More than ten years ago a friend told me that Nixon was probably the most liberal president the U.S. ever had.
Nowadays, this is apparently common knowledge. Kurt Andersen writes in today’s Times: “In popular imagination, Nixon remains nothing but a great goblin — scowling bomber of Southeast Asia, panderer to fear and racism, paranoid anti-Semite, dispatcher of burglars — but the truth is, he governed further to the left than any president who followed him. The overreaching Euro-socialist nanny state that today’s Republicans despise? That blossomed in the Nixon administration.
Spending on social services doubled, and military budgets actually decreased. He oversaw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. His administration was the first to encourage and enable American Indian tribal autonomy. He quadrupled the staff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, almost tripled federal outlays for civil rights and began affirmative action in federal hiring. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment and signed Title IX, the law granting equality to female student athletes. One of his Supreme Court appointees wrote the Roe v. Wade decision.”
Popular imagination doesn’t grow by itself; someone must feed it.