Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat
I believe you have to understand the 1960s and 1967-68 especially to understand the great political comeback of Richard Nixon and the rebirth of the Republican Party. Once you know what this time was and what it was about and how it benefited Richard Nixon you’ll also understand how brilliant of a politician and political strategist that Nixon really was. Nixon is in the same class as Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, when it comes to great politicians in American history. Perhaps smarter than all of then including FDR and Bill Clinton.
Where I agree with Pat Buchanan is that in 1967-68 America did feel like it was falling apart. The whole country seemed like it was pissed off. Riots and protests all across the country. Dr. King’s nonviolent civil rights movement seemed to be going out of style even within the African-American community with the rise of the militant socialist Black Panthers. Millions of Baby Boomers of all races and ethnicities coming of age in the 1960s and seeing an America they didn’t want and stood up to demand change across the country. People who tended to agree with Dr. King on the issues that his movement was addressing, but were primarily campaigning against the Vietnam War and what they saw was a self and racist American capitalist economic system.
By the time we get to 1968 the late 1950s is only ten years before 68 and yet America was and looked completely different as a country and not just because of color TV, but the music was not recognizable from the 1950s, the movies and the language and culture in the movies was completely different. Protesting and especially rioting in the streets and doing it in big cities like Detroit, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, just wasn’t done in 1957 or at any point in the 1950s for the very most part. But you also didn’t have a huge generation of angry Americans ( the Baby Boom Generation ) who were angry and wanted a different country and different system.
And during this whole period in the 1960s you had one political party in charge in America and in most of the country. Similar to what we have today but with large majorities in Congress. A Senate with 64 Democrats in 67-68, 243 or Democrats in the House, a Progressive Democrat as President in Lyndon Johnson. But with the angry Baby Boomers of all racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds and the angry African-American community for good reasons, you also had the parents and grandparents of the Baby Boomers who were also angry, but they weren’t angry at America. Just the leadership and party in power, as well as the new Counter Culture that seemed to be taking over America.
What we would call Reagan Democrats in the 1980s and today, were Nixon Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s. Southern and Midwestern Democrats who voted Democratic most of their lives until 1966, 67, and 68 came around when they were looking for different political leadership. Back in 1968 the Republican Party even with their big gains during the 1966 Congressional midterms when they won 45 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate, was still primarily a Northeastern party, with some support in the Midwest and conservative-libertarian West.
And to get to why Richard Nixon was such a brilliant not just politician but political strategist which is just as important. Nixon understood that for the Republican Party to come back they were going to have to make gains in the Democratic Dixie South, while holding their ground in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West. They were going to have to win over right-wing Southern Dixiecrats who opposed the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.
It started in 1966 with Congressional Republicans winning back over 40 seats in the House and a lot of them in the South and winning back 4 seats in the Senate allowing Congressional Republicans along with Dixiecrat Democrats, to block partisan progressive legislation that was proposed by President Johnson and the Congressional Democratic Leadership. And in 1968 thanks to the Vietnam War and the socialist New-Left that emerged in the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party was a huge house that was hugely divided and their grand political coalition that kept them in power since the Hoover Administration in the late 1920s when they won Congress back finally broke.
With Richard Nixon again being the great politician and political strategist that he was being there to take advantage of that. Richard Nixon is a big reason why the Republican Party is southern and rural based in America. He’s also a reason why Republicans struggle to win in big cities and big metro areas, because they’re base is so dependent on right-wing Fat-Right in many cases Southern Anglo-Saxon Protestant aging men. But pre-1966 the Republican Party simply wasn’t big enough to compete nationally with the Democrats and Richard Nixon changed that.
Richard Nixon Foundation: Pat Buchanan- 1968: The Year The Silent Majority Was Born
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