Water Man Spouts

Friday, May 04, 2007

Rewarding Research

"Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research." – Malcolm X; Message to the Grass Roots; Detroit Council for Human Rights’ Northern Negro Leadership Conference; November 10, 1963

I was doing a bit of research on the Nixon White House’s tactics for manipulating the media during the 1972 presidential campaign. There are a few books that contain fascinating information on how Nixon aide Patrick Buchanan started a small operation which coordinated phone calls and "letters to the editor" in an attempt to influence how television stations and newspapers reported events.

Some of the most important information is found in The Senate Watergate Report. Chapter II is titled "Campaign Practices"; it contains large sections on the administration’s tactics between 1968 - ’71, and on the 1972 campaign. On pages 236 - 246, the report covers "Public Relations in the White House: Letter-Writing, Direct Mailing; Citizen’s Committees. In the upcoming week, I plan to write about how progressive democrats from the grass roots can learn from, and indeed use, some of the basic "tricks of the trade" that Buchanan developed.

However, I found something that I thought was worth starting with. It’s a Nixon White House tactic that I think we will see being used by the republican party in 2008. This is from the section on the 1972 campaign. Read it and see if it sounds like something we can expect:

"The political strategy of the Committee to Re-elect the President in early 1971 and 1972 was unambiguous: undercut Senator Muskie in the Democratic primaries, divide the Democratic Party so that it could not unite after the convention, and assist where possible in getting the weakest Democratic candidate nominated. The absence of a serious fight for re-nomination gave the CRP and the White House the luxury of focusing their political efforts during this period on potential Democratic opponents rather than serious primary contenders within their own party. In the meantime, the various Democratic contenders had to concentrate their own political efforts on obtaining their party’s nomination.

"The Nixon strategy was best embodied in a series of political memoranda written by speechwriter Patrick Buchanan ….. In addition, Buchanan advocated concentrating on dividing the Democrats so that they would be unable to unite for the general election. In a July 2, 1971 memo, Buchanan advised:

" ‘(We) maintain as guiding political principle that our great hope for 1972 lies in maintaining or exacerbating the deep Democratic rift between the elite, chic, New Left, intellectual avant garde, isolationist, bell-bottomed environmentalist, new priorities types on one hand – and the hard hat, Dick Daley, Holy Name Society, ethnic, blue collar, Knights of Columbus, NYPD, Queens Democrats on the other.

" ‘The liberal Democrats should be pinioned to their hippie supporters. The Humphrey Democrats should be reminded of how they were the fellows who escalated and cheered the war from its inception.’ "

I am not attempting to discourage discussion and debate within democratic circles during the primaries. In fact, I think that the socially progressive, anti-war democrats should use this season to move the party at the grass-roots level. In fact, as Minister Malcolm X used to say in his messages to the grass roots, too often the difference between a democrat and a republican made elections a choice between a fox and a wolf.

We have our work cut out for us. It is tempting, after last night’s first republican "debate," to take for granted that our candidate will win in ’08. Let’s make sure we find the correct candidate, with the most progressive platform. And let’s increase our gains in the House and Senate, and in the state houses across the country.


At May 10, 2007 at 11:42 AM, Blogger hizzoner said...

Wonderful research Waterman!

I am going to link to this and "riff" on it in my blog ...perhaps later today I'll get it posted.

There are a couple of points which stand out...first how the Nixon Administration has been reincarnated in the Bush Adminsitration. In many regards, the regime of George W. Bush could quite likely be entitled, "Nixon's Revenge"

It is likewise striking how the Republicans have learned to use not just the media, but government itself as a tool for controlling the message...and they learned it under Nixon.

Again, thanks for the wonderful research, and as always, for the insight.



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