Does Nixon Really Matter Today?

–submitted by Roger Phelps; photo credit to Pete Christianson

DSC_0025Professor Stanley Kutler provided a coherent and passionate explanation of why Richard Nixon still matters.  Although it has been 40 years since his resignation, the Nixon legacy endures.  And, it’s largely not what people focus on when they think of Nixon.

President Nixon was the first and only U.S. President to resign office.  The Watergate scandal and the unprecedented Presidential abuse of power was his undoing.  The outcome of his certain impeachment was beyond question, but Nixon avoided it by resigning office.

Aside from this significant event in American history, why does Nixon matter?  What lasting impact still felt today had its roots in his administration?

One of the legacies is the Southern Strategy pursued in the 1968 election of Nixon.  He actively and directly courted support among Southern democrats and got enough of them to vote Republican to put him in office.  The replacement of Democratic Party voters with Republican voters cemented Nixon’s position and affected every election since then.  It is one of the major political realignments in American history.

Another lasting impact of President Nixon is the significant influence he had on the Supreme Court.  In a period of less than 3 years, Nixon appointed (and got confirmation) of 4 Supreme Court judges.  More importantly, all assumed the mantel of “strict constructionism” and forever changed the way appointees are questioned in their confirmation hearings.  The concept of questioning “judicial activism” was spawned in that era.

Professor Kutler adroitly and with appropriate humor addressed a number of questions from Rotarians.  His presentation at our Rotary Club was an upbeat event we’ll not soon forget.



And, by the way, Happy Birthday to Stanley Kutler, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this week.



Our thanks to Professor Kutler for his presentation and to Roger Phelps for this review article.  We also thank WisconsinEye for videotaping our program this week.  CLICK to watch the video.

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