On this day, Richard Nixon would have been 100 years old. While mere mention of his name to any lifelong Democrat will likely bring a sharp rebuke and a look of shock, the truth is, his policies would fit very neatly into today’s Democratic Party. It cannot be forgotten that he was impeached for spying on the Democratic Headquarters; however, we also should not forget that he created a revolution. He started the New American Revolution. And as sad as it is to say, he would feel much more at home in today’s Democratic party than he would in the current Tea Party controlled Republican party.
As we all know, the current Republican party is largely controlled by the ultra-conservative wing lead by those who side with the backwards leaning Tea Party. In the time that Tea Party revolution has taken over the Republicans, its members have referred, time and again, to how our country needs to look back to the American Revolution. This includes less taxation and smaller government, even to the point of suggesting that entire essential departments be merged or discontinued entirely. If Richard Nixon were alive today, he would be standing next to some of the most liberal in the Democratic party. Instead of less government, his revolution looked forward, by seeing that sensible spending and reform are the tenets of making a country strong. So let’s take a look at how Nixon compares with today’s Tea Party Republicans.
Safety Net Programs
NIXON’s 1968 convention speech:
“Let us increase the wealth of America so we can provide more generously for the aged and for the needy and for all those who cannot help themselves. But for those who are able to help themselves, what we need are not more millions on welfare rolls but more millions on payrolls in the United States of America. Instead of Government jobs and Government housing and Government welfare, let Government use its tax and credit policies to enlist in this battle the greatest engine of progress ever developed in the history of man-American private enterprise.”
What Nixon proposed was not simply a decrease in taxes to jump start business, but a two-pronged approach. He decreased the tax rate from Eisenhower’s high of 91% to to 70%. The second part of this was not cuts to vital support programs, but instead he increased spending to the Food Stamp program, begun under Johnson’s Great Society programs. He also made it mandatory that all states participate in the program. Nixon wasn’t facing an economic crisis, but he saw the value of taking care of people who were in need.
TEA PARTY-CONTROLLED REPUBLICANS: Despite the great economic hardship that many Americans have seen in recent years, Tea Party-controlled Republicans want to decrease the spending on Food Stamps and similar safety net programs. Unlike Nixon, they think that people in need can simply pull themselves up if they really wanted to. Some have even gone so far as to call Food Stamps users “moochers.” They have also lobbied hard against keeping unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, suggested cuts to Social Security, and other programs for the poor. Their plan is to cut funding just to make their numbers look good, but with no sense of what those cuts could do long term. Today’s Tea Party Republicans are working to dismantle requirements by the state to participate in safety net programs. The latest, of course, is the American Care Act. Michele Bachmann has even proposed legislation in the last few days to dismantle the program entirely.
Foreign Policy and the Military
NIXON’s 1968 convention speech:
“The first priority foreign policy objective of our next Administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there. We need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.”
Nixon did step up the war for a while, but soon realized that this did not put the Viet Cong in a place where they might want to surrender. He eventually reduced the number of troops and military spending.
TEA PARTY-CONTROLLED REPUBLICANS: In the early days of the Tea Party Republicans, it was all about generalities. Ron Paul mentioned that limited government and limited international intervention was not immune from cuts, but most ignored it. When President Obama, supported by the majority of Democrats, wanted to bring troops home, the Tea Party couldn’t say much. But their true colors came up when Tammy Duckworth became a name that everyone knew. The double-amputee ran against Tea Party favorite, Joe Walsh, whose only comment on foreign policy was that Duckworth mentioned her experience too often.
NIXON ADMINISTRATION: As part of the Johnson administration, the cultural heritage of the country was enhanced through the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nixon continued funding and support for the program. The programs give out grants to artists and programs that might not otherwise be able to receive funding. Although some of the recipients have been criticized for their projects, the more mundane programs include PBS.
TEA PARTY-CONTROLLED REPUBLICANS: As part of their slash and burn policy, it’s been determined that funding for arts should be done, but in a way that suits them. One website suggests a Conservative Endowment for the Arts. They propose that instead of the NEA money going towards “Marxist propaganda,” the free downloadable art will go towards fighting the Leftist NEA. As for PBS, Mitt Romney famously noted that if he were to get elected president, Big Bird would be on the chopping block. Some of the funding for PBS comes from the NEA.
So there you have it. Richard Nixon really is better than today’s Tea Party-controlled Republicans. While he was suspicious of the Democrats, he did realize that you can’t just cut spending to say you cut spending. He realized that the wealth of the entire country did not neglect those who could not provide for themselves, that art was important, and that your approach to foreign policy must be rational and reflect the changing needs of the situation. Hopefully the coming downfall of the Tea Party will bring the pendulum back to the middle, and both parties can work together to get this country back on its feet once more. We can call it the 3rd American Revolution – one that looks toward the future, not the past.