Tonight is the 40th anniversary of the announcement of President Nixon’s resignation. I know that for many of readers of the Corner this is something you know about only through the history books. But I still remember his somber voice, and the hint of a a choked-back tear in his voice as he moved from his first few sentences to say the politically fatal words.
With Nixon’s scalp, the new Left had toppled two consecutive presidents elected with record landslide majorities. It quickly turned on President Carter and sought to topple him, leading unexpectedly to the election of its nemesis, Ronald Reagan. It sought to turn Iran-Contra into a new Watergate in its effort to topple Reagan despite his own record landslide in 1984. It remains dedicated to its goals of a rapid, thorough transformation of American life away from the founding principles, formal and informal, that have guided our nation since revolutionary days.
With Nixon gone, there was no popular Republican figure to deny the rise of the new Right. Reagan almost toppled Ford in 1976, and in retrospect had no serious challenger in 1980 within the divided GOP opposition.
With the rise of a new Right to battle a new Left, we had the preconditions for today’s politics. One side implacably aiming to transform America, the other unalterably committed to restoring her.
Now, each president in trouble must look to his left or to his right to avoid being toppled before the end of his term. The impeachment attempts against Bush and Obama, following the actual impeachment of Clinton, are simply the latest examples of this now-longstanding tradition.
Each of us has our part to play in the political conflict that engulfs our country, and each of us has our views as to which battles should fought, why and when. But tonight we should all take a moment to remember and contemplate the meaning of this historic moment which set so much else into motion.