Thursday, August 25, 2022

Was Nixon's Demise a Successful Right-Wing Coup?


What If Nixon’s Demise Was a Right-Wing Coup


            Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 and re-election in 1984, it’s obvious that American politics has had a decidedly right-wing tone and substance. But what if it hasn’t been recognized the degree to which the rise of right-wing politics in the US was facilitated by left-wing politicians and players participating in the overthrow of Richard Nixon? That is, what if Nixon’s overthrow was engineered by conservatives who hated both his domestic and his foreign policies and that they were successful because they had left-wing allies who, for various reasons, also hated Nixon? And what if these left-wingers didn’t understand that they were actually undermining the possibility of a left-wing politics arising in the United States, a possibility that seems until this day impossible? 


            To understand this, it is necessary to also understand that the conventional narrative regarding the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s demise is more or less a fairy tale. While Nixon was guilty of obstructing justice in trying to cover up the burglary at the Watergate, the motivations that led to those burglaries were nothing like those attributed to the Nixon administration. Moreover, what Nixon and his supporters did regarding the 1972 presidential election had been done quite often and was anything but unique. The motivations of Nixon’s enemies, his right-wing enemies, were political while they knew or didn’t care that the burglary itself was not political. These right-wingers were out to get Nixon because he was willing to betray South Vietnam by seeking “peace with honor” [but not with victory], because he went to mainland China wanting to make China a legitimate member of the international community, and because he sought détente with the Soviet Union. He was willing, therefore, to bargain with “evil Communist empires.” From the outset of his administration, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been spying on Nixon and Kissinger, which led to the creation of “the Plumbers,” Nixon’s way of trying to keep control of his agenda. When Nixon learned of this spying, he refused to hold those responsible accountable, in large part because he feared how the military would respond were he to do so. And even to the end of his administration, Nixon seemed unaware of just who his enemies were, e.g., Alexander Hair, Howard Hunt, and John McCord. 


            As the right-wing opposition to Nixon grew and gained strength, they managed to ally themselves with left-wingers who hated Nixon for his past sins, his earlier anti-Communism, his take down of Alger Hiss, his “dog whistle” politics, and his rejection of their bona fides as proper elites. The Watergate burglary was like a gift to right-wingers because they could use it to draw left-wingers into their opposition to Nixon and to use them to ensure his demise, even his removal from the presidency. Thus, although the Watergate burglary had very little to do with electoral politics, it could be used as the centerpiece of what was said to be Nixon’s attack on American democracy. In fact, Nixon and his minions did very little that was unusual with regard to “dirty tricks.” Nonetheless, the left-wingers were only too happy to go after “Tricky Dick,” even to the point of not considering what the broader political implications would be of his demise. They didn’t seem to realize what was actually going on, that by undoing Nixon, who was not a right-wing Republican, they would be contributing to a right-wing coup so that anyone following Nixon in the presidency would have to embrace right-wing causes, like ending détente with the Soviet Union or rejecting a broader rapprochement with mainland China. Not surprisingly, when Ford and Carter tried to continue some of Nixon’s policies, both failed because of right-wing resistance, as was to be expected. 


            By successfully removing Nixon from the presidency, the right-wingers then took center-stage, so to speak, in the drama of American politics. And along with Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972, which destroyed the legitimacy of the McGovern alternative in the Democratic Party, once Nixon was gone, driven from office by both right-wingers and left-wingers, the strongest forces in American politics was right-wing forces. So, by allowing themselves to be blinded by their hatred of Richard Nixon, the left-wingers undermined themselves and the possibility of a left-wing politics in the United States. The best they could do was to rally around “New Democrats,” like Bill Clinton; that is, around Democrats who seemed like “right-wingers lite.” And, of course, Clinton did little more than continue what was called “the Reagan Revolution,” while trying to disguise this fact with such meaningless programs as “Reinventing Government.”


            So, it would seem that the left-wingers did not recognize the political implications of Nixon’s demise; that is, the implications for the character of American politics broadly understood. And whatever the cause of this phenomenon, by participating in the overthrow of Nixon, the left-wingers had sealed their own fate. Henceforth, they would not, could not be a powerful political force or play a central role in the American political drama.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

This and That: Social Media, Jane Austen, the Project, Watergate


This and That: Social Media, Jane Austen, the Project, Watergate

Peter Schultz


            Social media will never usher in a new age. Social media displays of violence, say, police violence, do not show us who we are. Rather, they immunize us to what is actually going on, that is, what is going on officially, as a matter of policy.


