Political Science

Planting Seeds of Profit

Political Parties & Interest Groups


The Shaping of an Industry

For two months in 1904, writer Upton Sinclair wandered the Chicago stockyards carefully noting the dead rats being shoveled into sausage-grinding machines, the bribed inspectors looking the other way as diseased cows were being slaughtered for beef, and the filth and guts that were being swept off the floor and packaged as “potted ham.” Less than two years later, he would author a book which would forever revolutionize inspection standards for the meat industry in the United States. Sinclair’s muckraking book, entitled The Jungle, incited a shocked public’s demand for reforms in the meat industry. By the end of that same year then President, Theodore Roosevelt, called upon Congress to pass a law establishing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, for the first time, set up federal inspection standards for meat. Remarking on his auspicious exposé, Sinclair claimed that, “It seemed to me that the walls of the mighty fortress of greed were at the point of cracking. It needed only one rush, and then another, and another.”

Where’s the Beef?

Some 100 years later, Upton Sinclair would certainly be alarmed at just how much mightier those walls of the fortress of greed have become. On the current state of the American beef industry, Howard Lyman, a retired cattle rancher turned president of a health and environmental advocacy organization exposed that the beef industry was feeding ground-up, diseased cattle to other cattle adding that “The current meat for sale to the U.S. consumer is more contaminated than their toilet” (Saaris 2004). Labeled an alarmist, Lyman has boldly joined the ranks of a growing number of muckrakers who believe that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been neglectful in protecting the health and safety of those who consume farm products (Knickerbocker 2004).

The USDA is the regulatory agency responsible for ensuring the safety of U.S. beef products, but Title VII of the U.S. Code also gives it responsibility for “conducting beef promotion, research, and consumer education programs that are invaluable to the efforts of promoting the consumption of beef and beef products” (Saaris). As the organization charged both with promoting beef consumption and with providing independent food safety oversight of the meat industry, there is great potential for conflict of interest (Saaris). In addition to fundamental contradiction regarding responsibilities in the the meat industry, there are strong forces that may potentially be pulling the USDA in the direction of promotion at the expense of effective meatpacking regulation. Many contend that the level of influence which money has on the American political system tends to reduce zeal for effective regulation; the meat lobby has tremendous influence in Congress, and very, very deep pockets. For this matter, USDA whistleblowers have often claimed that inspectors are largely impotent when it comes to effective regulation (Saaris).

Franken Foods

Although it would seem that a public which has had “mad cow syndrome” inflicted upon it would be understandably uneasy about trusting science and agribusiness on any other matter pertaining to food, Franken foods have ironically become somewhat congruous to the American palate. While environmentalists worry about the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in farmers’ fields, the loudest protests are coming from those who fear GMO’s on their dinner tables. They claim that while consumers can wash pesticides off their lettuce, what do they do when they’re inside the plant (Acosta 2000)? And while the FDA has determined that, so far, none of the GMO products on the market represents a threat to human health, consumer advocates feel that not enough careful, long-term research has been done to deliver a convincing conclusion. Caution, they contend, makes more sense than blind faith and that at a minimum, all foods containing GMO’s be labeled as such, so that the public can make an educated decision about what it eats (Acosta).

Keeping Pace

So, why the big fuss over veggies and meat? It is estimated that over the next 25 to 30 years the world population will increase by at least 2 billion. Astonishingly, about 95 percent of this growth is projected to occur in developing nations where nearly 800 million people are already undernourished. With global population growth soon promising to outpace food production, some argue that genetic engineering can help feed multitudes and expand crop productivity by as much as 25 percent and that the meat industry, now mechanized and consolidated, can more sufficiently and safely meet public demands. Keeping in step with this potentiality, American entrepreneurs have been leading the way in GMO research and marketing as well as in juggling public health concerns with big business interests in the beef industry. In this paper I will examine the use of GMO’s and its implications within the American agricultural and political sectors. In addition to analyzing the overall impact of biotechnology, I will also examine America’s flourishing beef industry and attempt to uncover how, if at all, business politics has played a role in augmenting public health standards.


In this paper I expect to find an industry which has outgrown the political sphere which was intended to regulates it and a political system which is incapable of adjusting to the over zealous business men which now run American agriculture. I also expect to find an industry whose rating as having the most sub par food standards of all developed countries, is attributable only to its overriding desire to turn a profit and to globalize its monopolistic business practices. I will invariable also find evidence that significant amounts of traceable money has been contributed to political candidates and parties as a means of maintaining industry dominance and ultimately political sovereignty.


Let Them Eat Steak!

Food security eludes an estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from chronic under consumption of adequate nutrients. But, even before the recent welfare cuts, food security for many Americans was eroding as cases of hunger have increased by 50% since 1985 (Allen). With a lack of access to food being closely linked to poverty, it has been found that between 1989 and 1993, a 26% increase occurred in the number of children living in families with incomes below 75% of the poverty line (Allen). However, despite poor people’s worsening economic conditions, policymakers began cutting food programs in the 1980s. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 made substantial cuts to the three largest social-welfare programs in the United States: Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Supplemental Security Income, and the Food Stamp Program (Allen). Fully half of the budget savings from the 1996 welfare bill comes from reduced expenditures for the Food Stamp Program, which had been the primary source of food assistance for the poor. Additionally, another $2.9 billion in savings has been realized by cuts to child-nutrition programs (Allen). And, although policymakers say that private charity mitigates these cuts, contributions with that much breadth are unrealistic. A recent study estimated that even if the nation’s largest emergency-food network continues to expand at its average rate, it would only cover less than 25% of the food shortfall resulted from food-stamp cutbacks. This is particularly disturbing in light of the fact that 17% of requests for emergency food already go unmet. In instituting the largest cutbacks since food programs were first established in the United States, policymakers are clearly rejecting the notion that federal policy should provide a safety net against hunger (Allen).

What they are establishing, however, are significant benefits for agribusinesses and certain groups of individuals within the agricultural sector who wield some form of political clout. One measure of big business’ influence over the food and agricultural industry is their financial prominence in Congress. Agricultural interests contributed a whopping $24.9 million to presidential and congressional candidates in the 1991/92 elections alone. This breaks down to an average of $76,000 for each member of the House agricultural committee and $123,000 for each member of the Senate agricultural committee (Allen). Not surprisingly, these contributions were 50 times greater than those from groups promoting either health and welfare or children’s rights. While nearly all food and agriculture committee contributions come from producers, business, and industry, only a very small amount comes from consumer or labor groups. Interestingly, agricultural firms are dependent financially on federal agricultural policies so they can allocate time and money for lobbying efforts as a cost of doing business. While the hungry, who by definition are poor and therefore cannot generate vast sums of money to lobby or to make contributions with, must rely on groups representing their interests. These groups tend to be few, small, poorly funded, and unable to lobby on behalf of more than a few policies per year — clearly, no match for deep-pocketed agricultural interests.

Agribusiness: The Breeding of a Cash Cow

It is estimated that cattle interests alone have given more than $20 million to political campaigns since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Although the Good Old Party (GOP) has received about 80 percent of the total contributions, Democrats and Republicans alike, most from farm and ranching states, have been recipients (Knickerbocker). Agribusiness’ presence is not just external; many top Bush appointees in the USDA have come from the industry. Secretary Ann Veneman’s chief of staff is the former chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which is one of Washington’s most powerful special-interest groups. Even the department’s spokeswoman was the trade group’s director of public relations (Knickerbocker). Some say that having former beef- industry officials in senior positions brings a high level of expertise to the job, but critics maintain that it has been industry influence which has led to defeats for federal-budget increases aimed at vamping up inspections, loopholes in the FDA’s 1997 ban on the use of cattle remains as an ingredient in feed for ruminants (cows, goats, and sheep), and a refusal (until recently) to restrict the practice of allowing “downed” cattle (those injured or too sick to stand) as part of the food chain (Knickerbocker).

It comes as no shock that five years after its own 1997 ban, the General Accounting Office (GAO) criticized the FDA for laxness in policing the use of cattle remains to feed other livestock (Knickerbocker) warning that “Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) may be silently incubating somewhere in the United States” (Knickenbocker). The GAO also warned that the FDA’s failure to enforce its own feed ban may have already placed US herds and, in turn, human food supply at risk (Knickenbocker).

Apart from the GAO, watchdog organizations like Safe Tables Our Priority contend that the USDA does not vigorously inspect the meatpacking process estimating that the United States’ current system leads to about 900 hospitalizations and 14 deaths a day from Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella, with children facing the greatest health risks from meat-borne pathogens. Jan Lyons, a beef producer and president of a powerful beef industry lobby, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, rebuffed these staggering estimations claiming that “everyone has a responsibility, including the consumer, producer, [and] all the way through that chain [for] food safety” (Saaris). Admittedly, many cases of meat-borne illness cannot be blamed on the producer or even on inspectors. Consumers, who may be naively uncritical in their meat selection, assume that the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services is fulfilling its role by providing a regulatory check against the beef industry’s drive for profit. Tellingly, a certified USDA Meat Inspector named David Carney was quoted as saying that “We used to trim the s–t off the meat. Then we washed the s–t off the meat. Now the consumer eats the s–t off the meat” (Saaris).

Was Jack’s Bean Stalk a GMO?

Times are certainly changing, with most foreign markets anti-GMO, for the first time in modern history populations of the First World are serving as willing guinea pigs for populations of the Third World. And while pro-biotechnology scientists and firms adamantly claim that GMO products have been on the market for several years without a single reported case of adverse effects on human health, it has been argued that there are possible long-term impacts which may not become clear for some years. Also, potential environmental impacts will be particularly difficult to predict, monitor, and manage. As scientists readily admit, no technology is ever 100% safe, therefore, potential risks must be weighed against potential benefits (Clark 2002). But many assert that such risk/benefit analyses should be done at multiple levels: at a national level, by governments and regulatory agencies; at the production level, by farmers and firms; and at the individual level, by consumers. They continue, saying that at no point in this risk/benefit analyses should financial gain come into play.

While the first group of GMO’s introduced initially yielded benefits for commercial farmers, real profits were accrued by the firms that developed the seeds. Currently, GMO’s do not provide substantial financial benefits to any one group except its producers and market trends toward firm consolidation have further compromised the financial integrity of the farming industry in America. In attempting to enforce sound and equitable antitrust principles, the courts must consider economic issues of great variety and complexity. With the introduction of this new technology and the subsequent outgrowth of agribusiness conglomerates, the U.S. judicial system must distinguish between healthy business growth and the monopolistic tendencies that are beginning to shape the market. Whatever the outcome of this quandary, many contend that consumers will end up benefiting the least.


The Meat and Potatoes of the Issue

Shown below, figure 1 illustrates agribusiness’ astronomical amount of contribution over the past decade and a half to political parties.

Agribusiness: Long-Term Contribution Trends (figure 1)Agribusiness political contribution trends

Election Cycle Total Contributions Contributions from Individuals Contributions from PACs Soft Money Contributions Donations to Democrats Donations to Republicans % to Dems % to Repubs

















































































The steady rate of growth in contribution amounts over such a short period of time not only reflects a growing industry, but also one which is deeply invested in political support. Another point worth noting is that, among the top individual donors of all time to federal candidates and parties, Dwayne Andreas, Chairman of a large multinational company in the agricultural industry has donated the second most, closely trailing Peter Amstein of Microsoft Corporation.

Although the manner and effectiveness of lobbying varies among private interest groups, cohesiveness, size, prestige, financial resources, etc., allow some groups to wield a greater degree of influence than others. Similarly, the resources, style of lobbying, and effectiveness of the state agencies also play a large part in politically invigorating some industries over others. Overall, large corporations have grown to possess a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth. In fact, the 200 richest corporations of the world have resources equal to the cumulative wealth of the poorest 80% of the world’s population.


Because the current regulatory regime is characterized by big money, if consumers want to guarantee that American food is clean and healthy, we will have to use the tools of both the free market and of open democracy to apply economic and political pressure on the government and on the agribusiness industry. Enforcement mechanisms should be made more powerful, and a static line must be drawn clearly linking and defining public safety standards and government regulation. The science-based system of regulation put in place in the 1990s was a great step toward improvement but without the regulation of the regulators, the system of checks and balances will invariably break down.

Whatever the outcome of the biotechnology debate, it promises to be a long and grinding argument that will continue to pit agribusiness conglomerates against governmental health standards. Ultimately, America must choose between the inexorable forces of the market economy and the potential degradation of both our body’s and of our environments.


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Planting Seeds of Profit Political Parties & Interest Groups I. INTRODUCTION The Shaping of an Industry For two months in 1904, writer Upton Sinclair wandered the Chicago stockyards carefully noting the dead rats being shoveled into sausage-grinding machines, the bribed inspectors looking the other way as diseased cows were being slaughtered for beef, and the […]

“Everyone in the world is directly or indirectly affected by this new system, but not everyone benefits from it, not by a long shot, which is why the more it becomes diffused, the more it also produces a backlash by people who feel overwhelmed by it, homogenized by it, or unable to keep pace with its demands.”[1]

- Thomas L. Friedman, in “Longitudes and Attitudes”

While it can be argued that globalization is not a new phenomenon, the nature of modern globalization is, in fact, completely different than the traditional exchange of ideas, people and goods through an excruciatingly slow process. Moving at an almost uncontrollable speed, the transfer of people, ideas, money, and goods primarily through technological advancements, has resulted in the formation of a new global power structure. In his highly popularized book, “Longitudes and Attitudes,” Thomas Friedman delineates the new international power structure under globalization. Breaking down this structure in to three main power balances, Friedman lists the first type of balance as the “traditional balance of power between nation-states,” with the United States as the sole hegemon or superpower.[2] The second power balance that emerged from globalization is between “nation-states and global markets;” Friedman labels the major financial centers around the world – Wall Street, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, and London – as the “Supermarkets.”[3] The third, and perhaps most pertinent of the power balances is the balance between “individuals and nation-states.” The availability of the internet worldwide has allowed individuals to communicate with one another, or transfer money, over great distances in the mere click of a mouse, giving the individual unprecedented power. Friedman labels these people as “super-empowered individuals.”[4] Thus, under globalization, there are power struggles between states, the superpower of the United States in particular; between nation-states and supermarkets; and between both states and supermarkets and super-empowered individuals.

In order to begin to understand the events of September 11, 2001, it is necessary to step beyond the traditional notion of balance of power and into the new system of multiple actors influencing multiple power structures, creating what Maryann Cusimano Love calls, a new set of “transsovereign” problems. It is this current form of globalization that “gives breakdowns in state authority and capacity and transsovereign problems greater reach, speed, intensity, and impact.”[5] September 11th is one of many recent conflicts whose genesis arose from perceived political, cultural and economic threats to certain “super-empowered individuals,” facilitated by open economies, societies, and most importantly, technologies created through globalization. The first section of this essay will discuss the perceived threats and how these threats were manipulated by Osama bin Laden and other actors in order to gain support for their terrorist acts. The second section will look at the aspects of globalization that facilitated and intensifiedthe terrorist activities of September 11th. The third, and final section will analyze the implications that September 11th has had on global peace and world conflict.

Perceived Threats

“Injustice is inflicted on us and on you [Western people] by your politicians.”[6]

- Osama bin Laden

Some proponents of globalization – or “hyperglobalizers” as Manfred Steger labels them – may argue that globalization, through the promotion and internationalization of free trade, and the liberalization of financial transactions, is a means of reducing poverty globally and creating a global community. While it is true that some states have benefitted from economic globalization, it is impossible to ignore the gaping differences in wealth between developed and developing nations. Peter Dicken attributes these global economic inequalities to historical, political, economic, and social variations both between the developed and developing worlds, and more importantly among developing countries themselves.[7]The asymmetry of wealth that is created leads other scholars to view globalization as “neoimperialism wearing Bill Gates’s face and Mickey Mouse’s ears, extending the web of global capitalism’s exploitation of women, minorities, the poor, and developing regions.”[8] It is this exploitative and imperialistic aspect of globalization that al Qaeda used as propaganda against the West, and the United States in particular. Love describes the attacks of September 11th as a visual metaphor of this argument in which “planes piloted by hijackers from the developing world attacked symbols of international corporate wealth and control and U.S. military power.”[9]

The intentions of al Qaeda must, however, be taken into question – Were they frustrated with disparities in wealth, or was this simply a manipulative recruiting mechanism? Was bin Laden sincere in his denouncement of the rich, corrupt, “hereditary and hypocritical” Arab regimes? The answer to both of these questions can be deducted from three pieces of information: 1). “most of the hijackers were young Saudis;” 2). “the main financing for Osama bin Laden – a Saudi – has been coming from other wealthy Saudis;” 3). and finally “Saudi Arabia’s government was the main funder of the Taliban.”[10] It has become clear that the September 11th terrorists did not destroy the American symbol of financial power because they were poor; but rather, they strategically used the greed of U.S. politicians and their support for these corrupt Arab governments to gain support from masses of poor Arab citizens. In the PBS televised special, “Broken Promises” hosted by Bill Moyers, Vandana Shiva argues that globalization is a system of dispossessing the poor through the greed of large American multinational corporations such as Coca-Cola.[11] Why target the United States as the sole factor in this process of dispossession when the Taliban created a backwards society in which women were deprived of all basic universal rights, only furthering the poverty levels of the already poorcitizens? Perhaps this question can be more adequately answered through a cultural perspective.

Before delving into the complexities of cultural aspects of globalization, it is first necessary to establish a comprehensive definition of cultural globalization. Steger defines the phenomenon as “the intensification and expansion of cultural flows across the globe.”[12] Similar to the economic globalization debate, cultural globalization is sometimes viewed as a means of strengthening local cultures or creating a global culture through which diversity can be embraced. This view was obviously not taken by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. It is through the perceived threat of cultural imperialism and homogenization that these terrorists justify their hatred for the West, and more specifically the United States. Steger explains how this “Americanization” can lead to a political and cultural “‘Jihad’ – the parochial impulse to reject and repel the homogenizing forces of the West wherever they can be found…Jihad draws on the furies of religious fundamentalism and ethnonationalism which constitute the dark side of cultural particularism.”[13] Religious authorities in many Muslim countries have established education systems that breed hatred for non-Muslim societies and result in a stagnant and unreformed Islam. It is through this antimodernism that fundamentalists such as Osama bin Laden can appeal to Muslims of all ages such as the twelve year-old Afghan refugee interviewed by Friedman, who when asked about his reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11th answered: “I am pleased that America has had to face pain, because the rest of the world has tasted its pain…[Americans] are unbelievers and do not like to befriend Muslims, and they want to dominate the world with their power.”[14] The brainwashing of young minds has allowed these perceived threats of “Americanization” to transform from tolerance to terrorism with September 11th as the most obvious realization of these ideals. It is virtually impossible to discuss Muslim culture without mentioning the politics of these states.

The governments, and government structures of many Arab-Muslim nations are shaped, at least in part, by these traditionalist, fundamentalist religious institutions. While the actual governments are predominantly “secular autocratic regimes,” it is through convenient agreements that these increasingly unpopular regimes remain in power and the religious authorities have control over both religion and education.[15] As long as these autocratic regimes remain in power, there will be an overarching dominant religious sector promoting antimoderism and anti-Americanism, and allowing any perceived political threats to spiral into aggressive actions. Such resentment is a product of years of “political, social, economic, and human degradation,” that is only further exacerbated by external factors.[16]

United States military presence across the world, especially in Saudi Arabia, combined with the blatantly selective nature of both U.S. political support and condemnation that has provoked the “super-empowered individuals,” such as bin Laden to crusade against American imperialism. By supporting authoritarian regimes in pro-American states, and forcing democracy upon authoritarian regimes that are anti-American, United States politicians are simply aggravating both sets of states – the entire populations of the anti-American nations due to U.S. hypocrisy, and the citizens of pro-American nations due to the U.S. support of repressive regimes. This sentiment is articulated by Friedman when he says that “the Bush policy today is to punish its enemies with the threat of democracy and rewards its friends with silence on democratization. That’s a surefire formula for giving democracy a bad name.”[17] It precisely this bad name of both democracy and the United States, combined with extremist religious cultures that has been a driving factor of anti-American sentiments among the populations of many Muslim nations.

