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Circus Tricky Dick – what does the Republicans' National Assembly mean?

Orientering 17. August 1968: The election of Richard Nixon as Republican presidential candidate came as no surprise. In this article, Helge Rønning sheds light on the person Nixon, the American electoral system and the society in which people like Nixon and Wallace may have a relatively broad electoral appeal.


Richard Nixon's nomination as Republican presidential candidate is not only a victory for him personally, but also a victory for the Republican party apparatus. He is the type of politician who better than anyone can gather the conglomerate of conflicting interests that a large American party is. This former Sunday school teacher from California is a political chameleon who changes color as it pays off. This was also shown during the Miami National Assembly. Two hours before the southern state delegations decided whether to support Nixon or Reagan, Nixon held a press conference where he ran on a relatively liberal line. 

On Tuesday morning, Nixon pretended to be a politician who knew what he was doing. But two hours later, at a secret meeting with Southern state delegations, he came forward with the same demands as a Reagan and a Goldwater. 

It was intended that what happened at this meeting should not come out. But some liberal journalists had smuggled in a tape recorder, and the world learned that Nixon secured the support of the Southern States by practically promising to use nuclear weapons against Hanoi.

Spiro Agnew

Nixon's election of Maryland governor Spiro Agnew as vice president also confirms the theories that there is no "new" Nixon running for election. Agnew was chosen for several reasons. He had shown during the Baltimore riots that he both wanted and could hit hard on "criminals and snipers." He was unacceptable to the southern states. Likewise, he is a relatively inexperienced politician with no particular ability to arouse the enthusiasm of the masses, and therefore will not be able to put Nixon in the shade. The other possible vice-presidential candidates were all known as politicians with great public appeal, and that is Nixon's lack.

Nixon – an opportunist with reactionary traits

Speaking to the National Assembly after the nomination was secured, Nixon said he would campaign on behalf of the "forgotten Americans," and he did not use that term about the poor black millions of big cities, Indians, Mexican farm workers, the unemployed or the countryside. poor, but on the other hand about "all the ordinary Americans who work, pay taxes, do not stand out or demonstrate." One of the most important points in Nixon's campaign has been that he has always emphasized that he will take an active part in fighting the "criminal power", and this in turn means that he will meet the rebels in the ghettos with even tougher means than those currently used. He wants the rights of an accused person to be undermined under US law, after all. He is in favor of introducing legal telephone tapping. He believes that social problems can be solved by using police and soldiers.

Nixon and the Southern States

It's the same Nixon who goes to the polls in November, who went to the polls eight years ago, an opportunist with reactionary features. Ever since he was elected to Congress just after the war, his career has been marked by the traits we usually associate with the least appealing aspects of American politics. Both when he ran for the House of Representatives and later for the Senate, he accused his opponents of being crypto-communists and of doing Soviet business. He was a member of the McCarthy Committee at the time when the witch hunt was at its worst across the country, and it was one of his associates from that period, Senator Karl Mundt from North Dakota, who helped him pick out Spiro Agnew. While Nixon was Eisenhower's vice president, he followed up on Foster Dulles' foreign policy in all areas, and he was the one who was most eager for the United States to send troops to Vietnam to save the French out of trouble at Dien Bien Phu. There is little reason to hide the fact that it has been scary that Nixon has been involved in a number of corruption scandals in his home state of California. Admittedly, the "official" Nixon was in favor of fighting corruption and pursuing a liberal and peace-friendly foreign policy. "To the communist leaders we will say that the age of strife is over, now the age of negotiations has come. We extend a hand of friendship to the Russian people and the Chinese people. " But election promises and election speeches are like writing in sand, mood waves erasing them in the course of days, weeks or months.

Political convention or circus

For almost a week, the world's attention was focused on Miami Beach, on a circus that everyone seemed to believe had political significance, but which had little or nothing to do with politics. Nixon boasted that he had secured the victory in advance. Rockefeller was in favor of an "open national meeting" where the candidates were to be pitted against each other and the best one chosen by the delegates, and that would of course mean Rockefeller, he thought. Reagan would prefer Reagan to be nominated. But it had basically meant little or nothing who had won, because the program they had put on had been diluted, conservative, full of platitudes and suited the majority of the National Assembly who were center-right Republicans.

There is something unreal about such an American national meeting, and this in Miami Beach must, if possible, have been more surreal than most. The average age of the delegates was 56 years, they lived in huge luxury hotels, and as we received the news, it seemed that the national meeting's most important question was whether it was Reagan or Rockefeller who had the prettiest girls to propagate for themselves. During the National Assembly, the Negro ghetto with the ironic name Liberty City exploded. It is located about ten kilometers from Miami Beach and you could see the fires from the roofs of the hotels.

But the circus continued as if nothing had happened. The Republican Party's response to the poor's desperation is more money and better weapons for the police.

Nixon wants to outmaneuver Wallace

By satisfying the demands of the Southern states, Nixon hoped that he would be able to defeat Alabama's former governor Wallace in this part of the country. For one of the most important features of this year's election campaign is the role Wallace will be able to play. It is possible that he will be able to get at least twenty percent of the votes in the election in November, and he will get the votes of precisely the part of the American people that no other politician cares about. When Wallace speaks, it is on behalf of the white underclass, both in the big city and in the countryside. They are without power in society, their problems are not "popular" like the Negroes. They are afraid of losing their job. They look with suspicion at "big business" and the bureaucracy in Washington. They hate anyone who wants to break down old and inherited values. They have always been far down the ladder in society, but they have stood above the Negroes. Now they are afraid that the Negroes will take away from them the rights they have had. And because no one else in American society is willing to take these groups' problems seriously, they turn to Wallace, and his fascist ideas resonate. He speaks to them in their own language. The problem of American radicals is precisely that they have not reached this group in American society since the days of Eugene Deb, at the beginning of this century. Fascists like Huey Long and George Wallace do.

"Free choice between clear options."

If Wallace wins the election in a sufficient number of states, he will be able to bind the electoral college that ultimately decides it all. It can lead to two things. Either he sells his votes as expensively as possible to the candidate who meets most of his requirements. Or the election is brought before the House of Representatives, and the members of this pick out the candidate they think is best suited. The last alternative will put the American electoral system in such a strange light that representatives of both major parties are now working hard to find loopholes in the electoral law.

At the end of August, the Democrats' national convention will take place in Chicago, where Vice President Humphrey will likely be nominated as the party's presidential candidate. The choice will probably be between Wallace, Nixon and Humphrey, and it can also be called "a free choice between clear alternatives".

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