50 years ago: The day Nixon routed the establishment
What are the roots of our present disorder, of the hostilities and hatreds that so divide us? When did we become this us vs. them nation?
Who started the fire?
Many trace the roots of our uncivil social conflict to the 1960s and the Johnson years when LBJ, victorious in a 61% landslide in 1964, could not, by 1968, visit a college campus without triggering a violent protest.
The morning after his narrow presidential victory in 1968, Richard Nixon said his goal would be to "bring us together." And in early 1969, he seemed to be succeeding.
His inaugural address extended a hand of friendship to old enemies. He withdrew 60,000 troops from Vietnam. He left the Great Society largely untouched and proposed a Family Assistance Plan for the poor and working class. He created a Western White House in San Clemente, California.
In July, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.
America approved. Yet the elites seethed. For no political figure of his time was so reviled and hated by the establishment as was Richard Nixon.
By the fall of 1969, that establishment, which had led us into Vietnam and left 500,000 U.S. troops there as of January 1969, had turned against their own war, declared it "an unwinnable war" and "Nixon's war," and begun to cheer the huge anti-war protests scheduled for October and November.
David Broder of The Washington Post was one who saw clearly what was happening: "It is becoming more obvious with every passing day that the men and movement that broke Lyndon Johnson's presidency in 1968 are out to break Richard Nixon in 1969. The likelihood is great that they will succeed again."
In a cover story titled "Nixon in Trouble," Newsweek echoed Broder: