maintaining a veneer of “reasonableness”.

  24. 24
    kuvasz says:

    “was Nixon the most influential American of the last 50 years?”

    No. That mantle would be held by Lee Harvey Oswald. Name another person whose singular action changed the course of history as much (excluding John Wilkes Booth).

    I think you ought to recognize that one bullet weighs much, much more than a million ballots.

  25. 25
    JMG says:

    Nixon was not the first to realize racism and hatred win a lot of votes in America. He was the first to figure out a way to make it seem respectable.

  26. 26
    lamh31 says:

    OT, but this Saints v Cowboys game along with all this HCR is depressing, me I’m

  27. 27
    DougJ says:

    I think Nixon was able to pull something of a twofer. By giving the South a presence in national politics that it had not had before, Nixon created a space for those conservative backlash elements that had always existed in the North to build their strength.

    That is more or less what I believe too.

    But I don’t know enough to say for sure.

  28. 28

    @kuvasz:

    Lee Harvey Oswald

    That involves standing JFK on a pretty tall pedestal, and I don’t think he’d have made that.

  29. 29
    lamh31 says:

    OT, but this Saints v Cowboys game along with all this HCR talk is giving me a headache. Tylenol PM is calling my name. Gonna pray to Allah, Mother Nature, Buddha, Shiva…whoever, for the Saints to bring it in the 2nd half. If not, I’m seriously gonna have to debate calling in on Monday!! (not just over the game though, my “check engine” light is on)

    Geaux Saints!!!!

  30. 30
    bago says:

    RedState editor Erick Erickson responded:

    I hate to correct him, but actually the talking point is that God hates the Democrats’ health care deform. With funding death panels and abortions, of course the Almighty would send a snow storm or, in Brian’s words, a snowpocalypse to shut down Washington.
    __
    Oh, and kudos to Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council for organizing the “pray-in.” Looks to be working.

    Stupid at the speed of light!

  31. 31
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Nixon:20th Century US::Disraeli:19th Century Britain.

    Nixon came close to pulling off Ben’s One-nation Conservatism. Watergate intervened.

  32. 32
    bago says:

    But I live in Utah, so I’m deep in the red here.

    Adroitly succinct.

  33. 33
    mattH says:

    Just because Nixon was the first to benefit from the south that LBJ delivered unto them does not a Lee Atwater make.

    The Southern Strategy has been characterized by it’s supporters as “a legitimate appeal to people left on the sidelines while other groups benefit from affirmative action and government aid programs.”

    The GOP went from the party of Lincoln, of the Union, of Emancipation, to the party of White Citizens Councils during the Nixon era.

    The GOP had abandoned any support of African-Americans long before that.

  34. 34
    Ana Gama says:

    The Democrats finally splintered over the Civil Rights Act signed by LBJ in 1964, after years of internal fueding dating back to Truman. LBJ was noted as saying at the time he signed the legislation that the Democrats had just lost the South for a generation. Southern Dems, along with the Republicans, were fully opposed to any civil rights legislation, so the south found a home with the Repubs which Nixon successfully exploited to enlarge his party.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixiecrats

  35. 35
    Yutsano says:

    @bago: Wait for it…

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    Okay I’m done.

  36. 36
    fbjakes says:

    I was a DFH in the Nixon years, and I remember him and the Republican party as more moderate than presently by a lot. Still hated him for a million reasons but there was a centrist side to him. Nixon attempted to institute a “Minimum National Income” (as I recall it – I did summer government polling work for that program) to guarantee a living wage to every American. Liberals and Conservatives joined together to defeat that plan (details are a little foggy to me, but then I did say DFH). And then there were wage and price controls…

  37. 37
    Texas Dem says:

    This has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but as a Texan, I just want to note that the so-far unbeaten Saints are losing to the Cowboys 24-3. This has been quite a day. First, HCR secured 60 votes in the Senate, and now the Cowboys are beating the Saints. Two miracles in one day!

  38. 38
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:

    @DougJ:

    But how does a northern scare-monger like Peter King fit into this? Is it simply that his district consists largely of white-flighters?

    Yes. Look at most of the suburbs in St Louis: all white flighters and most have the same “values” (they’re bigots) as what we’re talking about here.

    Remember, Appalachia, It’s A State Of Mind.

  39. 39
    DanaHoule says:

    Nixon supplied the tactics and strategy for an assault on the New Deal coalition which was based on northern white ethnics (primarily Catholics and Jews) and southern white protestants. It was sort of the conservative Republican beach head, but for policy Nixon (outside of “law and order” type measures) didn’t really deeply challenge the dominant New Deal assumptions. Reagan used those tactics and the openeness of southern white voters who had lived in the “solid South” to vote Republican after the civil rights and voting rights acts and then implemented the socially conservative and virulently anti-labor and anti-regulation policies that Nixon never really pursued.

    As for the populism, Nixon hated “elitists,” but he wasn’t the most right-wing populist in the 1968 election; that was George Wallace, who managed to win 46 electoral votes, a result similar to what Strom Thurmond did as a dixiecrat in 1948.

  40. 40
    Mike in NC says:

    Nixon realized that getting the good ol’ boys into the Republican party would give the Republicans a hard-to-beat voting block.

    Still working my way through “Nixonland” this holiday season. Both he and Agnew mastered the politics of paranoia and resentment, which is where the Limbaughs, Becks, and Palins of today rake in their money. They want their WASP country back.

  41. 41
    mr. whipple says:

    This has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but as a Texan, I just want to note that the so-far unbeaten Saints are losing to the Cowboys 24-3

    Well, that’s just funking wrong, and must not stand.

  42. 42
    KG says:

    My reading of Nixon is different than most, and likely probably wrong, but that might be a byproduct of growing up behind the Orange Curtain and a mere minutes from the Nixon Library.

    I don’t think Nixon, at his core, was much of a racist. And I think up until the 1960 election, he was a decent and honorable guy. But I think he honestly felt that the Kennedys stole the 1960 election through dirty tricks and I think that is what turned him into much more of a cynic. In fact, it seems that much of his thought, when it came to elections after 1960 was always dedicated to the Kennedys in some way.

    But even then, the nastiness was more in the procedure, I think, than in the actual results. He tended to favor Civil Rights in the Senate, as VP, and as President. His appointments to the Supreme Court weren’t obscenely conservative (Rehnquist was much more moderate than Scalia, Thomas, Alito, or Roberts) – he made Burger CJ, he appointed Powell and Blackmun. And despite the anti-communism, as we all learned, only Nixon could go to China. He was also, I believe, responsible for SCHIP.

    In the end, I think he believed that he had to win – with no holds barred – so that he could do the things that he believed were in the best interest of the country.

    Nixon is a complicated character in our history. But I don’t think the current situation can be dropped at his feet (nor at the feet of Reagan). I think the problem is that this latest generation of “conservatives” (and I use that term very, very loosely) isn’t really interested in governing. That was not the case with Nixon, Reagan, or the elder Bush – say what you want about their policies, but they were definitely interested in government. GWB, McCain, Palin, and their ilk, don’t seem to care about actually governing. I’m not sure what the root cause of that is, but it’s half of the base of the problem, as I see. The other half is that the parties have polarized – there are no liberal republicans and very few conservative democrats.

    As for the nastiness, it was always there. Jefferson and Adams didn’t speak for a couple of decades because they didn’t trust each other. Hamilton had a personal vendetta against Aaron Burr that led him to throw his weight behind someone else so Burr wouldn’t hold high office. I think the Civil War goes without saying. And during WWII (and the run up to it), there was a lot of nastiness directed at FDR among conservatives (see Lindbergh, Charles). I think the amount on display runs in cycles and gets worse when the economy tanks.

  43. 43
    ds says:

    First, HCR secured 60 votes in the Senate, and now the Cowboys are beating the Saints. Two miracles in one day!

    I think once you had Lieberman it was pretty obvious they would get to 60. Aside from Lieberman, all of the Democratic caucus either has an ideological or political interest in passing something.

    Nelson is relatively conservative, but he’s not a wingnut. He’s been working in good faith on the health care bill for months. To turn around and be the guy that killed the bill and tanked the Obama presidency would take outright malice.

    Unless Lieberman snatches the football away from us at the end, we’ll pass the motherfucker. Just barely.

    So please, left-wing bloggers, keep bitching about the bill. We need to keep Lieberman happy until it gets to the president’s desk.

  44. 44
    donovong says:

    @kuvasz
    :

    More like by Sirhan Sirhan.

  45. 45
    handy says:

    That’s it. I need to read Nixonland, dammit. This stuff just sounds too fascinating and too enlightening to our current situation.

  46. 46
    DanaHoule says:

    Also, racism has been a huge asset to the GOP in recent decades, but it’s increasingly becoming a liability in most of the country. The country is far more diverse racially and religiously than it was in 1968. Probably the most important legislation at changing the character of American since the New Deal was the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (which was shepherded to passage by Ted Kennedy). In 1965 only about 5% of Americans were foreign born, and most were from Europe (esp Western Europe). By 2000, 35 years of the new immigration policy, 11.1% of the population was foreign-born; of the foreign-born, only 16% were from Europe, with about half from Latin America and a quarter from Asia.

    That’s a very different political environment in which to engage in nativist politics. It still works in places which haven’t had much immigration (predominately in Appalachia, the Ozarks, and much of the Deep South outside the major cities). One of the long-term problems for the GOP is that they haven’t been able to ween themselves off the nativism.

  47. 47
    mattH says:

    And despite the anti-communism, as we all learned, only Nixon could go to China.

    Because of the anti-communism he could go to China, much like only a Democratic president could dismantle Welfare.

    very few conservative democrats.

    hehehe

    +2.5 (and 3 better be it, work tomorrow)

  48. 48
    AhabTRuler says:

    @KG: You are too charitable. Nixon always had a self-pitying, resentful streak to him, and he started out red-baiting with the best of them. Nasty drunk, nasty man.

    ETA: What Chuck said.

    Heh. Dick Nixon before he dicks you.

  49. 49

    @KG:
    Maybe you need to find out a bit more about Nixon pre-Ike.

  50. 50
    S. cerevisiae says:

    This is the kind of intelligent thread that keeps me coming to this blog. I was a kid during Nixon and I learned to hate Reagan, but what amazes me is how so many of Nixon’s policies would bring out the OMG SOCHALIZM wingnut frenzy today.

    It’s not that people are stupider, it’s that stupid people have a much easier time being heard.

  51. 51
    pj says:

    On policy, there is scant equivalence between Nixon with today’s wingnut. But go ahead and watch the ads from ’68 and ’72, here. You’ll see all the familiar buttons being pushed. The Daddy figure, the fear mongering, the race baiting, the class resentment. It’s been their Presidential game plan for 40 years, and Nixon was the one who perfected it.

