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Nixon Era, 1968-1974. Governing to the Right. 1968 Presidential Election Electoral Vote. Nixon’s “Mandate”. Nixon’s 1968 “Mandate”. A “Minority” President: 43% of Popular Vote George Wallace won 14% of popular vote and 5 Southern states on “states’ rights,” “anti civil rights” platform

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Nixon Era, 1968-1974

Governing to the Right

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Nixon’s 1968 “Mandate”

  • A “Minority” President: 43% of Popular Vote

  • George Wallace won 14% of popular vote and 5 Southern states on “states’ rights,” “anti civil rights” platform

  • Nixon promised “peace with honor” in Vietnam

  • But Congress was solidly Democratic

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Nixon’s Political Challenge

  • Extricating the United States from Vietnam

  • Working with the Democratic Congress

  • Addressing the emerging problems with the slowing economy: unemployment, rising inflation and trade deficit caused by Johnson’s spending policies

  • Defining a conservative domestic agenda on social welfare, civil rights, poverty, the environment, and law and order.

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Securing A Republican Majority: Political Realignment

  • The Republicans needed to draw voters away from the Democratic Party by identifying constituencies disaffected with the policies of the Kennedy/Johnson era.

    • The Southern Strategy to convert white southern Democrats to the Republican Party

    • Working Class White Ethnics: convert labor Democrats to Republicans

    • Suburbanites

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The Demagogic Appeal to the “Silent Majority”

  • Vice President Spiro Agnew attacked the “excesses” of sixties liberalism and radicalism, labeling opponents of Nixon’s policies:

    • "nattering nabobs of negativism,"

    • "pusillanimous pussyfoots"

    • "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history"

    • "effete corps of impudent snobs"

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Political Divide according to Nixon

  • Pro Nixon Voters: “The Silent Majority”

    • the middle class,

    • blue collar workers

    • Sunbelt residents,

    • ethnics (e.g., white ethnics)

  • The Opposition:

    • Advocates of “forced busing”

    • Hippies

    • “Welfare chiselers”

    • People “soft on crime”

    • Antiwar activists

    • Drug users

    • Advocates of sexual permissiveness

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Political Practice

  • Vietnam War

    • Escalation of the conflict with May 1970 Cambodian invasion

    • Change the selective service system to a lottery system

    • Vietnamization of the fighting: e.g., reduce American casualties

    • Punish the North Vietnamese into negotiating

    • Ignore antiwar protests

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Political Practice

  • Domestic: New Federalism

    • Replace “welfare” with a work incentive program, “workfare” - not implemented

    • Revenue sharing: distribute federal revenue to state and local governments rather than through federal programs

    • War on drugs: create the DEA

    • Promote environmental improvement, creating the Environmental Protection Agency and laws to promote clean air, clean water, recycling, protection of wilderness and natural resources

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Political Practice

  • Civil Rights:

    • Enforce affirmative action, including in blue collar trade unions

    • Title IX guaranteeing equality in sports in educational institutions

    • Used the Justice Department to oppose busing to desegregate schools. Courts continued to support desegregation, including using busing.

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Political Practice

Rhetoric: Nixon appealed to conservative rhetoric, and used Agnew to mobilize the Republican ‘base’

Reality: He governed closer to the center, and compromised and supported Democratic initiatives. In return, he dampened the liberal thrust of the Kennedy/Johnson initiatives

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Clouds on the Economic Horizon

  • From 1945-1970 the US economy had unprecedented prosperity

  • By 1970, the European and Asian economies devastated by WWII had “caught” up with the American economy, and had newer, more advanced technologies or production in many cases

  • Johnson’s deficit spending on the Vietnam war undermined the U.S. dollar which had supported the international monetary system since 1945

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Clouds on the Economic Horizon

  • 1945: Bretton Woods agreement made the US the guarantor of world monetary stability by pegging the dollar to gold at $35 an ounce.

  • By 1971, US could not sustain the system and went off the gold standard, effectively devaluing the dollar

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