Friday, May 16, 2008

The Ripple Effect of Nixon

I wish that I'd seen this article before I talked about Nixon's Southern Strategy mobilization of the Silent Majority fracturing the New Deal Coalition.

I also wish I'd known one of those tidbits before I had the side conversation with Tucker about Fox founder Ailes - I knew the "fair and balanced" Ailes was a Republican operative; I had no idea how ugly some of his previous political activies were.

Read the article and then make a comment: To what extent does fear and/or hate drive our elections today?

Article reprinted below for educational purposes.

BOOKS
Divide and Conquer
We all know Nixon was nasty. A stunning new book argues that he was also the grandfather of today's politics of hate.
By Evan Thomas Newsweek Web Exclusive
May 9, 2008 Updated: 10:25 a.m. ET May 9, 2008


On Aug. 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing African-Americans the right to participate in the political process. Five nights later, Watts, the mostly black neighborhood of Los Angeles, erupted into rioting. For four days angry, young men ran wild, looting and torching buildings, shouting, "Burn, baby, burn!" LBJ was stunned by the hatred of the rioters. "How is it possible after all we accomplished?" the president cried in anguish. "How could it be? Is the world topsy-turvy?" The 1960s were supposed to be a new Age of Reason—"These are the most hopeful times since Christ was born in Bethlehem," Johnson declared as he lit the White House Christmas tree after winning in a landslide election in 1964.

But Watts was just the beginning: in dozens of cities, race riots (so severe in Detroit in 1967 that the president had to send in the 82nd Airborne); LSD-dropping college students calling cops "pigs" and taking over college-administration buildings; Yippie leader Jerry Rubin telling kids they needed to be prepared to "kill your parents." By the end of the decade Johnson was in exile, and America, it seemed, had become a strange dystopia, decadent and almost prerevolutionary in its feverish discontent.

The establishment press had been flummoxed by it all. In 1966, the pundits were sure that the Republican Party would pick a reasonable, moderate candidate, someone with a little Kennedyesque charisma like Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York, or maybe New York City's attractive young mayor, John Lindsay. None of the pundits imagined that Richard Nixon, the sweaty, shifty-eyed loser to JFK in 1960, could take the GOP nomination. "It simply couldn't be Nixon," writes Rick Perlstein, whose sprawling, vivid "Nixonland" is the best book written about the 1960s since George Plimpton and Jean Stein published "Edie," their oral-history collection about Andy Warhol's "it" girl, in 1982. The Walter Lippmanns and Joe Alsops and all the Harvards of the Georgetown set were stuck in their own "echo chamber," writes Perlstein. "They were men who hardly noticed the ideological ground shifting under their feet."

Nixon understood. Full of bitterness about his hardscrabble youth, he knew how to exploit the bitterness of others. At Whittier, the small California college attended by Nixon, the smoothies and swells had formed a club called the Franklins. The campus Big Men were envied--but they were also resented, Nixon perceived. So he formed his own club, of strivers and nerds, called the Orthogonians. Nixon knew that there were many more natural Orthogonians than Franklins at Whittier—and before long he was elected student-body president.

Nixon was the ultimate striver. At law school they called him "Iron Butt," but he still got turned down by all the white-shoe law firms on Wall Street. As a politician, he told a friend, he would do anything, make any sacrifice, to get where he wanted to go. "Anything," he said. "Except see a shrink." Nixon's base was the "silent majority," the vast mass of white middle-class Americans who felt threatened by the tumult of the '60s. As the Democrats' New Deal coalition of rich and poor collapsed, he was able to "co-opt the liberals' populism, channeling it into middle-class rage at the sophisticates, the well-born, the 'best circles'—all those who looked down their noses at 'you and me' (a favorite phrase of Ronald Reagan's, who was both a student and a teacher of Richard Nixon)," writes Perlstein.