  52. 52
    mr. whipple says:

    All I remember from the Nixon years was this: I’d get up at 5 am or so, and deliver the news to the suburbanites on my paper route. I remember people had blue star stickers on their front windows, but never grasped the gravity of that symbol. I was too young to know what that meant, exactly, except that people were worried.

    When the kids were killed at Kent State, we had a discussion at the dinner table, and my dad angrily remarked that the kids had it comin’; that there needed to be order, while a tear rolled down his left eye.

    He made helicopter roters at the berrylium plant, and he probabaly got Parkison’s from exposure to the War Dust made in the manufacture of those berrylium helicopter rotors that dropped napalm goo on brown people half a world away.

    MrW: +5, and remembering my dad.

  53. 53
    DougJ says:

    I don’t think Nixon, at his core, was much of a racist.

    I don’t either. I think he was a political visionary.

  54. 54
    khead says:

    I don’t either. I think he was a political visionary.

    Visionary? I think the word you may be looking for here is opportunist.

  55. 55
    fraught says:

    When Nixon was running for president in 1960 people began to talk about his campaign for the senate in 1950. “Helen Gahagan Douglas” they said, remember what he did to her. She lost to Nixon because of his smear campaign against her.It was his first smear campaign and it was a learning experience for him. She was the first to call him Tricky Dick. Nixon was not the first crazy politician but he was the most clearly morally unmoored major political figure, excepting McCarthy, after the war. Remember, Nixon grew up on Roosevelt hatred which was still virulent during his vice presidency. He never lost his racist inner core and thought the Kennedy’s were faking their support of civil rights. Nixon was a man completely out of focus his entire life. Even when he was in the center of things, he was out on the edge in his understanding of the times he represented.

  56. 56
    Shygetz says:

    First of all, you NEED to finish reading Nixonland, DougJ. Best, most approachable book on the subject I’ve read in a long time (although I don’t agree with all of it).

    That said, I think that the key approach Nixon brought was the idea of the 4-year campaign process. In my opinion, Nixon’s administration was the one that finally pegged politics, not policy, as the sole business of the politician, and EVERY action in the Nixon administration was meant first and foremost to weaken Nixon’s enemies and strengthen his allies.

    Nixon also was the one who helped pioneer the social reactionary/big business alliance, although he was modeling this after what Reagan was doing in California.

  57. 57
    Tricky Dick says:

    As if Watergate wasn’t enough of a legacy, look what else we have Nixon to thank for:

    Cheney’s political career began in 1969, as an intern for Congressman William A. Steiger during the Richard Nixon Administration. He then joined the staff of Donald Rumsfeld, who was then Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity from 1969–70.[12] He held several positions in the years that followed: White House Staff Assistant in 1971, Assistant Director of the Cost of Living Council from 1971–73, and Deputy Assistant to the president from 1974–1975. It was in this position that Cheney suggested in a memo to Rumsfeld that the Ford administration should use the US Justice Department in a variety of legally questionable ways to exact retribution for an article published by The New York Times investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

  58. 58
    The Dangerman says:

    OK, at the risk of being too +’d for this thread…

    …I’m going to go far more recent than Nixon or Reagan. The latter nominated O’Connor and Kennedy – reasonably moderate by today’s standards (ok, the latter replaced Bork, IIRC). Yes, I’m ignoring Scalia.

    From my viewpoint, the Right decided that they were entitled to the Presidency after their run from 1968 through 1992; Carters single term was just an aberration after Watergate. How fucking dare some draft dodging, pot smoking, skirt chasing Democrat take it from them.

    After that loss, it went from ugly (which it has always been) to fucking ugly.

  59. 59
    Ana Gama says:

    I think he was a political visionary.

    Perhaps. More likely a political opportunist.

  60. 60

    Nick Folk in the unemployment line pretty soon.

  61. 61
    handy says:

    +’d

    The birth of a new adjective perhaps?

    I was so plussed, I puked all over my shoes.

  62. 62
    Security Commander Nyder says:

    The current crop of conservatives is not at all motivated by the desire to govern, not much motivated by any coherent ideology, or even by the idea of wielding power. They are more than anything motivated by the desire, need, overwhelming imperative to Destroy Their Enemies. Attack, attack, attack. And anyone who isn’t 100% in agreement is an enemy.

  63. 63
    Anya says:

    I just read this funny thing in Bob Cesca’s blog

    “….there appears to be a John Boehner tax — 10 percent tax on tanning beds. Seriously.”

    I think who ever added that to the HC bill has a wicked sense of humor.

  64. 64
    Jess says:

    I think that below the surface of policy disagreements, there’s a fundamental divide between those who believe a society’s health is based on diversity, adaptability, and social mobility, and those who believe it is based on purity and adherence to tradition. The latter group is going to freak out in fear and rage at any perceived contamination–and the combination of mass media, civil rights, women’s liberation, and the sexual revolution created a perfect storm of “contamination” of public life in America, with the family values warriors stripped of their traditional “rights” to purge society of those contaminants. I guess Nixon and his heirs just figured out how to ride the wave of frustration, promising power to the impotent.

  65. 65
    BFR says:

    was Nixon the most influential American of the last 50 years?

    I think that places far too much importance on what happened in the 60’s. If you want to look at the most important American of the last 50 years, it’s probably the ghost of FDR to be honest.

    After the Civil War, the US was generally content to leave the south alone in its backwardness. When the 30s came around and FDR radically expanded the scope of the federal government one of the outcomes was to kick start a forced modernization in the south (especially through TVA and the like).

    Not much effort was placed on impacting the culture at that time, so there wasn’t an immediate political shift but the expansion of the federal govt (plus technology like radio, cars, etc) opened a window so that the northerners could see what was going on in the old confederacy to an extent not previously possible.

    Fast forward to the end of WWII and Truman starts chipping away at segregation, then Ike builds on FDRs legacy by expanding commerce via the interstate highway system, opening the south up even more.

    When JFK & LBJ come along, there’s suddenly a real social tension – northern liberals are appalled to see what their southern co-democrats are up to and LBJ is only too happy to push through the civil rights act.

    Nixon/Reagan/Goldwater weren’t geniuses – someone was going to figure out how to milk white resentment eventually. I suspect we’re just now getting towards the end of it now as most southern states have metro areas that aren’t culturally that different from other regions anymore.

  66. 66
    handy says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Also, the right managed to build up some big messages in this country, stuff like “liberal media” and those nine scariest words. A whole generation of actively voting Americans have internalized these things very deeply, which I think over time has managed to push the Republicans even more rightward.

  67. 67
    Soylent Green says:

    Nixon signed the nation’s most landmark environmental measures into law. Creation of the EPA and passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and NEPA (which required agencies to prepare environmental impact statements). Try getting any of that stuff through today. Yes, his politics were dirty, but he was never a wingnut.

  68. 68
    Jim says:

    OT, but in the column preceding this one Gail Collins kicked Lieberman squarely in the nuts.

  69. 69
    The Dangerman says:

    @handy:

    Also, the right managed to build up some big messages in this country, stuff like “liberal media” and those nine scariest words…

    For the fear of complete humiliation, 9 words?

    IIRC, the “liberal media” happened with CNN; before that time, it was the big 3 and that was it. Once the airwaves opened up, it all had to be attacked (and brought us Faux News).

  70. 70
    Texas Dem says:

    Unrelated sports update: Cowboys beat Saints, 24-17. It was close, but the Boys held on (sort of like HCR).

  71. 71
    The Dangerman says:

    @Jim:

    OT, but in the column preceding this one Gail Collins kicked Lieberman squarely in the nuts.

    Link for the non-sober please?

  72. 72
    Yutsano says:

    @Texas Dem: Oh great. Now I’ll have insufferable Cowboys fans to deal with at work tomorrow.

  73. 73
    KG says:

    @Soylent Green:

    Yes, his politics were dirty, but he was never a wingnut.

    That’s what I was trying to say.

  74. 74
    BR says:

    I know this will seem at first a bit off-topic, but consider someone like Derrick Jensen, who’s a….hmm…non-pacifist environmentalist:

    http://video.google.com/videop.....lQfgof3JBQ

    (The video is entertaining but slightly disturbing.)

    It makes me wonder – why is it that if you’re someone like him who seems to advocate dismantling dams so that salmon can swim free and other things of that nature – you’d be called an “eco terrorist” or something like that.

    On the other hand, if you are a neo-con who continually advocates bombing some country or the other, you get invited on Meet the Press.

    I don’t know what to think about him, but I’m really not sure why it’s like that.

  75. 75
    DougJ says:

    Yes, his politics were dirty, but he was never a wingnut.

    It was never personal, it was just business.

  76. 76
    BFR says:

    @The Dangerman:

    IIRC, the “liberal media” happened with CNN

    I think the war on “liberal” started sooner than that – in the late 60s. It’s a great target if you’re going after the white resentment crowd, since one meaning of the word liberal is permissive.

    So, if you’re trying to gin up white votes after a series of major riots and your opponent is a self-described liberal, then you can just point to the riots and say “see, here is what the ‘liberals’ soft on crime policies lead to” and folks just sort of get it.

  77. 77
    Comrade Luke says:

    @Texas Dem:

    I thought I felt an orgasm coming from Bristol. I can’t wait for the week-long “analysis” on SportsCenter.

  78. 78
    Jim says:

    @Soylent Green:

    Yes, his politics were dirty, but he was never a wingnut.

    and Reagan never risked any political capital on that anti-abortion amendment to the Constitution he liked to talk about. In different ways, with different degrees of awareness, Nixon, Reagan and Poppy Bush all viewed the base they, especially the first two, created with an extremely cynical and utilitarian contempt. Dumbya was more comfortable with the Jeebus-speak and the regular guy pose, but underneath it all he was still the spoiled trust-fund baby from Walker’s Point and Skull and Bones. In his arrogance and entitlement, he may have been furthest away from them.

    Which brings us to McCain Palin– the Republican nominee with probably the least in common with the Church-basement, angry white tribalist base, and he picks Sarah Palin, in every way a product of that movement, and if she does eventually make a serious run for the presidency, either as a Republican or an independent*, she may just shatter the GOP in a way that makes the current tension in the Democratic-Progressive movement look like an afternoon of paintball between college dorms.

    *I don’t think she will do either. I think she’s cagey and greedy, she’ll stay on the sidelines and cash the checks.

  79. 79
    Jim says:

    I think the war on “liberal” started sooner than that – in the late 60s. It’s a great target if you’re going after the white resentment crowd, since one meaning of the word liberal is permissive.

    I’ve been trying to avoid my dumb-guy’s reference among all the erudition and serious discussion here, but Archie Bunker hated Walter Cronkite– and is the fictional incarnation of a lot of what we’re talking about here.

