Wed, 16 April 2014
Richard Nixon yelled to his audience and they roared back, furious at those disloyal enough to oppose him. It was a ferocious performance. He ended with a shout. "Nobody is going to tear this country down as long as you are ready to cast your vote to build this country up."
And that was it. Americans were told that those who opposed the war, or were insufficiently angry at those who did, that they were willing to see the country torn down. And he was talking about me and those like me.
Historians tell us it was a continuation of the Nixon Southern Strategy, devised with the help of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond.
When Edmond Muskie spoke next, it was from an armchair in front of a fireplace. He spoke calmly, as if to each individual voter. He asked those about to cast their ballots not to vote against themselves. He characterized the tactics of the Republican campaign.
There has been name-calling and deception of almost unprecedented volume. Honorable men have been slandered. Faithful servants of the country have had their motive questioned and their patriotism doubted.
I still remember a sense of youthful relief. Even though the forces of angry intolerance were about to prevail, a calm voice had spoken against the tide. The case had been made. We could lose with some bit of honor. Someone had fought back with plain truth and crystal clarity.
One small hope flickered in Florida. Out-moneyed, outshouted, a mostly unknown state Senator had conducted an unusual, almost bizarre, public effort. He went hiking.