Nixon's mean streak was never far from the surface. Running for the U.S. Senate against Helen Gahagan Douglas during the Red scare of the early 1950s, he promised chivalry: "I am confronted with an unusual situation. My opponent is a woman … There will be no name-calling, no smears, no misrepresentations in this campaign." Then he promptly called her "pink right down to her underwear." He won the election but earned a reputation as "Tricky Dick." He learned to be a little more subtle. In 1967, as the cities burned, he wrote a guest editorial for U.S. News: "If Mob Rule Takes Hold in U.S.—A Warning From Richard Nixon." He chastised a generic "professor" who, "objecting to de facto segregation," ends up turning youth into insurrectionists. The professors needed to draw the line, set an example. One-upping the scholars, Nixon quoted Chaucer: "If gold rust, what shall iron do?"

Profane and paranoid in his private rants, Nixon played the statesman in public, denouncing racism and intolerance. He was content to have demagogues like Alabama Gov. George Wallace rage at "pointy-headed intellectuals, swaydo-intellectual morons tellin' [regular folk] how to live their lives." Wallace's raving "made Nixon look respectable when he couched the same sentiment in four-syllable words," writes Perlstein.

Nixon's media coach during the 1968 campaign was a young TV producer named Roger Ailes. When Ailes was putting together televised panel shows, highly contrived to "meet the candidate," he hit on a clever idea for a citizen panelist: "A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn't that be great?" suggested Ailes. "Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about them n----rs?' Nixon could then abhor the incivility of the words, while endorsing a 'moderate' version of the opinion." Perlstein reports that "Ailes walked up and down a nearby cab stand until he found a cabbie who fit the bill."

As president, Nixon never got over being unloved by the press and the Georgetown crowd, and he seethed if he sensed his own staff going soft. The White House taping system recorded his railing about the press: "I don't give the bastards an inch!" He complained about his staff, "Goddamn it, they're people who, they're in Washington, the Establishment's brainwashing them, they're reading the Washington Post, the weekly newsmagazines … And they get sort of discouraged and so forth, they don't realize that that is the time to get tough, to kick the guys"—he shouted at the top of his voice—"in the BALLS! That's what they won't do. That's what I always do."

So it went in Nixonland. Perlstein ends his story with Nixon's overwhelming re-election in 1972. He only begins to tell the Watergate saga, the Greek drama of how Nixon was consumed by his own envies and dreads (and brought down by some true Franklins, men like Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Harvard '43, and Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Harvard '34). "How did Nixonland end? It has not ended yet," are the final words of Perlstein's 748-page book. Roger Ailes, of course, went on to create Fox News—"fair and balanced"—which routinely afflicts and outmaneuvers the old establishment press. Today's Red State-Blue State divide is a legacy of the '60s, argues Perlstein.

He is persuasive—up to a point. Voters in this election year will have a powerful sense of déjà vu when they read "Nixonland." But history never repeats itself exactly. Hillary Clinton has been exploiting white working-class fears of "the other" with subtle (and not-so-subtle) innuendoes and brandishments. But what kind of Orthogonian is a woman who went to Wellesley and Yale Law School? And Barack Obama may speak with the smooth self-assurance (and, occasionally, edge of disdain) of a Franklin. But he is black and grew up feeling like an outsider. The fact that a woman and an African-American are vying for the presidency suggests the '60s produced something more positive than riots and druggie be-ins.

One thing never changes. As Ross Douthat recently noted in The Atlantic, politicians have been scaring voters since the election of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson was painted as a secret agent of the French Revolution. If John McCain wants to, he will be able to stir up old fears and suspicions against the Democrats in the November election. Or maybe he will remember how, in the 2000 election, he was smeared by Republican operatives who learned their dirty tricks from the master.

36 comments:

agent gregg said...

I think that fear and hate are still one of the major driving forces behind elections today. Used correctly, fear can be as powerful a motivator as hate, and politics are all about motivation. Take one of the Republican party's most effective tactics as of late: homophobia. Every time elections roll around, the issue of gay marriage is brought up, this time California was even nice enough to put it center stage for the Republicans. All the Republicans have to do now is get on TV and tell the good ol' Moral Majority that if the Democrats win gay marriage will soon be legal everywhere. Then all the Republican churchgoers will go and vote McCain. The same thing happens with guns and environmental issues. When guns become an issue, Democrats paint for their voters a dystopian America where suburbia is like a modernized Wild West and the streets run with blood. Republicans spin tales of a world where only the police and outlaws have guns and the populace, honest and law abiding, sits as helpless prey for desperadoes who do as they please, overwhelming the police forces. Democrats stir up hate for oil companies and land developers and anyone they support by describing to their constituents how such greedy corporations care only about their profits and will leave a barren, desolate world barely capable of supporting life for our children. Face it, hate and fear are still a huge part of politics, and they're not going anywhere.

ryanryanryann said...

