Article courtesy of guest contributor, Alden Loveshade
By vote totals alone, Donald Trump is considered the most supported conservative Republican president in American history. But he still lost the 2020 presidential election. So to prepare for the future, it’s time to ask, what is a conservative Republican?
A Republican is, of course, a member of the Republican Party. As for conservative, Merriam-Webster defines it as “one who adheres to traditional methods or views.” So let’s get traditional, and view the methods and background of the American presidency of 50 years ago.
The American president of half a century ago wasn’t born rich; he was born into a poor family. He married one, and only one, woman; they honeymooned in Mexico, and remained married until parted by death.
As a young man, he was exempt from the draft due to his religious affiliation, and possibly qualified for deferment because he worked in government service. But in spite of his exemption, he applied for and joined the United States Navy, and was awarded for his service. Later, he became a leader against Soviet Communism.
In spite of his active military duty, he worked for peace. He believed that America should encourage Israel to make peace with its Arab neighbors, and worked to restart the Middle East Peace Negotiations.
The president of 50 years ago ended America’s involvement in a major war. He worked to build diplomatic relations with China, and supported détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. He called for a higher percentage of immigrant visas for professionals, needed workers and even refugees, with additional visas for people from Mexico.
To support fighting diseases scientifically, he pushed for more spending on sickle-cell disease research, and signed the National Cancer Act, beginning the War on Cancer.
He signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a regulatory agency to insure that corporations had to follow guidelines for the safety of their workers.
In favor of conservation, he established the Environmental Protection Agency. And he signed into law the Endangered Species Act. And the National Environmental Policy Act.
He opposed violent protest. He personally stood up to anti-American demonstrators, impressing even his enemies. Before becoming president, during a time when civil rights were controversial, he pushed for African American civil rights and economic equity. As president, he helped shepherd the Civil Rights Act.
Before running for president, he had 14 years experience as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and as Vice President of the United States. In his first presidential bid, he very narrowly lost. In spite of suspicion of voter fraud in highly populated states, he did not challenge his loss. He said he believed challenging the election results would be bad for America and for its image in the eyes of other nations.
When he won the presidency several years later, he promised his administration would work to bring the divided nation together. He said, “the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.”
His inaugural address received almost uniformly positive reviews, It spoke of a new age of unity, and said:
“In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another, until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”
That president 50 years ago was not a liberal Democrat. He was the conservative Republican Richard M. Nixon.
Has Donald Trump adhered to those traditional, conservative, Republican methods and views? If not, then the 74+ million people who voted for him in 2020, and the even more millions who didn’t, might want to ask themselves this question: What happened to the Republican Party in the last 50 years, and whose views and methods has it gone back to?
The author is well aware of controversy over Nixon’s presidency. He freely admits the facts presented were primarily chosen to show contrast between Richard M. Nixon and Donald J. Trump.