Globalization – Facilitation and Intensification

“Terrorism depends on surprise to gain attention and generate fear, so terrorists must constantly be innovative in their means of attack or they lose the power to shock.”

-Martha Crenshaw and Maryann Cusimano Love, in “Networked Terror”

Terrorism has had many definitions over the course of history and within different groups, however, a general understanding of the concept’s current application is necessary in order to understand the catalyzing effects of globalization on terrorism, particularly al Qaeda’s aggression towards the United States on September 11, 2001. A general, and widely accepted framework for terrorism is “the use of violence against noncombatants, generally by nonstate actors to generate fear in furtherance of other political goals.”[18]The most obvious aspect of globalization that facilitated and intensified the antagonistic actions of Osama bin Laden and his followers is technology.

The advent and spread of global media played a pivotal role in heightening terrorist frustrations, as well as providing an outlet for these terrorist to spread their message. The availability of Western programs all over the world – the Arab world being no exception – is an example of the aforementioned cultural imperialism that is considered a threat to many critics of Americanism. The global media has also facilitated terrorist efforts by allowing them to broadcast their message internationally – the infamous bin Laden tape is the most notable of these efforts. As modern technology spread to the more advanced of the developing countries, it became easier for different television networks all around the world to exchange footage and in this particular case, allowed for the rapid airing of the bin Laden tape.[19] The condemnation and, in some cases, the banning of these global media sources in combination with the subsequent embracement and utilization of these resources as a tool is quite hypocritical and demonstrate the dependence of al Qaeda on advanced, Western-developed technologies.

The terrorists of September 11th used sources of technology other than the media, in particular common everyday items such as cellular phones, television, radio and computers in order to communicate and coordinate their intricate plots. The internet, perhaps the most influential and commonly used source of technology has raised the quantity, distance and speed of information, goods, and idea shared to unprecedented levels. Mohamed Atta, a hijacker and one of the masterminds behind the September 11th attacks used his laptop and the American Airlines website to reserve his ticket, while some of this fellow hijackers used Travelocity.com.[20] These technologies have created a compression of time and space that have been a defining characteristic of globalization – a characteristic that makes globalization a nearly unavoidable phenomenon.

September 11th – Global Peace and World Conflict

“Where there should be a nation-state, there is a vacuum filled by warlords. What better place for the seeds of international terrorism and lawlessness to take root?

-Walter H. Kansteiner, U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs

Modern globalization, and the resulting international balance of power structure – the balance of power between states; the balance of power between states and “supermarkets;” and the balance of power between both states and supermarkets and the “super-empowered individual” – are phenomenons that have changed the nature of world conflict, making these conflicts inevitably more global in their scope. Susan Strange argues that state existence is being threatened by the globalization of the arms trade and the availability of technology has given power to nonstate actors, which has extracted the power of force from both strong and weak states. While conflicts were once wars between nation-states, they have evolved into conflicts between state and nonstate actors, or states and individuals, where the opponents do not engage in face-to-face combat but often have faceless enemies whose mere existence is perceived as threatening. September 11th has further perpetuated this trend by justifying, in the minds of many Americans, a war against “terrorism” – an idea, a product of globalization. The current war in Iraq has lost the vision of fighting against this idea that threatened American “freedom,” and has evolved into a war of excuses – the United States has used the promotion of democracy as an excuse to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, while supporting the tyrannical, pro-American, regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The leaders of the United States are not protecting the ideology of democracy, but rather the ideology of hypocrisy and injustice.

While the scope of conflict has been widened to a global scale, some optimists may argue that the possibility of peaceful solutions to these conflicts is also widened. It is through the very technologies that have catalyzed conflict that peace can be realized – with the compression of space and time, communication between opponents is facilitated, along with the ability for third party mediators to join the peace process. Perhaps a more realistic view on the effects of September 11th on global peace is presented by Friedman when he quotes Adrian Karatnycky, the president of Freedom House:

“…many of the terrorists we are not confronting are a Western phenomenon, existing inside the Islamic diaspora that is an established fact of life in the U.S. and Europe…and this means that the war against terrorism will require relentless efforts within the borders of the West, even as it is prosecuted in the far-flung outposts of the Islamic world. It means that networks of terrorists may well be found among students and scholars who today walk the halls of Western universities and congregate after hours in sundry political and ‘religious’ groups, not as ‘sleepers’ ready to act under orders, but as Islamic radicals minted right here.”[21]

Globalization has been the source of extensive debate – does globalization bring promise or problems, peace or war, tolerance or hatred, homogenization or difference? By dissecting the events of September 11, 2001 it is clear that the fusion of perceived threats catalyzed by globalization and fundamentalist propaganda have proven to be a catastrophic combination, resulting in the most shocking terrorist attacks in modern history. Under the new system of power balances, with “supermarkets” and “super-empowered individuals” colliding with each other and with states, we begin to see “issues that are domestic in consequence but international in scope,” resulting in new types of world conflict and new challenges for global peace.[22]


[11] Bill Moyers, Broken Promises. 60 min. Public Broadcasting Service, April 2005. Videocassette.

[6] Loretta Napoleoni, Terror Incorporated: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005).

[5] [12] [19] Manfred Steger, Globalization: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

[8] [9] [18] [22] Maryann Cusimano Love, Beyond Sovereignty: Issues for a Global Agenda, 2d ed. (Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2003).

[7] Peter Dicken, Global Shift: Reshaping the Global Economic Map in the 21st Century (New York: The Guilford Press, 2003).

[1] [2] [3] [4] [10] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [20] [21] Thomas L. Friedman, Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism (New York: Anchor Books, 2002).

“Everyone in the world is directly or indirectly affected by this new system, but not everyone benefits from it, not by a long shot, which is why the more it becomes diffused, the more it also produces a backlash by people who feel overwhelmed by it, homogenized by it, or unable to keep pace with […]

As the world has grown increasingly smaller, capital moves increasingly faster, and domestic politics echo more profoundly than ever on the global stage, the policies of nation-states are subject more than ever to intense scrutiny. In this era of information, the nation-state’s claims of sovereignty as a protection against such scrutiny have been discredited. Domestic public opinion heavily influences domestic policies, which in turn bear weight on foreign policy decisions. This order is cyclical; foreign policies often influence domestic policies, which help to shape public opinion. Such is the case with every conceivable policy decision, if not at the time of its formation then in retrospect.

The prejudices of a government are, in an ideal democracy, direct reflections of the prejudices of its people, and vice-versa. Discrimination along lines of social categories, such as class, gender, sexuality, religion, or race is expressed through policymaking. A peoples’ prejudices determine whether or not the policies will be accepted by the people. The question seems to be one of causation: does public opinion dictate policy, or does policy dictate public opinion? Perhaps the solution is to enhance the question by removing the causative significance and addressing the cyclical nature of the continual policies and public reactions thereto.

The experience of racial classification is a common experience in the United States. Whether a member of the dominant (white) group, or a member of an oppressed (non-white) group, members of American society are keenly aware of the racial politics of the nation. Ignoring race in America is similar to ignoring wine in France, kimonos in Japan, or empire in the United Kingdom: it is a national legacy. This legacy of racism manifests itself in the daily lives of both natural-born American citizens and immigrants. It should not be surprising then, that this legacy also is found in U.S. foreign policy. The construction of racial otherness in America has allowed for the systematic, institutionalized and informal discrimination, stereotyping, and scapegoating in domestic life and policies. I believe that this construction of racial otherness has also facilitated the American public’s tolerance of U.S. foreign policies and endeavors that promote, reinforce, and benefit from racism.

Looking at two facets of U.S. foreign policy, economic and military, I will address the effects of racism (both domestic and external, institutional and informal) in the United States’ policy decisions in regards to Mexico and Vietnam, respectively. I will also look at the experiences of domestic racism, by Mexican and Vietnamese immigrants, to demonstrate the public opinion-whether popular or not, undeniably influential-which invariably mirrors government international policies.

U.S. foreign policy towards Mexico has historically been characteristic of an ambivalent neighbor. Each year, the Mexican president speaks to the U.S. Congress, as a symbolic means of reasserting Mexican independence from overt U.S. colonialism. (Kopstein & Lichbach) However, with the rise of globalization, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the United States, and Mexico was signed. It came into force with devastating consequences for the Mexican economy, and plunged millions of Mexicans into destitute poverty and exploitative labor. NAFTA effectively opened the developing market to Canadian- and American-based multi-national corporations (MNCs), limited protective labor regulations, and undermined social welfare in Mexico. Neither the United States nor Canada-both predominately white countries-suffered such dramatic and disastrous social and economic effects: interest rates leapt to 109% immediately after NAFTA came into effect. (Espinoza p 2)!

Mexico is still struggling to recover from the shock of NAFTA’s 1994 implementation. (Couch)
The Mexican people suffer under a massive economic crisis, while foreign investors reaped immense profits from the lax labor regulations and lifted tariffs. The Mexican government was forced to contend with a civil uprising in the Chiapas province in protest of NAFTA (among other things):

“The Zapatistas chose January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force, to ‘declare war’ on the Mexican army, launching an insurrection and briefly taking control of the city of San Cristobal de las Casas and five Chiapas towns. They sent out a communiqué explaining that NAFTA, which banned subsidies to indigenous farm co-operatives, would be a ‘summary execution’ for four million indigenous Mexicans in Chiapas, the country’s poorest province.” (Klein 215)

The ruling party at the time of the NAFTA implementation in Mexico lost so much favor in the country, after the economic crisis and slashing social welfare programs that had ensured peasant loyalty for nearly 70 years, that a dramatic shift in power came with the next presidential election. Unfortunately for the Mexican people, the only other party in a position to compete with the longstanding ruling party was a right-wing party with a neoliberal platform, favoring more free market reforms.

Naomi Klein cites evidence of NAFTA’s power to take from the poor to give to the rich with the case of Metalclad, an American waste management corporation, and the citizens of Guadalcazar, Mexico. In 1991, Metalclad bought a shutdown toxic treatment facility in Guadalcazar with the intent to create a huge toxic waste dump. After reneging for four years on promises to the community to clean up the intense pollution, groundwater contamination, and dangerous substances left behind by the old facility (a condition of the purchase of the site), Guadalcazar citizens took legislative action against Metalclad, denying them a building permit and attempting to declare the land an ecological reserve. Klein outlines the protection that NAFTA removed from the Mexican people and their environment, in favor of the MNC:

“By this point, the North American Free Trade Agreement-including its controversial ‘Chapter 11′ clause, which allows investors to sue governments-was in full effect. So Metalclad launched a Chapter 11 challenge, claiming Mexico was ‘expropriating’ its investment. The complaint was heard last August (2000) in Washington. D.C., by a three-person arbitration panel. Metalclad asked for US$90 million, and was awarded $16.7 million.The Metalclad case is a vivid example of what critics mean when they charge that free trade deals amount to a ‘bill of rights for multinational corporations.’ Metalclad has successfully played the victim, oppressed by what NAFTA calls ‘intervention’ and what used to be called ‘democracy.'” (Klein 57)

It is important to note that the hearing to settle this dispute was held in Washington. NAFTA allowed for a giant MNC to overstep the democratic processes, environment, and communal rights of a sovereign nation-state and its people.

How does NAFTA manifest racism? There is something fundamentally wrong when two out of three parties to a trade agreement suffer little to no negative economic or social fallout, yet the third party is plunged into massive crisis. There is also something fundamentally wrong when the people of the suffering party are racial minorities who have routinely suffered with historical discrimination and repression on the part of the dominant racial group-the white Americans. NAFTA demonstrated the American government’s disregard for the lives and livelihoods of the Mexican people, who have suffered classification as racial “others” on both sides of the border.

The subordinate racial status afforded to the Mexican people by the United States-white people- removes the humanity from the intensely inhumane and grotesquely immoderate denial of the means of survival. Stereotypes of Mexicans as lazy, dishonest, drug-smuggling thugs help facilitate a sense of self-perpetuating poverty, a poverty in which the United States would be justified in intervening, to help the Mexicans who “can’t get it right on their own.” This justification ignores the incredible social and economic progress pre-NAFTA Mexico exhibited. With a radical, egalitarian constitution, the ruling party in Mexico had been known for its progressive post-revolution aspirations. (Kopstein & Lichbach)

As in Mexico, Vietnam experienced a similar kind of white-supremacist colonialism. Indeed, Mexican and Vietnamese and Asian immigrants in the United States share the common experience of racism and xenophobia.

“Persons arriving from Mexico and Latin American countries, whether aboriginal or mestizo in ancestry, have had poorer luck , and continue to be perceived in strongly racialist terms. Although many Asian Americans have fared well materially of late and have risen in status, the legacy of the ‘yellow peril,’ so pervasive in fiction, early films, and the popular imagination for so long, lingers on, and even today overt or subtle discrimination persists in television and elsewhere in American life.” (Zelinsky pp 83-4)

The Vietnam War is studied endlessly as a proxy war to the stalemate between the major powers of socialism and capitalism-the USSR and the USA. The United States’ efforts to “liberate” South Vietnam from the communist north employed chemical warfare to wipe out guerrilla-style military activity, at the same time catching non-combatants in the wake.

Historically notorious Zippo raids, Agent Orange and napalm characterize the American “anti-Communist” campaign in South Vietnam. Innocent children were shot on site on mere suspicion of carrying Viet Cong explosives, entire villages were burned to the ground, and food supplies were poisoned. Decades after the conclusion of the Vietnam War, Vietnamese children are still being born with debilitating birth defects as a result of the chemical warfare employed by the United States.

Before the Vietnam War ever began, racist stereotypes of Vietnamese people were widely circulated. “With perceptions of the Vietnamese as lazy and primitive, many American observers argued that the Vietnamese were, by nature, liars.” (Bradley p 48)

An elitist perception of the United States as a super-capable liberator, combined with racist stereotypes of ethnic groups incapable of governing themselves or defending themselves against the development of communism contributed to the foundation of justification to invade and destroy Vietnam.

There was massive protest to the Vietnam War in the United States, which mobilized against the war only as it was carried out. The American public never decried the racist stereotypes, which fueled the perception of the needy, helpless, incapable, lowly Vietnamese people. The construction of racial difference, feeding on years of historical discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans, facilitated the construction of a perception of the South Vietnamese as desperately needing the intervention of the United States to protect their own weak ability to self-govern, and the Viet Cong as greedy, evil, destructive, bloodthirsty terrorists invading the land and politic of the weak, submissive, helpless Southerners.

The experience of Vietnamese and Asian immigrants to the United States mirrors that of every other racially marginalized group in America. Stereotyping of people of Asian decent is and was rampant in the United States:

“The incredibly evil and sinister Fu-Manchu, personification of the Yellow Peril, for example, gave way to the genial Charlie Chan who, mirabile dict, defended rather than conspired against the law.Charlie Chan may have become a popular hero, but he was still depicted as an ‘inscrutable, mysterious, and damned clever Chinaman.” (Wu pp 213-4)

Within the ranks of the US military, anti-Asian and anti-Vietnamese sentiments were deeply entrenched. An interview with a Chinese-American GI who served in Vietnam in a mostly white unit details the extent to which anti-Viet Cong sentiment developed into anti-Asian-appearing-people sentiment:

“‘Well, a couple of days , the Viet Cong started shelling us. Then the other GIs started making comments about me looking like the Viet Cong.I didn’t do nothing. I was just doing a job. I didn’t have any political awareness. right after the GIs got back from patrol. They really gave it to me. They started asking me where I was born, where my parents were born, if I was a Communist. They even asked me what I thought about China. They thought I could turn traitor at any time.'”
(Wu pp 267-8)

The racist perceptions of the military were not the sole cause of the grotesque humanitarian violations committed in Vietnam. The racism, whether overt or internalized, of the military command, the United States government, and indeed, the public which delayed or silenced outcry against the racist, imperialist agenda of the government all attributed to a policy of destruction and murder, dehumanized with a construction of otherness built around race. The same experience is applicable to Mexico, in the greed-driven and racialist-justified policies that led to the drafting and implementation of NAFTA, and historic US efforts to otherwise colonize Mexico.

Racism is a prerequisite to colonialism; a sense of otherness and superiority is required to placate domestic observers and to legitimate the policies themselves. Also, previous racist and anti-immigrant sentiment in the populous is needed to create a basis, whether through representational democracy, electoral referendum, or simply popular support expressed through opinion polls, for the formulation of policies that reflect racism.
Does this cycle suggest that immigration and the xenophobia experienced by immigrants of racial “other” categories allows for the US public to tolerate racist policies, both domestically and abroad? That the American public has become so complacent with nationalist rhetoric, racially exclusionary immigration policies, racial profiling, and other discriminatory policies to allow its government to carry out racist agendas and neocolonialist policies? If the answer to this is no-and I know of no legitimate way to measure this-then the facilitating factor could be inherent racism in the American public, not an unlikely hypothesis. Complacency, internalized or overt racism, xenophobia, and nationalism, combined with a continual onslaught of biased media and government-sponsored messages, have lulled the public largely into accepting, either passively or actively, unjust government policies. This is not a comforting thought, by any means. The cycle of racism, perpetuated through!

society into government and into foreign policy has interesting implications for democracy itself. If society’s intolerance of immigrants and people of color legitimates, or even gives birth to discriminatory policies, can it be argued that democracy leads to justice? Whatever the outcomes of these questions, the domestic experiences of immigrants in the United States often reflect the experiences of their home countries under US foreign policy.

Works Cited

Bach, Robert, and Portes, Alejandro. Latin Journey: Cuban and Mexican Immigrants in the United States. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Bradley, Mark P. Imagining Vietnam & America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.

Couch, Jen. Imagining Zapatismo: the Anti-globalization Movement and the Zapatistas, COMMUNAL/PLURAL. Vol. 9, No. 2, p.243-260.

Espinoza, Martin Zapatistas: Bad for Business, Corpwatch.org.

“From the Boats to the Suburbs” The Economist, p28.

Klein, Naomi. Fences and Windows. New York: Picador USA Press.

Kopstein, Jeffrey, and Mark Lichbach. Comparative Politics: Interests, Identities, and Institutions. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Magana, Lisa and Short, Robert. “Political Rhetoric, Immigration Attitudes, and Contemporary Prejudice: A Mexican American Dilemma.” Journal of Social Psychology, p701.

Sachs, Susan. “New York, Citing Security, Rejects Mexican ID Cards.” New York Times, pB4.

Wu, Cheng-Tsu. The Ethnic Prejudice in America Series: “Chink!” New York: World Press.

Zelinsky, Wilbur. The Enigma of Ethnicity. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

As the world has grown increasingly smaller, capital moves increasingly faster, and domestic politics echo more profoundly than ever on the global stage, the policies of nation-states are subject more than ever to intense scrutiny. In this era of information, the nation-state’s claims of sovereignty as a protection against such scrutiny have been discredited. Domestic […]

Illinois voter registration has undergone several changes throughout election history (Cain). Intended to create a fair, impartial, and non-partisan registration system, the Illinois policy has developed stringent requirements for voting in local, state, and federal elections. Despite a surface appearance of equal-opportunity and relative justness, the Illinois voter registration policy has implicit flaws, which confound the process, proving counterproductive to the policy’s purpose (Jackson).

The Illinois voter registration policy requires all Illinois citizens who wish to vote in local, state, and federal elections to register as voters in their respective counties. The registration process must be completed at least twenty-seven days before the election in which the potential voter wishes to participate. In order to qualify as a registered voter, one must meet the following criteria: 1) must be a U.S. citizen, 2) must be at least eighteen years of age on or before election day, and 3) must have been a resident of the precinct for at least thirty days prior to the election (CBEC). Those wishing to register may do so at a number of locations, some of which include the County Clerk’s office, any township office, some schools, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, public aid offices, and health department offices (CBEC). At the time of registration, each individual must present two current forms of identification, one of which must bear the person’s current address. If a person chooses to register by mail, that person must vote in person for the first time, unless he/she is disabled or serving in the military. After registration is completed, and the voter receives his/her registration card in the mail, the voter becomes a permanent, registered Illinois voter, unless he/she moves to a new address or changes his/her name (CBEC).