            Graphic displays of official violence allow us to think: “Oh, that’s not us. That’s not what we approve of because otherwise we wouldn’t be shocked and we wouldn’t be showing it on Facebook.” But it is behavior that is approved, and these videos hide that fact, along with absolving us of responsibility for them. Then we can say, “Oh, it’s a few bad apples.” And, thereby, once again we have absolved ourselves of responsibility for the racism, the savage racism that has characterized the United States for more than 200 years.


            Other ways of absolving ourselves of responsibility: Critical Race Theory, taking down statues celebrating racists, and even apologies. And along with absolving ourselves, there phenomena fortify the status quo, just as voting fortifies the status quo.


            The Project: The guardians are protecting us. We have little to fear, we’re told, besides fear itself because the dangers are external, the threats are exterior. No real threats are internal, e.g., the assassins of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, or Fred Hampton. And, hence, Assange and Snowden must be silenced, delegitimized like Gary Webb.


            Watergate: Had to be transformed into a morality play, with the good guys combatting the bad guys and the good guys winning. As a morality tale, we the people are absolved of responsibility for that scandal. The immoral ones are to blame; not legitimate institutions like the CIA or the presidency itself. To what extent was Watergate systemic? But because we caught the criminals, we really don’t care. To what extent is the Trump phenomenon systemic? A question not all that many are willing to ask.       


Jane Austen: was Jane Austen writing about Great Britain or about the human condition? To do the latter, Austen would have had to be persuaded that there is “a human condition;” that is, that there are unchanging, fundamental alternatives offered to human beings.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Ben Afflect, JLo and Harry and Sally


Ben Afflect, JLo and Harry and Sally

Peter Schultz


            In their recent nuptials, Ben and JLo are seeking something, something beautiful. What’s the likelihood of they’ll find it? They’ve been fooled into thinking that what they’re seeking will be found in or as the result of a beautifully choreographed wedding, like a beautifully choreographed movie script. Not quite.


            But it’s when Harry met Sally that the real beauty is to be found, something it took Harry twelve years to figure out. The beauty, although reflected by a marriage, wasn’t about a marriage. It was about the beauty of a love affair that others could see better than Harry and Sally. Even Helen, Harry’s ex, saw it, as did Jess and Marie. Harry didn’t know he was in love with Sally and Sally thought she hated Harry when it was impossible for her to hate him because of the things he said. “That’s just like you, Harry. You say things like that and you make it impossible for me to hate you. And I hate you, Harry. I really hate you!”


            We humans pursue, we crave beauty, and most of us find it together as “a couple,” maybe married, maybe not. I have loved several women in my life and I still love them, unashamedly, because I now realize and embrace the beauty we shared. It is more than enough to see me through this vail of tears.  

Friday, August 19, 2022

Why Jane Austen Teaches Bad Morality


Why Jane Austen Teaches Bad Morality

Peter Schultz


            At the end of her novel, Persuasion, Jane Austen owns up to the fact that she’s teaching “bad morality,” which she does for the sake of “the truth.” What’s the “bad morality” that Jane Austen is teaching? That the young who are in love and want to marry should do so, even though it would be “imprudent” because they are poor or “little likely to be necessary to each other’s ultimate comfort.” As Austen wrote: “This may be bad morality to conclude with, but I believe it to be the truth….” [Persuasion was the last novel Jane Austen completed.]


            Good morality counsels prudence, the kind of prudence that Lady Russell used to persuade Anne Eliot to reject Frederick Wentworth, despite the fact that Anne and Frederick were deeply in love. Frederick was poor and had only some future prospects to rely on. Apparently, though, for Jane Austen, being deeply in love trumps or should trump such moral or prudent considerations. Why? Well, perhaps, morality doesn’t “know” love or recognize it for what it is, viz., the source of the best kind of human happiness. Morality may promise certain things – stability, safety, prosperity, even character – but it cannot promise happiness. It is not in the restraint of our passions that we humans find happiness but, rather, in their fulfillment. And romance, the romance of deep, erotic love is the way to happiness because through it, we humans may know, may even dwell in the realm of the beautiful. Such knowledge, such a dwelling is the peak of human happiness. And whatever morality promises us will always fall short of genuine happiness.