    @The Dangerman:

    Collins kicks Lieberman

  80. 80
    BillCinSD says:

    @Soylent Green: because of the times, he was never able to be a wingnut. I think he’d be comfortably in the wingnut armada if he came along today

  81. 81
    Ana Gama says:

    I suspect we’re just now getting towards the end of it now as most southern states have metro areas that aren’t culturally that different from other regions anymore.

    Mostly because said metro areas are populated by a significant number of northern transplants, who brought their culture with them when they moved in.

  82. 82
    handy says:

    For the fear of complete humiliation, 9 words?

    “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

    And I don’t think it’s just the crazy whacko teabag element we love to poke fun at that has digested part if not of all that sentiment, either.

  83. 83
    Shygetz says:

    @DougJ:

    It was never personal, it was just business.

    No. No, that is exactly wrong. For Nixon, it was intensely personal. That was his downfall–he was deeply paranoid on a personal level. He didn’t think that people were out to get him because they didn’t like his policies. He thought that people were out to get him because he wasn’t a Washington blueblood, and therefore he determined to destroy them before they could destroy him. Reagan brought the same style of politics without the personal element.

  84. 84
    jwb says:

    @Ana Gama: Vice versa, the exurbs of the northern metro areas are growing more wingnutty as the country club goopers of the suburbs get displaced by the evangelical goopers of the exurbs.

  85. 85
    celticdragon says:

    @Soylent Green:

    Agreed.

    An extremely strange mix of paranoia, Machiavellian subterfuge, resentment and actual flashes of progressive policy.

    I have heard several times he would have been better suited as a Secretary of State.

  86. 86
    Et Tu Brutus? says:

    It’s normal to feel that “history” begins with events experienced during childhood- in my case JFK’s assassination- or eloquently delineated by historians who themselves experienced those events, such as in “Nixonland”. But hey, people have always been this stupid, there’s just a lot more of us running around now. You could ask, did all this shit start with McKinley and Hearst ( the shit being yellow journalism in the service of corporate interest)? Did rightwing extremism hit a peak with the “Business Plot to overthrow FDR” and the fascist American businessmen who surreptitiously supported Hitler and Mussolini? How about that Civil War, slavery, attempted genocide of the indigenous population of North America…etc, etc?

  87. 87
    celticdragon says:

    @DougJ:

    I disagree.

    Nixon was very, very personal in his dislikes and vendettas. As has been said repeatedly, his paranoia was actually crippling.

  88. 88
    Jim says:

    And I don’t think it’s just the crazy whacko teabag element we love to poke fun at that has digested part if not of all that sentiment, either.

    This leads to my corollary to DougJ’s question: I know people have complained about taxes since Ogg told the rest of the Clan of the Cave Bear that he was keeping the choicest cuts of woolly mammoth because he killed it, but it seems to me that one of Reagan’s many damaging victories was to generalize into virtually unchallenged folk wisdom the notion that all taxation is thievery in the name of the undeserving, and that all government spending is “waste, fraud and abuse”. Again, I know about peasant revolts and JFK’s tax cuts, but I can’t imagine campaigns against estate and capital gains taxes having the resonance they do today pre-1980. Am I right about this, or was it ever thus?

  89. 89
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @bago:

    So Gawd couldn’t be angry with the Republican obstructionism and its preventing a better health care bill? Maybe Gawd is angry with them because they are doing everything they can to screw over the poor and middle class. Does Erickkk, son of Erickkk, have a direct line to Gawd or are they corresponding via email? Telepathy? Vulcan mind meld? Burning bush? If xtians are only able to get to heaven through Jeebus then why are they praying to Gawd?

    Finally, if there is a Gawd do you think he really gives a shit? I thought Gawd helped those who help themselves.

    I’m going to do the xtian thing and turn the other cheek… of my ass so Erickkk, son of Erickkk, can kiss it.

  90. 90
    Something Fabulous says:

    @The Dangerman: From what I remember from what I heard growing up, it really started w/Agnew but in looking up a cite just now, saw something interesting:
    ___

    In a 1969 speech against war protesters, he said, “A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.” “In the United States today,” Agnew told a 1970 audience in San Diego, “we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism.” He went after “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and “vicars of vacillation” and “the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”
    ___
    In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, drafted by Buchanan[emphasis mine], Agnew took on the press, which he said was dominated by a “tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men, elected by no one.” It was a frontal assault, raising issues of media bias, arrogance and unaccountability that are still banging around in the American mind.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magaz.....z0aCcgPyOI

  91. 91
    Brian J says:

    Damn, I forgot to add this to the list. I need to add it back. It sounds like something I’d fly through in a few days.

  92. 92
    BFR says:

    @Ana Gama:

    Mostly because said metro areas are populated by a significant number of northern transplants, who brought their culture with them when they moved in.

    Exactly – that’s a function of the economic integration tho.

  93. 93
    BFR says:

    @Et Tu Brutus?:

    It’s normal to feel that “history” begins with events experienced during childhood- in my case JFK’s assassination- or eloquently delineated by historians who themselves experienced those events, such as in “Nixonland”.

    I think the range of possible outcomes is far more constrained than we think. Look at the 2008 elections – there was a lot of passion in the Clinton v. Obama election, but it’s hard to imagine there’s much of an impact on end policy.

    That being said, I think there are occasionally moments where that’s not entirely true. The late 20s/early 30s strike me as one of those eras. Germany was going to end up with a fanatical nationalist, but I’m not sure it had to be Hitler – it could have been another Mussolini/Franco type, focussing their energies internally rather than externally.

    By the same token, the US could have ended up with a progressive who was inclined to tinker around the edges, but we ended up with FDR instead, who was pushing the envelope as far as it could go on the progressive side.

    I think most of the politics in the US from 1932 to the present can be tied back to specific actions from the FDR administration, even if they never envisioned the consequences.

  94. 94
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Who would win a zombie battle of titans? Zombie Nixon or Zombie Reagan?

  95. 95
    SarahLoving says:

    Random Question:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what does the “+” mean when next to someone’s name?

    As in “DougJ +5” or “khead +3”?

    How many drinks one has had thus far? GMT? Fertility treatments gone awry?!

    It’s driving me nuts, someone please enlighten me.

  96. 96
    Quackosaur says:

    @SarahLoving: It’s drinks, though I don’t think there’s a standard definition of “drink”.

  97. 97
    BFR says:

    @SarahLoving:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what does the “+” mean when next to someone’s name?

    Number of drinks. It’s apparently something Dan Rather (I think) did back in the day when communicating after hours.

  98. 98
    The Dangerman says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Zombie Nixon or Zombie Reagan?

    Nixon. Reagan was just an actor playing a part…

    …but that would be an excellent Celebrity Death Match if that series came back (more correctly, Celebrity Post-Death Match).

  99. 99
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    My close brush with Nixon was in 1974. He came to Spokane for the opening of Expo ’74 and was greeted by this DFH who was with a bunch of other DFHs. We were able to get up near the back (highest) bleachers and when Tricky Dick started talking we unfurled half of a white bedsheet we had snuck in that said “JAIL TO THE CHIEF” in nice big bold letters. Tricky Dick didn’t skip a beat in delivering his speech but we made him look at that sheet the whole time he was talking. We were polite and quiet up to the end of his speech when we began chanting our message. He beat a hasty retreat, I hope we helped!

    Ahh, the good old days of protesting a President right to his face. I wish we had kept the sign but we left it draped over the top bleachers as our parting message.

    It was a good time for all concerned.

  100. 100
    Anya says:

    @celticdragon: From some of the things I’ve read about Nixon, he had a bit of that victimhood in him. He felt persecuted and acted in a vindictive manner towards those he viewed as his enemies.

    As for racism, he surrounded himself with racists and anti-Semites, so how can he not share their views.

  101. 101
    2th&nayle says:

    @BFR: I agree with you’re assessment that the times created Hitler. If it had not been him, it would likely have been someone else of the same ilk. I think to some degree the same thing could be said for Roosevelt. The catalyst for both individuals coming into power was the environment created by The Great Depression. In that regard, the long term effects of the international economic collapse of 1929 might be said to be the defining element of modern politics. But I’m probably just stating the obvious.

  102. 102
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @SarahLoving:

    Drinks, or in my case, bong hits.

    @The Dangerman:

    Yes, Nixon would win but Reagan would look damned good losing.

  103. 103
    Andy K says:

    @The Dangerman:

    IIRC, the “liberal media” happened with CNN; before that time, it was the big 3 and that was it. Once the airwaves opened up, it all had to be attacked (and brought us Faux News).

    I’m sort of confused about what you’re trying to say here, but from what I recall, when Ted Turner was getting ready to launch CNN he marketed it as the conservative answer to the liberal news on the networks.

  104. 104
    SarahLoving says:

    @Quackosaur: @BFR:

    Thanks ya’ll.

  105. 105
    Andy K says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal):

    …or in my case, bong hits.

    Duuude…

  106. 106
    The Dangerman says:

    @Andy K:

    …he marketed it as the conservative answer to the liberal news on the networks.

    This I do not recall, but I’ll check those +’s (and -‘s).

    It would surprise me given he’s quite liberal (see Fonda, Jane).

  107. 107
    bago says:

    @The Dangerman: See Honda, Motor in the back of. Soon to be followed with a statement of preferences vis a vis an anaconda.

  108. 108
    stickler says:

    Jim:

    Again, I know about peasant revolts and JFK’s tax cuts, but I can’t imagine campaigns against estate and capital gains taxes having the resonance they do today pre-1980. Am I right about this, or was it ever thus?

    Yes, it was thus, back before the Progressive era beginning about 1890 or so. Big Money had captured the government, and spread the Victorian gospel of rugged individualist Americanism so successfully that people who should’ve known better voted just the way the Big Money guys told them to. “Tax the rich? What are you — an anarchist, bomb-throwing, Communard?” “Coin silver? Go off the gold standard, print paper money? Dilute the currency? How then will J.P. Morgan build American financial power?”

    And so on. Only with the Progressive era (with all its flaws, cf.: Woodrow Wilson) did people begin to wonder if collective action in the form of unions mightn’t be just as justified as collective action in the form of limited liability corporations. Or that maybe the U.S. Government should have power over Standard Oil instead of vice-versa.

  109. 109
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Andy K:

    I have an old clock in my garage that always reads 4:20.
    Speaking of that…

    Ahhhhh…

    Getting time to clean the bong, which I hate but the reward for that is that it’s packed with resins. :) I think I have run over a QP though this baby since the last cleaning.

    We hippies like to recycle.

  110. 110
    xian says:

    even JFK had to defend and qualify his being a liberal.

