If Nixon Were Alive Today

Nixon smoking

My attention has been called to this opinion piece in the Guardian: Richard Wolffe, It’s painfully clear: today’s Congress wouldn’t have impeached Nixon.

First of all, let me say that I agree with Mr. Wolffe’s conclusion: if Nixon were president, and if the House passed articles of impeachment, the Senate would not vote to remove him from office. Now for some context.

Moral Decline over Time: the Tobacco Industry Example

In the early 1950’s, the main health threat posed by cigarettes was thought to be throat irritation. When epidemiologists showed a very strong statistical linkage between smoking and lung cancer, some of the top executives in the tobacco industry were heard to say, in words or substance, “Holy cow, if this is true, we will just have to go out of business.” Several years later, though, the big tobacco companies joined in a conspiracy, coordinated by their advertising agency, to discredit the science, so that they could keep on addicting young people, to replace their more mature customers, whom they were willfully killing with their deadly product.

People of ordinary morality were pushed out, to be replaced by a cabal of moral monsters.

Why? Because of a mortal threat to their business.

My father smoked Lucky Strikes, and later Winstons, because they tasted good, like a cigarette should. I well remember him sitting at the dining table speaking the word “statistics” with the same angry disdain he would have referred to “pederasty,” if he had known what “pederasty” meant.

He died, of course. You might say he died of gullibility.

The 1960’s: The Party of Money Invites an Alliance with the Party of Racial Reaction

With the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960’s, some in the Republican Party saw an opportunistic opening: encourage the Southern herrenvolk democrats to exit the Democratic Party and join the Republicans. By the time Nixon resigned in 1973, the alliance of Big Money and Big Racial Resentment was under way, but it still had a long way to go. That’s why some people of moral conviction and courage could still find a place in Republican politics.

An Unholy Alliance, of Which Each Party Faces a Mortal Threat

Fast forward to the second decade of the 21stcentury. The two parties to the unholy alliance that is the Republican Party—the Party of Big Money and the Party of Big Racial Resentment—each have a big problem.

Paradoxically, the grave threat to the Party of Big Money is the natural consequence of its great success in vastly increasing economic inequality in the United States. The situation is unstable in the short run, and untenable in the long run. Like the situation faced by big tobacco.

And what about the other party to the coalition—I’ll call them My Peeps? My Peeps made two grave mistakes in the nineteenth century. They embraced slavery, rebellion, and massive racism. In the 20th century, they couldn’t unembrace it. And it’s with them today.

And a great many of them made another serious error of an intellectual or ideological nature. They let themselves be persuaded that evolution was wrong, and that, by extension, science was not a reliable way of understanding nature. And they let themselves be talked into a literal interpretation of scripture. The Book of Jonah, for example, is an inventive, fanciful tale, made up to illustrate a great moral truth. My Peeps, though, learned to ignore the moral truth and take a work of fiction as historical fact. They confused the moon with the finger that points at the moon.

Thinking like that equips you very badly for life in the 21st century.

Now, racism and know-nothingism are under mortal threat, just as obscene economic inequality is under threat.

The Only Hope: a Joint Dictatorship over the Normal

The Party of Big Money and the Party of Big Racism have decided that the only way to overcome the threats they face is to jointly exercise dictatorship over all the normal people in this country.

I believe they have correctly assessed the situation.