Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Republican Vietnam, The Democratic Nixon III

Noam Chomsky called Nixon, "in many respects, America's last liberal President." It is a sentiment that has been expressed by, for example, Eduardo Porter in the New York Times:

That’s right. The Nixon administration not only supported the Clean Air Act and affirmative action, it also gave us the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the agencies the business community most detests, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to police working conditions. Herbert Stein, chief economic adviser during the administrations of Nixon and Gerald Ford, once remarked: “Probably more new regulation was imposed on the economy during the Nixon administration than in any other presidency since the New Deal.” 

Nixon bolstered Social Security benefits. He introduced a minimum tax on the wealthy and championed a guaranteed minimum income for the poor. He even proposed health reform that would require employers to buy health insurance for all their employees and subsidize those who couldn’t afford it. That failed because of Democratic opposition. Today, Republicans would probably shoot it down.
Wonkette broke it down to bullet points:

* Saved America’s environment by creating the Environmental Protection Agency and Clean Air Act while approving the most sweeping environmental legislation in history.
* Simultaneously reformed welfare and brought in serious new civil-rights laws and agencies for minorities, women, the handicapped and children.
* Proclaimed the first official U.S. Earth Day/Earth Week in 1971.
* Totally reformed the government’s relationship with Native Americans, bringing new self-determination and civil rights to U.S. tribes while saving such Indian natural wonders as Pyramid Lake — the tribe even renamed its capital “Nixon.”
* Was even described as “the Abraham Lincoln of the Indian people.”
* Loved those Chinese communists.
* Spent more on social programs than defense!
* Fathered screaming ex-socialist lunatic Mojo Nixon.
There you go, hippies: Nixon was more liberal than Clinton.
 One academic site devoted to says that Nixon's era of reform did not just claim to be radical, he was:

From the moment Nixon assumed office, the liberal and radical press, many individual Democrats, and a few liberal Republicans interested in domestic reform, concentrated their attention on his personality and political ethics. They did this, not because Nixon's persona during his first years as president offended them any more than usual, but, in part, because his early substantive programs and specific domestic priorities threatened to co-opt their own positions on a number of issues. They might have endorsed or "accepted" some of these plans and ideas from a president they liked and trusted, regardless of party, but not from "Tricky Dick."  In some instances, blatantly ignoring facts that normally would have made such legislative and administrative innovations appealing to them, Nixon's long-standing opponents refused to support certain of his domestic programs, even though they represented, according to Daniel Patrick [Pat] Moynihan, the "natural constituency" for most of his domestic policies.
If Nixon's domestic reforms were often opposed, as political scientist Paul J. Halpern has noted, by those who "never even bothered to get the facts straight," it may well have been because many liberals simply could not believe that Nixon would ever do the right thing except for the wrong reason. Thus, they seldom took the time to try to determine whether any of his efforts to make the 1970s a decade of reform were legitimate, however politically motivated. Consequently, they never accepted him in the role of a catalyst for domestic reform.
The country had elected only one other Republican president since the onset of FDR's reform administrations over thirty years earlier. Consequently, due to the vacuum created by the breakdown in the New Deal consensus, Nixon faced unprecedented opportunities for changing domestic. He also faced the traditional problems of presidential governance; in this instance, exacerbated by bureaucratic pockets of resistance from an unusual number of hold-over Democrats. Such resistance was not new, but its magnitude was particularly threatening to a distrusted Republican president who did not control either house of Congress. 
In part because Nixon, and to no small extent the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court he selected, Warren Burger, grew up politically in the social shadow of liberal consensus, and wanted to prove that they had mastered the lessons of the previous era. Nixon likened himself to the reforming Republicans of the 1920's, who saw it as their role to protect the system from the bad apples.

But the last of the three paragraphs quote is important: "the break down of the New Deal Consensus."

What we are see now, is a break down of the Reagan consensus, and the dying off of the coalition that made the four Republican landslides – 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988 – possible.