    Nixon’s policies may seem moderate now in retrospect (bumpersticker noted circa 2005: “Never thought I’d miss Nixon”) but he was still working within the late New Deal / Great Society consensus. The pendulum had only just begun to swing.

    I do agree that he was intelligent and interested in governing, something not true of the W. Bush / Palin types.

  111. 111
    Jim says:

    It would surprise me given he’s quite liberal (see Fonda, Jane).

    My recollection is that when they married, everyone remarked on the liberal crusader marrying the conservative billionaire. Seems to me environmentalism, Clenisgate and general republican insanity (and maybe being married to Jane) moved him toward the center

  112. 112
    2th&nayle says:

    I have heard several times he would have been better suited as a Secretary of State.

    I think he would damn sure have been a better SofS than the one he had. The self-servin’ prick!

  113. 113
    stickler says:

    DougL:

    Wow! You saw Nixon at Expo ’74 — and protested him! As I grew up outside Spokane, and attended that Expo as a wee tot, I salute you. (I was 6 at the time, managed to get separated from my folks, and was found by security while standing there watching the big metal Recycling Goat sucking up tin cans. Good times. I still remember the USSR Pavilion with its great big head of Lenin.)

    Nixon is a special case, a product of his times as much as a shaper of them. He was a fan of big government because he’d grown up in the 20s and 30s and had served in WWII — he’d seen big government work.

    But he was also utterly without scruples or morals, and intensely paranoid. Few men have been able to nurse a grudge like Nixon.

  114. 114
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Jim:

    it seems to me that one of Reagan’s many damaging victories was to generalize into virtually unchallenged folk wisdom the notion that all taxation is thievery in the name of the undeserving, and that all government spending is “waste, fraud and abuse”.

    IMHO those notions briefly got displaced by the Depression and World War II, in which there was the flowering of the social-welfare/neighborly/all-in-this-together ethos. (Um, as long as you and your neighbors were both white, ahem.) There was a kind of American communitarianism that contested Communism. But as the Depression/WWII moment faded, the ethos waned. And white racial backlash made its waning truly fucking nasty.

  115. 115
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @stickler:

    I wouldn’t have missed it for anything and it was easy because my Mom’s boyfriend built some of the areas there and he got our family permanent passes for the run of Expo ’74. We lived in that place just about all summer.

    You brought up that recycling goat and I had to laugh my ass off at that. I was at Riverfront Park (the old Expo site) in 2006 and the goat was there and still hard at work. We used to hang around the park and party all night. We would get wasted and eventually we would go ‘feed’ the goat. That consisted of lighting a cigarette, firing up the goat and letting him suck it down to the filter before releasing it. Then someone would do the same with a beer, then someone would piss in the goat, someone else would dig in the trash and feed it hot dogs and other crap and so it would go on until we would eventually plug the goat up with everything we were feeding it.

    We weren’t the only ones who did this…lol! That goat would always be working for the next park party, pretty damned tough old goat. ;)

  116. 116
    Et Tu Brutus? says:

    @BFR: ” The times throw up the man”; albeit, the particulars of unfolding events no doubt depend upon the peculiarities of powerful individuals, just as you point out. It’s true, I agree, that Germany was going to elect a Nationalistic leader regardless, but Hitler only gave full-throated life to resentments smoldering in the German psyche- recently in the case of war reparations, and historically long standing in the case of antisemitism. In the same vein, Nixon tapped into both the long held Republican grudge against the New Deal, as well as more recent middle American angst with the counterculture, IMO.

  117. 117
    Jules says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal):

    I think if God really hated health care reform he/she would have made sure Congress could get the hell out of town instead of getting them stuck in DC with nothing else to do but vote on HCR.

  118. 118
    Seebach says:

    What’s sad is that Nixon really did have a lot to resent in his life. Oddly though, he took that resentment of his class betters, and used to to foment a bunch of policies that ended up hurting the poor and lower classes. The Kennedys I’m sure appreciate all of the extra tax breaks and loopholes, liberal as they are.

  119. 119
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Jules:

    Good point! Another way to look at it is that if there really was a god I would think he would have burned Capitol Hill and salted the ground a long time ago.

  120. 120
    Comrade Luke says:

    @xian:

    JFK’s “liberal” problem paled in comparison to his Catholicism. People thought he’d listen to whatever the Pope said.

    I can’t imagine a Democratic president who is a Catholic now…

  121. 121
    Hunter Gathers says:

    I am reminded of an old Vulcan proverb.

    “Only Nixon could go to China.”

  122. 122
    Whispers says:

    I can’t imagine a Democratic president who is a Catholic now…

    A Democratic Catholic is Vice-President right now.

  123. 123
    2th&nayle says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    flowering of the social-welfare/neighborly/all-in-this-together ethos.

    Your theory might go a long way in explaining why Bush and Company went to such lengths to queer the temporary feeling of unity the country experienced subsequent to the attack on the Trade Towers.

  124. 124
    Comrade Luke says:

    @Whispers:

    Let me be more specific: I can’t imagine a Democratic pro choice president.

    When I was growing up and going to Church it was all about The Good Samaritan, helping the poor, etc. Now, 20yrs later, my parent’s weekly church bulletin is telling them not to vote for so-and-so because of abortion. Right in the church bulletin! It’s just disgusting.

  125. 125
    The Raven says:

    Yes. The period 1965-75 was an extraordinarily liberal one for the USA. Governance-by-wingnut is much more the norm in US history.

  126. 126
    jayackroyd says:

    What Nixon did (and what Perlstein describes) is recognize that racism was an issue you could run on. LBJ knew this, famously saying so. George “I will never be outseggied again” Wallace knew this.

    You have to use code, and the code, as Atwater pointed out, has gotten increasingly abstract. But this is about exploiting racism.

    The effectiveness of this strategy is petering out. Too many brown people and young people who did not grow up under segregation and Jim Crow.

    But it is a potent enough political force to hold 40 Senate seats.

    Still.

  127. 127
    M. Carey says:

    “….nurse a grudge like Nixon” – Great Quote!

    re: “liberal Media”- There was a major campaign by Agnew (and Pat Buchanan) to bash the press; This is the effective start of the liberal media meme. It was based on the (I think) actual support for civil rights movement in much of the what we would now call the MSM. As a adjunct to the resentment being fostered and ginned up by the Nixonites, the press was the scapegoat. The present hate campaign is the direct descendant of this.

  128. 128
    Paul says:

    @R-Jud:

    “. Another thought: you could say that the people cynically manipulating the crazies, as Nixon did, have died off or faded away over the last 40 years, and in their place we’ve been electing a bunch of the true-believing crazies, who’ve grown up on the Republican groupthink their entire lives. The crazy just keeps boiling down and down to its pure essence.”

    Spot freakin’ terrifyingly on.

  129. 129
    jayackroyd says:

    @whispers

    SCOTUS, otoh.

    Where it arguably matters more.

  130. 130
    M. Carey says:

    “….nurse a grudge like Nixon” – Great Quote!

    re: “Liberal Media”- There was a major campaign by Agnew (and Pat Buchanan) to bash the press; This is the effective start of the liberal media meme. It was initially based on the (I think) actual support for civil rights movement in much of the what we would now call the MSM.
    Then, he attacked the press for reporting his illegal acts (Watergate). This campaign was used as an adjunct to the resentment being fostered and ginned up by the Nixonites, the press was the scapegoat. The present hate campaign is the direct descendant of this.

  131. 131
    Seebach says:

    Also, liberal media = Jewish media. I find it amusing when conservative jews use that line now.

  132. 132
    stickler says:

    DougL:

    Dammit! You and your ilk were the reason why that damned goat was always broken when we went to Spokane in the ’80s. C’mon, man, peeing into the goat’s mouth? That’s just sad.

    (Of course, by the time I was college-age in 1986, I’m sure some of my friends would have done the same.)

  133. 133
    stickler says:

    Apropos of nothing, but DougL prompted me to do it. Here’s the article on the 1974 “Garbage Goat” of Spokane:

    “Garbage Goat has been eating trash for 34 years” (2007).

    Good times.

    Back to the thread topic, sort of, I find myself +4 and needing to … um … step out of the room so I can write a letter to the President.

    (Euphemism which I believe achieved currency during Nixon’s tenure.)

  134. 134

    Hey! Any front-pager still up? We can haz late-night open thread, pleez? Oh, and TUNCH!

    kthxbai.

  135. 135
    Jim says:

    “….nurse a grudge like Nixon” – Great Quote!

    If we’re bringing up Nixon and grudges, I can’t resist throwing in my favorite Nixon story: He once said Barbara Bush was the only real man in the Bush family; he admired her because she knew how to hate.

  136. 136
    Jim says:

    Looking for a quote from Nixon on Big Bad Bar Bush, found this

    And Richard Nixon said that she (Barbara Bush) was the person who scared him the most in all his years in Washington.

  137. 137
    mcd410x says:

    DO I LOOK LIKE CHARLIE BROWN?

  138. 138
    CaseyL says:

    Joe McGinnis wrote a groundbreaking book about the Nixon campaign called “The Selling of the President,” about how Nixon’s election was the result and culmination of a theory that Presidents could be marketed and sold to the public like any other commodity. I think it was Hunter Thompson who said that if anyone had written a book about Eisenhower like that, they would have been chased through the streets by enraged mobs. With Nixon, though, people basically shrugged and said, “Yeah: so what?”

    To answer the question: Yes, Nixon started the slide; and yes, Reagan perfected it. By “Nixon” and “Reagan,” though, I include as primary influences and shapers the people around them. The people around Nixon fed and nurtured his resentments, paranoias, and self-pity; the people around Reagan shaped and used him as the amiable, not-very-bright front man. I do think that if Nixon and Reagan had not existed, the forces who came to power with them would likely have found other front men. There is no lack of small-minded, anti-empathy, IGMFU people in politics. Politics is, after all, a profession that requires no deep thought or talent to succeed beyond a gift of gab and surface plausibility.

    It pains me deeply to say this, but I think the progressivism and egalitarianism that dominated American politics from FDR’s time through Johnson was the historical aberration, and the plutocratic disregard for “the common good” that dominated American politics before and after that era is the baseline, the norm. That 30-year interval was an anomaly, perhaps brought about by the traumas of the Great Depression and WWII, or by the GI Bill and amazing economic growth of the postwar era. The GI Bill opened up higher education, and the high-income professions, to working class people en masse for the first time; the possibilities seemed endless, and an America that had endured and triumphed over a depression and the Axis seemed able to do anything it set its mind to. That’s how we got, not only the great progressive legislation of the era, but also things like the space program.

