Doing my research for Nixonland, I was dismayed to learn to that two of the greatest Democratic speeches are nowhere to be found across the entire howling wilderness of the Internet.
The first was delivered by Edmund Muskie on November 2, 1970. Richard Nixon was placing enormous stock for the Republicans in the 1970 congressional elections, and for good reason: the country seemed to be falling into chaos, and both he and Vice President Spiro Agnew had spent all spring, summer, and fall in an apparently successful effort to link the wellsprings of the chaos to the Democratic Party. Come November, however, the Republicans had their asses handed to them. (For instsance, George H.W. Bush, promised that the only way Lloyd Bentsen could outflank him from the right was to "drop off the face of the earth"--and lost.)
Why? These things are complicated; they always are. Over two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the President's handling of the economy, as the Democrats were hammering Nixon for stubbornly citing conservative principle (he would get over that experiment with principle soon enough) and refusing to impose wage and price controls, . One Teamster interviewed in Akron, Ohio by the New York Times explained that the National Guardsmen were "100 percent right in Kent State," but that "this summer only 10 out of 40 guys were working because of the slowdown in the construction industry"-- so he was voting Democrat.
Another reason Democrats did well, frankly, was that many of them effectively coopted Nixon-Agnew law-and-order rhetoric. Adlai Stevenson III, for example, son of the two-time Democratic presidential nominee, campaigned for U.S. Senate in Illinois side by side with the prosecutor of the Chicago 7, Thomas Aquinas Foran, who famously announced to a booster club rally at a parochial high school after the trial, that "we've lost our kids to the freaking fag revolution."
But according to many of the pundits, a lion's share of the credit for the Democrats' strong showing belonged to Muskie's national televised address on election eve: calm, cool, collected, and fearless, at a moment when it seemed like the Republican strategy of fear and smear had it all in the bad. It's a great Democratic speech (written, to give credit where credit is due, by Ted Sorensen) and it immediately rocketed Hubert Humphrey's 1968 running-mate to front-runner status for the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination. Anyway, it strikes me as pretty damned timeless. Maybe either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton should take inspiration from it when one introduces the other this August at the Democratic National Convention this August. Or maybe it's too goo-goo; I don't know. What do you think? Full text after the jump.
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