Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nixon's Southern Strategy and Watergate

I)    Southern Strategy of Republican Party

A)   1964 Election – despite Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, the strategy that the Republican Party had followed for the past 37 years was established; undermine Democratic support in its former stronghold in the South, but appear moderate enough on issues to retain support in the Southwest and West.

1)   Barry Goldwater – only senator outside of the South to vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ostensibly because it undermined the constitution.

B)   1968 Election – Nixon’s southern strategy undermined by the candidacy of George Wallace, and it nearly undermined enough of Nixon’s support to cost him the election.  However, Humphrey’s campaign caught fire too late (after he had virtually turned over the running of the campaign to the AFL-CIO), and Nixon was elected

1)   Internal dissension of Democratic Party – liberal coalition coming apart as a result of the War in Vietnam.

2)   Southern Strategy -- – Nixon saw racial conflict as a means to divide the Democratic Party and ensure a Republican majority

(a)  Kevin Phillips and The Emerging Republican Majority – pointed out that the South and Southwest were the two areas of the country growing the fastest, and were largely conservative; and that blue-collar ethnics were becoming disaffected with the racial policy of the Democratic Party.

(b) Benign neglect of problems of African Americans – they would never vote Republican in large number for the foreseeable future, anyway.

(c)  Delaying tactics on court-ordered desegregation of schools -- allowing the problem to fester allowed the blame to be place on Democrats, and heightened anxieties.

3) Nixon and the Politics of Resentment--Nixon, like George C. Wallace, was an aficionado of the politics of resentment. Nixon struggled his entire adult life against what he perceived as cliques of "the haves" who attempted to thwart people of ability but no connections--like himself--from achieving the greatness they deserved. It was the reason Nixon had to settle for attending Duke Law School instead of Harvard, the reason he had to humiliate himself with the "Checkers" speech, the reason he lost the 1960 election. Nixon's political genius was that he was able to perceive this kind of resentment in others, and use to to his advantage.
C) Nixon's First Term

1) Inflation--during Nixon's first term, inflation became a serious problem; unions and management would no sooner conclude contracts, then inflation would wipe out wage gains. In part, the economy was super-heated because of the increased borrowing to finance the Vietnam War. Nixon attempts to control the economy with a wage and price freeze, but that effort was unsuccessful. The rate of inflation began a steady rise until 1974 (the year Nixon resigned because of the Watergate affair), when it jumped to over 11 percent.

2)   Affirmative Action – Nixon administration transforms Affirmative Action into set asides for minorities.

(a)  Philadelphia Plan – proposed by Secretary of Labor George Schultz; executive order which stipulated that workforce on government contract jobs had to reflect racial make-up of the area; this alienated a number of white blue-collar workers in the building trades, who had long benefited from family and friend connections to gain building trades jobs—to the exclusion of minorities

3) Busing--Court-ordered desegregation of public schools increased racial tensions among whites, particularly in the north because this meant the children were bused outside of the school district they lived in back into urban districts their families sought to escape just years before.

4) The Vietnam War--Nixon inherited an unpopular war, and like Johnson he vested much of his reputation on attempts to end the war short of surrender.

a) Vietnamization--after the disastrous year of 1969 (second most deadly for US troops), the Nixon Administration began a "draw-down" of US troops in 1970, allowing (or forcing) the South Vietnamese army to commit more troops to the field. To discourage the North Vietnamese Army and the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) from taking advantage of this situation, however, the fighting was secretly expanded into previously "neutral" Cambodia, to take away the NVA and NLF base camps there. When word leaked out that the Nixon Administration was expanding the war when it was expanding it into Cambodia caused an explosion of protests on college campuses in the United States--including state schools that had witnessed few protests to this time, like Kent State.

C)   1972 Election

1) The Pentagon Papers--Robert McNamara, while Secretary of Defense, commissioned a secret study of the US involvement in the war in Vietnam. Daniel Ellsberg, by 1971 an opponent of the war, knew of the study, and on a long weekend he and his friend and co-worker Anthony Russo photocopies the 47 volume work. Ellsberg then gave a copy to a New York Times reporter, and the fact that a succession of American presidents, beginning with Truman and going through Johnson (the study covered the years from 1946-1967), and lied to the American people about the involvement of the US government in that conflict.

2) White House plumbers--Nixon was initially little concerned with the story, since it made his predecessor, rather than himself, look bad. Henry Kissinger convinced him that this leak made a bad precedent, however, and Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, put together a group of men that included former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt and former FBI agent and lawyer G. Gordon Liddy. One of the earliest tasks of the "plumbers" (plumbers stop leaks--get it?) was to burglarize the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist. With the 1972 election looming, the plumbers were also assigned to investigate and neutralize "enemies" of the Administration, which led to a third-rate burglary attempt at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.

3)   Watergate – While the Nixon Administration was able to "stonewall" the investigation long enough to win the 1972 election in a landslide, the truth slowly leaked out over the next year and a half, leading to joint congressional hearings and Nixon's resignation just steps ahead of articles of impeachment in 1974

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