Richard Nixon’s 1968 Victory Begins to Sink In


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November 14, 1968, Vol. XIV, No. 5

Ask Not What Nixon Will Do For You
by Joe Flaherty

…In this dank, stale room Senate candidate Paul O’Dwyer sat in a chair testily denouncing the polls and the projections that on this early hour claimed that Jacob Javits was a landslide winner in their senatorial contest. He was white with fatigue and his anger was just as pale and washed out. He took to punching the CBS computer instead of Jack Javits. No, at this early hour he would not concede — the polls have been wrong before…

…With a Javits victory now accepted even by the most reluctant, the evening turned to Humphrey watching. The specter gave rise to some dark laughter in the soul…

The sadness of it was that Humphrey was loved by no one. There was none of the breathless off-to-the-motel hot pants of a Kennedy or the Checkhovian drawing room seduction of a McCarthy. Humphrey was everybody’s widowed aunt. too old for love — too young for neglect and only the heartless would set him free on a sea of summer cruises where he was vulnerable to a sexual netherland.

And guilt brought one to this point also. The pleas of Charles Evers, Whitney Young, Coretta King, and every black publication one could think of cried for Humphrey. Weeks ago the black flag of anarchy that boldly waved in my soul became a chintzy unbending white starched curtain shielding my transparent middle-class respectability. And like many others, I realized that between the wide ideological boulevards of Vietnam and Chicago ran endless Lenox Avenues…

The old in this room remembered the Eisenhower-Nixon years when there was so much ennui around Monica Vitti should have been First Lady. Kids can fight tyranny but boredom is something else again. It was early in the morning when it was evident that Illinois was going to give him the Presidency. Mayor Daley had sent another gift to the Youth of America. I developed the ugly feeling that the choice of Nixon exposed some punk in the American spirit. Not panicky punk — but clever punk. In Wallace they had a loser who ran straight at their fears. In Nixon they had a winner who skirted these same fears. Once away from the East Coast it was hard to tell the two apart, as illustrated by Jimmy Breslin’s column from Lima, Ohio, where Nixon recited the statistics of last year’s murders, muggings and rapes, and then blamed it all on the Supreme Court. Or those bad ass speeches about fourth rate powers capturing our ships. Oh, I know Nixon won’t endorse public lynchings, but one wonders what price the black man’s ass will have to pay because of Nixon’s debt to Strom Thurmond. And of course Nixon wouldn’t run over a hairy protestor with his car, but one can envision a civilized institution where one goes for hormone lobotomies and comes out looking like David Eisenhower.

Picasso, talking about himself and other innovators, once said we do it first, then someone comes along and pretties it up and the public buys it. Wallace painted a black master-piece of our national psyche and we would have none of it. Richard Nixon put some powder blue and pink on the edges and we opened the purse strings of our hearts.

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