At first i didnt think there was any big problem with hate and fear in elections today; but then i thought about it and realized there is more than first is thought (obviously). For this year, there is obvious hate and fear behind Obama and Clinton and many people who would normally vote Democrat might switch to McCain just because he is a white guy. People naturally have something against the other party too, they are two different beliefs which can stirrup many disagreements.

Atomic Dead Head said...

Fear: the most primal and powerful emotion known to man. We govern ourselves with fear because of fear, and why not? The surest way to get anyone to vote for you is through fear: How do you get evangelicals to vote? Tell them your opponent is going to impose mandatory gay marriage/abortion.
People are intrinsically inclined to hate for two reasons: 1) killing other peoples means less competition, and 2) other peoples generally make for great barbeque. Politicians use this mother of all motivators to their advantage. After all, hate is alive and well in our society, why not use it if it means you'll get elected?

ginnypig said...

Fear and hate drive our elections a lot. I agree with Ryan - there are people who refuse to vote for Obama because he's black and Hilary because she's a woman. And I think a lot of people are especially afraid of Hilary winning because they're thinking "what are we going to do if a woman is in charge of the country?" Both parties use many scare tactics to prevent them out of voting for the other party.

dancer maria said...

Yes, fear and hate definitely still have an impact in elections, because they are two emotions that people react to both automatically and strongly. When a candidate says don't vote for him, he'll kick you in the shins, or let other people get married or heaven forbid, let other people come to America, then they automatically vote for the other candidate to avoid such "horrifying" possibilities.

chalangsta said...

I think fear is used a lot in elections every time. Whether its during presidential or state elections. The waving of "the bloody shirt", always seems to sway voters in the desired direction.

terrifictucker said...

Of course fear and hate will influence our elections. As much as we desire the "perfect" society in which racism and sexism aren't an issue in our elections, but we won't ever truly achieve this. There will always be opposing groups and groups that hate on another simply because they're different. Politicians use this dirty tactic, because its very effective. It's very unfortunate but is very effective. In the upcoming election, Obama may lose voters because of his race, and it is foolish to believe that McCain won't play that card to benefit himself.

John said...

there is definatly some hate and fear in elections even todays elections. I guess its just ignorants.

funnyfaith said...

I think fear and hate drive so much of elections. We learned earlier about how during the Bush/McCain race the Bush campaign called people in South Carolina and said that McCain had black babies, which he had adopted. These people's hate or fear of African-Americans led them to vote for Bush. Today a major issue is gay marriage. A lot of people who vote against gay marriage have a fear of gay people and see it as "unnatural". Some Democrats will either vote Republican or for Obama because they have a fear or hatred of female leaders. Fear and hate drives us to do a lot more things than we realize.

Anonymous said...

Fear plays a major role in all elections. McCains old, Barack is black, and Hillarys a woman. Every campaign platform seems to be based on the fear of the masses. Seriously, would you vote for someone who will eat your babies.

~gangsta david~

Anonymous said...

i think that fear and hate are used in todays elections. and why not? It can really help out a struggling politician. especially in a world wear the new enemy to most americans, is gay people, politicians use fear in that "Gods laws of marriage and sex are being violated if we allow gays to get married." to thier advantage.

Chris

dropABeat said...

Fear and hate are a driving force in the elections today. People vote on emotion and the presidential candidates use emotion to get the people to vote for them.

Wacky Wendy said...

I think fear and hate are still major factors for many voters in today’s society. Fear is an emotion that I think everyone experiences fear and normally isn't a positive emotion, so if they associate one candidate with fear they are much less likely to vote for them.

GiveAndySome said...

I would like to use this post to point out two of my favorite words in the English language- FEAR MONGER! Business is booming for fear mongers! You have the internets, the gays, the abortions, the liberals, the conservatives, the religious crazies, the godless radicals, the explosions and turmoil going on in countries 98% of Americans can't find on a map, the stupid children, the fat children, the foreign children, and flag pins. Yes it is a great year for fear mongering.