    [Yes, the space program was a Cold War thing, a tit to the USSR’s tat, but the point is that we were confident we could pull off something as momentous as sending astronauts to the moon – not only confident we could do it, but also confident that we shoulddo it; that that kind of high adventure and achievement was worth doing in and of itself.]

    It’s heartbreaking, but we’re just not that country anymore. I feel fortunate to have lived through some of that era – though I think I would find today’s world a little easier to handle if I hadn’t.

  139. 139
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @asiangrrlMN: I think this thread was claimed by the non-sober a while back. Grab a drink!

    Puddle +1.5, but considering that the 0.5 is a 90-Minute IPA and those hit me hard, it might be closer to 2.5.

  140. 140
    Yutsano says:

    @mcd410x:

    DO I LOOK LIKE CHARLIE BROWN?

    Do you really want an honest answer to this question?

  141. 141
    bago says:

    Shares his neighbors with a building
    Knows addresses of by heart
    Draws a picture of his future
    Keeps the paper close at hand
    Packs his tongue into a suitcase
    Suffers terror on the train
    And he wants to start a movement
    Cause he’s indestructible
    Destructible..suffers terror on the train
    He indestructible
    And you know they’ll never find us
    And they’ll leave us alone
    And if we just keep on talking
    Then we’ll still make it home
    There’s commotion and promotion
    Now they’ve done good every war
    Sell our pictures to a paper
    Now that everyone must know
    __
    Trading satellites for substance
    Let spectators pay their way
    We’ll invade the trevi fountain
    Now that everyone must pay
    Mama and babies mother tragedy
    Babies mothers tragedy
    Babies mothers tragedy
    Terrifies the kill

    Orbital did it first.

  142. 142
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @stickler:

    When you get a bunch of stoned guys together, they usually sit around bullshitting. Add alcohol to that and silly shit ensues. We used to cruise Riverside every weekend (this was before the cops shut it down), park the motorcycles, cars and trucks on Post street and then go have fun all night. We called ourselves the Post Street Partiers.

    Once a friend of mine and I got popped by Johnny Law with two beers in hand on Post. He screeched up next to the car we were standing by and when he turned to grab his clipboard Clay and I bent down and slid our beers underneath the car, standing up before the cop turned back. When he got out came around the car to the sidewalk he was pissed and wanted to know where our beers were. We were all like ‘what beers?’…lol!

    Our buds who were sitting in the car had beers and he assumed that we had handed them off to them (they were drinking Bud and we were drinking marginally better Lowbrau). He confiscated the three beers they had and wrote Clay and I up for drinking in public. When we went to court we contested the case and the cop showed up and the three beers were there as evidence. What happened next was absolutely cool.

    The judge heard the charges and when the prosecutor called the cop to the stand the judge asked him “Did you see them drinking the beer?” and the cop answered “No, I only saw them holding the open containers”. The judge then explained to the prosecutor and officer that his interpretation of the open container law is that consumption has to be witnessed for there to be an offense. The judge said that the way the law was worded (it was a relatively new version of an older law) a person could stand around in public all day with an open container and nothing could be done until that person was caught drinking from it.

    Case dismissed. Clay and I were shocked that it went down like that and we were out of there (after thanking the judge!) in a heartbeat. The cops kept trying to bust us but they never caught us again. We would even line the empties up in store windows (the ledges outside) and every time the cops would make their rounds there would be more bottles.

    Good times…lol! I later met the judge at a local tavern (he was their ‘pro’ pool player in local tournaments) and thanked him again. He remembered me and we laughed about the case. He was one cool judge as people were smoking joints in the upper levels of the bar and he didn’t care one bit. That place became my favorite hangout (The Red Robin on North Monroe St.) for several years until they closed it down.

    Yes, the seventies were a good time despite what some people say…lol! :)

    Edit: After the cop ticketed us and left, Clay and I retrieved our beers out from under the car and ribbed the guys in the car for losing theirs. We saved them a ticket though!

  143. 143
    Ruemara says:

    People were this dumb before fire, Doug. We just had predators to weed them out before they could spawn.

  144. 144

    @asiangrrlMN:

    This is UR open thread.

    I was feeling kinda down yesterday and had this song in my head all day.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQMcA0Q4T6c

    today was much better.

  145. 145
    Suzan says:

    Read Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate The Years of Lyndon Johnson for a spell binding account of politics before the Nixon presidency. I don’t think Nixon changed American politics as much as realigned it. America’s greatest problem throughout our history: what to do with the South.

    You think Lieberman and Nelson are tough to get along with, think about getting anything done with Southern politicians playing on our team.

  146. 146
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    my comcast internet has been down since around 4 pm and just came back on. wonder if anyone elses was.

  147. 147
    Comrade Luke says:

    @CaseyL:

    Maybe you’re right, but I think it might be a bit more complex than that.

    From what I can tell, big change in this country only seems to happen after disasters. Not exactly like Naomi Klein’s “disaster capitalism”, but more like disaster politics.

    The problem is that in the past there were people who stepped in and rose to the challenge, be it Lincoln during and after the Civil War, FDR as the result of the Depression, LBJ as a result of Kennedy getting assassinated, and even GWB after 9/11 (from the Republican’s perspective everything was going great there, until Iraq didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped).

    Unfortunately, in this period of a war debacle and massive financial meltdown we got…Obama. We can talk all we want about Congress – and they’re certainly culpable – but there’s no question that Obama hasn’t taken advantage of the situation to make more radical change.

    As Bill Moyers said last night, instead of shaking up the establishment Obama’s decided to head the establishment, and one year after being elected on a platform suggesting radical change all we have is a bailout of Wall Street and an escalation of a war.

  148. 148
    Andy K says:

    @asiangrrlMN:

    Check this out. I’m not certain, but I think you’ll like it.

  149. 149
    2th&nayle says:

    @CaseyL: I am very sorry to say that I am in total agreement with everything you posit here. I am equally saddened to report that my give-a-shit quotient is such that I find it harder and harder with each passing day to not just throw in the towel, climb a tree, and learn to play the flute.

  150. 150
    Anne Laurie says:

    @R-Jud:

    Both McCarthy and Reagan were, in a way, Nixon’s proteges. And, as you’ll know from what you’ve read of Nixonland, he had others.

    … Including Darth Cheney himself, whose first national political job was in the bowels of the CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President, and they used that acronym unselfconsciously, because those were simpler times and even simpler still Rethugs). As I’ve been saying for years, all Cheney learned from Watergate was not “don’t commit crimes”, it was “Never confess, never back down, never give up the records.” Also Rumsfeld, and most of the U.S.-based pond scum from the Iran-Contra mess. When it comes to high crimes & misdemeanors, Nixon’s administration is like Chernobyl, the gift that keeps on giving.

    @KG:

    I don’t think Nixon, at his core, was much of a racist. And I think up until the 1960 election, he was a decent and honorable guy. But I think he honestly felt that the Kennedys stole the 1960 election through dirty tricks and I think that is what turned him into much more of a cynic.

    As others have said, Helen Gahagan Douglas would differ with you there. What the Kennedys gave the eternally victimized Nixon was a target for his rampant paranoia. It could be argued, although I don’t agree, that the Kennedy embrace of social justice & progressivism solidified Nixon’s natural ignorant-white-dirt-farmer sympathies into fanatic racism, xenophobia & anti-feminism.

  151. 151
    bago says:

    Someone turned on something that just killed the lower end of the 2.4 ghz spectrum ater the snow started, I had to jack the router up 8 channels before I could get wireless again.

  152. 152
    Anne Laurie says:

    @BFR:

    After the Civil War, the US was generally content to leave the south alone in its backwardness. When the 30s came around and FDR radically expanded the scope of the federal government one of the outcomes was to kick start a forced modernization in the south (especially through TVA and the like).
    __
    Not much effort was placed on impacting the culture at that time, so there wasn’t an immediate political shift but the expansion of the federal govt (plus technology like radio, cars, etc) opened a window so that the northerners could see what was going on in the old confederacy to an extent not previously possible.

    Yah, in many ways the “real” U.S. government treated the Confederate-bloc states as a conquered province between the 1870s and the 1920s… the natives were allowed to continue their endless tribal feuds and embrace their primitive superstitions as long as they didn’t make too much trouble for their more civilized neighbors to the north / east. The few exceptional bright or talented specimens among the general waste of human flesh could only hope to work hard enough to escape across the border(s) to Civilization. Not so different from the way the French treated their West African colonies — or the British treated their Irish subjects.

    I’d argue the real game-changer in American politics during the first half of the twentieth century was the vast population increase in the Western / Mountain states, whose newest inhabitants were largely drawn from & sympathetic to the Old Confederacy habits of mind. It was not a coincidence that Goldwater was from Arizona and both Nixon & Reagan from California. (Okay, Reagan was technically a transplant to the West Coast, but he left the Midwest early and never looked back.) Just as the United Nations was “overrun”, starting in the 1950s, with newly independent third-world-and-worse developing nations whose representatives divided their attention between selling their fellow citizens to the highest first-world bidder and crafting pointless resolutions declaring Israel a non-state, the “Conservative Triumph” that started with Goldwater, rooted itself into the Village under Nixon, and blossomed under Reagan has turned Congress into a global laughingstock where the strutting pygmies of Heartland America(tm) have wasted two hundred years of political and actual treasure on a 30-year binge of looting & corruption under a thin veneer of “social values”.

  153. 153
    Comrade Luke says:

    How did I miss this:

    Supreme Court Guts Due Process Protection

    I’m starting to think that “Barack Obama, Superstar Constitutional Lawyer” might have to get added to the list that includes “Karl Rove, Political Genius” and “Rahm Emmanuel, Genius Negotiator”.

    Are these guys any different from the self-proclaimed “geniuses” that run Wall Street? No wonder they’re all protecting themselves.

  154. 154
    KG says:

    @Comrade Luke: I dunno, I think Obama is the perfect person for the times (and I say this as someone who didn’t vote for him – don’t worry folks, I voted third party). He’s changed things subtly thus far, the biggest, I think, is by making the Legislature actually legislate on his biggest priority. Honestly, when was the last time that a president actually said, “ok, this is what we need, go do it”? I’m 31, every president I’ve been politically aware of (granted that’s three, but still) would have sent a bill to Congress and said “pass this, dammit!” I doubt that he’s actually going to weaken the presidency vis a vis the Congress, but I think the subtle power shift matters more than people think.

    As for the progressive/conservative split in our history, I think we’re looking at a split decision. I think progressives will generally win on social issues (things the government doesn’t necessarily have to spend money on – gay marriage, civil rights, abortion, etc), and conservatives will likely win on taxes. Welfare is a harder one to call, progressives will win during tough economic times, conservatives during good economic times. I think conservatives win on taxes not because they are necessarily right (personally, I believe we should have just enough taxes to run a small surplus and no more, but that’s just me), but because of the idea of upward mobility.

