Ben Buchwalter

Nixon’s Legacy

On the New Republic website, Howard Wolfson writes today that Obama’s rise, fueled mostly by positive political maneuvering in the face of the other side’s negativism, marks the end of the Nixon era. This caught my eye because I don’t usually consider Nixon a leader who created an era in his image. For the most part, our era-inspiring presidents have been Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. In the past few weeks, as Obama’s lead has risen steadily, pundits have been waxing poetic about the potential demise of the Reagan era. But what is the Nixon era? And what does it mean if it disappears? 

Wolfson defines Nixonland as “the state of total political warfare over class and cultural conflicts.” Well jeez, I didn’t know that Nixon was responsible for that. Not only did he betray the American people and leave office amid controversy during one of our most turbulent decades, he also left us with a culture war that continues to rage. Since 2004, I had forgotten why the Kerry/Bush campaign had inspired such resentment in me against Republicans as an entire population. But this election and the harshly negative attacks against elites, liberals, and anti-Americans has reinspired that resentment like sandy gust of wind to my eyes. I hope that Wolfson’s prediction of the end of the Nixon era is accurate and that we can say good riddance to harshly negative politics as a thing of the past.

The fact is, even if we are experiencing the beginning in a shift towards a Democratic era, the pendulum will shift back the other way eventually. So how should the Democrats rule? Acting on the potentially overwhelmingly mandate could inspire massive conservative resentment against partisanism and the return of big government. But simply making minor improvements to current U.S. policy might not be enough to ease the population’s mind about our wars, debt and toilet-bound economy.

No matter what, the next President and Congress will have an enormously difficult time turning the country around in time for the 2010 midterm and 2012 Presidential elections. By that time, a new Republican might rise up to revive the Nixonian politics of negativity and cultural dogmatism. Until then, we won’t know whether the Nixon era has truly passed.


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