Some confusing stipulations during this process occasionally prevent legitimate voter registration, which ultimately leaves a number of people unregistered, and thus unable to cast a vote in a given election (Hayduk). For instance, a person who changes residence within twenty-seven days prior to an election, and within the same voting precinct, is allowed to vote on a full ballot only is he/she signs an affidavit swearing his/her identity, address, and registration are valid (SBE). Similarly, if a person moves within the same precinct more than thirty days prior to an election and has failed to transfer registration, he/she is allowed to vote only for candidates competing for federal office, upon completing a change-of-address document (SBE). However, if a person moves more than thirty days before an election, “has moved out of the previous municipality under the board of election commissioners,” and failed to transfer registration, he/she is not allowed to vote (SBE). Any abuse of the registration process is considered a Class 4 felony, subjecting perpetrators of a fine of $25,000, as well as the threat of one to three years in a state penitentiary (Sanford).

By preventing people from voting, the Illinois voter registration policy inadvertently skews the voting pool (PFAWF). Voter discrepancy, the inconsistency between a voting population’s representation of its state in an election and the actual majority political inclination of that population, can create devastatingly inaccurate representation of that state in an election (Freeman). For instance, Chicago is known for its overwhelmingly Democratic political tendency. The city is partisan to the degree that it has developed a reputation for repressing or otherwise nullifying Republican votes (Grimshaw). Chicago’s dense population of nearly 2,900,000 comprises a significant portion of Illinois’ total population of 12,500,000 (U.S. Census Bureau). If a large number of Democratic Chicago votes were invalidated due to residency issues, registration failure, etc., it is possible that the Illinois electoral votes could count toward the Republican candidate (Sterling). Most of Chicago (and thereby, a significant portion of Illinois) would still strongly favor the Democratic candidate, and would lose their voices to the flawed system. A Republican leaning would be incorrectly attributed to Illinois overall, and in a close election (such as those of 2000 and 2004), this could dramatically affect the outcome of the race (Sterling).

There are many populations who are at risk of having their voices stifled through invalid voter registration (NCH). For instance, homeless individuals, with no permanent address, may face obstacles when attempting to register. If the registration is completed, they have no mailing address at which to receive their registration cards, and likely no identification with an accurate, current street address. A similar situation faces transient, displaced, and certain other severely marginalized individuals; therefore a lack of a stable, permanent home address makes it impossible for an individual to register to vote (NCH). In many cases, non-homeless, non-transient, and non-displaced individuals simply forget to register before the deadline (SBE). Consequently, they cannot vote, and they, combined with others unable to register for various reasons, will not be represented in the election. This situation could ultimately lead to a misrepresentation of state opinion, as well as present ample opportunity for voter fraud (PFAWF). Voter fraud is the direct, intentional misrepresentation of a voting population achieved through intimidation, refusal of, or attempts to discourage from voting certain voters or potential voters who may pose a threat to a specific political party or interest, or the act of physically interfering with or removing these ballots in an act called “ballot tampering” (Grimshaw). Another form of voter fraud is the submission of multiple votes, which is achieved by submitting inaccurate registration information in an invalid voting precinct, often in addition to valid registration in one’s own precinct (Harris). As previously mentioned, voter fraud is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in a state penitentiary and/or up to a $25,000 fine (Sanford).

In recent elections, Illinois voter registration policy, and others similar to it, have come into question because of the inherent bias in the system (PFAWF). Homeless and other marginalized individuals are often excluded from voter eligibility due to their lack of stable residence, or proof of identity/address (NCH). Similarly, homeless, transient, and other individuals facing registration difficulties are most often members of a racial minority group, commonly African-American (Grimshaw). The Illinois voter registration system does not simply make it difficult for those of low socioeconomic status to register, but also silences thousands of Illinois residents whose lives are affected by decisions made in the voting process (Grimshaw). This situation is reminiscent of the poll taxes and literacy exams of the post-Civil War era, in which anyone wishing to vote was subject to either a tax or a test proving literacy. Both of these restrictions were disadvantageous to African-Americans and of the time, as they had only recently been released from slavery, were poor, and had received limited or no education (Barton). Although less direct and more subtle than the poll taxes and literacy exams of the 1800s, the Illinois voter registration system creates a parallel atmosphere of frustration and restriction for those of lower socioeconomic status, and therefore, for many African-Americans and other racial minorities. By repressing these populations’ votes, the system creates a continual probability that the middle and upper-classes maintain control of Illinois politics (Grinshaw).

In striking contrast to the Illinois system, Wisconsin voter registration policy offers significantly more opportunity for interested citizens to register as voters (SEB). In order to register to vote in Wisconsin, one must meet the following conditions: 1) must be a U.S. citizen, 2) must be a resident of Wisconsin, and 3) must be at least eighteen years of age on or before election day (Haas). To prove citizenship of Wisconsin, voters are required to furnish a driver’s license or state I.D., or provide the last four digits of his/her social security number (SEB). The potential voter in Wisconsin has three options for completing the registration process. The first is registration by mail, which requires the resident to complete and mail the registration form to the county clerk’s office by 5:00 PM on the 13th day before the election (as compared to the 27th day in Illinois). For a first-time registration applicant, identification must be included with this application. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license, state I.D., other photo I.D., or any piece of mail or government document indicating the voter’s name and current address (SEB). The second registration option is to register in person at the County Clerk’s office, which may be done up until 5:00 PM on the day before the election. After the “by mail” deadline, potential voters must present identification with the following characteristics: bears the voter’s name, including given and family name, and bears the voter’s residential address, including street number and municipality. Also required is a utility bill or other proof of living at the current address for at least ten days prior to the election, as opposed to the strict 30-day requirement in Illinois (SEB).

Clearly, Wisconsin voter registration policy offers more ample opportunity for voter turnout. Because of the fact that the only strict requirements for registration in Wisconsin are proof of age and proof of 10-day residency, there is a degree of flexibility allowing for a broad scope of populations to register (SEB). Transients, the homeless, or other persons in shelters can use a shelter address as a place of residence, because the time frame is so much shorter than in Illinois. An example of homeless persons being empowered to vote in Wisconsin is the Hope House of Milwaukee (NCH). This organization, a shelter for homeless families, developed an innovative program to utilize community resources in an effort to make voting more accessible to the shelter’s residents. Prior to the 2000 election, the Hope House staff gathered information and research about the candidates; in addition, they wrote a letter to each candidate requesting a brief reply explaining his stance on major issues relevant to residents (NCH). The candidates complied with this request, and shelter residents began forming informed opinions on the issues. Also, the staff arranged for the City Elections Committee to set up a voter registration site on the shelter premises, to counteract transportation problems (NCH). Before election day, the City Elections Committee traveled to Hope House and employed a mock voting session, to ease the residents’ anxieties and familiarize them with the voting process. The staff also created a document, to be completed by residents, declaring residency at the shelter. For families that had recently transitioned out of the shelter, the staff offered maps illustrating election districts and directed the ex-residents to their respective polling places (NCH).

Although Wisconsin voter registration policy offers more opportunity for residents to register and vote, it also arguably offers more opportunity for voter fraud. Challengers of the Wisconsin system maintain that such lenient registration guidelines offer more loopholes than states with stricter statutes (Bennett, 1990).For instance, critics argue, people can easily claim residency at any address for which they receive utility bills, and may inadvertently be allowed to vote in multiple precincts (Harris).While this assertion is theoretically sound, the voting system offers stringent control for such oversights (Haas).In 2003, Mark Grebner, Co-Owner of Wisconsin Voter Lists, gave a speech before the Senate Committee on Education, Ethics, and Elections. Grebner stated, “My firm, which does business here at Wisconsin Voter Lists, has built a complete and accurate voter database for Wisconsin. Our file includes names, addresses, dates-of-birth, phone numbers, political jurisdictions, and voter history from 1996 to the present for over 4 million eligible voters” (Grebner). Access to this database can readily identify multiple names, addresses, and duplicate or falsified Social Security numbers, as well as names of deceased or non-eligible individuals (Grebner). Despite any criticism of Wisconsin’s voter registration system, it is clear that the combination of ample security controls, coupled with its flexibility, make this policy more accommodating to a greater population than do many other states (Grebner).

Several organizations in the past have recognized and responded to Illinois’ current mandatory voter registration policy. For instance, the Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH have helped launch the Illinois Freedom Bus Tour (RPC). This “tour” is actually a chain of buses and other vehicles that traverse the entire state of Illinois each day for a month preceding an election, transporting unregistered voters to registration sites (RPC). The Rainbow Coalition, founded in 1971, and Operation PUSH merged to become the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC), overseen by Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. (RPC). On a smaller scale, certain colleges, universities, and other organizations offer transportation to and from registration and election sites (NAICU). Hope Haven, a DeKalb, IL emergency/transitional shelter similar to Milwaukee’s Hope House, offers rides to polling places, declaration of residency at the shelter, and informative political literature to shelter residents.* Interestingly, much of Illinois’ efforts in counteracting voter inequality have been focused on alleviating social repercussions of current policy, rather than reforming the policy itself. It is this author’s opinion that lobbying for policy reform is the next logical step toward empowering marginalized populations to vote, in order to effectively service the largest population possible.

The Illinois voter registration system became strict policy in 1995, with the implementation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by President Clinton in 1993 (Jackson). The NVRA is commonly known as the “Motor Voter Law” (Cain) becauseit calls for unregistered or relocated voters to register/re-register when applying for or renewing their drivers’ licenses. The NVRA goes beyond the scope of registration opportunity at the DMV. It allows for non-partisan registration in numerous settings, some of which include libraries, schools, churches, military recruiting centers, and social service agencies (Jackson).Individual state law dictates how each state handles voter registration. Illinois’ rigorous requirements were initially met with strong resistance, namely by Governor Jim Edgar, whose opposition decelerated implementation of NVRA (Jackson). Edgar’s stance was faced with criticism of its own, cynically attributed by some to the “Chicago Democratic Machine” at work (Grimshaw).Some conservative Illinoisans denounced criticism of Edgar’s reluctance to accept NVRA, implying that NVRA was essentially a liberal ploy to slant the vote to the left, by empowering populations (minorities, the poor) who would likely be inclined to vote Democratic (Grimshaw). A stated goal of the NVRA is to register and empower disenfranchised people. Reverend Jackson states, “The poor, the less educated, the young, and people of color register and vote at a much lower percentage. The purpose of the law and its design was to register these most disenfranchised people” (Jackson, 1996, p. 30). Ironically, registration requirements appear to hinder those individuals they intend to aid, as several categories of “disenfranchised individuals” lack the required materials for voter registration.

History offers conflicting views on effective and ineffective approaches to voter registration policy. Since the beginning of formal elections there has been voter fraud, and there has been at least moderately discriminatory policy design (Barusch). Likewise, there will always be contradicting views on how to deal with these problems. However, upon analyzing current Illinois voter registration policy, the necessity of reform becomes clear. Eligible voters are being turned away at the polls because of loopholes and flaws in the system. This puts the state at risk for gross misrepresentation in the polls, which contradicts the inherent purpose of voting policy. By switching to a polling system more conducive to the needs of all populations within the state, Illinois would more accurately convey the opinions of its citizen. The recent 2004 election, with its publicly-decried surge of fraud and polling mishaps (Freeman), serves as a frank reminder to Americans that despite promises of democracy, a corrupt system can always manipulate its preferences into policy. However, it is the duty of the government to provide beneficial, accommodating policies to citizens, and Illinois voter registration policy has much room for improvement.

The acute awareness of voter fraud and other faults of Illinois voting policy is a relatively recent development (Grimshaw). Sketchy historical research is available on the correlation between registration policies and instances of fraud or other mishaps. Recent history serves to educate the public on what sorts of consequences follow unsatisfactory policy (Freeman). The 2000 and 2004 elections provide significant education regarding both Illinois and national voter registration policies and their consequences (PFAWF). The registration system itself, the foundation of modern American elections, also proves itself the backbone of voter fraud development (Harris). In states with strict registration regulations, such as Illinois, fraud evolves as a response to the relative ease with which restrictions can be imposed upon politically-undesirable populations (Hayduk). For instance, in a heavily Republican area, poll judges and other officials may be biased in favor of a Republican candidate. Thus, they may attempt to discourage or void the vote of a voter belonging to a Democratic-leaning demographic, perhaps nullifying the vote based on a technicality forgiven for voters appearing more Republican-friendly (Grimshaw).

Efforts to resolve the problem of voter discrepancy are certainly in accordance with research findings (Bennett, 1990). Young, first-time voters are being informed of their “duty” to register. Organizations broadcast their respective messages about voting and registration and civic duties for months preceding elections. In spite of these public urges to vote, many individuals of low socioeconomic status remain most discouraged from the polls, due to lack of resources and information (Hayduk). These oppressed populations comprise a significant component of society, and their votes alone would be sufficient to offset many previously-elected officials (U.S. Census Bureau). With higher numbers of impoverished, homeless, transient, invalid, or otherwise disenfranchised groups concentrated in large cities (such as Chicago), it is outrageous for such populations to be virtually ignored in elections in which officials often speak to topics and policies relevant to the oppressed. The people who most rely on officials for social survival are constantly edged out of important electoral processes, simply because they lack something as considerable as a home address or proof of long-term residence.

Through examination of the aforementioned Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, similar smaller-scale groups, and policy reform issues, it is evident that oppressed populations are moving into central focus as being underserved in the political arena (PFAWF). Significantly more attention must be directed toward reforming laws and enabling such populations to register and vote, lest the system defeat its own purpose.

A major goal of the Illinois voter registration system is to allow every eligible citizen the opportunity to vote in a fair election through a non-biased, non-partisan polling process (Jackson). This manifest purpose is eloquently described by Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.:

“[The law] allows non-partisan voter registration to take place in a wide variety of ways and settings…Who you vote for, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, is your own private business. That we as a society go out of our way to make sure that all eligible people are registered to vote should be the business of the public and public officials who are charged with the responsibility of implementing the law.” Jackson continues, criticizing Illinois officials: “In this instance, those officials are failing in their public trust” (Jackson, 1996, p. 30).

An underlying, unspoken goal of democracy permeates the topic of voting policy in Illinois. There is a general consensus of residents regarding the goals of policy. People want their votes to count; otherwise, they would fail to register, appear at the polls, or profess concern over disparity in policy. However, simply adopting agreement regarding goals is a far cry from approving a given policy. An implicit assumption of the Illinois voter registration system is that it will yield fair, non-partisan assurance that each vote will count toward accurate state representation (SBE). This hypothesis fails to account for human nature. Good intentions of policy makers cannot undo the corruption of others. On the contrary, inherent defects in the system “accidentally” invalidate the votes of thousands of disenfranchised populations in each election (PFAWF). Good intentions aside, it is impossible for policy hypotheses to control for human greed.

Theoretically, Illinois voter registration policy successfully accomplishes its goals of providing a fair, non-partisan registration and vote to registered voters. For those who remember to register, and those who are fortunate enough to meet the strict registration criteria, this process appears accommodating and seamless. But for those populations lacking homes, identification, transportation, physical capacity, or other resources, the Illinois registration system has failed. By modifying this policy to include accommodations and allowances for disadvantaged populations, the Illinois state government could offer its residents an opportunity to achieve the satisfaction of having their voices heard, their citizenship acknowledged, and their votes counted.


Barton, D. (2003). Black History Issue: 2003. Wallbuilders: Search issues, articles, and newsletters. Retreived Dec. 4, 2004 from http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=95.

Barusch, A.S. (2002). Foundations of social policy: Social justice, public programs, and the social work profession. Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock Publishers, Inc.

Bennett, S.E. (1990). The uses and abuses of registration and turnout data: Ananalysis of Piven and Cloward’s studies of nonvoting in America.PS: Political Science and Politics, 23(2), 166-171.

Cain, B. (1996). On the road with motor voter. Update on Law-Related Education, 20, 15-16.

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners (CBEC) (2004). Judge of Election Handbook 2004. Chicago: Board of Election Commissioners.

Freeman, S. (2004). The unexplained exit poll discrepancy. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, Penn School of Arts & Sciences, Center for Organizational Dynamics.

Grebner, M. (2003). Wisconsin voter lists. Testimony on 2003 on AN 600 & AB 601, relating to HAVA. Retrieved Dec. 7, 2004 from: http://www.trinity.edu/~mkearl/strat.html.

Grimshaw, W.J. (1992). Bitter fruit: Black politics and the Chicago machine, 1931-1991. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Haas, S.P. (1996). Overview of the election process in Wisconsin (staff brief). Madison, WI: Wisconsin Legislative Council Staff.

Harris, B. (2004). Black box voting: Ballot tampering in the 21st century. Renton, WA: Talion Publishing.

Hayduk, R. (2004). Democracy for all: Restoring immigrant voting rights in the U.S. New Political Science26(4), 499-523.

Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE). (2004). Voting information: registering to vote in Illinois. Retrieved Nov. 29, 2004 from: http://www.elections.state.il.us/VotingInformation/Register.htm.

Jackson, J.L. “Implement the National Voter Registration Act.” (1996, April 15). The Chicago Sun Times, 30.

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). (2004).

National campus voter registration project: Examples of campus voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote activities.

National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). Model Wisconsin program excels at voter registration. Retrieved Nov. 28, 2004 from: www.nationalhomeless.org/vote/wisconsin.html.

People for the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). (2004). Election protection:

Protecting voters’ rights in 2004 and beyond. Retrieved Nov. 28, 2004 from:http://www.electionprotection2004.org/coalition.htm.

Rainbow/Push Coalition (RPC). (2004). History of RPC. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2004 from:http://www.rainbowpush.org/about/.

Sanford, W.H. (2000). State of Illinois crime and punishment chart: Year 2000. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2004 from The National Crime and Punishment Learning Center: http://www.crimeandpunishment.net/IL.

Sterling, C.W. (1981). Electoral college misrepresentation: A geometric analysis. Polity, 13(3), 425-449.

United States Census Bureau (2004). Population finder. Retrived Nov. 28, 2004 from: http://www.census.gov/.

Wisconsin State Elections Board (SEB). (2004). How to register to vote. Retrieved Nov.

29, 2004 from: http://elections.state.wi.us/faq_detail.asp?faqid=119&fid=27.

* This author spent one year as a case manager at Hope Haven, and assisted with providing election information to residents. Information in this paper referencing Hope Haven is drawn from this author’s direct experience in the shelter.

Illinois voter registration has undergone several changes throughout election history (Cain). Intended to create a fair, impartial, and non-partisan registration system, the Illinois policy has developed stringent requirements for voting in local, state, and federal elections. Despite a surface appearance of equal-opportunity and relative justness, the Illinois voter registration policy has implicit flaws, which confound […]

During the 2004 race for the United States presidency, there were many issues that divided the nation along liberal and conservative lines. One of the great ironies that still divides the nation is the issue of the legal recognition of marriages involving same gender couples. In this country, marriage is considered a legally, morally, and spiritually binding contract between two people who promise faithful love and support to one another and consists of vows often spoken in front of familial and religious witnesses. One would reason, then, that legal recognition of such a union would extend to any two persons of legal age, since American law and religious canon so often operate hand-in-hand in our democratic system of government. Legally-recognized unions also carry with them certain rights and privileges, whichwould seem to be all the more reason for the government to extend legal recognition to all US marriages; however, such is not the case.

Opponents of the legal recognition of same-gender marriage often cite legislative and historical reasons for their positions. Yet it is within the backgrounds of their same resources that one can find cause to ensure that gay couples receive the legal protections, rights, and privileges as do our hetero-gendered counterparts.

Legislative Context

Article IV, Sections 1 and 2, of the United States Constitution is very clear with regard to the legal responsibilities shared between and among all the states in the Union. Known as “Full Faith and Credit”, the sections of this Article state that “[full] faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state” and that “[the] citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges… of citizens in the several states”1. Several questions arise to test the hypothesis that marriages between gay persons are legislatively the same as marriages between non-gay persons.