    If I’m born poor, and I know I’m going to live poor, and die poor, I don’t care what the guy living on the top of the hill pays in taxes. But, if I grow up poor and know that I could become rich, then I’m likely going to see progressive marginal tax rates as a means of keeping me from being rich. I’m also going to see the estate tax as preventing me from giving my hard earned money to my family when I die. This is an easy story to sell, it paints progressives as people wanting to keep you from getting rich by making it harder to get rich. I don’t buy it, but there are people, like my folks (one a Cuban immigrant, the other the grandson of share croppers and son of factory workers), who absolutely believe it and while they are much more socially liberal than the GOP base, they vote taxes because they are a small business. And yes, there are ways to avoid paying the basic rates, but “new money” is much less likely to know about the loopholes.

    If you want to get away from that, I think you have to move away from income tax as the basis of revenue. The more I read about it, the more interested I become in a VAT. I think that, coupled with a lower income tax that kicks in at a higher threshold (say 10% for anything over 500k, 15% for anything over 1m, and 20% for anything over 5m), would be a much better way to go.

  155. 155
    Sentient Puddle says:

    OK holy fuck, yes, 90-Minute IPAs hit me HARD. I have no idea how I keep underestimating these things.

  156. 156
    2th&nayle says:

    @Anne Laurie: After reading the Wiki piece on Douglas, I’d say it was Sheridan Downey that really stabbed Helen Douglas in the butt; Nixon’s red-baiting antics notwithstanding. When a two-term Democratic senator crosses over to endorse your Republican opponent, well, that can’t be good. I guess the Democrats affinity for shooting each other in the foot is an old and honored tradition.

  157. 157

    @KG:

    Sounds like you need to take a cue from brown acid-tripping blahblahblah and vote teabagger/DFH in 2010.

  158. 158
    Midnight Marauder says:

    If nothing else, this thread just inspired me to purchase a copy of Nixonland (hardback, bitches) from Amazon.

    Carry on.

    +5

  159. 159
    Why oh why says:

    I seem to recall that there felt like a shift around that time, but my view of things was clouded by the war and the draft. But I think it started to shift with LBJ. I remember feeling that LBJ had gone all in with Vietnam, trying to sell it almost like king george was trying to sell Iraq.

    Or Obama trying to sell the “Surge” in Afghanistan.

  160. 160
    Sly says:

    @Jonathan

    Long Island is one of the most segregated areas of the Northeast.

    The most, actually. Been that way for a while. A lot of it has to do with how the transportation infrastructure was laid out.

    There were originally plans to build lots of low-cost housing along the LIRR central lines, but that was scrapped because it might bring in the wrong sort of people (a choice which had the nice side effect of making the Island prohibitively expensive for many of their own children to live… hah!). And the parkway overpasses were specifically designed by Robert Moses to prevent busing, as long term insurance in case de facto segregation faded.

    So it shouldn’t be a surprise that, as a result, we have towns like Wyandanch (75% Black) that are adjacent to towns like Deer Park (80% White). Or Brentwood (70% Black and Latino) next to Dix Hills (85% White). With income and education spending disparities to match.

    Feature, not a bug.

  161. 161
    Balconesfault says:

    @scarshapedstar:

    When right-wingers started rationalizing Watergate, well, it was a straight line to them rationalizing My Pet Goat.

    great line

  162. 162
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    No. This did not start with Nixon. It started with Reagan. Reagan was actually the first George Bush. An guy of average intelligence, with an exterior that could be sold by the neo-con followers of Strauss to the ignorant masses as a guy you would want to sit down and have a beer with. While the real power was being managed behind the scenes by the handlers, the manipulators, the power mongers of the party.

    I still remember distinctly the reports of Reagan handlers turning out the lights in a room of reporters to shut them down from trying to ask real questions. That was the beginning of the trend to an end to a media that actually did its job as the Fourth Estate, to what we have now, a toothless mainstream journalism establishment that has become just an infotainment extension of their corporations, their message controlled by the plutocratic oligarchy as part of the overall manipulation of the masses. Cater to their ignorance, fears, and hysteria, while selling them lie after lie after lie, all with the goal of entrenching the power of the five percent or less in whom the wealth of the nation is now concentrated.

    Reagan was the dry run. Bush / Cheney was the culmination.

    What is really scary is the concentration of military power throughout the goverment and the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq that has replaced civilian control and oversight; and the use of private contracts like that with Blackwater, which has totally subverted Constitutional control of war powers and avoided any semblance of control of civilian power and law and regulation.

    Here again: Bush / Cheney was the culmination.

    No it was not like this under Bush. Yes it has gotten worse, to the point where my wife asked me last night wistfully ‘what country do I live in now’?

  163. 163
    CMcC says:

    You ask: “And I wonder: was Nixon the most influential American of the last 50 years?”

    No. How about Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan? It was Goldwater who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then defeated Nelson Rockefeller for the 64 Repub nomination. The campaign was capped by Reagan’s famous TV address to the nation. It was Reagan who began his campaign in 80 by talking about “states’ rights” in Philadephia, Mississippi, scene of the brutal murders of 3 civil rights workers (two of whom were, in local jargon, “outside agitators”). In between, of course, came Nixon and the “southern strategy.” But Nixon was only taking advantage of the opening provided by — and then confirmed by — Goldwater and Reagan.

    And so the party of Lincoln became the party of the old Confederacy.

  164. 164
    Demo Woman says:

    I only skimmed the comments so I apologize if Nixon’s supreme court nominees were mentioned before. Some of his nominees who were rejected or removed themselves from consideration believed in segregation.
    Those appointed and approved left their own legacy. Powell was the deciding vote in keeping the GA sodomy laws and the Rehnquist legacy continues to haunt us.

    Why does spell check accept Rehnquist but not President Obama?

  165. 165
    Taylor says:

    Remember when Kennedy visited Dallas, there were “Wanted For Treason” posters all over town.

    American politics has always had its batshit crazy element.

    If you want to cite Nixon’s influence, you have to go back to the Alger Hiss trial, which laid the seeds for McCarthyism, and turned the country rightward at a time when it might plausibly have become a social democracy like the post-war European countries.

    That in turn led to the Cold War, and the GWOT is just the Cold War with the islamofascistliberalcommunists as a substitute for the Russkies. Only much more fearsome, of course.

    If you want to cite Nixon’s southern strategy, you should give credit to Wallace.

  166. 166
    DougJ says:

    No. No, that is exactly wrong. For Nixon, it was intensely personal. That was his downfall—he was deeply paranoid on a personal level. He didn’t think that people were out to get him because they didn’t like his policies. He thought that people were out to get him because he wasn’t a Washington blueblood, and therefore he determined to destroy them before they could destroy him. Reagan brought the same style of politics without the personal element.

    Yes, but his embrace of the southern strategy was calculated, not personal.

  167. 167
    jeffreyw says:

    Where’s Chat Noir? I made breakfast.

  168. 168
    ding says:

    LBJ would be the primary catalyst since Republcans have run on dismantling LBJ’s “Great Society” legislation and Democrats have run on expanding it for the past 50 years.

  169. 169
    Violet says:

    It’s one thing to have crazy right-wingers, it’s another to mainstream their paranoia in a way that turns the entire nation’s politics into a crazed right-wing drama. Which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is what our politics has been for quite some time. Was Nixon the primary catalyst for this?

    No, Nixon wasn’t the primary catalyst. The catalyst was the social upheaval of the 60’s plus the passing of the Civil Rights Act, which gave people who were previously forced by law to “know their place” the right to vote and do other things. But Nixon was savvy and morally corrupt enough to take advantage of this group of people who felt their “way of life” had been taken away from them.

    Without someone as morally bankrupt as Nixon as the head of the party, the Republicans might have gone a different direction. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

    Meanwhile, once the ball was rolling, it was easy for anyone with a vague social grievance – on the continuum of “life used to be better before we gave those n—–s everything” – to jump on the Republican bandwagon and feel their issues were at least getting heard.

    One other thing was that in 1965 the immigration policy was changed from favoring northern Europeans to allowing anyone. That meant the color of the US started to change, and…see above paragraph.

  170. 170
    El Cid says:

    Personally I think the historical period in which we chose to either develop as a sane modern nation or continue as a fractured, barely democratic republic riven with class divisions heaped upon racial and ethnic divisions was the post-Reconstruction terrorism and anti-democracy campaign of the South to take away the political rights won by blacks and their temporary allies among ‘populist’ and Populist whites.

    That was the time in which a wealthy elite basically hired a terrorist insurgency to destroy the promises made at the country’s origins by violence, by coherent propaganda campaigns, and by the most absurdly cynical manipulation and corruption of the political system. Up to and including an actual coup d’etat in 1898, in Wilmington NC.

    But given the ‘compromise’ of 1876, I don’t know if anything else could have happened.

    Goldwater and Nixon helped elevevate that revanchist “Redemption” terror and lying and manipulation campaign to a national level — I mean, god-damn Nixon was fucking caught by LBJ attempting to delay Vietnamese peace talks so as to favor his god-damn political campaign, so more Americans and Vietnamese would get slaughtered — and we’ve been living with the consequences of their truly awful response to what was, after all, a set of political incentives waiting to be plucked.

    These are fundamentally people who hate the United States as a nation and much prefer things to be run the way it was in the late 1800’s, with social inferiors kept down by fear and violence and robber barons basically purchasing a political system to serve their interests.

  171. 171
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @Backbencher:

    I think Nixon was able to pull something of a twofer. By giving the South a presence in national politics that it had not had before, Nixon created a space for those conservative backlash elements that had always existed in the North to build their strength.

    I emphasized that part because it’s wrong, and yet critical.

    It wasn’t so much as giving it a presence it had never had before as it was giving it the presence it had PRIOR TO the civil war. Prior to the 1860s the positions of president, vice president, speaker of the house, and several other key offices were held by southerners. After that, well, consider the first southerner to hold president after the civil war was LBJ.

    Even so, the region had power for reasons similar to modern republicans. Unlike pretty much every other region in the nation, the south had enough numbers that so long as they acted cohesively they could overwhelm almost any other group, even when not the majority in whole.

    LBJ set up the move by overcoming that block. The nature of the south at that time (and arguably today) is that they believed themselves to be Right (by God), and the civil rights were yet another unwarranted and illegitimate attack on that Right (by God). Nixon essentially told them they were right in the eyes of the Republicans to feel so. With the perception of betrayal from one party and recognition of importance from the other, the south’s switch was inevitable.

