By Joe Ess –
It is often said that Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected in America today due to the radical starboard list of the ship now known as USS GOP. This refrain is heard in many circles, written in many publications and online posts and endlessly used to the point that is now nearly a cliche’ in the comments section of any story about the latest incarnation of outrageousness in some backwater and not so backwater Republican primary election. (See Cantor, Eric)
This is simply not true. In fact, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan would be perfectly happy and very welcomed in this political environment. You see, in some strange metaphorically and seemingly biologically impossible way, they both fathered – at least politically – what we now call America’s Conservative Movement.
Nixon perfected the art of division and Reagan simply pasted a smile on it and made you feel good about this country splitting into 3 tribes: Right, Left, and Apathy.
Going into the election year of 1968, Richard Nixon, a two time loser and a weakened, wounded political animal who was narrowly defeated for President in ’60 and thoroughly beaten for Governor in his home state of California two years later was somehow the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination for this country’s highest office.
In fact, he didn’t even win his home state of California in the GOP primaries of ’68. Losing that state’s primary to Ronald Reagan. Ultimately he won his party’s nomination only after some horse-trading with Reagan and some good old fashioned Nixon “ratf@#&ing” done to Rockefeller and Romney along the way.
He barely beat his Democratic rival Hubert Humphrey for the Presidency and in the process, actually broke the law while doing it. You see, it was long suspected, and just recently and finally proven true this past week, that Richard Milhous Nixon, with an assist from that old war criminal Henry Kissinger, engaged in some truly shady back room negotiations with the government of our then enemy North Vietnam. During the days leading up to the American general election, Nixon promised the North Vietnamese a better deal in the ongoing peace talks if he were elected and thereby convincing them to suspend the their negotiations then President Lyndon Johnson and his administration until after the election was won.
Now Nixon, noted for being a notoriously adept poker player, displayed his ability to bluff that would rival any scene in the film “The Cincinnati Kid”.
Now, it was no forgone conclusion that Nixon would win the election in ’68. George Wallace had the deep south sewn up (a lesson neatly learned by Nixon and filed away in his devious mind for use in future elections), but he narrowly defeated Hubert Humphrey with only 43.4 percent of the vote. A mere .7% margin of victory, with Wallace pulling 13.5% of the vote all coming from the recently desegregated, and nominally pissed off Deep South.
Btw, for those of you who don’t know this; Richard Nixon won that election with an assist from one Roger Ailes, the current head of operations at a little cable television operation called Fox News. But I digress…..
In 1968 Nixon won the election while often on the stump, invoking and purporting to speak for his mythological “Silent Majority”.
Yeah, they were silent alright. A group of silent racists that had recently and rightly been shamed into shutting their pieholes and went about the business of openly voting for George Wallace, who had abandoned (don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, George!) the Democratic Party, all the while knowing there wasn’t a chance in hell that Wallace would win and that there was no home for them in the GOP. There was never really a Silent Majority. It was all in Nixon’s head and he transferred that fantasy upon a people that felt at once disaffected and confused.
This was proven 4 years later when Wallace was shot and all of his voters found a new home in the friendly confines of the Republican Party. Nixon then deployed the lessons learned from ’68 and the “Southern Strategy” was unveiled. All of the rhetoric being quietly coded and carefully couched and crafted by wordsmiths such as Pat Buchanan and William Safire.
Meanwhile, back in ’68 as Nixon squeaked out a victory for the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan took to the affluent counties of California and lamented that the greatest college education system ever erected, a college system that brought you folks a little place called Silicon Valley, a college system that was a model of wonderment and a testament to all that defines what a “good investment” in the future of this nation looks like. And it all started with a quality, higher education.
Ronald Reagan went about the state proclaiming that this model of good investment was a waste of money because the kids attending, all of them, mind you, “acted like Tarzan, looked like Jane and smelled like Cheetah”.
This was and still is the politics of division, ladies and gentlemen. This was and still is the political playbook of the GOP. They’ve been running the same power sweep play to the right side of the field for going on 50 years now.
Hippie Punching was all the rage at the time and it still is to this very day.
I urge you to look at today’s Republican party. Look at their message. There are no ideas, no policy ethos other than the tried and worn, tested and false promise that tax cuts raise revenues. And if that doesn’t work, cut taxes some more. Other than that, it’s simply division and setting one against the other until you eek out 51% of the vote.
I urge you to look at today’s Republican party and hear what they are really saying. What their rhetoric consists of aside from ludicrous policy proposals that have failed again and again…… their rhetoric is the same as Richard Nixon’s and Ronald Reagan’s: Division.
Both men rose to power bashing hippies and liberals. Dividing this country’s middle class along cultural lines, race lines, and along the horrid lines that are war and warring. Bush I and C+ Augustus followed this lead using the same tactics.
I believe that both men would have no problems at all adapting to and, indeed, leading this modern Republican Party. They are Father and Step-Father of children gone bad.
Both Nixon and Reagan knew that the dark underbelly that belied the GOP/Southern base would be a dangerous and damn near impossible beast to control once loosed. A lesson learned hard by the very conservative Eric Cantor just this past Tuesday in his ignominious defeat to an underfunded xenophobe and Ayn Rand acolyte with a doctorate in economics from a Christian based diploma mill …
Nixon and Reagan knew this part of their base well and exploited it deftly. Yes, both men knew this side of America very well.
They knew it as well as a father knows a child.
Both men would be right at home in this current political environment.
And the Conservative Movement certainly loves their Daddy figures.