So many false memes provide a junk food intellectual diet for progressive infotainment addicts, so little time to debunk them all. In today’s homily, Swami Donkeynanda shall consider one of the most enduring.
The currently en vogue progressive cliche “Richard Nixon was to the left of Obama” (or its variant “Nixon is the most liberal President since FDR/LBJ”) is one of the most repeated of this amusing orwellian internet game of dissolving historical accuracy via search engine optimisation. And the Nixon meme misses this main point:
that for all its structural faults and widespread corruption, the US system still fairly reflects the people it misrepresents by the constitutional design of the
aristocratic bourgeois founding fathers.
Nixon was no liberal. He was a conservative pragmatist who served as POTUS along with one of, if not the most, liberal congresses in the history of the US.
He could either accomplish little or nothing as POTUS, or he could agree to compromise with the legislative prerogatives put forth by Congress, which was as liberal then as today’s Congress is conservative.
fake left infoboobs whiff entirely on this point, but it is a fact of history.
As President, Nixon was only as conservative as he could be and only as liberal as he had to be. He took credit for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency while privately noting that if he had not taken this liberal step, the Democratic Congress would have forced more liberal environmental legislation on him. This was a President who could philosophically oppose wage and price controls and privately express the conviction that they would not work, while still implementing them for election-year effect. Still his tactical flexibility should not obscure his steadiness of political purpose. He meant to move the country to the right, and he did.
Nixon’s most celebrated achievements as President—nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the diplomatic opening to China—set the stage for the arms reduction pacts and careful diplomacy that brought about the end of the Cold War. Likewise, the Nixon Doctrine of furnishing aid to allies while expecting them to provide the soldiers to fight in their own defense paved the way for the Reagan Doctrine of supporting proxy armies and the Weinberger Doctrine of sending U.S. armed forces into combat only as a last resort when vital national interests are at stake and objectives clearly defined.
But even these groundbreaking achievements must be considered within the context of Nixon’s political goals. He privately viewed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the China initiative as ways to blunt criticism from the political left. And while his slow withdrawal from Vietnam appeared to be a practical application of the Nixon Doctrine, his secretly recorded White House tapes reveal that he expected South Vietnam to collapse after he brought American troops home and prolonged the war to postpone that collapse until after his reelection in 1972.
Nixon was only as conservative as he could be and as liberal as he had to be, because he had to deal with the Congress he had been dealt.
Nixon was forced to react and compromise in order to contain the liberal Congress, and he did so with such a cunning brilliance at times that many delusional progressives remain fooled to this very day. Hence, the popularity of the “Nixon/liberal” meme on the internets.
His greatest, most underrated achievement, in fact, was and still is celebrated by most progressives: ending the military draft and creating the professional army, which subsequently became free to wage multiple perma-wars without so much as a peep of defiance from the docile progressive side.
And no, this docility isn’t simply a consequence of Obama’s election, although it is one consequence. The truth is there wasn’t much of an anti-war effort either against Bush’s wars in 2003-2009, especially if measured against the anti-war movement during the 1960s-70s, the ferocity of which was animated very much by the existence of the conscription that forced kids against their will to fight and die for US imperialist wars of choice.
The fact is the current progressive docility and ineffectiveness, as well as the rightward movement of the US during the intervening 30 years or so prior to Obama’s election is a real trend and one which a second election of Obama [or fill in the blank of your favourite third party candidate here] alone will not overturn.
People. It’s still about the will of the people (yes, the corporate person now takes precedence, part of the conservative trend) at the end of the day. And as corruption endures, it is because the majority of the people are also corrupt.
Corruption takes many forms: political, spiritual, moral, logical, as well as financial.
We, the people, are just as guilty of decadence as those who misrepresent us. The decline of the
Roman Empire West shall continue unabated, for it too is an inevitable development within the history of class struggles.