  172. 172
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    That’s what really get me about the Repubs; those in the know are well aware of the ‘Southern Strategy’ yet they get all offended when anyone points it out to them. Like everything else that is real that they don’t like, if they deny it then it isn’t true or it doesn’t exist. Reagan starting out in Philadelphia, Mississippi with the ‘states rights’ bullshit paved the way for the mess we are now in today. Nixon blazed the trail and Reagan paved the trail into a four lane highway.

    That is one problem that Obama has to deal with that any white Democratic president would not have: To the current Republicans, having a Democratic president is horrible but having a black Democratic president is their worst nightmare come true. Toss in the few remaining southern Democrats (think Zell Miller supporters) and their bailing on the party because of Obama and you can understand why the political atmosphere is so poisoned now.

    I think the networks bring McCain on all of the time because nearly every other Republican has a southern accent and is fucking nuts, which is not a good face to put up for the public to see so Walnuts is now the ‘face’ of the party. If Obama can keep things together and the Republicans continue on their current course of obstructing everything Democrats try to do, I think that a majority of the public are going to get tired of the ‘Party of No’.

    The Republicans are basically a regional party now. They know that if they can not ‘defeat’ Obama and the Democrats at some important juncture then their future is going to look very dim. Their problem is that they are acting like the boy who cried wolf in that they are treating every single thing Obama and the Democrats are doing as ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it!’. While that might work to keep the froth up on the right and among some in the population, I think that intelligent people will get sick of the volume being cranked to 11 and start to tune it out.

    I think that if Obama can keep it together then that might help those who are tuning out the right and encourage them to start to listen to the left and what they are saying. People want a stable government and a good economy, Obama inherited a fractious government and a sick economy. If he can improve things before the next election while the Republicans obstruct every inch of the way, I think they will be punished at the polls. If not, he has one more chance to get things right before the 2012 contests.

    I think the odds are stacked heavily against Obama and the Democrats right now, if he and the party can still perform and get things done, people are going to like that.

  173. 173
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal): Yes. This.

    And per your “if he improves the nation” portion, it’s happening. Take a step back and you can see it, and suddenly the almost frantic absurdities of the Republicans make sense.

    The economy quit falling, and in fact is (slightly) improving – despite dire warnings from Republicans and Blue Dogs.

    We are getting a health care bill. It is a LONG way from what we need, but it’s an improvement over what we have now and has mechanisms that can be tweaked for further improvement. With its passage three things happen. First, it releases several hundred million dollars into the economy as a stimulus immediately, with more coming as the later elements begin. Second, it demonstrates that the Democrats in power CAN get major platform issues accomplished (unlike the Republicans just one term ago). Third, it will improve the lot of millions of citizens, a large portion of which will happen immediately.

    We are getting a jobs bill. It may only be the money unspent and recovered from TARP, it may be more, but it will stimulate the economy some more as well as going directly to job stimulus.

    Things are on track for recovery between the end of 2010 and the middle of 2011 with it being OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE by the middle of 2010. And all under that (in the eyes of the republicans and the south) illegitimate pretender to the presidency.

    On the political front it’s going to get worse over the next year – right up to the elections if not beyond. Expect to see the sabotage get even more obvious. But hold onto the fact that we seem to be succeeding despite the sabotage, and ask yourself (and others) how much better we’d be if the Republicans were working with instead of against the nation.

  174. 174
    booger says:

    @jbean: Is that some kind of political metaphor? Cause it sounds really profound, especially considering Nixon: Checkers and LBJ:beagle. Nicely played.

  175. 175
    Shalimar says:

    I think you have the wrong focal point. Nixon lashed the stupid wing of the party to the old money crowd, and Reagan intensified the connection, but neither let the idiots take control of anything they considered important. It was Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh in the 90s who turned up the hatred on government in general and liberals in particular, and made hatred of the enemy the dominant theme of the actual officeholders too, not just the rubes who do the voting. It used to be in the time of Nixon that those in charge at least realized they were running a con job on their voters. Now, I’m not sure any of them know since they all seem to be conning themselves too.

  176. 176
    Jim Pharo says:

    @CaseyL: I completely agree with your read, and am surprised so few see things this way.

    We’ve had a hundred and seventy-four comments about how it’s all about race, and very, very little about the Civil War. Rich plutocrats exploiting white resentment and fear was how the South fought the war. CSA soldiers didn’t own slaves, and were likely financially harmed by the fact that their own labor was cheapened in the marketplace by the tyranny of slavery. They fought for the right of their rich and powerful overlords to continue to exploit slave labor. It all sounds terribly familiar…

    I’ve lived through a portion of the aberrational period of FDR-LBJ as well, and am glad I saw that. I don’t think we’ll see anything like it again in the absence of some transformational cataclysm like the Civil War or the World Wars. (And such an event gets more likely every day — what would our worldview look like if shady interests with ties to Saudi Arabia and Iran set off a nuclear bomb in Tel Aviv?)

  177. 177
    Jay C says:

    @Jim Pharo:

    Your mention of the Civil War vis-a-vis political relations in this country IS pretty cogent – even if you have a few details wrong. The ante-bellum South based (or liked to think it based) its social structure on the presumed solidarity of white folks, and their “equal representation” in a democratic system – a lot easier when one has an official “inferior” caste to look down on. But the purely “exploitative” bits were masked (fairly successfully) by the fact that the poorer class of (non-slaveowning) whites were mainly smallholding farmers and/or craftsmen-artisans (as well, of course, as the entirety of the “white-collar” class) – the value of whose “labor” was not considered as threatened by black competition, since blacks were barred (de jure and de facto) from doing much of anything that might compete with white interests. Which of course, ante-bellum Southerners complacently assured themselves was a boon to democracy and social harmony. IOW, the ideal way to assure equality among one class of people is to maintain an officially unequal class for them to look down on. An attitude which hasn’t, sadly, vanished yet….

  178. 178

    Before Nixon, the racists were impotently raging about how LBJ had gotten Civil Rights legislation passed despite the House and Senate chairmanship blockades. Nixon gave the racist South a new home, and the resulting Republican party is the party of Democratic Southern racists joined with radical Northern Birchers to create a party of easily gulled paranoids.

    Conservatives are inherently antiwar, Dixified Republicans are not. Conservatives are anti-deficit, Dixified Republicans only care about distributing swag to cronies. Conservatives are distrustful of corporations, Dixified Republicans only care about power for themselves.

    I vehemently criticized John Cole for backing Cheney’s wars and stopped reading this blog until John left the Dixified fold and regained his conservative credentials by quitting the GOP.

    Everything makes sense if only you stop and realize that Nixon merged the worst of the Democratic party with the worst of the Republican party to create a new Republican party that can only be described as evil incarnate.

  179. 179
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Jim Pharo:

    I think that when mentioning the ‘southern strategy’, race issues, civil rights and the like, most people recognize that these issues all stem from our slavery past. CaseyL is absolutely right about the post-civil war era, compromise of 1876, the failure of the northern states to follow through with cleaning up the south after the war and numerous other low points in our past regarding the issues of slavery and the pre/post slavery periods.

    Looking at it that way it is easy to see that as much as we revere the people who fought for our freedom and designed our government, it is clear that their failure to address the issues of slavery only put off the problem for later generations to deal with. This failure of theirs created many problems throughout our history, many of which we are dealing with to this very day. While they were great men in many respects, regarding this issue it is clear that they absolutely failed, choosing to go the easy route of a compromise of convenience to ease building this nation. While it may have made life easier for them at that time, their decision directly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our citizens.

    While I appreciate our founding fathers I sure as hell don’t worship them. They were only men, just as weak in many ways as any other man and better in some others, but in the end they were just men of their time. I think that is part of the reason that as a general rule, the south worships our founding fathers and the country they built that included the slavery they so liked. It is to that ‘simpler time’ in our history that I believe they would like to return to if they could. In their eyes, our founding fathers were right and the north screwed up the ‘natural order’ of things.

    If anything, our history is peppered with low points surrounding this issue. Each low point has it’s origins with earlier low points, all leading back to the birth of our country. The latest incarnations of this problem we are discussing have their roots in the low points of Nixon and Reagan which were created by the high point of LBJ and civil rights in the 60’s. I do think it is great of CaseyL to put this together for others to read though since there are a lot of people out there who really have no historical references relating to our national race issues. Going over this issue historically is fairly difficult to do in the Age of the Sound Bite, too many people don’t have the desire to take the time to learn about this and a short but succinct post about that beats the novel you really need to go over the many points and aspects of it.

    A friend of our daughter lives in the south and absolutely hates their slavery/civil war past, the assholes down there who insist on living in it to this very day and their blaming the damned Yankees for ruining their Utopia. He said that he lived a suck childhood down there because he wouldn’t be a good ol’ boy like nearly everyone else in his area. His recounting his growing up there is pretty sad to listen to. He lives in Georgia and is desperate to GTFO of there once he is finished with college. He says that every time he leaves the south he feels like a ton of bricks are lifted off of his shoulders and he can be himself without worrying about what others think.

    Pretty sad. He is a nice kid and I hope he can get out of there soon, it is clear that he can’t stand the place.

  180. 180
    DanaHoule says:

    @Comrade Luke: @Comrade Luke:

    I can’t imagine a Democratic president who is a Catholic now…

    Huh? If our Catholic Democrat nominee had gotten a 3% shift of the vote in Ohio in 2004 he would have become president, and that was against an incumbent “wartime president.” And now there’s a Catholic Democrat “a heartbeat away” from being president. We also have a Catholic speaker of the House, and a Catholic Democrat is the number two person in the Senate.

  181. 181
    Lex says:

    @R-Jud:

    To answer the question, “Were people this stupid before Nixon?”: of course. They just didn’t have a huge, completely subservient, instantaneous multimedia complex capable of giving them airspace or feeding them the latest catchphrases. Another thought: you could say that the people cynically manipulating the crazies, as Nixon did, have died off or faded away over the last 40 years, and in their place we’ve been electing a bunch of the true-believing crazies, who’ve grown up on the Republican groupthink their entire lives. The crazy just keeps boiling down and down to its pure essence.

    FTW, despite, or perhaps because of, your relative youth and lack of sobriety. Take it from someone old enough to have actually campaigned door-to-door for Nixon in ’68. (OK, I was 8, but still …)

  182. 182
    Seanly says:

    @DougJ:

    White Southerners aren’t the only people with racist attitudes. Racial tensions were very high in big cities like NY and LA for a long time. When I was going to school in the NE I remember seeing stories about Jews vs blacks, Korean shopkeepers vs blacks, Italian vs blacks, etc. etc. Hmmm there is one common thread…

    However, the prevailing power in the South was the white landowner caste so as they went so went their states. Racism is everywhere in copious amounts – just the biggest payoff was in the South.

