Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nixon's The One


It’s all over but the trite, obligatory ceremonial dropping of balloons and confetti on the Republican nominee for president of the United States, along with his wife, running mate and spouse, at the close of the GOP nominating convention in August in Tampa. It will be a perfunctory coronation of a standard bearer who by most accounts does not excite the party base except in the prospect he could defeat the incumbent because he would not scare too many Independents into believing a Romney administration would hoe so much to the right that women and minorities would find many of their rights put back in the closet while the middle class and blue collar workers put false hopes in the mantra of trickle down economics.

Two weeks ago David Brooks in The NY Times asked why Barack Obama is still competitive in the presidential race, given the problems with the economy and the resulting malaise of much of the public, his left-leaning ideological bent while the electorate slants more and more to the right, and the fact that 52% of those polled in a recent ABC News/Washington Post survey say the current level of economic inequality is acceptable (for the full article, follow this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/15/opinion/brooks-the-espn-man.html?_r=1&ref=davidbrooks).

It was an interesting take, but one that failed to properly put into perspective the failure of the GOP to seize the moment. Had Republicans put aside their ideological warfare, their divisive, anti-everything-and-anything progressive or compassionate during the primaries, they could have solidified their prospects come November. They could have selected a fiscal conservative, socially moderate candidate in the image of ... Richard Nixon.

How’s that for a shocker? I’m no Nixon fan, but his paranoia aside, Nixon did some fairly progressive acts during his presidency. Let’s ignore for the moment his foreign policy and war mongering. Did you know, for example, that during his presidency revenue sharing between the federal government and states began? He signed into law establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the Equal Opportunity Employment Act and Title IX that provides funding for girls athletics programs in schools. 

He created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, worked to increase the hiring of minority-owned contractors on large federal projects and favored affirmative action programs setting goals and timetables for minority hiring. Nixon signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1970 that abolished voter literacy tests. He began the War on Cancer, banned cigarette advertising on television, increased social security benefits, established the National Business Council for Consumer Affairs. He founded the Drug Enforcement Administration. He signed the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973, the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974, the Fair Labor Standards Amendment of 1974 and the Federal Energy Administration Act of 1974.

Sure, he might not have wholeheartedly championed all of these programs. But he didn’t veto them. He worked with Congress, a Democratic-controlled Congress. It’s safe to say Nixon would not be considered a true Republican by those controlling his party’s fate these days. Many have their doubts about Romney, as well.

Today’s Times brought another example of Romney-speak versus Romney-reality. According to James. E. Ryan, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, Romney’s education reform plan speech last week included a proposal to “give poor students and those with disabilities the right to attend any public school or charter school in their state.” Current law does not permit students to travel beyond their municipal borders (http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/romneys-school-surprise/?scp=1&sq=james%20e.%20ryan&st=Search).

It’s a pretty radical idea, one that has the potential to revolutionize the distribution of education in our country. I strongly doubt, however, that Romney is being any more than demagogic in suggesting this radical idea. Are we sincerely to believe Mitt could get bedrock GOPers to support a change that would allow inner city youth to stream into their suburban communities? 

Let’s get real. This election will be about shared community versus individual greed, about tolerance versus dogma, about future opportunities versus past practices that included closed doors. For all his faults, Nixon’s accomplishments helped push our country forward. 


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