  1. Can marriages between gay persons be considered public acts? Yes, they can, in the same ways that marriages between non-gay persons are considered public acts. Marriages between gay persons, which are often referred to as Holy Unions, involve in vows spoken before clergy, friends, and families, in ceremonies as similar and diverse as marriages between non-gay persons. Holy Unions also include the exchanging of rings, charges to the couple as well as to their witnesses, celebrations of Holy Communion, and many other aspects of the marriage rite. In fact, the celebration of the union between two gay persons constitutes a traditional marriage ceremony, in every way but one: the genders of the persons taking the vows.
  2. Are marriages between gay persons matters of public record? Whenever possible, yes they are. In states where affianced gay couples are allowed to apply for marriage certificates and submit other paperwork to secure legal standing for their relationships, they do so. When they meet opposition or resistance to their registries, they often attempt to fight that discrimination through legal means. These actions, as well as their ramifications, become public record through court filings, news coverage, and other forms of public record keeping.
  3. Do any aspects of marriage between gay persons become judicial proceedings? Yes, they do. Fighting marriage discrimination through court filings is just one way this occurs. When one partner takes the last name of the other, and makes this change through the court system, this process is a legal proceeding. The adoption of children within the union is a legal proceeding, as are any adoptions occurring during the course of the relationship. Whatever legal actions gay couples take to establish the existence and validity of their relationships and their families are judicial proceedings.

In the test of legality, marriages involving gay couples pass the legislative test. It would, therefore, show an undeniably high level of bigotry for opponents of gay marriage to enact laws that so obviously counter the spirit of equality expressed in the “Full Faith and Credit” Article contained in the US Constitution.

Historical Context

The United States has a long history of oppression, segregation, and discriminatory practices—all legal during various times in our struggle to become, and remain, a united collection of states and territories. In fact, much the United States (particularly, the South) was built through the blood, sweat, and laborious tears of a people who legally “belonged” to others who brought them here by force. Those who have been charged with running our government began that legacy by enforcing “squatters’ rights”, also known as adverse possession. The “squatters”, in this case, came to this country and—through brutal and bloody means—claimed these lands for their own, uprooting and displacing thousands of native peoples who had lived here for generations before them. Walking through the doorway of this new millennium, it is really no wonder that there are still those who hang on to rights, protections, and privileges as if no one else deserves the same considerations.

Fifty years ago, the push for civil rights brought the realities and ramifications of institutionalized and legalized discrimination into the forefront of the American consciousness. African Americans—Americans whose ancestors were forcibly removed from their homelands, brought to this strange place, and worked until death without pay—stood up to say that “separate but equal” is never equal and never works. Fast forward to 2005, and we find that the same belief holds true for gay couples seeking marriage equality.

The Rainbow Alliance cites over sixty areas that are unequal in their applications to gay and non-gay couples, among them:

  1. Shared Taxes. Married non-gay couples get to average their salaries to reach a lower bracket which benefits married couples with one high-wage worker and one low-wage worker (typical of a family where perhaps the mother works “mom’s hours” to supplement the budget while the kids are young.) Gay couples in a comparable situation are taxed at a higher rate.
  2. Next-of-kin privileges. If one partner gets sick or dies, the other can be shut out of the process by the patient’s family, particularly dangerous in families who do not accept the patient’s partner or family situation. Legal recognition of marriages between gay persons would place the control of these gut wrenching situations into the control of the spouse and not the patient’s family-of-birth, just as it is in marriages between non-gay persons.
  3. Bereavement leave. Many employers only grant leave to workers who lose close relatives. Significant Others (SOs) are not factored into the equation, so to speak, unlike spouses in legally recognized marriages.
  4. Pensions and health insurance. Few employers grant benefits to the spouses of their gay employees. Even in those cases where benefits are granted, these benefits are taxed; spousal benefits for non-gay beneficiaries are not taxed.
  5. Immigration. Marriage between immigrants and non-gay Americans automatically confers US citizenship to immigrating spouses. Gay couples have to separate when the immigrating spouse’s visa expires.
  6. Social Security. Only the surviving spouses in non-gay marriages receive survivor benefits.
  7. Inheritance. Gay spouses pay estate taxes, non-gay spouses are exempt. In addition, only non-gay widows and widowers have legal standing to challenge the wills of their late spouses.2

These examples serve to illustrate, with depth and clarity, the breadth of subjugation practices in the United States with legislative and historical precedence and prescience. These practices are systematic, ingrained in our psyches for the past 500 years. It is how we have been operating; it is still the way we operate today. Gay couples in the United States face the same struggle for marriage equality that Native American couples, American couples of African Descent, and American Black/White couples faced over the course of uniting these states—making the theory of “special rights”3 a moot point. Legal marriage protection, with the bestowal of legal marital responsibilities and legal marital privileges, is not a special right. It is a cultural trinity that represents a sacred rite of passage, one that should available to every law abiding (or what passes for such), tax paying, and contributing citizen of the United States and her possessions. It was once withheld from native couples, from black couples, and from black-and-white couples, during the course of our history together, and laws are being enacted and re-interpreted in order to withhold it from non-gay couples. But if we all pay the same taxes and abide by the same laws, those laws need to include and protect all of us and confer upon us the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities, regardless of the genders of our spouses.

Whether approaching the issue of gay marriage from a legislative standpoint or from a historical one, it is clear that the present course of events will lead to a definite change in the fabric of how one defines what it means to be an American. Our cultural history indicates that gay couples are just another segment of society whose once-ignored face is gaining clarity and shape on the American landscape. How will future generations see us? Today’s high-school and college-age kids are tomorrow’s government and cultural leaders—and many of them have gay parents, uncles and aunts, and grandparents. And many of them are gay, as well. It is my hope that the laws we enact now will protect them and endow all of them with the same rights and privileges, regardless of the genders of their spouses.


1 US House of Representatives – Text of the U.S. Constitution.

2 The Rainbow Alliance – Religious Definition of Marriage.

3 Note: ‘Special rights’ is a political term used primarily by conservatives in the United States to refer to laws that enumerate rights related to sexual orientation. Gay rights advocates prefer to describe these laws as ending discrimination, and thus conferring equal rights.” Wikipedia – Special rights.

During the 2004 race for the United States presidency, there were many issues that divided the nation along liberal and conservative lines. One of the great ironies that still divides the nation is the issue of the legal recognition of marriages involving same gender couples. In this country, marriage is considered a legally, morally, and […]

Judi Bari was born November 7, 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was raised in Baltimore, and attended college at the University of Maryland, where she majored in “anti-Vietnam War rioting,” as she once said.

With no real direction and already in her fifth year at the school, she decided to drop out and took a working-class job as a clerk at a corporate-owned grocery store in the area. While Judi had been somewhat of a peace activist in college, her leadership qualities as an activist began to shape up in the early 1970s at the grocery store, as she worked to organize the workers’ union.

During this time, Judi studied karate for self-defense purposes and achieved a black belt, the highest level of mastery in the martial art.

A few years later, she broke gender barriers by passing a civil service test requiring her to lift and shoulder a 70 pound mail bag for carrying. She then got a job as a bulk-mail handler at a mail center near Washington, D.C. and continued her organizing and activism in labor unions. She published the employee newsletter and put to use some of what she had learned in her five aimless years in college, namely graphic design principles. At this job, she also led a successful union strike to demand better working conditions.

After meeting her husband, Mike Sweeney, she left the East coast and moved to Sonoma County, California where she and Mike were married and had two children, Lisa and Jessica. Around the time of the move, since Judi was no longer working, the focus of her activism shifted from labor unions to a political group called Pledge of Resistance, which stood in opposition of the United States governmental support of repressive regimes throughout Central America. She and Mike divorced several years later and shared custody of the two children.

Judi’s most important and most noted work began in 1988, when she became the contact person for an organization called Earth First! in Mendocino County, California. The group aimed to tackle environmental issues and work for the protection of the environment through direct, nonviolent action and protest. Judi says she was inspired to pay more attention to environmental issues while working as a carpenter, building a home for a wealthy business executive. She noticed the beauty and quality of the boards she was working with and began to ask questions, only to find out that the wood had come from ancient Redwood trees. Judi was enraged to find out that such a part of our natural heritage was being exploited this way. She was first attracted to Earth First!, she said, because they were the only ones willing to sacrifice themselves, and put themselves in front of chainsaws and bulldozers in order to save the giant trees. She was also greatly drawn to the organizations philosophy of biocentrism, the idea that Earth is not here purely for human consumption, and that as a part of the whole, human beings need to learn to live in balance with nature rather than attempting to mold nature to suit their lifestyles.

Most of her work aimed at organizing demonstrations and protests to stop timber companies from logging and exploiting the forests, and to speak out against the way the companies were operating.

Her first campaign was a blockade of logging on public land near Cahto Park in California. She and the other protesters helped to save several thousand acres of forest, which in turn was added by the state to the protected Cahto Wilderness Area. She was also a prime organizer of efforts to save the famous Headwaters Forest in Humbolt County, California, which I’ll talk more about later.

Also in 1988, Judi was introduced to Darryl Cherney after a mutual friend suggested that she help him with the graphic design of the brochure he was making to support his run for Congress. The two quickly became a couple, and a team, and worked together on everything.

Judi was also a feminist, and is credited with feminizing the Earth First! organization. According to Mendocino Environmental Center Coordinator Betty Ball, Judi’s influence allowed many more women to become involved in ways that they could have more of an influence on the organization than ever before. She also said that Judi understood the importance of activism being a community activity, and understood the level of organizing required to make this happen. Judi is credited, in turn, with helping to make Earth First! a community campaign, moving it away from the nomadic way it used to be, as a few people bouncing from place to place and demonstrating. “When Greg King and I were organizing demonstrations, dozens and maybe hundreds of people came, but when Judi got involved, thousands of people came,” said Cherney, in regards to her prowess as an organizer.

Judi continued other types of activism throughout her environmentalist action. In 1988, she defended an abortion clinic from an anti-abortion demonstration. In 1989, she returned to her work as a labor union activist and fought for the workers of the timber industries that she so opposed. She saw the corporations as an enemy to humanity, the environment, and their own workers, and worked to convince the workers of this. In 1990, she and many timber industry workers organized and convinced the county to take back 300,000 acres of forest from the Louisiana-Pacific timber company and operate them according to public interests, so that they would not be destroyed.

In all of her activism, two things that Judi regarded as powerful were nonviolence and music. She wrote music and was almost never at a demonstration without her violin, which she had learned to play in high school and used as a unifying tool at demonstrations, and as a weapon against what was being demonstrated against by singing her the charged songs that she wrote. Likewise, she taught and practiced nonviolent direct action, leading demonstrations that aimed to show the timber workers through peaceful action that Earth First! was not a threat to their jobs, and that the corporations they worked for were the real enemy.

Her ability to organize workers against their own employers gave her the inside edge in the so-called Timber War. Her power to unite and build alliances between timber industry employees and the massive following of environmentalists she had as followers scared the corporations and made Judi a target. She was first targeted in 1989, when her car was rammed by a logging truck, hospitalizing her and six others, four of which were children. Although Judi was able to show through photographs that the truck that had hit her was the same truck which Earth First! activists had stopped in a blockade less than 24 hours prior, authorities refused to treat it as anything more than a traffic accident.

In 1990, California state senate had proposed that Preposition 130, the Forests Forever Initiative would appear on their fall ballot. The Initiative, if passed would create preventative measures against the over-cutting of Redwood forests, and would slow logging by the giant timber corporations. Of course, the companies opposed the Initiative greatly. Judi and Darryl stepped into action once again and began to organize one of their largest projects yet, the Redwood Summer project. They drew inspiration from the Mississippi Summer Civil Rights Campaign, in which students were recruited by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to demonstrate and fight for civil rights. The project’s plan was to protect the forests with manpower to ensure that they weren’t all chopped down before the initiative could actually be passed. So, Judi and Darryl set off, touring colleges to recruit fighters for their cause. Timber companies began to launch campaigns against Earth First!, trying to discredit their name by labeling them eco-terrorists, despite the fact that the group practiced only nonviolent action. The company tried to label the initiative as the eco-terrorists’ work, to sway public opinion in their favor. Judi and other activists also began receiving death threats by mail, telephone, and even left hanging on the door of the Earth First! offices at the Mendocino Environmental Center. Attached to the last threat was a picture of Judi’s face with a target drawn on it, as well as a yellow ribbon—the symbol of the corporate-sponsored support groups of the timber companies. Judi reported the threat to the county sheriff, only to be told, “When you turn up dead, then we’ll investigate.”

On May 24, 1990, while Judi and Darryl were driving through Oakland, a car bomb exploded underneath her driver’s seat. The explosion shattered Judi’s pelvis and tailbone, and caused extensive tissue and nerve damage. Judi was left paralyzed and in pain for the rest of her life.

The Oakland Police Department and FBI terrorist squad came to the scene and began investigating. Within hours, while Judi and Darryl were both hospitalized, they were arrested for knowingly transporting the bomb, and bail was set at $100,000. The authorities said that the pair had intended to use the bomb in their fight with the timber companies, and it had accidentally exploded.  Though the pair maintained that they had nothing to do with the bomb, the FBI and police kept giving interviews to the media claiming that they did, and that there was evidence to show that Judi had built the bomb. As attention to the story built to a national scale, the public was hearing all over that Judi and Darryl were to blame. However, after two months, no evidence had turned up. The District Attorney refused to press charges due to the lack of evidence, and substantial evidence that showed the FBI had fabricated the whole investigation in the first place. No other suspects have ever been identified or even looked for, and the two were still considered to be suspects by the FBI, even though agents would later testify in court that no evidence had ever existed to incriminate Judi or Darryl in the first place.

Many saw the bombing as a final attempt to take Judi out and discredit Earth First!, trying to further label them as violent extremists and stop the Redwood Summer project from proceeding, as well as Preposition 130 from passing. Ironically, the FBI Special Agent in charge of the area at the time was Richard Held, who had headed COINTELPRO in the 1960s and ‘70s. COINTELPRO’s objectives were to disrupt the Black Panther and American Indian Movements. Held’s work led to the arrests of Geronimo Pratt and Leonard Peltier, both widely considered political prisoners, held for crimes that they did not commit. Consequently, Held resigned once Judi filed suit and presented evidence that the FBI’s investigation was a fraud.

Judi and Darryl brought suit against the Oakland Police and FBI for falsely arresting them on the grounds of an illegal, politically-charged and falsified investigation by the FBI.

Though paralyzed, Judi continued her activism, fighting for many different causes. She also remained an organizer for Earth First! “They blew up the wrong end of me,” Bari said, referring to the fact that the blast caught her legs but not her head. On September 15, 1995, Judi was the first of hundreds to be peacefully arrested at Headwaters Forest, bringing the situation to national attention. One year later, Bari was the keynote speaker at a similar demonstration at a similar spot, where over 1000 nonviolent activists were arrested for peacefully crossing onto timber company land.

Judi died on March 2, 1997 of sudden, severe breast cancer.

In 2002, the suit that she and Darryl had brought on the FBI and Oakland police department finally ended. A jury awarded Judi and Darryl $4.4 million for the violation of their first amendment right to free speech, by way of arguing that the attempt to frame them and discredit their voice limited their free speech.

Even though she’s passed, the same thing is still happening. Judi’s friend Kelpie Wilson says that Kate Coleman’s so-called biography The Secret Wars of Judi Bari is a blatant attempt at character assassination, disguised as a biography. She says that Coleman never met Judi, and didn’t bother interviewing any of her close friends or associates. Instead, her major sources are four of Judi’s opponents from the Timber War.

It is indeed a strong voice that attempts at character and actual assassination can’t kill. Judi’s legacy lives on in her 1994 book, Timber Wars, as well as through the many articles and songs she wrote during her time as an activist, and the many fighters out there who were inspired by her and still fight the struggles that she created.

“She was a wonderful inspiration to all of us and a steadfast champion of our natural heritage,” said California Senator Tom Hayden. “She was instrumental in bringing the plight of the ancient redwood forests to national attention. We will sorely miss the energy she provided, particularly in the negotiating fog that envelopes the Headwaters forest today, but she has left a legacy of dedicated activists who will carry her banner flying high.”

Wilson, Nicholas. Judi Bari Dies But Her Spirit Lives On. Judi Bari Website of the Redwood Summer Justice Project. Dec. 3, 2002.

Wilson, Nicholas. Jury Awards $4.4 Million Damages to Bari and Cherney. Monitor Publishing. June 11, 2002.

Wilson, Kelpie. Judi Bari Survives Character Assassination. t r u t h o u t. Jan. 19, 2005.

Judi Bari was born November 7, 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was raised in Baltimore, and attended college at the University of Maryland, where she majored in “anti-Vietnam War rioting,” as she once said. With no real direction and already in her fifth year at the school, she decided to drop out and took a […]


With Berlin still smouldering and the War in the Pacific raging, Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April of 1945 signified an end to four decades of American ‘isolationism’ in world affairs. There would be no return to the period of ‘normalcy’ which Warren Harding pledged after the First World War, nor would America be able to ignore the economic responsibilities to her allies across the Atlantic: desperate for money which would help rebuild five years of death and destruction. The technologies which had been produced at an astounding rate during the war, and the advancement of these in almost every scientific field, culminated in America’s development of the atomic bomb. One man now possessed the power to kill not thousands but hundreds of thousands in a single military order: the President of the United States. In 1945, this man was Harry S. Truman.

A former haberdasher from Missouri, Truman felt very much out of depth in his role as President and Commander-in-Chief. His first priority was to end the war in the Pacific, where American troops were fighting a brutal campaign against the Japanese. Two weeks after assuming office, Truman was informed by Secretary of War Stimson that the atom bomb was in its final stages of completion and would be ready for deployment within four months: information even in his capacity as Vice President he had not possessed. With pressure from the military to test their new toy and the American public to see victory in the Pacific, Truman ordered the release of the first and only nuclear devices in history. Hiroshima was flattened on August 6, 1945; Nagasaki followed suit three days later. The dropping of the atomic bombs precipitated three crucial factors which irrevocably shaped the Twentieth Century: a Cold War with the Soviet Union; the creation of a vast military-industrial complex conjoined by a national security state; and, most directly, the power of the Presidency.

As the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a forty year Cold War, the office of the Presidency became the first and last line of defence for the Western hemisphere. A direct consequence of the burgeoning power of the executive branch is subsumed below:

“The emerging rules of the Cold War, in part conditioned by the developing technology and speed of military action in the jet age, meant that the president had to take a lead in responding to any emerging crisis. Congress and the Constitution would have to follow in his wake” (Bennett; 2000; p. 46).

The relationship between the Executive Branch and Congress formed one of the principal duels of the century as an increasing number of presidents saw foreign affairs as their private domain. Domestic policy was of little interest to the new Presidency, international affairs were where an incumbent could make his historical mark. As Robert Harrison notes, a curious phenomenon was taking place in American politics:

“Each president is expected to define a project for his Administration, if he is to be remembered by posterity, and is judged in accordance with his success in achieving it” (Harrison; 1997; p. 320).

The electorate now placed their faith in an individual to change not only their own quality of life, but that of those who looked to America for guidance, financial support and ‘salvation.’ In short, citizens no longer remained faithful to any one party but elected their Congressmen, Senators and Presidents based on personality rather than substance. In a large part, television and the media influenced American choices, habits and popular thought which changed their perception of a powerful leader. FDR would likely not have been voted into office, nor enjoyed the luxury of a four-term office, had Americans been relentlessly subjected to the image of a President confined to a wheelchair. The personal became political within the sphere of the Oval Office during the Twentieth Century: visual images; television debates; individual excesses and scandals could make or break a President. Indeed, the last President of the Twentieth Century, William Clinton, will ‘be remembered by posterity’ more for his sexual dalliances than any professional merits of his Presidency. One President would endure a half-century battle with the media-both in being elected to office and being wrenched from it. Among the troops steaming home from the Pacific in 1945 was a thirty-two year old Lieutenant Commander who in the following year would begin his dubious rise to political fame, ending three decades later in disaster both for himself-the first President to avoid impeachment by resigning, and the country: this was none other than Richard Milhous Nixon.