  183. 183
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Seanly:

    No argument there, I was just focusing on the south and slavery regarding the southern strategy and Nixon, which is directly related to where we are in time now. Yes, this country has no shortage of stupid and bigoted people with quite a few of them being both. No surprise there.

    America is a melting pot? Not really, more like pressure cooker. ;)

  184. 184
    Lex says:

    @handy: But then plussed and nonplussed could, at least metaphorically, mean the same thing. Kind of like flammable and inflammable.

    Confusing, man.

    — Lex, not, at the moment, plussed but kind of nonplussed.

  185. 185
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal):

    A friend of our daughter lives in the south and absolutely hates their slavery/civil war past, the assholes down there who insist on living in it to this very day and their blaming the damned Yankees for ruining their Utopia.

    I moved here to Georgia a bit over a decade ago. I’ve come to realize the culture has a great deal in common with oriental (not to be confused with Asian) cultures. They’re dominated by two elements:
    1) Face;
    2) Ancestry (and to a lesser extent, Age).

    Another way to think of it is Aristrocracy in Exile. They may not be there now, but they’re really Dukes or Kings and should be treated as such (and be allowed to treat the commoners as, well, commoners). And it is infuriating and wrong that they are denied these rights.

  186. 186
    Lex says:

    @BFR:

    I think that places far too much importance on what happened in the 60’s.

    I would argue with you to this extent: As others have pointed out, people who got their start under Nixon (e.g., Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney) have gone on to more power, responsibility and mischief under subsequent GOP presidents. Dirty tricks and Watergate begat Iran-Contra begat all manner of illegality under Bush 43.

  187. 187
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Kirk Spencer:

    Yes, Aristocracy in Exile is a good way to put it. Their privileged life was taken away and they are pushed into being no different than anyone else, which leads to the feeling of theirs that they lost rights and a way of life that were granted to them by our founding fathers.

    Commoners indeed.

  188. 188
    Lex says:

    @Comrade Luke:

    Now, 20yrs later, my parent’s weekly church bulletin is telling them not to vote for so-and-so because of abortion. Right in the church bulletin! It’s just disgusting.

    If your church is incorporated as a charitable nonprofit (what the IRS calls a 501c3 organization), then explicitly advocating for or against a particular candidate is illegal and could subject the church to losing its tax exemption.

    You could have some fun with this if you wanted to.

  189. 189
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Lex:

    No shit! Send a copy to the IRS and let them have at it.

  190. 190
    Lex says:

    @Suzan:

    America’s greatest problem throughout our history: what to do with the South.

    To be more specific, slavery — the U.S.’s original sin.

  191. 191
    Lex says:

    @Kirk Spencer:

    After that, well, consider the first southerner to hold president after the civil war was LBJ.

    True, but for a long time between Reconstruction and the civil-rights era, congressional committee chairmanships were disproportionately in the hands of southerners. This had its upside (it made enacting parts of the New Deal easier than it might have been), but also, particularly w/r/t civil rights, also had its down side.

  192. 192
    DougJ says:

    I can’t imagine a Democratic president who is a Catholic now…

    We have a Catholic Democratic vice-president and House Speaker now.

  193. 193
    tenkindsagrumpy says:

    KG @ 42 I have two names for you Jerry Voorhis and Helen gahagan douglas.

  194. 194
    Sly says:

    @Lex

    True, but for a long time between Reconstruction and the civil-rights era, congressional committee chairmanships were disproportionately in the hands of southerners. This had its upside (it made enacting parts of the New Deal easier than it might have been), but also, particularly w/r/t civil rights, also had its down side.

    Very true, with modern consequences. FDR got the South on board because, while he privately tried to work with quite a few in the finance world, in public they got nothing but his scorn. The South has a very long history of distrust against bankers, going back to the pre-Revolutionary years, at all levels of society (Southern plantation owners had gotten themselves in massive amounts of debt to London bankers because they relied on credit nearly as much as slavery to make their living).

    Obama has at least a template for improving public opinion of him and his policies. Not really sure why he doesn’t use it more often and in larger venues. You could see how economic resentment secured him victories in places like Virginia, NC, and Florida (where he was able to attract more than enough poor and middle class whites to win), and those are probably going to be the trouble spots in 2012.

  195. 195
    Elie says:

    @Crashman06:

    I think you have a huge point there…will be a challenge to deal with both in policy development and the political strategies necessary… thanks for the insight

  196. 196
    nicteis says:

    Most influential of the last 50 years was without question LBJ. He was the one who determined that the Democratic party would get off the fence and reject its white supremacist wing. Nixon merely took the obvious advantage that LBJ created to be taken – and even with his hate-based new majority, Nixon’s forces were never able to undo the Civil Rights Acts.

    If it hadn’t been Nixon, it would have been another sufficiently unscrupulous Republican. Goldwater ran on an anti-civil-rights platform way back in ’64. Reagan opened his presidential campaign with a speech on “states’ rights” in the very town where three civil rights workers had been murdered, and his callous backslap to the good ol’ boys went over no racist’s head. There were honest GOPers in those days, but the party harbored scalawags in bounteous plenty, any of them ripe to re-invent the Southern Strategy that Barry had already pioneered.

    On top of which, the nation’s course was irrevocably altered both by the Vietnam war – an escalation which LBJ initiated and Nixon merely continued – and by the passage of Medicare and Medicaid.

    Historians will remember Nixon for the uniqueness of his resignation. It’s Johnson they’ll remember for his personal influence on the country’s future.

  197. 197
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Kirk Spencer:

    Prior to the 1860s the positions of president, vice president, speaker of the house, and several other key offices were held by southerners… Even so, the region had power for reasons similar to modern republicans. Unlike pretty much every other region in the nation, the south had enough numbers that so long as they acted cohesively they could overwhelm almost any other group, even when not the majority in whole.

    Heck, let’s go back to the rot spores right at the start — Jefferson’s “compromise” where slaves were weighted for balloting purposes but of course not permitted to vote themselves. Followed by the Election of 1800, where Jefferson set a precedence for vote-rigging to establish “correct”, pro-Southern supremacy.

  198. 198
    xian says:

    @Comrade Luke:

    I’m not saying being called a “liberal” was JFK’s biggest problem – just saying that the demonization of the term started no later than the 1950s.

  199. 199
    jhh says:

    In answer to Doug’s questions, none of this is new. You simply must read the famous 1964 essay by Richard Hofstadter

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T.....n_Politics

    and then watch the clip from Dr Strangelove where Gen Jack D Ripper describes Communist plots to poison our precious bodily fluids

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....&NR=1

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0he-LZNzVg0

    In fact, you can watch the whole movie on Youtube.

    You can easily substitute Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh or one of the more foam flecked neocons in the role of Generals Ripper or Turgidson.

    In the 1950s, the wingnuts–led by Robert Welch and the John Birch Society— went so far as to accuse George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower of being Soviet agents.

    Something you don’t hear so much this days is how friendly the Kennedy family was with Joe McCarthy. In fact, RFK worked for McCarthy’s witchhunting team early in his career.

    The late Wm F Buckley, with the support of Barry Goldwater, famously went after the looney wingers, and to the end of his life was proud of having made conservatism respectable.

    But after WFB’s gave up control of National Review, his successors basically went over the edge with the rest of the kooky wingers.

    Extreme conspiracy theories are not always the province of the right, of course. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, crazy ideas were mainstream, with periodic purges filling the Gulag and the secret graveyards with victims.

    And the original model was probably the Jacobins and their Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.

  200. 200
    Mike says:

    While McCarthyism intimated the Senate and the country and gave first fame to Nixon, it was a self-destructive movement. Later the John Birch Society became home to the paranoid style of politics and their first major champion was Senator Goldwater of AZ. When LBJ decimated him in the election, the radical right was pushed to the sidelines for a time.

    Nixon used the smear tactics of the Right, but remember, waving the bloody shirtwas a favorite Republican technique in the Post Civil War period. Sure, Nixon was the only one who could have opened China. That was because he would have destroyed any Democrat that tried to do so. The Nixon Tapes show he personally was an anti-Semite and a racist.

    However, even during Nixon’s time, the GOP tried to govern to improve the country. It was Reagan who became one of the more rigid ideologues pushing voodoo economic theories and embracing the religious right for political support. Reagan announced his candidacy in Philadelphia MS where civil rights workers were murdered. That was no coincidence. He used Fallwell support Apartheid and the racist South African regime.

    G. H. W. Bush had some sensible moments in regard to deficits, Israel, and social policy, but his son was the one to really arouse and endorse the crazy.

    The policies that shifted Republicanism the most were racism, with busing and integration being the hated policies; abortion, and school prayer. When the big money boys that actually run the GOP decided to use the religious right as ground troops and the voter base, it was a deal made with the devil for both groups and the crazy now feeds on itself in an ever greater frenzy.

  201. 201
    scudbucket says:

    @jhh:

    Thanks for the great link. It reinforces my opinion that none of this is new. Nixon was merely an opportunist, as were Reagan, Gingrich et al., Rush, Bush, etc., as well as Goldwater and McCarthy before them. (And it reinforces my long standing skepticism of biographies: they’re written by biographers.) Simple forces of political inertia, or institutional analysis, accounts for why Nixon moved to the south. Shining it up with individual psychology obscures, rather than reveals, the issues at play.

    And I don’t think that full-clown crazy emerged as politically mainstream until communication technology gave rise to the immediate effects of propaganda (for example, those late night anti-liberal speeches Gingrich gave to an empty House chamber on c-span).

    The more interesting question to my thinking is why the crazy exists to begin with. Surely their is a religious element to all this, but I tend to think it goes deeper, especially given that sequestration in the comforts of religion is usually the result of external – especially economic – factors. In my view, the roots of conspiratorial craziness reach to the very foundations of US society, which was built on obvious and unjustifiable inequalities in wealth and opportunity. Since folks are helpless individually to change this, yet remain faithful to the idea of the nation and it’s attendant American Dream, cognitive dissonance requires introducing independent factors into the political mix. This can then be exploited for political advantage.

  202. 202
    Dr. Loveless says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    As others have said, Helen Gahagan Douglas would differ with you there.

    Jerry Voorhis too. Also.

  203. 203
    El Cid says:

    @Mike: I think you have to respect a president like George W. Bush Jr. for making Ronald Reagan look like a saner moderate by comparison. That’s an achievement.

  204. 204
    Phoebe says:

    This is a long-ass interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire, and all this Nixon talk you’ve filled my head with made very much sense with this and vice versa. Don’t read it if you haven’t seen all five seasons and don’t like spoilers.

  205. 205

    […] U.S. political analysis by someone too young to remember Nixon and too drunk to make sense, from commenter R-Jud at Balloon Juice: “To answer the question, ‘Were people this stupid before Nixon?’: of course. […]

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