Nixon left a legacy that still haunts America. It comes to my mind on occasion when I sit and reflect on how America, that seemed to have so many good things going from FDR on through Kennedy and most of the Lyndon Johnson years, could have taken such a detour to what we have become.
We were just coming to grips with issues like civil rights and race, the environment, women’s rights, the use of military and many, many more issues. All these issues were finally getting acknowledgement that they were problems. People in positions of power were at least listening and taking some baby steps to start addressing them. Since then we have moved forward only at a very hesitating pace. When I reflect on what causes the hesitations, it all leads back to Nixon.
It seems like much of what shapes our country now is either from people who got their entre into the world of politics via Dick Nixon or because of the southern strategy endorsed by Nixon which tried to ignore civil rights issues for southern votes or because of Nixon’s policies themselves or because of the way he handled the presidency in such a secretive manner.
We have personalities such as Bush 1, Cheney and Rumsfeld making their entre into government under Nixon. Who could forget Henry Kissinger as National Security Adviser and Secretary of Defense? Do I need to say much more about that. Nixon’s period also loosed the infamous Powell Memo on the country. Powell was duly rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court where he practiced what he preached.
Nixon had his way of dealing with the press, doing all he could to govern in secret and setting a model that future presidents would emulate. Who can forget VP Agnew’s infamous line “nattering nabobs of negativism?”
The southern strategy has been a huge obstacle in the advancement of civil rights in this country. The Powell memo has been a basis for many Republican strategies. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld resurfaced over and over til they finally emerged at the upper echelons of power, where they caused this country huge harm. Not only did they wreak havoc, but their ideas spawned into a whole generation that is now the Tea Party. The lessons from a war lost instead became lessons of selling a war.
One more legacy that Nixon left that has had quite an impact on America is his insane War on Drugs. Day in, day out lives are ruined because of arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Many of the laws and punishments on the books were spawned from Nixon’s war on drugs,
Beyond that is an unwarranted fear of all things hemp. This a plant family whose many species could give our economy huge boost with products that could range from clothes to building materials to medicines. But thanks to Dick Nixon the United States continues to shrink in unfounded fear from a very useful plant.
Did Nixon push his War on Drugs as a way to get back at those youngsters that tormented his presidency? That is a question for others. What we do know is that the effect of the anti-drug policy has been bad and long-lasting.
Forty years ago I celebrated what I hoped would be the end of the era of Nixon. Little could I have imagined that Nixon would have his revenge on us all.
Final side note: I find it interesting that 3 of our worst presidents hail from California, a state noted for its progressivism: Hoover, Nixon and Reagan.