One of the most complex, brilliant and flawed men ever to become President of the United States, Richard Nixon was a fascinating character of Shakespearian proportions. Achieving notoriety extremely early in his career, he was the principal protagonist behind the Alger Hiss case during the early fifties and became Vice-President to Dwight Eisenhower at the age of thirty-nine. In 1960, he narrowly lost the Presidential election to John F. Kennedy, a moment which scarred Nixon for the rest of his life and indirectly led to his infamous downfall. Two years later, after having lost the California Governorship, he announced his retirement from politics, declaring: “…this will be my last press conference.” Six years later, Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and made an unbelievable comeback in becoming the thirty-seventh President of the Unites States. His presidency was shaped by an America divided by the Vietnam War on the one hand, and a president who revolutionised East-West relations on the other. For most, however, Nixon brings to mind only one word: Watergate.

The Watergate scandal which engulfed the Nixon Presidency and brought that Administration to its knees has had a lasting impact on American politics. Mistrust of government and holders of high office resulted most recently in less than half of registered voters turning up to the polls in the last Presidential election. The acts of illegality and subterfuge which Nixon engaged in throughout his career are still being assessed as new evidence constantly comes to light. One principal reason for this is the fact that only a third of the Nixon White House tapes have been documented. In addition, a horde of classified documents have yet to be studied. However, Anthony Summers’ monumental work on Nixon, The Arrogance of Power, has unearthed many damning pieces of previously restricted files which incriminate Nixon far further than the Watergate burglary. Indeed, every point of Nixon’s personal and political career has come under scrutiny in this study, and his case is well documented. Though the book suffers in part by what Christopher Hitchens identifies as “…the weasel word ‘reportedly'” (Hitchens; 2001; p. 136), Summers main attacks on Nixon are substantiated with strong evidence. Among the notable indictments of Nixon’s legacy are questions about the legitimacy of every office Nixon held in public service; a scathing attack on his mental health; involvement with the mafia and extremely dubious business enterprises; abuse and incompetence in his Presidential administration; and unequivocal proof that Nixon ‘stole’ the 1968 Presidential election.

This dissertation will examine these new findings in depth and place them within a pattern of systematic contempt for the basic principles of decency and law which Nixon consistently flaunted. Focusing on the 1968 election, I will propose that the heaviest indictment of Nixon comes not from the Watergate controversy but with his machinations during the 1968 campaign in which he meddled with what a number of historical commentators have labelled the ‘most important diplomatic negotiations in American History.’ By doing so, not only did Nixon secure office by the most illegal and un-Constitutional methods, but needlessly sacrificed a further 20,000 American lives while heightening the domestic turmoil America experienced in this era. This paper is divided into three parts: the first will concentrate on Nixon’s background and electoral practices prior to 1968. In this way I will establish a pattern of illegality and paranoia which was evident in Nixon’s career as early as his University days. This part will include a section on the 1960 election and the dramatic effect this had on Nixon’s psyche. The second part of this paper will focus on the 1968 election and will include a speculative consideration of what America could have expected from a Humphrey administration. The third section will examine the Administrative mood of the Nixon White House and the planned break-in of the Brookings institution to secure incriminating documents relating to the 1968 election. I will conclude by examining the lasting impact of Nixon’s Presidency on American politics and electoral habits.

Chapter 1: ‘Kicking Nixon Around’

“The old adage, ‘character is destiny’, decidedly applies to Richard Nixon. He created a presidency, staffed his White House, and conducted his relations with Congress all in such a way that made Watergate inevitable. Nixon got into the Watergate mess because he was Nixon” (Kurz; 1998; p. 273).

Yorba Linda, California is a desolate and lonely rural pocket governed predominately by old the fashioned values of the Quaker tradition. Born into a strict and, according to Nixon, poor family [1], Richard grew up with the stern authority of both his father’s belt and his mother’s doctrinaire lectures. By the age of eighteen, Nixon had begun a lifelong passion for eavesdropping when: “In Arizona, (his brother) Harold figured out a method of intercepting a girlfriend’s phone conversations with a rival suitor, which was probably Richard’s first experience of wiretapping” (Summers; 2000; p. 11). By the age of eighteen, Nixon endured the setback which would begin a life-long resentment. Having won a scholarship to Harvard, he was informed by his parents that they had neither the money to fund his expenses nor the ability to lose his labour. He would not go east to college, what he describes as a ‘dream’ in his memoirs:

“Once that dream ended, and for the rest of his life, he indulged an obsession about entitlement and social class” (Summers; 2000; p. 15).

Nixon went to Whittier College, where two factors would foreshadow events to come in his political career. Angered by the ostentatious presence of the social elite, named the Franklins, who wore expensive clothes and hosted exclusive dinners, Nixon formed a rival club named the Orthogonians. Representing the ‘everyman’, Nixon was elected president of the student body, having campaigned on an issue which he had no interest in whatsoever: being allowed to dance on campus. This was a pattern repeated in virtually every political position Nixon attempted. From the ‘little man’ rallying for the common good against the evil of internal Communism to calling on the ‘silent majority’ in 1968, Nixon presented himself to the electorate in strictly Manichean terms. In addition, Nixon displayed little or no concern for the issues at hand, as in 1968 when he took the most important political factor of that decade- ending the war in Vietnam, and proceeded to use it to gain the Presidency.

While attending Whittier an incident occurred which displayed another emerging pattern in the Nixon psyche. At the end of his second year, Nixon and two contemporaries broke into the Dean’s office in an apparent bid to get an advance look at their grades. The penalty for such an offence would obviously have been expulsion, if not criminal charges. Yet, the grades were to be released imminently; they had merely been delayed in being sent. Nixon and his accomplices had thus taken a massive risk in attaining results which could not have been altered: this was to be a mistake repeated by Nixon so callously that the Watergate scandal seemed almost inevitable. Decades before, however, Nixon was engaging in a series of ‘dirty tricks’ which would set the tone of his 1968 Presidential campaign.

Electoral Practices Prior to 1960

“During the early years, Nixon was the man to beat. He was the best politician of his time, articulating more ably than anyone the nervous mood of post-World War II America” (Matthews; 1996; p. 15).

Nixon began his political career in 1946 when he ran for Congress against Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis. A dedicated New Dealer, Voorhis had faced no serious challenge to his position since 1937. With the war over, however, the GOP began a counter-attack on the Democratic hegemony it had enjoyed since the Great Depression. Though the fear of subversion by Socialist and Communist forces had been a prevalent force in the American psyche since the revolution of 1917, it was not until the United States began an all-out Cold War with the Soviet Union that anti-Communism reached epidemic proportions. Nixon tapped into this hysteria, along with a great number of GOP hopefuls, during the 1946 Congressional campaign. Influenced heavily by Churchill’s speech in March of that year in Fulton, Missouri where the latter announced that “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent” (quoted in Ambrose; 1971; p. 70), Nixon took up the anti-Communist call with ferocity. Every victim in his political legacy has been plagued primarily through the only common theme in Nixon’s campaigns, red-baiting: from the claim that Voorhis was funded by the Communist Political Action Committee; to the assertion that Helen Douglas was ‘pink down to her underwear'; and finally in his 1968 campaign that Humphrey was a ‘sincere, dedicated radical.’

The 1946 campaign against Voorhis was, by all accounts, “brutal and vicious” (Kurz; 1998; p. 46). It was at this time that Nixon met the man who would coordinate the ‘dirty tricks’ of his career: Murray Chotiner. Nixon would later claim as a defence that he engaged in illegal methods of obtaining office only in response to those rallied against him. This line of argument forms the central tenet of Nixon loyalists, who argue that any criticism of Nixon’s actions come under the ‘politics-as-usual’ heading. Yet, as Kenneth Kurz makes clear: “‘Politics as usual’ is not a license for abetting criminals and committing crimes” (Kurz; 1998; p. 274). Nixon saw politics as a game, one where the there were no rules save that of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Nixon apologists state that Nixon’s only crime was getting caught, yet the standard he set in the initial Congressional campaign against Voorhis and his subsequent Senatorial campaign against Helen Douglas suggest otherwise. A number of the common tactics applied by politicians today: massive financial contributions, media ‘spin’ and the infiltration of an opposition camp, were used heavily in Nixon’s early years. In 1946, Chotiner planted Nixon supporters at Voorhis’ rallies, courted big business and arranged for the Los Angeles Times to run favourable headline coverage of the campaign sympathetic to Nixon. In addition, voters were beleaguered by calls which informed the recipient: “I think you should know Jerry Voorhis is a Communist.” Recent evidence cited by Summers indicates that it was Chotiner who arranged those calls. Nixon’s camp spent an estimated $30,000[2]; Voorhis a paltry $2,000. In the 2000 gubernatorial campaign, all but one of the contenders who spent the more money ‘won’ their elective office.

The 1950 Senatorial campaign against Helen Douglas was a near re-rerun of the Voorhis episode. This time, however, Nixon became nastier. Again using the red-baiting tactic as the main prong of his attack, Chotiner assembled a massive one to two million dollar fund [3]. So much money, in fact, that Nixon was able to donate a portion to other GOP candidates. Hecklers were positioned, as before, at Douglas’ speaking engagements and this time callers were subjected to racial slurs which asked “Did you know?” followed by an allusion to Douglas’ Jewish husband. On more than one occasion Nixon referred to Douglas as Hesselberg [4], a clearly anti-Semitic attack. The press, too, were employed by Chotiner to project pro-Nixon sentiment: “Of twelve papers in the state, nine backed Nixon” (Summers; 2000; p. 83). Nixon labelled Douglas ‘pink down to her underwear’, a remark which resonated all the more now that China had entered the Korean War. With anti-Communist sentiment at its peak, and with a little help from Chotiner, Nixon won with a resounding majority: 2,183, 454 votes to Douglas’s 1, 502, 507 [5].

Nixon’s early political bids showed that he was not immune to using coercive methods in order to obtain votes. Many of the themes evident in his 1968 Presidential candidacy were apparent by 1952: the distortion of a central issue to further his advancement; massive campaign contributions; and the abuse of the media in changing voter perception. Public opinion of the Senator from California soon began to sway:

“To many, Nixon seemed to be a man on the make, a hustler peddling falsehoods, an obvious dealer in illusions” (Bennett; 2000; p. 127).

The term first coined by Helen Douglas, ‘Tricky Dick’, was beginning to stick. This was no more heightened by what Nixon describes in Six Crises as: “…the most scarring personal crisis of my life” (Nixon; 1962; p. 74). Allegations that the Vice-Presidential hopeful had solicited money from California’s big business for personal use were beginning to cast doubts on the integrity of the Republican Party’s brightest hope for victory in 1960. In what was to be the first in a series of public evaluations, Nixon went on camera to defend the charges levelled against him. In what can only be described as pathetic, Nixon used the now familiar rhetoric of the ‘common man’ to appeal to the sentiment of the American public. Ending this diatribe with the assertion that no matter what would transpire when all was said and done, the family dog Checkers [6] would remain. A potential disaster was averted, the general public admired what they perceived as Nixon’s candour and he was once again welcomed back into the bosom of the Republican Party.

The fund scandal, although a public relations success, had two long-lasting effects on Nixon. It began his passionate hatred for the media and provided the first conclusive evidence that Nixon was liable to emotional outbursts under pressure. As Nixon saw it, the press had jumped on him for an act of which many other politicians, including Adlai Stevenson, could easily have been indicted. In addition, Nixon’s emotional fragility meant that he took what the press said and their actions personally: “I had not reckoned with the determination and skilful planning of our opponents” (Nixon; 1962; p. 83). As it became clear that Nixon had dodged the fund crisis, serious cracks were beginning to show in his ability to stand up to the pressures of high office:

“From then on Nixon surrendered to tears: tears after making his Checkers speech, tears on board his plane in front of embarrassed reporters when Eisenhower came on board to say ‘you’re my boy,’ and the famous tears on Senator William Knowland’s shoulder [7]…” (Summers; 2000; p. 138).

In 1968, however, there were to be no tears: only victory. Nixon’s commitment to winning the Presidency, and the methods employed to gain it, were hardened by the most defining moment of his political career: 1960.

Kennedy and the 1960 Presidential Election

In 1960, two conjoined resentments Nixon had developed-against both the ‘liberal eastern establishment’ and the media-came to fruition. John F. Kennedy, the Democratic nominee for President, encapsulated everything Nixon wasn’t: privileged, wealthy and exceedingly handsome. Kennedy launched his platform on a campaign to ‘get this country moving again’ while Nixon resorted to the tried and tested anti-Communist line which had to date served him in good stead. Interestingly, Nixon and Kennedy had known each other well in the post-war period as both their political careers appeared to mirror each other: in the Senate they had even kept offices opposite one another. In 1960, however, any effort to rekindle the once friendly rivalry had abated: for Nixon this was all out war.

Nixon was far more experienced than Kennedy in political campaigning and world affairs. Yet, the Kennedy clan were able to use Nixon’s tricks against him. JFK argued that Eisenhower had been soft on Communism: he cited a purported ‘missile gap’ and, more importantly, the loss of ‘Cuba’ to the enemy. The most defining moment of the election came in a revolutionary medium which marked the fundamental sway of American politics from those of party loyalty or concrete issues to personality: television debates. The first ever such debate, on September 26, has gone down as somewhat of a political legend. Kennedy looked like ‘a young Adonis’ while his counterpart looked exactly as he was: a man straight out of hospital. Having bumped his knee weeks earlier, Nixon had to be hospitalised as the wound became infected. While in hospital, Nixon recalls a moment which tells much about his obsession with politics:

“The physical pain I suffered those next few weeks was bad enough…But the mental suffering was infinitely worse” (Nixon; 1962; p. 336).

Presumably, his mental anguish emanated from his failure to be out on the campaign trail. By stating that his emotional faculties were more inhibited than those of a potentially life-altering injury [8], Nixon implicates by default the inner workings of an incredibly flawed psyche. Before the first television debate, Nixon bumped the injured knee before arriving at the studio. Watching footage of the debate, it is clear that he is in a considerable amount of discomfort as his knee shakes sporadically. In addition, he refused make-up. Emaciated, pale and visibly ‘shaken’, Nixon looked positively haggard in comparison to the tanned and lean figure of JFK. Nixon had underestimated the power of the media and was duly punished. A series of miscalculations had led to a public relations disaster: Nixon’s refusal to prepare for the event; the decision not to wear make-up; and his underestimation of Kennedy’s debating skills. Though Nixon sounded the better politician-he won far more acclaim via radio than television- Kennedy looked ‘presidential.’ This was a defining moment in American political history: JFK gave the image of a president. From that point on, politicians became fully aware of the power of the media over the electorate. Nixon never grasped this idea, and as such maintained until Watergate that the media, in collusion with the Liberal establishment, were out to get him: “I was prepared to do combat with the media…I did not believe this combat would be between equals” (Nixon; 1978; p. 355). It was not that they were necessarily out to get ‘him’, but that he refused to accept the importance of sustaining a symbiotic relationship with the media. In addition, Nixon displayed a contempt for the very people who put him in office: in Six Crises he refers to “unsophisticated voters” and unsophisticated televiewers” (Nixon; 1962; pp. 38-39) in almost the same breath. The defining blow, however, came on Election Day: Nixon lost out to Kennedy by a little over 100,000 votes. Once more, Nixon’s emotional fragility presented itself:

“I had seen many people in tears the night before as they heard the returns, but for the first time I was confronted with the same problem” (Nixon; 1962; p. 393).

Tears quickly turned to suspicion, as the reports from Chicago and Texas indicated voting fraud. In later years, Nixon developed a wild and paranoiac interpretation of the election:

“Nixon clung to the absurd conspiracy theory that the agency (CIA) had conspired to make him lose the 1960 presidential election to Kennedy” (Andrew; 1995; p. 350).

No evidence has yet come to light that the CIA prevented Nixon’s victory, yet there is substantial proof that the Democratic campaign management had bought or forced voters into casting a Kennedy ballot. Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot contains the most recent analysis of an election which to his mind was decidedly Nixon’s. Depressed at his loss, angry at the electorate and fermenting vast conspiracy theories which centred around the media, Nixon was forced to endure the ultimate humiliation. Asked to come by Kennedy for what he thought was a genuine effort at reconciliation, Nixon met the president elect in Florida. There, under the auspices of having a meaningful and productive conversation on how to conduct Presidential policy [9], Kennedy delivered the fatal blow:

“…Kennedy was now having his way with his rival, listening obligingly to Nixon’s advice for the sole purpose of getting Nixon’s television picture paying court to him as the president-elect” (Matthews; 1996; p.186).

The election of 1960 proved to be cataclysmic for Nixon’s psyche. He returned to politics in 1962, losing the California governorship by another slim majority. Afterwards, Nixon informed reporters: “…you won’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” Physically and emotionally shattered, Nixon poured the last three years of scorn onto the public eye. In private, there are unsubstantiated claims that he physically beat up his wife Pat. Whatever the truth of those allegations, one thing is certain: Nixon would not lose again. The governor-hopeful transformed his experiences of sixteen years in public service into a ruthless comeback for the 1968 election. In it, Nixon would deploy a combination of dirty tricks he had learned in previous campaigns with a new self-determined confidence -born of two emotionally crushing losses- to devastating effect in his bid for President of the United States.

“Politics was not merely another occupation; it was his whole life, and he could not sit out the presidential race” (Unger and Unger; 1988; p. 451).

Chapter 2: 1968

“Because so little light showed between Nixon and Humphrey on Viet Nam (sic), it is unlikely that the war played a large part in the presidential vote…The bombing suspension and the prospect of more significant negotiations may well have helped Humphrey’s momentum in the campaign’s last days.”

Time; November 15th, 1968 (Vol. 92, No. 20); p. 19

The 1968 Presidential election was one of the most significant in American History. In four years, Johnson’s dream of a Great Society had been displaced by the Vietnam War: “Instead of friend of the poor and the oppressed, he was now presented as an evil, tyrannical monster, an ogre, a bringer of death and destruction” (Harrison; 1997; p. 303). LBJ was by no accounts the most articulate or humble of men: he demanded a ‘kiss my ass at high noon and tell me it smells like roses’ type of loyalty and was frequently given to vulgar outbursts. In a notable tirade, Johnson moaned about a future president and then Congressman: “Ford’s economics is the worst thing that’s happened to this country since pantyhose ruined finger-fucking” (quoted in Doyle; 1999; p. 144). Johnson was the President directly responsible for escalating the conflict in Vietnam, yet it is impossible to argue that Kennedy-had he enjoyed a probable second term of office- would have been better equipped to defuse the situation. In 1968, both the Vietnam War and the turmoil in America had reached epidemic proportions: between 1964-8 there were over 400 racial disturbances alone in major urban centres. In South-East Asia, the Vietcong’s Tet offensive at the end of January 1968 destroyed the Johnson Administration’s claims that an end to the quagmire was in sight. Faced with no solutions to either the war abroad or at home, Johnson announced his decision not to seek re-election in 1968. For Doris Kearns, a Johnson aide who would later help write his memoirs, the decision was made because: “Johnson’s candidacy would have caused an explosion, fragmenting, perhaps irrevocably, the Democratic Party” (Kearns; 1976; p. 351).

The election was dominated by two inter-related issues: Vietnam and civil unrest. In addition, a third party candidate-George Wallace- campaigned for racial segregation, thus enlarging and clouding the answer to civil unrest. Wallace, like all third party candidates in American History, had no chance of winning: his platform, however, drew dismayed Republican voters in from the cold that deemed Nixon too moderate. The lessons of 1960 had been learnt: Nixon transformed his image to secure victory in ’68. Frank Meyer had noted by August in the National Review that:

“This was a very different Nixon from the always cautious, often trimming, Nixon of 1960. If the rest of the campaign is conducted on this level, conservatives can support the Republican ticket with confidence” (National Review; August 27th 1968; Vol. 20, No. 34; p. 859).

