A progressive for our times

Let’s say this guy was running for president on a third-party ticket:

  • proven track record for getting country out of wars
  • strong foreign policy diplomat who forged stronger relationships with powerful developing (and enemy) nations
  • implemented the first significant federal affirmative action program
  • dramatically increased spending on federal employee salaries
  • organized a daily press event and daily message for the media
  • oversaw first large-scale integration of public schools in the South
  • advocated comprehensive national health insurance for all Americans
  • imposed wage and price controls in times of crisis
  • indexed Social Security for inflation and created Supplemental Security Income
  • created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Office of Minority Business Enterprise
  • promoted the Legacy of Parks program
  • appointed four Supreme Court Justices, three of which voted with the majority in Roe v. Wade

Have you figured out where this is going yet?

No, I’m not here to tell you that what American needs is Richard Nixon. I’m sure as hell not here to laud the man, who was – as Hunter Thompson so eloquently put it – so crooked he had to screw his pants on in the morning. I’m not here to argue that his policies were always noble or implemented with unrelenting elegance. Yes, he got us out of Vietnam, but not before considerable mucking around in the region. Yes, his record on race was … mixed. And so on.

The point I’m making isn’t about Nixon at all. Instead, it’s about our major political parties and the people who occupy them today. It’s about how far to the right even the left has slid in the last 35 years.

Let’s advance a posit, shall we?

If he were a candidate in the 2008 presidential election, Richard M. Nixon would be more progressive than either the Republican or Democratic nominees.


Thanks to Wikipedia for pulling a lot of stuff together in one handy-dandy place. I don’t usually cite them, but for things like this they’re a good jumping-off point.

36 replies »

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  2. wow, I was too young to even know about that time. It is an interesting idea to discuss, do you think you can put the candidates positions side by side including nixon’s? That would help me anyway..

    I am originally from the Netherlands so my biggest pet peeve is the fact that there is no viable third party.. the system has effectively been closed off so naturally here in the US..I’m an Independent..


  3. I dunno. Does rampant paranoia leading to the creation of an “enemies” list and a squad of plumbers equal progressive thought?

  4. I was pretty clear about what Nixon was in the post, I think. The question isn’t what Nixon was, it’s what McCain and Obama and the Dems and GOP are.

  5. Well, there’s no question in my mind that the country has moved far to the right since Nixon was in office. What I remember about those days, and I was pretty young at the time, is that Nixon was elected because of LBJ’s unpopularity and the fact that he was running against LBJ’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey, who also had the misfortune of being a very physically unattractive man. Nixon also ran on code-worded states rights language that convinced most of the South to abandon third-party candidate George Wallace and cross over to the Republican Party, which was a big deal at the time because the post-Civil War South had been solidlly against the party of Lincoln. Outside the South, his message was about law and order which, in 1968, played well to a lot of people who thought the country was going to the hippies and commies, and wanted them locked up.

    Nixon would begin the process of turning the party of Lincoln into a party Lincoln would have abhored.

    Nixon was not a peacemaker. He came to the presidency on having a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, but “end” meant “win” in most people’s minds. Maybe even in Nixon’s, considering that he escalated the war considerably before finally conceding it.

    Many of the civil rights issues you enumerate were already well underway before Nixon took office. Remember that the man had a Democratic Congress to work with (I’m pretty sure), so he had to compromise on nearly everything. School desegregation was already well down the road. He took office at the beginning of ’69, and my school district, and most others near me, desegregated in September of that year. But it was a done deal by the time he entered the White House.

    I don’t think Nixon meant to appoint anyone who supported Roe v. Wade. At the time, the papers were abuzz with how often conservative appointees turned liberal on the bench. I think Nixon got burned that way.

    The wage and price controls were in response to high inflation, and were a throwback to what politicians of that day knew pretty well: World War II. I don’t think it was really a liberal move as much as a move of some kind to try to tame inflation at a time when no one really knew the mechanisms for doing that.

    I’d say that 1970 was about the high water mark for progressives of that era. Protests on college campuses seemed to drop off quite a bit after Kent State and the general student strike of 1970. The country started to swing slowly to the right, gaining momentum with Ronald Reagan, who made it cool to be a bigot again when he launched his campaign on a states rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss. — the place where the Civil Rights workers were murdered and the police covered it up.

  6. Wellllllllllll,

    Let’s not forget that R. Nixon sent Henry Kissinger to Paris in 1968 to sabotage the Viet Nam peace talks.

    Nixon/Kissinger basically promised the N. Vietnamese that they would get better terms under his administration than under the Democrats, and so they should wait to end the war.

    This worked (illegally?) and helped give the election to Nixon who was talking peace, yet making war behind the scenes. The deaths of tens of thousands of American GIs, several million V.Namese, Cambodian and other civilians followed.

    The warmonger Nixon is directly responsible for numerous war crimes, and should be considered as any other war criminal, like Bush today, Clinton yesterday, and pretty much every US president you can name.

    Vote for a criminal warmonger like that?

    No thanks.

  7. “I was pretty clear about what Nixon was in the post, I think. The question isn’t what Nixon was, it’s what McCain and Obama and the Dems and GOP are”

    sparkles, that’s what I meant.. I’m too tired a mom to dig for issues so I was selfishly asking for a convenient split screen type deal {s}

    however, it sounds like there really hasn’t been any President the previous century who hasn’t had skeletons in his closet..although what would/do you think about Carter?


  8. You’ve truly surpassed yourself in deviousness this time, Bonesparkle. I just can’t face the implications of what this means for Obama.

    Question: Has Ingrid just consigned herself to a circle of hell for calling you “Sparkles”?

  9. circle of hell?? psah! I haven’t slept through the night (but many once or twice or hmm even thrice) for the last five years, so that little circle of hell means nothing! and ok ok.. sparkles doesn’t sound as ‘manly’ as calling yourself dr.. so..I’ll retract..
    BUT.. not because of aforementioned designation to that circle of hell, I got one of my own already..[g]


  10. I can make a perfectly logical case that Nixon was a liberal. In fact, it tends to infuriate my friends on the left, as they don’t know how to respond. When they reach down and mention Nixon’s crookedness, I can bring up an equal amount of shady dealings from members of the left that cancels out that argument.

    I’ve always thought that Nixon was a paranoid….and liberal.

    However, he was a helluva poker player.


  11. I was around for Nixon and Watergate and remember them well – and I agree completely with this post. I would add that Tricky Dicky, so crooked that he had to screw his pants on, was less corrupt than any current Republican and about 80% of today’s Democrats.

    Nixon took great pains to hide things that the Bush administration does openly, defying anyone to stop them. The big difference is that today’s media is completely complicit in the corporatocracy’s crimes against the people.

  12. Nixon was also the first one to start the fake “energy crisis”,which isn’t much different that today’s fake “global warming”. They are both diversions for other agenda’s.