Lawrence A Winans
After a year of the Obama administration, the electorate may be finally persuaded that while it may have voted for a liberal politics, it got the same old middle-road mushiness that seems to characterize what is left of the Democratic Party. Yeah, a damn site better then the party of crazies, tea-baggers and yahoos but nothing, nothing like the Democracy of our heritage. Obama is no FDR, no Truman, no JFK, no LBJ, no Humphrey.
As the grey cells give up the ghost and as memories flitter away, one seeks ever so harder to try to remember just when we last had a liberal, or progressive President. “Liberal” being that term connotative of being one willing and enthusiastic in the use of the public power of government for the common good. Basically, what FDR did, and did, and did with such aplomb and wit.
If Obama can’t perform, so much for popular misconception, who was the last to do it for us? Clinton was the last Democrat in name and certainly had the proclivities to perform outside of office, but in it? No. Clinton declared that the era of Big Government was over: our boy Bill deregulated and privatized everything but our all too public shame at his betrayal of wife and party endorsement as a populist alternative to the Big Biz puppets.
The Democrat before the mighty Raygun was the friendly, honest and technically competent naval engineer from the peanut farm. A lovable man, a man you would want for an uncle, and one with a funny brother as well, but not a liberal. Jimmy Earl Carter said that Americans neither wanted nor needed liberals nor conservatives, it wanted “good government” and he would give us goodness. Government is a huge strong bull. It can be ridden by someone strong and after ridden, harnessed to pull a wagon or a plough. But goodness cannot ride nor tame the bull. Goodness gets bucked. While Carter well earned the title as best-loved “former” President, he is not our last Liberal President.
No, the award goes to…wait for it…wait for it….Richard M Nixon!!!
The Dissenting Democrat has not been drinking. Richard Milhouse Nixon born January 9, 1913, to Frank and Hannah, of Irish-German ancestry and Quaker religious tradition, the scourge of Alger Hiss, the hatchet man for Ike, everybody’s bad boy, who once beat would pick himself up and fight yet again. The plucky nerd from the other side of the tracks who went out of his way to take on the chablis and brie set thrashing their muffy and skippy without remorse.
Earning his spurs in the Republican Party he represented the wing of the party which had a populist foundation among small business owners, self-employed workers, and farmers who fought the predatory corporateers and vested interests without the shield of unionism. Nixon was able mobilize a mass of Republican voters who knew that Dick was one of them and that Dick would never be at one with Wall Street. He could work for Wall Street, take their donations, eat their food, drink their Scotch and then look them in the eye and vote against them in the morning.
The Nixon administration gave us clean water and clean air legislation. Nixon organized the Environmental Protection Agency and made environmental protection a lead priority of his government. Nixon pushed for equal pay and for the expansion of jobs for blacks all the while sweet-talking the solon of segregation, Strom Thurmond, that he was for Dixie. Nixon whistled Dixie but delivered affirmative action and civil rights enforcement.
Nixon tried very hard to enforce a policy for population control and limitation and did so by executive order, an order attacked, gutted and marginalized by a bloc of Catholic and anti-abortion lobbyists. He lost this one but no President tried harder with less support to put the weight of the U.S. government on the side of population reduction.
Nixon seriously proposed the adoption of a universal minimum income for all in the nation — the Family Assistance Plan — and while he could not get it through Congress, he did fashion a portion of it, the Supplemental Income program which passed to become a guaranteed income for the aged, blind and disabled.
Nixon thought a lot about the future. He and his top aide floated trial balloons about a federally initiated cable TV- internet network, well before its time, which would connect every home with a neverending flow of information and educational content. Even Al Gore was not thinking in this vein as early as Nixon is recorded to have.
Nixon was never really happy being a Republican. There were too many bluebloods — Rockefellers, Bushes and such — Nixon told Haldeman that he would devote the last part of his second term to scuttling the Republican Party, or leaving it to the country club set, and building a new American majority Party of regular men and women tired of being bossed around or being taken for granted. Luckily, for the Republicans a coup eased RMN out of office when it did or the Republicans would have received it’s biggest challenge since 1936*.
Richard Nixon, the right-wing anti-communist, was the only man who could have gone to China to normalize relations with Mao and shake up the Russian bear at the same time. A masterpiece of diplomacy worthy of a Tallyrand or Machiavelli. Richard Nixon, the small town conservative, was the only man who could steal the Liberal Agenda, adopt it ahead of them and then suffer their whiny criticisms of their own failures.
In memorial of the 97th anniversary of his birth, let us pay tribute to the last Liberal Progressive President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon.
* This may explain as to why the President of the United States was removed in a quiet coup. The full record will reflect that he ordered no burglary and had no prior knowledge of the burglary of the Watergate offices. When comparing the Nixon record with the record of Bush the Younger, one can only marvel at the transformation of the Constitution in a few years. The Constitution of 1974 couldn’t tolerate a Presidential cover-up of a botched burglary in the interest of national security. The Constitution of the 21st century allows warrantless arrests, torture, incarceration incommunicado, and the active “disappearing” of unpersons. Nixon was kicked out for a petty offense while Bush’s HIGH CRIMES and misdemeanors as well as demonstrated misfeasance and malfeasance earned him a virtual preemptive pardon from his successor.
But Bush was one of them. He attended the right parties, said the right words, made the right friends, and had the right ancestors. Nixon was never accepted and having climbed the greasy pole to the pinnacle of power, he was never accorded the respect that Tiffany or Bartholemew III do at their coming out parties.
Nixon was one of us.