Nixon believed the most effective strategy for success would be adopting a ‘centrist’ line: he promised ‘peace with honour’ and maintained that he had a ‘secret plan’ to end the war. In one example of Nixon’s pathological lying, he alleges: “I never said I had a ‘plan’, much less a ‘secret plan’, to end the war; I was deliberately straightforward about the difficulty of finding a solution” (Nixon; 1978; p. 298). Domestically, Nixon appealed to ‘the silent majority’-those who he named as the ‘true Americans’ not responsible for the endemic violence in the country- to place their trust in him. According to Bennett: “Rebuilding the trust between presidency and people was the key task for any incoming president in 1968″ (Bennett; 2000; p.128). Nixon tapped into the popular fears of the nation-as in previous campaigns- promising all things to all people. The Democrats, meanwhile, had been experiencing a severe power struggle. Johnson’s Vice-President Hubert Humphrey was first choice for nominee until Bobby Kennedy entered the arena. For a moment, Nixon was paralysed with déjà vu from 1960. These fears abated in early June when Kennedy was assassinated by a Jordanian nationalist seconds after accepting nomination. Nixon campaigned diligently on a ‘peace with honour’ line while Humphrey attempted to patch up the divisions in his party. As Nixon states: “I knew, of course, that the impact of Humphrey’s nomination would now be seriously undermined. He would have to spend his entire campaign trying to patch up the divisions in his party” (Nixon; 1978; p. 317). Humphrey’s acceptance speech for nomination reflects Nixon’s analysis:

“There are differences, of course, serious differences within our party on this vexing and painful issue of Vietnam…Put aside recrimination and dissension. Believe-believe in what America can do, and believe in what America can be…” (in Engelmayer and Wagman; 1978; p. 296).

In the run-up to the penultimate week of the election, Nixon was well clear of Humphrey in the polls. At this point, it seemed that Nixon would receive the landslide majority he had consistently yearned for. Orthodox interpretations of the 1968 election indicate that Nixon won because of a ‘conservative backlash’ which had begun in the New Deal era and had now reacted to eight years of liberalism. Among them, Michael Heale:

“Richard Nixon’s election was made possible by the crumbling of the New Deal Order, by disillusion with New Frontier and Great Society Liberalism, and by the sorry Johnson record in Vietnam. His re-election represented a repudiation of street politics” (Heale; 2001; p. 107).

This interpretation is justified in the sense that America had lost faith in the ‘politics of hope’ imbued in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. Every segment of American society seemed to have validated criticisms of the preceding eight years: from blacks and whites who were still economically marginalised; middle-class America who wanted stability; and the young who yearned for peace. The electorate-it is argued- looked to the Republican Party to reverse the trend of liberalism which had so degraded American economic, social and military strength. Nixon was voted to bring an end to the domestic and international crises which-it was perceived- had their roots in the Democratic Party. For Doris Kearns “…what changed between 1964 and 1968 was not people’s attitudes towards the policies which Johnson espoused…but their level of trust in Johnson’s capacity to cope with domestic and international problems” (Kearns; 1976; p. 337). There are two problems with this interpretation: Nixon-however much he had changed his image- was still heavily mistrusted:

“Many Americans had voted for Richard Nixon for high office: senator, governor, vice-president, president, but few had loved him. He inspired little affection because he seemed so incapable of love. Pain, anger, resentment, self-pity, hatred- but not love” (Unger and Unger; 1988; p. 451).

Nixon’s past had not erased in the minds of many the red-baiting Congressman who had vilified Alger Hiss in a nation-wide HUAC case. Conversely, Nixon was visibly attempting to shed this image in an attempt to garner trust among the electorate. Theodore White even went as far as to comment “…I came to believe that one must respect this man: there was about all he said a conviction and sincerity” (White; 1969; p. 148).  James Jackson Kilpatrick, however, noted a somewhat different phenomenon:

“Nixon took a new tack at Cincinnati on October 21. ‘We’re gonna sock it to ‘em,’ he cried. Instantly, the shade of Mrs Douglas appeared upon the scene: the Ole Debbil Nixon had returned, blue beard and all” (National Review; December 3, 1968; Vol. 20, No. 34).

The ‘Ole Debbil Nixon’ certainly had returned. New evidence has now proven a long known ‘secret’ about the 1968 Presidential campaign: that Richard Nixon engaged in clandestine negotiations with the South Vietnamese promising them a ‘better deal’ if a Republican Administration were elected. In doing so, Nixon may well have prolonged the war for a further four years and enjoyed a two-term Presidency which was never his. The deception of all involved- Johnson, the troops, the American people and the South Vietnamese- sheds new light on the traditional ‘conservative backlash’ argument while suggesting that Nixon was capable of far more than the ordering of a break-in at the Watergate.

On October 1st- a week before the election- Johnson announced a full bombing halt of North Vietnam, to be followed by peace talks in Paris. He assured the public this was a non-partisan move designed solely in the interests of securing an end to the war. The move obviously came under criticism as a political ploy to aid the trailing Humphrey, yet as long as the peace talks began, Johnson could enjoy being heralded as the man who ended the war. Humphrey’s gap did indeed diminish – as the electorate saw an end to the Vietnam War- to give him a slight lead in the polls. On November 2nd, South Vietnam announced that they would not be attending the Peace Talks, and Johnson’s claim that the bombing halt was an apolitical move seemed unsubstantiated. As Ambrose succinctly puts it:

“After having gone seven months without comment on Vietnam, using the excuse that he did not want to undercut the President, Nixon decided to undercut the President” (Ambrose; 1989; p. 209).

As a result of Nixon’s ‘intervention’ in the peace talks, it is entirely likely that enough votes were swung to bring him victory. About a year before the 1968 elections, a meeting had been arranged between Nixon and Anna Chennault, an Asian affairs expert with long-standing ties to the Republican Party. [10] In it, she agreed to act as an adviser to Nixon on Vietnam. Within a year, her role had changed dramatically: by November of 1968 Nixon was using Chennault as a conduit- via Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem- to President Thieu. When Johnson received word that Thieu was backing out of the peace initiative, information gathered from wiretaps and phone intercepts of the South Vietnamese embassy became clear. Convinced that Nixon was involved, Johnson ordered a full physical and electronic surveillance of both the embassy and Chennault. From that surveillance came two previously classified FBI documents which incriminate Nixon. In the first, Chennault:

“…contacted Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem, and advised him that she had received a message from her boss, which her boss wanted her to give personally to the Ambassador. She said the message was ‘Hold on, we are gonna win…”

(Summers; 2000; p. 302).

The evidence here is circumspect. On its own the conclusion can be drawn that the message is from an unnamed ‘boss’ in the Republican Party urging Thieu to resist pressure from the Johnson Administration to attend the peace talks. The indication that ‘we’re gonna win’ is a reminder that the South Vietnamese would fair better with Nixon in the White House. Taken in conjunction with a second FBI phone intercept, however, the identity of the ‘boss’ becomes virtually undisputable:

“The person she had mentioned to Diem who might be thinking about ‘The Trip’ went on vacation this afternoon and will be returning Monday morning…”

(Summers; 2000; p. 305).

Nixon had left for Florida to relax after winning the election, and Chennault was recorded mentioning that she had been ‘talking to Florida’ (Summers; 2000; p. 304). Given this new evidence and the fact that Chennault has always maintained that Nixon was her ‘boss’ [11], it is now clear that the President-elect had won office using the most morally repugnant methods. In doing so, Nixon displays a truly evil characteristic which goes far beyond the ‘politics-as-usual’ defence. His machinations bring an entirely new interpretation to the 1968 election and the motives of a president who was voted into office on the understanding that he would end the war.

Johnson, crude as he was, took great pains in sacrificing American lives overseas. In the dying hours of his presidency, he had genuinely wanted to bring an end to the conflict which had so far claimed about 30,000 lives:

“The desire to leave something permanent behind as evidence of the work of a lifetime had been with him from the days of his youth, but never had it been so prevalent a force as it was in the Spring of 1968″ (Kearns; 1976; p. 344).

From March 31st- when he had called for a unilateral partial bombing halt of North Vietnam- until November, Johnson was desperately seeking resolve to the Vietnam crisis. His decision to bring a full halt in October cannot thus be seen as a last minute ditch attempt at peace. It was the culmination of months of intense work on the part of the Johnson Administration to ensure all parties concerned could begin negotiating. Dr. Kissinger, on the other hand, disagrees:

“It was one of the most fateful presidential decisions of the postwar (sic) period. Had Johnson not made this dramatic renunciation, he could have contested the election on the issue of Vietnam and secured a popular mandate one way or another” (Kissinger; 1994; p. 672).

Given the divisions in the Democratic Party, the domestic situation and the opposition to the Vietnam War from all sides, I find this analysis unlikely. More probable is the speculation that the peace talks of 1968- had the South Vietnamese attended- could well have ended the war significantly sooner than Nixon was able to. Nixon maintains that “Thieu’s reaction was totally predictable…” (Nixon; 1978; p. 328) yet Time magazine reported on November 8th that: “Thieu dispatched a three man advance party to Paris to arrange quarters and communications for an official South Vietnamese delegation to the peace talks” (Time; November 8th, 1968; Vol. 92, No. 19; p. 25). Stephen Ambrose places little importance to Nixon’s culpability:

“Nixon knew that Thieu would not go to Paris, with or without that rather silly woman whispering in his ear the promises John Mitchell was passing along from Richard Nixon. Being Nixon, he worried, and could not keep himself from trying to influence Thieu through Chennault, so he was guilty in his motives and his actions, but he was not decisive. It was not Nixon who prevented an outbreak of peace in November 1968. He merely exploited a situation he did not create”

(Ambrose; 1989; p. 217).

This argument rests heavily on the assumption that Thieu did not anticipate attending the Peace Talks. Yet, anyone who had received the ‘Johnson Treatment’ knew that ‘no’ was not a viable answer. It would be difficult to contend that Johnson would not have used all his powers to force the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table. In addition, Thieu had indicated he was seriously considering attending the talks when he sent a forward delegation to Paris. Humphrey, however, was not producing what Thieu wanted to hear:

“As President, I would stop the bombing of North Vietnam…I would move, in other words, toward de-Americanization of the war” (quoted in Engelmayer and Wagman; 1978; p. 297).

This was sure to have the South Vietnamese President more than a little concerned as to the fate of his country. Yet, the United States possessed far more bargaining power in 1968 against the North Vietnamese-before the incursions into Laos and Cambodia-than in January 1973. In addition, Johnson could easily have argued that the Democratic line would change as soon as Humphrey was elected. Given that Thieu believed Nixon’s claims to do the same, this rationale is not unsubstantiated. In retrospect, the settlements for the final Peace Treaty proved no different than those proposed in 1968: this suggests that Nixon is significantly responsible for prolonging the conflict to his own end. Summers concludes:

“The fact that Nixon covertly intervened…deliberately flouting the efforts of the American authorities, was indefensible. The way in which he involved himself remains to this day undefended” (Summers; 2000; p. 306).

Stephen Ambrose, on the other hand, suggests that the entire 1968 campaign was flawed, thus reverting to the defence Nixon would employ later in the Watergate proceedings that his actions were ‘politics-as-usual':

“In 1968, American politics had sunk to depths not reached since the Civil War and Reconstruction. America’s political leaders, Johnson and Humphrey, Nixon and Agnew, and most of the others, were just playing with people…if it even ever occurred to the them to strive to provide the conditions that would allow the American people to pursue happiness, they managed to ignore it all in their single-minded pursuit of personal victory at any cost” (Ambrose; 1989; p. 217).

‘Dirty tricks’, however wrong, are part of the political landscape of America. Johnson had all the candidates bugged; Nixon did the same in regard to Humphrey. Republican hecklers were a prominent feature at Humphrey speeches, while in Miami- at the Republican Convention- a heavily pregnant black woman stood outside wearing a ‘Nixon’s the One’ badge. The 1968 election was the most heavily charged, passionate and tragic of the Twentieth Century. The cohesion of American society and the lives of a potential 500,000 troops hung in the balance of whose vote the election went for. In addition, Nixon used the collective aspirations of the electorate to secure votes: “We know, of course, that once begun, negotiations would drag on for almost five years. But no one could foresee such an outcome in late October 1968, and it was hopefully believed that peace talks meant peace, not just talks” (Unger and Unger; 1988; p. 528). The treachery, deceit and Machiavellian tactic employed by Nixon vis-à-vis his sabotaging of Johnson’s peace initiative went far beyond the rubric of ‘everybody does it.’ Everybody didn’t do it, and for this reason Nixon’s actions can be considered wholly treacherous to American citizens, troops and the sanctity of the Constitution: Nixon stole the election. Having assumed power under such scrupulous methods, however, Nixon now had to retain his tenuous rise to office: the stain of 1968 would weigh heavily on his actions as President.

Chapter 3: The Stain of 1968

“When Nixon opened the president’s private safe on his first morning in the White House, he found that Johnson had left only one document behind: the Vietnam intelligence summary for the previous day…Nixon put the intelligence report back in the safe. He did not remove it until the war was over”

(Andrew; 1995; p. 359).

Johnson harboured a strong suspicion that Nixon had jettisoned his peace initiative. Having relayed this suspicion to Humphrey, the Democrats were trapped with the information gathered from the FBI surveillance: to release it would have looked like a political move and would indirectly show that Johnson had been involved in domestic surveillance. Time magazine reported in January that “After the inaugural spectacle faded from the U.S. television screens last week, some of its images remained…Hubert Humphrey in the inaugural stand, jaw grimly set as he watched the man who defeated him so narrowly take the oath of office” (Time; January 31st, 1969; Vol. 93, No. 5; p. 13). Humphrey knew as well as Johnson that Nixon had betrayed the American people: they had much to fear as Nixon was sworn in as president. When Nixon opened the Presidential safe, he too was reminded by Johnson that his secret was not entirely safe. Added to his hatred of the press, the electorate and the ‘Liberal Establishment’, Nixon now had to contend with the possibility that Johnson would unravel the evidence of a ‘stolen’ presidency. For the time being, however, Nixon’s priorities were elsewhere:

“If Richard Nixon was in no undue haste to construct his Administration; he was clearly eager to make the most of his four-year lease on America’s most elegant and adaptable mansion” (Time; January 31st, 1969; Vol. 93, No.5; p. 13).

In the early days of his presidency, Nixon devoted his time to savouring in the grandeur he had for so long aspired to. Military planes were sent to Italy for expensive silk and to France for furniture: a complete re-decoration of the White House was put into operation. In addition, fully operative and secure residences were adapted for presidential use in California and Florida: “A former Budget Bureau official would calculate that, by four years into his presidency, Nixon’s household expenses had added up to a hundred million dollars” (Summers; 2000; p. 325). The ‘imperial presidency’ was beginning to take shape. Nixon’s perception of the excesses he truly believed were acceptable offer an intimate view into why his presidency crumbled. Nixon’s views on presidential power and the limits of that power are a defining factor in the acts of illegality he would pursue well in advance of Watergate. In delegating so much time, effort and expense to the pomp and show of being a president, Nixon was unable to act as a President.

A vast amount of White House memorandum attaches more importance to subservient concerns than those of national importance. One three page memo from Haldeman to Colonel Hughes discusses the choice and availability of films at Camp David. In another, the President requests of Haldeman:

“Would you please have the Bordeaux years checked? I know that ’59 is an excellent year…I would like to see, from a wine expert, what they consider to be the best years for French Bordeaux, starting with ’59, which most consider to be the best year in the last 25″ (Odes; 1989; p. 109).

Far more sinister than the quality of films or wine, however, was the level of medication now controlling the President. Exacerbated by his addition to the drug Dilantin [12] and his heavy drinking, Nixon’s resentment of the media and the liberal press had developed into full blown paranoia. On three documented cases, Nixon’s mental instability led to the president ordering the deployment of nuclear weapons for extremely small crises. The sacred chain-of-command which governs the use of nuclear weapons was broken when Kissinger decided that all such decisions must be approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is in clear violation of the power of the president: the fact that it was necessary to preserve international security is a further indictment of Nixon’s character and responsibility while in the White House. In an allusion to the ‘enemies list’ compiled by John Dean, Kenneth Kurz notes that:

“The White House engaged in dirty tricks throughout Nixon’s first term, not just at election time. His politics-as-usual argument could not vitiate the fact that Nixon and his men spent an inordinate amount of time thinking up and implementing plans to screw their opponents” (Kurz; 1998; p. 279).

One such plan provides further evidence of Nixon’s involvement in the 1968 peace talks and suggests that he was willing to sanction the murder of innocent people to protect his presidency. In 1968, the release of the Pentagon papers had incensed both Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. The author of the Pentagon Papers –Daniel Ellsberg- had already been subjected to a smear campaign by the Nixon Administration when the office of his psychiatrist had been broken into. Now there were strong reports that Ellsberg had added a section to the Pentagon Papers on the ‘bombing halt episode’ which directly incriminated Nixon. This additional file had been kept in the Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank about five blocks from the White House. In 1971, Nixon ordered the break-in of Brookings to secure the files. Although the plan was never completely executed [13], the fact that Nixon had ordered and approved the break-in displayed his utter contempt for the law and his responsibilities as President. In a series of taped conversations released in 1996, the President is clearly ordering acts of illegality. On June 30th:

“‘The way I want it handled, Bob (Haldeman) is…I want Brookings…just break in, break in and take it out…'” (Summers; 2000; p. 386).

The next day, a more determined Nixon:

“‘We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy, they’re using any means…I want the Brookings safe cleaned out…'” (Summers; 2000; p. 386).

Nixon’s insistence that the files be stolen further compounds the argument that he feared a revelation from the contents of Ellsberg’s investigation which would reveal his secret dealings in the 1968 peace talks. Furthermore, one plan which was conceived to enter the Brookings Institution reveals the extent to which Nixon feared those revelations. The plan to break into Brookings involved fire-bombing the building, then sending in White House employees-disguised as firemen- to retrieve the files. By the time the genuine emergency services arrived, the culprits would have had time to escape in a specially camouflaged ‘fire truck.’ The plan and funding for the enterprise all originated in the White House. Both John Dean and John Ehrlichman corroborate this claim in their memoirs:

“Once before, when Nixon was in such a mood, Colson had planned to firebomb the Brookings Institution to get at its cache of secret documents” (Ehrlichman; 1982; p. 403).

“I stared out the window and wondered if the President’s mind was as cluttered as mine when he stared out his window. Garbage and tension, I thought. I knew I had to get out of this thing. It was out and out street crime. I saw fat burglars wearing stocking masks slipping behind firemen and felt a rush of revulsion” (Dean; 1976; p. 46).

The firebombing plan had originated with Nixon’s co-conspirator Chuck Colson. As of this moment, no evidence has proved that Nixon approved or ordered the fire, yet the ferocity with which he demands the break-in suggests that any means necessary were to be employed. Even Nixon concedes:

“In the aftershock of the Pentagon Papers leak…my interest in the bombing halt file was rekindled. When I was told that it was still at Brookings, I was furious and frustrated … I saw no reason for that file to be at Brookings, and I said I wanted it back right now, even if it meant having to get it back surreptitiously” (Nixon; 1978; p. 512).

Given the amount of evidence which continues to surface regarding the Nixon Presidency, it will probably only be a matter of time before the ex-President becomes directly linked to the planned firebombing of the Brookings Institution. The plan preceded and anticipated the Watergate affair, which was a comparatively innocent endeavour in light of both the 1968 election and the Brookings affair. In addition, the latter two events were intrinsically linked: Nixon needed the files in order to avoid detection of the tactics he employed to gain the Presidency. Even given the defence that the Brookings Institute was never infiltrated- by fire or any other method- the fact that Nixon even flirted with the idea is criminal in itself. The Watergate Special Prosecution Service had neither the time nor the resources to investigate his election campaign or the Brookings affair. Had they been able to, there is no doubt that such findings would have damaged American politics far more than Nixon’s legacy already has. In addition, the disgraced President would have been totally unable to procure the reconciliation with the American public undertaken in the last twenty years of his life.