Matt said...

It seems to me that all candidates do in the elections is try to inspire hatred in the American People for the opposing candidate. They also use fear of our enemies in the middle east/far east and try to convince the voters that they would do the best job of defending our country.

ScottyB said...

I think hate has been a trend that guides elections, but will soon be stopped. I think our generation is open-minded enough to accept change and and actually look beyond barriers that have been built by the older generations.

Gracefull said...

I think hate and fear definitely still have authority in the elections today. Racism and sexism are still in the minds of many Americans whether we want to admit it or not, and that generational hatred carries over into government.

laughinglizliz said...

Hate and fear are part of our elections now, there's no way around it. It's what drives our political parties and keeps people loyal to parties. They vote for a certain person because they're afraid of what will happen if a woman wins or a black man wins or an old man wins.

Kommunists-are-bad Karl said...

In elections and politics in general fear is a powerful tool. To be a successful politician you need to use every trick avaliable to stay in office. Appealing to peoples prejudices and irrational beliefs is a highly effective way of creating a coalition of support. By finding those key wedge issues they can transcend differences in opinion on actual issues. The number of uninformed voters clearly outnumbers those who are informed allowing such tactics to be highly effective.

TimmyTango said...

Fear and hate motivates people to make choices that they may or may not want to make due to personal beliefs. During elections certain knowledge prevents people from making the right choices.

I don't know what I'm talking about, so don't mind me.

energetic emily said...

Fear and hate still impact elections today. If someone does not like a candidate or fears of them, then they will not vote for them. For example, people who don't want a woman to be president will not vote for Hilary. Others who are racist will not vote for Obama.

Where'sWeston? said...

Fear is a powerful object, and most certainly brings votes. Why are people so afraid of Hillary? Will Obama be nagged by the subconscious (and frequently NOT) racism of America? Will McCain scare America into thinking the Dems will flush the country further down the toilet, taking our jobs, our money, and our patriotism? Winning elections is not a matter of support, it's a matter of getting butts through the polls and quite frankly, fear wins elections, for this reason we've had to endure the last 4 years of the Bush Circus' reign. During the 2004 election, Republicans introduced legislature in all hot-button possible swing states banning gay marriage. AHHHHH GAY MARRIAGE!!!! Thus, the bible-thumping, "god-hates-figs" types show up, voice their vehement opposition to gay marriage in the form a vote, and conveniently check Bush-Cheney. Result: 4 more years of TweedleDee & TweedleDumb!@#$.
Fear is not a deciding factor in most, or even many elections, but if politicians can find a way to capitalize on the fears of the masses, they most certainly will seize the opportunity.

susurrous aleina said...

It is evident that hate and fear still take part in the campaigns of our day. I'll use examples (but not specific ones).

Hate: Smear Campaigns. What do I do when I want to increase my chances of getting elected? I inspire hatred (or at least dislike) of ,y opponent, thus making me look, at the very least, like the lesser of two evils. This also incorporates fear sometimes, depending on what you're saying to the public about your opponent.

Fear: Hot Button Topics. Gay marriage and abortion are, of course, the first that come to mind. They are two issues that brutally divide the Republicans and the Democrats. Thus, they become strong issues during campaigning. A liberal democrat might be called by Republicans a "sacrilegious baby killer", and a conservative Republican might be called by Democrats a "stubborn, oppressive Bible thumper."

RidiculousRupal said...

Fear and hate play a huge role in elections today. American people fear for their lives. They fear that another course that of Bush's will be taken, they fear this economic downslide will never turn around, and of course, they fear global warming :). As far as fear of people or groups of people, well it's there. Gay marriage anyone?

Anonymous said...

