Letter #68 – What Does “Nixonian” Mean?

    It seems to me that we are hearing the term “Nixonian” used more often these days. Most recently when TV pundits were talking about the Obama Administrations criticism of Fox News. They talked a great deal about the Obama folks having an enemies list and how they were acting very “Nixonian.” I know they weren’t being complimentary when they said it.

    I asked our in-house expert about this, the wonderful and wise Frank Gannon, and he had some interesting historic facts about the “enemies list.” It was originally a September 9, 1971 memo to John Dean, from Chuck Colson. It contained only 20 names. Mostly the reason they were on the list is because they were very, vocally, anti-Nixon. Dean took that original list and expanded it to over 200 names, mostly made up of people who were against the Vietnam war. He, Dean, has said publicly that he didn’t think President Nixon knew about the list. Then it surfaced during the “Watergate” hearings. Today, we are lead to believe the President wrote it himself. That is unfair and wrong.

    I have often referred to myself as a “Nixonian Republican” and I never considered that I was being unkind to myself when I used that description. My parents were life-long Republicans and my mother was proud to describe herself as a “Civil Righter.” Then, President Nixon’s leadership also shaped me and how I think. I AM a more moderate Republican than many of our party members today and using the term just meant exactly that. My more conservative friends don’t seem to hold it against me. There should be room for both mind-sets in our party. Wise counsel told us that we should agree to disagree agreeably!

    I went on Wikipedia to see what their description of “Nixonian” might be. What I read was very interesting. First of all, “one never self-identifies as a Nixonian.”

    Oh my, what about me? I even have a button that my daughter Marja made for me that says, “Proud Nixonian Republican.” I must admit that when I wore it at the 1988 RNC convention, certain folks looked at me like I had a communicable disease!

    The description goes on to say, “The term is most frequently used by Republicans to attack self-described moderates; when used by Democrats it is more apt to be used in the context of the Watergate scandal and the suggestion of Republican corruption.“

    OK, we already knew about that and live with it everyday here at the Richard Nixon Presidential Foundation.

    More from Wikipedia: “This moniker is based upon the administration of Richard Nixon, who ran in 1968 and 1972 as a conservative, only to enact unprecedented amounts of new regulations and government agencies, and expand federally provided social services. Among those were the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, implementation of price and wage controls to try to reduce inflation, and an unsuccessful attempt to provide a guaranteed minimum income to taxpayers.”

    Hey! Isn’t this the Legacy we want everyone to know about? Now that’s NIXONIAN, and it’s a good thing.

    I’ve been spending some time as a volunteer in the Museum Shop at the Library. It is fun and a great opportunity to chat with visitors and find out why they chose to visit. Their reasons are overwhelmingly positive and that’s heartwarming to hear. Last week I looked up from the cash register to see John and Marilyn Wilbur walking toward me. We were classmates at the University of Arizona and Marilyn and I were Delta Gamma Pledge sisters in the spring of 1956. What could be more fun than that? After they toured the Library, they said they “had forgotten what a great President he was.” So, it seems, have a heck of a lot of other people. That’s the mission ahead as I see it: remind the people and focus on the Legacy of the 37th President of the United States.

    Tell me what you think. How should we work to take back the Nixonian label? Maybe the RN Foundation web-site could have a “Nixonian Moment,” or “Nixonianisms of Note” posted now and then. I for one would love to see it become a description to be proud of again.