Conclusion: The Impact of 1968

“Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself”

  1. Richard Nixon, Remarks on the Departure from the White House (quoted in Bochin; 1990; p. 170)

At Richard Nixon’s funeral in April 1994, then President Clinton called on Americans to ‘judge Richard Nixon on no less than his entire life.’ Ironically, as this paper has attempted to argue, Clinton was indirectly incriminating the ex-president on far more than the legacy of Watergate. That scandal alone has left a lingering imprint on American politics as the electorate has attempted to renew its faith in its elected leaders: voter participation has consistently depreciated since 1972. This suggests that the Watergate fiasco has dramatically altered voting practices and, more importantly, the vital trust needed for a president to successfully initiate his intended programs. Further damage can be found in the fact that every single president post-Nixon (save Ford) has campaigned on a platform of being an ‘outsider’ to Washington politics. By maintaining immunity to the perceived corruption inherent in Washington, presidential-hopefuls have tapped into a damaging seam. The structural components of American federalism rely on an experienced and powerful President to initiate both domestic and foreign proposals. Ignorance of the Congressional and Senatorial system is in fact not a blessing but a burden: without an intimate knowledge of Washington politics a president is semi-impotent. In addition, concentrated efforts by Congress to reign in presidential power have further limited the productive gains a president can enforce.

Oliver Stone’s 1995 film, Nixon, was attacked by Nixon apologists for its depiction of the president’s personal qualities: specifically, his penchant for alcohol; his mental instability; and the Freudian allusions to his mother. What Nixon loyalists failed to detect was that Stone was quite clearly in their camp. The general impression of the film is clearly within the traditional interpretation of the ‘politics-as-usual’ strain: Stone consistently negates every immoral or illegal act with the argument that Nixon was a brilliant foreign affairs specialist who was destroyed by his own paranoia and the hypocritical ethics of the media. In regards to foreign affairs alone, Nixon failed spectacularly:

“The final reckoning is that Nixon and Kissinger failed to reach their major foreign policy goals. They did not extract the United States from Vietnam without losing Vietnam to the Communists; they could not solve the problem of Formosa and thus establish full diplomatic relations with the Chinese; they could not establish a lasting détente; they did not put any controls on the arms race; they did not bring peace to the Middle East. Judged by their own standards, they came up short” (Ambrose; 1971; p. 270).

In addition, Christopher Hitchens latest work, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, argues that Nixon and his National Security Adviser were guilty of a number of international war crimes which wilfully ignored the basic principles of the Geneva Convention. A thorough investigation of Nixon’s foreign policy misdeeds will continue to have an impact on how Americans view their president’s role while further displacing Nixon’s credibility in this field. Had Nixon not stolen the 1968 election, however, any attacks on his Presidency are cursory.

This thesis has argued that Richard Nixon’s involvement in the 1968 peace talks forms the most damning indictment of his enduringly destructive legacy on American politics. His decision to impinge on a diplomatic negotiation which could have saved 50, 000 American and approximately 600,000 (combined) Vietnamese lives for the sake of winning an election was completely malevolent in nature and deed. The roots of this act have their origin in Nixon’s early political career, where he employed ruthless and illegal tactics to gain office. Nixon’s inability to deal with defeat became manifest in the 1960 presidential and 1962 gubernatorial campaigns, from which came the defence that the ‘liberal establishment’ and the media were on a mission to destroy him: ultimately, this led to the fatal decision to steal the 1968 election. The acts of illegality which marred Nixon’s pre-1968 campaign in themselves set precedents which are still evident in contemporary American politics. Corruption, media manipulation and a disdain for the electorate were evident as recently as the 2000 presidential election, where George Bush and Albert Gore decided to circumvent the Supreme Court in favour of local courts to decide the outcome of that election. Once in the White House, Nixon displayed how presidential power can be abused: both in his ostentatious perception of a presidency and the ordered break-in of the Brookings Institution.

The most worrying factor, however, to emerge from a study of Richard Nixon is his inability to tell right from wrong: a basic requirement for alleging temporary insanity in a criminal law court. Nixon’s memoirs, White House tapes and biographies make no display of contrition regarding any of the several illegal methods he employed either to gain or remain in office. One suggestion to avoid repeating a Nixon presidency is articulated by Milton Plessur: “Candidates might be required to have a health check up, and findings likely to affect their performance be made public…the public could then better judge whether a man’s health problems prior to his assuming office would be of any consequence while he is in office” (Tugwell and Cronin; 1974; p. 202).

Richard Nixon’s political legacy continues to have a significant impact on American politics. He provided incontrovertible evidence that the Constitution and American federalism can be abused to an individuals own end. In doing so, it is clear that drastic measures must be imposed to ensure electoral and presidential responsibility in the future. The setting up of a Presidential Supervisory Committee, under the auspices of a non-partisan Congressional body, could help to regulate presidential campaigns and oversee that the separation of powers is adhered to the highest possible standards. In the final analysis, the American electorate must come to terms with Richard Nixon’s ‘entire life’, in an effort to reverse voter apathy and renew the trust in their beloved Constitution.


Primary Sources

  1. Dean, John; Blind Ambition; Simon and Schuster; 1976.
  2. Ehrlichman, John; Witness To Power; Simon and Schuster; 1982.
  3. National Review magazine.
  4. Nixon, Richard: Memoirs; Sidgwick and Jackson; 1978.
  5. Nixon, Richard; Six Crises; W.H. Allen; 1962.
  6. Oudes, Bruce (Edited); Richard Nixon’s Secret Files; Harper and Row; 1989.
  7. Time magazine.
  8. White, Theodore; The Making of the President 1968; Jonathan Cape; 1969.

Secondary Sources

  1. Ambrose, Stephen; Nixon (Volume Two): The Triumph of a Politician 1962-1972; Simon and Schuster; 1989.
  2. Ambrose; Stephen; Rise to Globalism; Penguin; 1971.
  3. Andrew, Christopher; For the President’s Eyes Only; Harper Collins; 1995.
  4. Bennett, G; The American Presidency: Illusions of Grandeur; Sutton; 2000.
  5. Bochin, Hal; Rhetorical Strategist; Greenwood; 1990.
  6. Doyle, William; Inside the Oval Office: The White House Tapes From FDR to Clinton; Kodansha; 1999.
  7. Engelmayer, Sheldon and Wagman, Robert; Hubert Humphrey; The Man and His Dream; Metheun; 1978.
  8. Greene, John; The Limits of Power; Indiana University; 1992.
  9. Harrison, Robert; State and Society in Twentieth Century America; Longman; 1997.
  10. Heale, M; The Sixties in America; Edinburgh University; 2001.
  11. Hitchens, Christopher; The Trial of Henry Kissinger; Verso; 2001.
  12. Kissinger, Henry; Diplomacy; Touchstone; 1994.
  13. Kurz, Kenneth; Nixon’s Enemies; Lowell House; 1998.
  14. Kearns, Doris; Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; Harper; 1976.
  15. Matthews, Christopher; Kennedy and Nixon; Touchstone; 1996.
  16. Plessur, Milton; The Health of Presidents in Tugwell, Rexford (Edited); The Presidency Reappraised; Praeger; 1974.
  17. Summers, Anthony; The Arrogance of Power; Victor Gollancz; 2000.
  18. Unger, Debi and Unger, Irwin; Turning Point 1968; Macmillan; 1988.

[1] Accounts vary enormously. Nixon painted a desolate and harsh upbringing during most of his life, yet at times admitted ‘we always had enough to eat’ (Summers; 2000; p. 6). The Nixon’s were certainly not destitute, yet they were not exactly ‘comfortable.’ A fair judgment would put their relative economic standard in Yorba Linda-where most were extremely poor-at the middle-income bracket.

[2] In 1946 terms.

[3] It is difficult to estimate exactly how much money was spent. Nevertheless, the approximate sums were an astronomical amount for that time.

[4] Douglas’s husband had been born Hesselberg. His father had been Jewish.

[5] From Kurz; 1998; p. 128.

[6] Checkers had been a gift from a campaign donator. Nixon claimed that the dog was the only plausible root of improper conduct involved in the entire scandal.

[7] After having been informed he would stay on as Eisenhower’s running mate.

[8] Doctors who treated the Vice-President had warned there was a possibility that the infection would lead to the amputation of his leg.

[9] Kennedy also wanted to make absolutely sure that Nixon would not contest the results of the election.

[10] Widow of the famous Second World War ace pilot Claire Chennault, Mrs. Anna Chennault was in 1968 vice-chairman of the Republican National Finance Committee and co-chairman of the Women for Nixon-Agnew.

[11] Most recently in a BBC documentary, The Secret World of Richard Nixon (2000), Chennault stated ‘my boss was Richard Nixon.’

[12] In 1968 Jack Dreyfus, a Nixon contributor, suggested he try Dilantin to counter depression. Dilantin is an anti-epileptic drug not designed to alleviate the symptoms of depression. If mixed with alcohol, the drug can produce serious side effects such as disorientation, mental confusion and slurred speech. In addition to taking un-prescribed doses of Dilantin-Dreyfus gave the president ‘several’ bottles of the drug, each containing 1000 tablets- Nixon was ingesting large doses of sleeping pills.

[13] Men employed by Charles Colson attempted on several occasions to gain access to the Brookings vault but each was unsuccessful.

Introduction With Berlin still smouldering and the War in the Pacific raging, Franklin Roosevelt’s death in April of 1945 signified an end to four decades of American ‘isolationism’ in world affairs. There would be no return to the period of ‘normalcy’ which Warren Harding pledged after the First World War, nor would America be able […]

Latin America has been a region notoriously plagued with instability, foreign invasion, and revolution – especially throughout the Twentieth century. The region’s politics have typically been corrupt, often dictatorial, and seldom democratic. Erratic economic policies, constant social inequalities, international vulnerability, authoritarian political transitions, civil wars and revolutions, and external (predominantly U.S.) influences have kept many Latin American nations in a constant battle for democratization. The Dominican Republic has been no exception to these trends; in fact, the Dominican case is a prime model of the struggle for democracy in the region.

A legacy of “neopatrimonialism,” epitomized in the reign of Rafael Trujillo, has been one of the largest obstacles for Dominicans in search of democratization. According to Jonathan Hartlyn, “neopatrimonialism possesses two key characteristics: the centralization of power in the hands of the ruler who seeks to reduce the autonomy of his followers by generating ties of loyalty and dependence, commonly through complex patron-client linkages; and, in the process, the blurring of public and private interests and purposes within the administration.” Even after the assassination of the brutal dictator it was difficult for Dominicans to make a smooth transition to democracy and even more difficult for them to consolidate that democracy into an effective system.

In the period after Trujillo’s death, there were two attempts to make the transition into a democratic government – the first can be viewed as a failure, and the second as a missed opportunity. Rafael Trujillo’s neopatrimonial, or “neosultanistic” rule, how it directly and indirectly inhibited the consolidation of democracy in the Dominican Republic, and the lingering legacy of his regime will all be examined in this essay. Also to be considered is the rule of the United States in the Dominican struggle for democratic politics. This essay will be divided into three sections: the first section will discuss the period of neosultanistic rule under Trujillo’s, the second sections will examine the first attempted transition to democracy (from Trujillo’s assassination to the authoritarian regime of Joaquín Balaguer), and the third section will look at the second attempted transition (from the election of Antonio Guzman until the reelection of Balaguer).

The Trujillo Era

In November 1916, under President Woodrow Wilson, United States troops occupied the Dominican Republic with mixed and vague motives and the desire of President Wilson to bring “‘good government’ to the Latin American peoples.” Under American occupation, education, heath, transportation and communication services were improved in a U.S. attempt to stabilize the nation through reforms. Although the U.S. intervention had numerous results and effects on Dominican society, the most notable and most relevant was the establishment of the Guardia Nacional Dominicana, which Wilson intended to be a depoliticized force to provide support for a constitutional government. In the 1920’s, the United States foreign policy concerning the Dominican Republic quickly shifted from military occupation to noninterventionism. The combination of these U.S. actions, though unintentional, set the stage for a thirty-year long brutal dictatorship.

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, born in 1891 in the town of San Cristóbal, quickly emerged as the head of the newly formed constabulary force and soon after as President of the Dominican Republic. Although a preexisting pattern of neopatrimonial rule, established under the country’s former caudillo rulers – Ulises Heureaux and Horacio Vásquez – facilitated Trujillo’s rise to power, several other factors proved equally vital to his success. The “institutional and structural changes as a result of U.S. occupation” contributed to Trujillo’s consolidation of power through the establishment of the Guardia Nacional Dominicana – which ultimately became Trujillo’s private army. The subsequent period of U.S. nonintervention furthermore assisted Trujillo in his rise to power by allowing him to take office through questionable elections – wining with “more votes than there were eligible voters.” As noted by Hartlyn “a stronger military and improved communications and infrastructure in a country that was will relatively poor, unintegrated, and isolated meant that Trujillo had the means to put down potential regional rebellions without necessarily having to incorporate and control the entire country’s population.”

Trujillo quickly transformed from a traditional caudillo dictator into a ruthless neosultanistic ruler – exercising power without restraint. In his first term as president, Trujillo created the Partido Dominicano (PD) – the only party allowed to function until 1947 – consolidating the government’s decision-making powers into his own hands. Also revealed within his first term in office was his limitless greed and megalomania – Trujillo changed the name of the capital city from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo, and eventually the generalissimo, his family and friends owned over half of the countries economic assets. Trujillo’s intolerable cruelty became undisputable when between October 2 and October 8, 1937 his army massacred between 20,000 and 50,000 Haitian illegal immigrants on his command. As a result of international criticism towards his slaughter, Trujillo allowed his vice-president, Jacinto Peynado, to be elected president in 1938. Trujillo strategically cooperated with the United States war effort in World War II and, as a result, received U.S. support in his campaign to be reelected. In 1942, Trujillo was once again reelected for another five-year term.

As a wave of democratization swept the world after World War II, Trujillo felt the pressure and liberalized accordingly. He allowed communist exiles to return to the Dominican Republic and in the 1947 elections he allowed two “regime-sponsored” opposition parties to run. However, a subsequent wave of repression destroyed both the communists and any other individuals not in favor of Trujillo. In 1952 and 1957, Trujillo had his brother, Héctor Trujillo, formally elected president while Trujillo continued to hold the power. As the Cold War mounted, Trujillo declared himself “the hemisphere’s foremost anticommunist.” The United States remained a staunch anticommunist ally of the Trujillo regime until Trujillo’s 1956 kidnapping and murdering of a very vocal opponent – Spaniard Jesús María de Galíndez in New York. By 1960, the hemisphere’s nations expressed extreme concern over the brutality of the Trujillo regime and in May 1961, Trujillo was assassinated by a group of Dominicans using guns supplied by the U.S. CIA.

When discussing the reign of Rafael Trujillo, it is important to look at the reasons why he was able to keep such strong control over the people and politics of the Dominican Republic for a period of thirty years. There are four primary factors contributing to his stronghold. The first is the historical legacy of neopatrimonial rule, the country’s weak and divided social forces and political actors, and a fractured economy. The second factor includes his use of repression, especially through the military, to psychologically control his people. He used phone tapping, spies, target assassinations, and censorship to manipulate and scare the Dominican citizenry. Trujillo used the armed forces as “his personal instrument rather than a national institution” and accordingly increased its size from about 2,000 to nearly 31,000 during his reign. The levels of corruption and the extent of Trujillo’s influence in the army are reflected in the fact that Trujillo’s eldest son, Ramfis, was made a full colonel at the age of four and a brigadier general by the age of nine.

It is also essential to note that Trujillo did have a relatively broad ideological base of support rooted in his economic nationalism, support for the Catholic Church, and anti-Haitianism. Although also a means of justifying his vast financial holdings, his ideological arguments gave him credit for the restoration of the nation’s financial sovereignty, while neglecting the negative effects of this selfish economic policies. The Catholic Church was one of Trujillo’s most loyal supporters and vice-versa. Trujillo’s improvement of religious education and subsidizing of the building of churches were just a few of the many prerogatives given to the Catholic Church in the Trujillo era. It was not until 1960 that the Church undoubtedly broke its ties with Trujillo.

The last factor contributing to Trujillo’s iron grip on every aspect of Dominican life is the role of the United States. U.S. leniency towards the Trujillo regime, especially during the Cold War years when Trujillo exaggerated his position against communism to appease the U.S., gave the dictator a great amount of freedom to oppress the Dominican people while continuing to receive monetary and military support from the United States. Trujillo continued to receive this support until the U.S. change of attitude towards the regime, primarily caused by the Cuban Revolution.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, Trujillo’s regime began to receive a great deal of criticism both domestically and internationally. A growing number of Dominican elite (often humiliated by Trujillo), the Catholic Church (unable to continue supporting Trujillo’s repressive actions), and numerous Dominican political exiles (predominantly communist) all emerged as the active opposition. In June 1960, the Inter-American Peace Committee of the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the Dominican Republic for human rights violations. Trujillo desperately, and ultimately unsuccessfully, turned to the Soviet Union for help. Economic sanctions were placed on his regime by the OAS that led to a major economic crisis. Trujillo’s problems continued to haunt him until he was assassinated on May 3, 1961, as he was being driven to visit his mistress.

In summary, the Trujillo regime was neosultanistic in that it exercised power without restraint in a corrupt and ruthless government, and loyalty to him was based on a combination of fear and rewards. Trujillo accrued extensive and unmatched wealth and power in the Dominican Republic through his limitless greed. When Trujillo was assassinated in 1961, the Dominican Republic struggled for democratization, but the transition from dictatorship to democracy, though initially successful, ultimately failed.

Failed Transition I: Struggles and Failures

After the Trujillo assassination, the United States made extensive efforts and played a pivotal role in removing the Trujillo family from power and allowing the opposition to come out. Joaquín Balaguer, a friend of Trujillo’s, emerged as President of the Dominican Republic after the assassination of the dictator. Fearing that a complete breakdown of the Dominican government would allow communism to manifest, the United States opted to work with Balaguer in an attempt to liberalize the nation. As Dominican citizens ripped down statues of Trujillo and attacked all other symbols of his tyrannical dictatorship, Balaguer began to face mounting domestic opposition – especially from the formally exiled Partido Revolucionario Dominicano (PRD) – until an attempted coup forced him into exile. In 1962, an anti-Trujillista council of state was formed, and as the provisional government it organized the democratic elections held at the end of that year. The strongly U.S.-backed provisional government expected to win the elections with ease; however, they failed to recognize the power of the PRD.

A party founded in Cuba by political exile Juan Bosch in 1939, the PRD “made a conscious effort to organize a peasant organization, the Federación Nacional de Hermandades Campesinas.” Aware that the Dominican population remained vastly rural, Bosch shifted the focus of the campaign from the struggle against Trujilloism to the problems of the poor. When asked if he still intended to run despite allegations that he was a communist, Bosch’s answer foreshadowed (extremely accurately) the events that were to follow the election: “I do not wish to be a candidate because I know that the PRD will win the elections, and if it does, the government I head will not be able to rule. It will be overthrown in a short time on the pretext that it is communist.” Although Bosch did run, and decisively won the elections, his concerns did materialize.

With extensive assistance from the United States, democratic elections were finally held in the Dominican Republic. While the U.S. desperately wanted a democratically elected Dominican government to prosper, Dominicans themselves lacked the commitment to democracy – a result of the insecurities that formed in the people under the Trujillo regime. Industrialists, landowning elites and the Catholic Church were among the most vocal opponents of Bosch – particularly due to his new constitution that had a “more secular tone and more expansive view of civil rights and state expropriation of private property.” Also a threat to the elites was a proposed law that would allow the government to confiscate any enterprises gained by “illicit enrichment,” which meant almost every enterprise established during the Trujillo era. The discontented business element of the nation formed the Acción Dominicana Independiente (ADI) and openly opposed Bosch. Although the United States wanted a democratically elected government to succeed in the Dominican Republic, it soon became obvious that its fear of communism took precedence.