Just seeing Hillaries face on tv is an example of fear in politics. You do not see much of this in America though, as we are perfect. But in other countries such as Iran, Khazastan and other crazy places, this is a driving factor in leadership. Saddam Hussein didn't come to power by offering tea and cookies to the people of Iraq. No, he killed alot of innocent people and overthrew the government. This drove fear into the eyes of the people he lead, and look how long he was in power. On the hate side of things, there is plenty of in America the Great (especially for nanny terrorists with their homemade kitchen bombs). The whole thing with Democrats and Republicans is a prime example of this hate. Now within each category, their are many different reasons. For example: Obama hates Hillary because she's a lier. Hillary hates Obama because he's black. Hate and fear are definately major playing cards in the poker game called "politics" and Hillary is holding both.

-Parker

Anonymous said...

Of course hate and fear drive elections, no matter what kind of elections they are. This year's presidental election has been overflowing with unplesant feelings. We had both a woman and an African American man running for president. People are ignorant and stubborn. Sometimes the hate and fear runs deeper than the wish for something better. It's so sad, but sometimes people judge by what they see and not what the person actually believes. Hate and fear run deep, it's hard to dislodge what some people feel.
~Swaz

Anonymous said...

Hate and fear are absolutely factors in elections. People are afraid of what they don't know or understand and having either a black person or a woman in the white house is unfamiliar, so naturally, some americans are afraid of those possibilities. Hate stems from that fear as well. Racism and sexism also work against Clinton and Obama in this race. And then you have McCain, who's just an old white guy that nobody's really paying much attention to at this point.

noandrew said...

A very large extent, think about it: hillary was able to stay in teh race as long as she did because most of the older white people voted for her, Bush probably won 2004 because of cheney's iraq=al queda, and fear of going soft on terrorists.

ryan the ridiculous said...

Fear seems to be a common theme in this class. During the 1800s, many black uprisings installed fear into the white southerners minds. A fear that the slaves would stab their masters in the night, and kill their babies, and rape their wives. This was part of the difficulties that were faced when dealing with reconstruction. The white southerners put restrictions on all the black citizens to take away that citizenship, to prevent another uprising. The KKK, and many other hate groups used fear as both their driving force, and their tool of choice to "protect christen women and children". Fear was a huge motivator in early elections, and although in much less quantity, is still present today.

tinytim said...

Fear and hate are undoubtedly the most influential campaign tactics. McCarthy used it to his advantage, winning thousands of votes because people feared the other campaigners. People fear what they don't understand and hate what they disagree with. That's why I'm not going to vote for McCain: I'm afraid of old people.

Explorer Elizabeth said...

Fear and hate are two of the biggest driving forces of elections without a doubt. With opponents playing on the fears of what the other candidate might do if they were elected, and also just who the candidates are as a person. Race and gender are also playing a huge factor in the election going on now, and the fear of having either a woman or a black man. For those who hate gays and lesbians, they will obviously vote for the candidate who is least likely to support that specific group and situations of the like. Hate and fear dominate elections of this day in age.

maddiecake said...

Fear and hate are still overwhelmingly present in US political elections. Many times, candidates are elected by default of the other, on a race, gender, or charismatic basis, not for their own successes. Many people have called the democratic nomination for the '08 election a hobson's choice; a black man, or a woman. Now that Obama has secured the nomination, it will be interesting to see whether or not America takes note of the current administration's beyond low popularity rating and elects a black man over a white male (regardless of his political platform).

Anonymous said...

I think that fear and hate have played a large role in elections since before Nixon and will indefinitely continue. Mudslinging has been found to work, and to keep the public interest. Politicians will not give up this tactic any time soon.

~Jessy

Anonymous said...

Hate and fear is and always will be a part of politics. Political issues are not meant to make you feel good, that is why they are called issues and not highlights. If the words Gay marriage, teenage sex, Guns, and terrorism makes your stomach turn, then the tactic is working. Just makes sure to vote with your mind and not with your gut.

-Just for Kicks Jordan-

joyful said...

Fear and hate are the driving forces of elections. People form their own opinions according to their fears (and according to things or people they hate), and for the most part, they will stick to the person who is fighting to get rid of these fears and hates. For example, if you have a fear of war you will vote for the guy who is trying to get us out of there. Once politicians know what we care about the most they will do anything to make us believe they will take care of it.

Anonymous said...

Fear and hate are major factors in determining elections. Look at the phone calls that told people that McCain fathered a black boy. Fear and hate are mans basic instincts and to think that they wont influence and election is just idiotic

Russ