Monday, February 24, 2014

Nixon still runs the GOP: How the white South dominates the party

From Salon:

Many believe that Reagan or Goldwater founded modern conservatism. But it's Nixon whose legacy truly lives on

Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014

The issue of who founded modern conservatism is important not just to the historical community, which lives to debate the origins of anything and everything. It has deep significance for any politician who seeks to invest himself with such august symbolism, as with anyone who tries to fathom American politics today.

Barry Goldwater is a logical candidate. Despite his failure in the presidential lists, he advocated conservative principles long before any other national political figure, making him a prophet before his time. Pat Buchanan dubbed him no less than “the father of us all.” Daniel McCarthy, in The American Conservative, believed that “his place in conservative history, and conservatives’ hearts, is settled … each branch of the conservative movement can plausibly trace itself back to some tendency… in the Goldwater effort.” And Phyllis Schafly called the Arizona senator “the undisputed original leader of the modern conservative movement … It is hard to overestimate the importance of Barry Goldwater.”

Ronald Reagan is the current favorite. Fox Nation quoted Nile Gardiner of Britain’s conservative paper the Telegraph that the former actor created “the greatest U. S. presidency of the 20th century.”  The Heritage Foundation pronounced Reagan “the second most popular and consequential Republican president after Abraham Lincoln … he is credited with reviving the national economy, recovering the nation’s optimism about the future, and taking the pivotal steps to end the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union.” The social conservative champion Family Research Council noted that, “Every Republican presidential candidate claims the mantle of Ronald Reagan … As they jockey for the … presidential nomination, they invoke Ronald Reagan:  ‘I believe as Ronald Reagan believed …’”

An unlikely candidate, however, would be Richard Nixon. Despised by liberals for his early red-baiting, his presidential record remains shocking by modern conservative standards. He proposed, for example, wage and price controls, a massive federal takeover of the national economy that would be branded Sovietism by today’s right. Under Nixon’s watch, the federal government created the Environmental Protection Agency, and introduced affirmative action. One blogger wrote that no Democrat today could get away with what Nixon tried to do, let alone a Republican.

Yet, in one critical way, Nixon really is the creator of conservatism as it exists today in America.

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