With the communist revolution of Cuba fresh in the minds of Americans, an ensuing Haitian revolution, and an influx of Cuban refugees in to Dominican territory, it was easy for U.S. politicians to express their concern of a similar communist revolution in the Dominican Republic. Even though some of the aforementioned opposition groups did hold a genuine fear of communist takeover in the Dominican Republic, this U.S. paranoia quickly transformed into a tool used by Bosch’s domestic opposition to perpetuate this U.S. concern. The United States did not do all that it could to support Bosch’s presidency, however, even more concerning is the fact that Bosch himself did little to defend himself and fight his opposition.

Despite the fact that the opposition to Bosch was vast, the president did not mobilize his party or his supporters in an attempt to fight back. This can be explained partly by his dwindling support from the peasantry due to his inability to carry through the reforms he promised in his campaign. Also a factor was Bosch’s personality and political strategy – a man who believed in fatalism, Bosch allowed his presidency to be overthrown believing it was destiny. The democratic president also discouraged the PRD from fighting a resistance campaign, believing that it would end in bloodshed. Bosch was deposed on September 25, 1963, proving that democracy could not survive in the country’s social context in the immediate post-Trujillo years.

After Bosch’s downfall, a triumvirate, with businessman Donald Reid Cabral as leader, emerged as the new governing force. Although backed by the U.S., the Reid government quickly became authoritarian and faced a great deal of resistance among the Dominican people. In April of 1965, a popular uprising to bring Bosch back into power led to yet another U.S. military intervention. President Lyndon B. Johnson, determined to prevent another socialist revolution in the region, decided to “defuse the Dominican crisis.” In a recreation of the 1962 elections, the U.S. sponsored a provisional government under President Héctor García Godoy, and planned elections for June 1966. After returning from exile, Bosch and Balaguer became the two primary candidates. Bosch, discouraged by the feeling of U.S. betrayal, once again left all to fate and did little to promote himself in his campaign. Taking advantage of Bosch’s lackluster campaign, Balaguer rallied the spirit of his fellow Dominicans by promising stability. Balaguer won the election by an overwhelming majority, beginning his twelve-year-long neopatrimonial rule after which a weak and unstable, yet democratic government was to emerge.

Failed Transition II: A “Missed Opportunity”

After the 1966 election of Balaguer, the PRD went through a phase of internal division that ultimately led to Juan Bosch, the founder of the party, leaving the PRD in 1973. Bosch, convinced that democratic politics could not survive in the Dominican Republic, urged the PRD to practice “electoral abstention.” As the leftist elements of the PRD increasingly supported the idea of a revolutionary coup, and the moderate elements rejected Bosch’s abstention theory, Bosch purged the party of the extremist elements and began restructuring the party in order to fulfill his personal goals. José Francisco Peña Gómez, secretary general of the PRD, along with other PRD moderates expressed the need for the party to strengthen its ties with liberal U.S. politicians if it wanted to change Dominican politics. In November of 1973, Juan Bosch broke with the PRD and formed the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (PLD), a very small and radical party that served as a forum for Bosch to express his hopes for national liberation. This split in the PRD caused uncertainties that led to the party’s abstention which, in turn, allowed Balaguer to be reelected.

After all of these frustrations, the PRD, under the leadership of Peña Gómez, went to extensive lengths to fortify the party’s international ties. In a 1977 party convention, Antonio Guzmán was chosen to run as the PRD candidate in the 1978 elections. The PRD, with the motto “Change Without Violence,” was finally united and ready for the 1978 elections with Guzmán as the presidential candidate, Jacobo Majluta as the vice-presidential candidate, and Salvador Jorge Blanco as party president. With intensifying U.S. pressure to hold honest elections, Balaguer allowed the PRD to speak freely on the radio and legalized the Communist Party – an attempt to take votes away from the PRD. As economic deterioration formed a class of disgruntled businessmen, and fractionalization plagued Balaguer’s PR party, the PRD was executing an internationally recognized and well funded campaign. After a PRD victory, a period of tension, uncertainly and instability ensued – an attempted coup was foiled, Balaguer accused the PRD of massive electoral fraud, Juan Bosch spoke out against the PRD, and calls for the respect of the results of a democratic election became an issue of international (particularly U.S.) focus. Despite these strains, the transition to a democratic regime was peaceful and initially successful.

The conditions in 1978 were much more favorable for a democratic transition than they were in 1962. The nature of Balaguer’s regime, although reminiscent of Trujillo’s, was much more conducive to subsequent democratization efforts. The lack of any major national security threats in the Dominican Republic allowed the United States to focus more on the issue of democracy and human rights rather than communism or military occupation. Although democratization seemed to be within reach, the period of PRD rule after the 1978 elections proved to be a “missed opportunity” in the Dominican struggle for democratic politics.

At the time of the PRD election, there were many factors that were ultimately impeding the Guzmán and Jorge Blanco administrations from completely breaking away from the traditional neopatrimonial patterns of Dominican politics. The PRD, specifically Guzmán, was able to tackle their most threatening problem – the traditionally influential and highly politicized armed forces. In an attempt to constrain Guzmán, prior to his departure from office Balaguer passed a law prohibiting civilian authorities from removing officers from a military position before two years passed. After implementing this law, Balaguer placed some of his closest military friends in top-ranking positions and Guzmán was legally prohibited from removing them. On his inauguration day, Guzmán encouraged by the presence of international dignitaries, boldly reshuffled Balaguer’s military appointments – a blatant violation of the newly implemented law that, in combination with other changes, finally led to the deterioration of the military as a direct threat to democracy. The notoriously frail national economy did not, however, cease to be a ruinous institution to the democratic struggle.

The PRD governed the Dominican Republic in a period of extreme economic decline that was worsened by international factors and a serious of poor domestic decisions. The Guzmán administration largely increased public spending and began taking out a great deal of loans from international banks to support an export-oriented economy. The Dominican economy, despite a relatively promising start with the election of Guzmán, was quickly bombarded with problems. In August 1979, the small island nation was swept with two of the worst hurricanes in Caribbean history, causing over $800 million in damage and taking the lives of over 1000 Dominicans. The refusal to negotiate a stabilization program with the IMF combined with the unlimited capacity for foreign debt and meager economic assistance from the United States, the Guzmán administration experienced extremely rapid debt expansion – setting the stage for a harsh stabilization program under the Jorge Blanco administration.

Realizing that a stabilization process was necessary, Jorge Blanco and his economic team quickly began negotiations with the IMF. As inflation (caused by the devaluation of the Dominican peso) went through the roof, government spending increased, and U.S. financial support decreased, the Dominican government was unable to meet the terms of their agreement with the IMF. The IMF, in turn, suspended further funds to the Dominican Republic forcing Jorge Blanco to implement further stabilization measures. In April 1984, as a result of these measures (primarily the increase in prices of food items due to de facto devaluation of the peso), a violent popular uprising erupted, causing the deaths of over 100 Dominican civilians. The riots led to the suspension of talks with the IMF, which in turn led to the suspension of economic assistance from the United States. Jorge Blanco, aware of the importance of the IMF in Dominican economic recovery, imposed a tight monetary policy; more carefully controlled the public-sector expenditures; and unified the country’s exchange rate. Despite the immediate recessionary effects of these policies, the Jorge Blanco administration was able to revive its negotiations with the IMF and eventually stabilize the economy. It was not, however, the administration’s economic troubles that lead to its downfall, but rather a schism within the PRD.

The fact that Jorge Blanco had a party majority in the senate and the chamber did not prove to be advantageous as he faced congressional opposition similar to that of Guzmán (Guzmán did not, however, have a party majority in either senate or chamber). This opposition came from within the PRD, primarily from Jacobo Majluta, former vice-president under Guzmán, whose own political ambitions led him to create a separate movement within the PRD in opposition to Jorge Blanco. By blocking almost all of Jorge Blanco’s tax legislations, international loans, and other economic, social and political measure taken to the senate, Majluta looked to tarnish the image of Jorge Blanco in order to promote his own presidential candidacy in the 1986 elections. This inability to enact reforms through the senate combined with the deteriorating economic conditions forced Jorge Blanco to revert to the neopatrimonial politics so well known to Dominican government.

Unable to bring his inaugural promises to realization, Jorge Blanco was said to have “lost control of himself” in the final months of his presidency, using his presidential powers to grant import and tax exemptions to his business associates. Inheriting a severely damaged economy and social structure from the Balaguer regime, and facing restricting conditions in the senate and chamber, the shortcomings of the Jorge Blanco administration cannot be blamed entirely on the president. Jorge Blanco, perhaps the nation’s best hope for democratization, faced a presidency so inundated with crippling problems that he was forced to return to the neopatrimonial practices so deeply entrenched in Dominican politics. Therefore, the two terms in which the PRD was in power should be regarded as a “missed opportunity,” rather than an outright failure, to change the nation’s neopatrimonial political patterns.

It is irrefutable that the thirty-year long dictatorial rule of Rafael Trujillo has had lasting effects on the nature of Dominican politics. Even after the assassination of the brutal dictator, the Dominican Republic was not liberated from his neopatrimonial rule, which was to be reflected in even the most democratic and liberal Dominican administrations. Despite extensive efforts from the United States, Dominican governments fail to consolidate democratic politics, as is demonstrated by the overthrow of Juan Bosch, and the reelection of Joaquín Balaguer after a brief period of PRD rule. As the legacy of neopatrimonial politics continues to exist in the Dominican Republic, so does the genuine struggle for democratic politics and as long as this struggle exists, so does hope.


Black, Jan Knippers. The Dominican Republic: Politics and Development in an Unsovereign State. Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1986.

Chang-Rodriguez, Eugenio, ed. The Lingering Crisis: A Case Study of the Dominican Republic. New York: Las Americas Publishing Company, 1969.

Hartlyn, Jonathan. The Struggle for Democratic Politics in the Dominican Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1998.

Moya Pons, Frank. The Dominican Republic: A National History. New York: Hispaniola Books, 1995.

Sagas, Ernesto and Orlando Inoa, eds. The Dominican People: A Documentary History. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2003.

Turtis, Richard Lee. Foundations of Despotism: Peasants, the Trujillo Regime and Modernity in Dominican History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Latin America has been a region notoriously plagued with instability, foreign invasion, and revolution – especially throughout the Twentieth century. The region’s politics have typically been corrupt, often dictatorial, and seldom democratic. Erratic economic policies, constant social inequalities, international vulnerability, authoritarian political transitions, civil wars and revolutions, and external (predominantly U.S.) influences have kept many […]

After the disappointing resignation of Harriet Miers, one of President Bush’s Supreme Court nominations, the President chose Judge Samuel Alito on October 31, 2005. The selection was met by effusive praise from inside the Republican Party and wary criticism by the Democrats. Conservatives identified two qualities in Alito that they felt Miers had lacked. He has judicial experience, having written over 700 opinions. The veteran ex-prosecutor currently holds a post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The man also has well-defined stances on hot-bed issues like abortion, gun control, and free speech. Liberals attacked a record that they contend is too conservative and too reactionary for the American people.

A thorough examination of Alito’s record depicts him as a conservative-leaning judge who believes in judicial restraint. For the very contentious issue of abortion, Alito appears at first to be a firm anti-abortionist. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1991), Alito dissented. He believed that a Pennsylvania law requiring wives to tell their husbands before receiving an abortion did not create an “undue burden” for mothers. He provided a few exceptions to this rule; namely, the father cannot be located, her husband is not the father, the pregnancy was a result of a reported sexual assault, or the notification would lead to physical violence against the woman. In another court case, Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey v. Farmer, Alito struck down a law regarding intact dilation and extraction or “partial birth abortions.” Supporters of Alito cite this case as evidence of less extreme conservative views and a steadfast adherence to precedent set by the Supreme Court. A nearly identical case in Nebraska by the Supreme Court struck down a similar law, so Alito responded by obeying the highest court.

For the issue of the separation of church and state, Alito ruled to uphold the display of religious and secular symbols at city hall. In ACLU v. New Jersey, Alito decided that the display did not violate the Establishment Clause. He noted that the Supreme Court precedents are vague as to what is allowed and what is not. He wrote that due to these ambiguities, “Under these circumstances, the mere fact that city officials miscalculate and approve a display that is found by the federal courts to cross over the line is hardly proof of the officials’ bad faith.” He concluded that the lawsuit against the city should be dropped. The case also followed the Supreme Court precedent of County of Allegheny v. ACLU where the court ruled that religious symbols like a Menorah are allowed if these displays also include secular symbols.

Alito ruled in Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development (2004) that the Family Medical Leave Act supercedes Congress’ power. The Act required employers to give employees time off for childbirth or health conditions. Alito disagreed with the Act writing, “Unlike the Equal Protection Clause, which the FMLA is said to enforce, the FMLA does much more than require nondiscriminatory sick leave practices; it creates a substantive entitlement to sick leave.” Critics have argued that this case demonstrates Alito’s restriction of workers’ rights while supporters have argued that it indicates Alito’s preference for a smaller national government and Alito’s aversion to broad interpretations of the constitution.

In the case Doe v. Groody (2004) Alito dissented with a majority in a ruling about unreasonable search and seizures. The police were executing a standard search when they strip searched a mother and her 10 year old daughter, which was not covered within the warrant. Alito believed that reasonable police officers would interpret the warrant to include such a search, especially considering that drug dealers frequently hide contraband on young children during police raids. He writes, “The majority notes that this passage does not literally state that narcotics dealers often hide drugs on family members and young children, but this is precisely the sort of technical, legalistic reading that is out of place in interpreting a search warrant or supporting affidavit.” In this case Alito takes a practical stance on crime-fighting. He argues that the search should be valid considering it combats the hiding of contraband. His critics argue that this search comes at the cost of the rights of suspected criminals.

In Saxe v. State College Area School District (1999), Alito struck down a public school district’s anti-harassment policy. Alito wrote that free speech should cover offensive speech as well, including “statements that impugn another’s race or national origin or that denigrate religious beliefs.” Shore Regional High School Board of Education v. P.S. deals with the case of a student who transferred to a different school due to Shore Regional not protecting him from a habitual bully. Alito ruled with a unanimous court that allowed such a transfer since the school had not made accommodations for the students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The issues and rulings in these cases regarding strict free speech and disability rights seem to not fit the profile of modern conservatism.

Perhaps Alito’s most controversial ruling, U.S. v. Rybar, deals with machine guns. Raymond Rybar, Jr. was convicted on two counts for violating a law making it “unlawful for any person to transfer or possess a machine gun.” The court struck down his challenge that claimed the law was beyond Congress’ commerce power and violated the Second Amendment. In Alito’s dissent, he shifts the debate from gun rights to federalism. He cites the precedent of U.S. v. Lopez and votes to overturn the law since, “Congress made no findings regarding the link between the intrastate activity regulated by these laws and interstate commerce.” His ruling was unpopular among other judges and is quite distressing to gun control activists. The ruling should figure prominently in his confirmation hearings.

Alito’s record reveals a judicial philosophy that is much more complex than many would claim. He ruled in favor of free speech protections in Saxe v. State College Area School District and he ruled in favor of broad applications of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. However, his decisions on gun control, search and seizures, abortion, and religious reveal a definite conservative slant. The rulings indicate less of a conservative political ideology like Justice Scalia but more of a conservative judicial philosophy of judicial restraint and strict constructionism like Judge Rehnquist. The best example of this is in his ruling in Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey v. Farmer where he struck down a partial birth abortion ban in deference to the Supreme Court. Certainly he agreed with the law, but he had to vote against it due to precedent.

Judicial philosophies are historically notoriously difficult to determine before a Justice actually begins to hear cases. Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren and later remarked that it was “the biggest damned fool mistake I’ve ever made in my life.” Likewise, Presidents Richard Nixon and George Bush Sr. would certainly like to rethink their appointments of Harry Blackmun, the majority opinion writer of Roe v. Wade, and David Souter, a dissenter in Bush v. Gore (2000). Arguably, the framing of a candidate by his opposition is just as important as the record to his judicial confirmation. There exists a process of myth-making by the opposition. The critics of a candidate choose a negative theme to highlight about the figure. Oftentimes, this theme is personal. Politics are certainly not absent from the judicial process.

The myth-making process is most obvious in the past four failed nominees for the Supreme Court. In 1970 Richard Nixon appointed Harold Carswell to replace the liberal-leaning Abe Fortas. The Carswell nomination was marred with many problems; the candidate had praised White supremacy early in his career and 58% of his decisions were overturned. His detractors cast Carswell as a mediocre man, unsuited for a position on the venerable court. The framing of the candidate as a mediocre intellect worked so well that even his supporters appeared to agree with the sentiment. Republican Senator Roman Hruska famously remarked, “Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?” The nomination was rejected 51-45.

In 1987 President Reagan nominated legal scholar Robert Bork to the court. His nomination was blindsided by a comment by Senator Edward Kennedy made only 45 minutes after the announcement of the nomination. Kennedy said, “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution.” The comments depicted Bork as an arch-conservative whose opinions are clearly outside of the mainstream. His nomination failed by a vote of 58-42. The Bork nomination is the most apparent example of the importance of myth-making in opposing a candidate. Immediately after Bork, Reagan nominated Douglas H. Ginsburg. Investigations revealed that Ginsburg used marijuana. Critics painted him as a hypocrite, especially considering these allegations were disclosed at the height of Reagan’s War against Drugs. Amidst all the controversy, Ginsburg withdrew his name.

The most recent example of myth-making is the nomination of Harriet Miers. This nominee is unique in that her harshest criticism came from her own party. While the Democrats questioned the appointment as an act of cronyism, right-wing Republicans attacked her as unqualified and intellectually incapable. William Kristol wrote in a Weekly Standard editorial, “I’m disappointed because I expected President Bush to nominate someone with a visible and distinguished track record…[Miers] has no constitutionalist credentials that I know of…I’m demoralized, surely this is a pick from weakness.” George Will less subtly editorialized in The Washington Post, “There is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court’s tasks.” The Miers nomination was met with opposition from both sides. They labeled her as an unqualified political crony. In order to avoid a contentious nomination battle, Miers withdrew her name from consideration.

The process of negative myth-making has appeared to avoid the Alito nomination so far. Elliot Mineberg of the People for the American Way believes, “[Alito’s] record that is not just conservative, but we would consider it out of the mainstream of conservatism.” This criticism has not picked up steam among more mainstream liberal media outlets. The New York Times ran a story entitled, “Alito is seen as a Methodical Jurist with a Clear Record.” The story’s mostly laudatory contents could hardly be considered an expose into his record. The nomination seems like it will avoid the pitfalls of negative myth-making that befell the Carswell, Bork, Ginsburg, and Miers nominations.

On the ideological side, Alito appears conservative but not as extremely conservative as Scalia and Thomas. The nomination will be opposed by many Democrats but it seems safe from a filibuster. Alito is not conservative enough to warrant a filibuster from the Democrats. If they opt to filibuster, I doubt that the rest of the country would support the move. President Bush has expertly chosen the perfect candidate in this respect. Alito is unabashedly conservative, yet his record reveals he is more judicially conservative than politically conservative. His views occupy the perfect place on the political spectrum. If he were any more conservative, a filibuster would have to occur which would halt the rest of Bush’s agenda. If Alito were any less conservative, the right-wing of his party would revolt in a similar fashion as the Miers nomination. In addition to Alito’s record, he has impeccable credentials that free him from any attack like the criticisms against Carswell, Bork, Ginsburg, and Miers. Complaints of mediocrity, reactionary opinions, drug use, or a lack of experience do not fit here. The confluence of Alito’s judicial philosophy and the lack of material for a personal attack by opponents bode well for the fate of the nomination.

Works Cited

Kristol, William. “Disappointed, Depressed, and Demoralized.” Weekly Standard, 3 October 2005.

Lewis, Neil A. and Scott Shane. “Alito is seen as a Methodical Jurist with a Clear Record.” The New York Times, 1 Nov 2005.

Reinart, Patty. “Battle Begins over Alito Record.” Houston Chronicle, 2 Nov 2005.

“Robert Bork.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bork.

Will, George. “Can This Nomination Be Justified?” The Washington Post, 5 Nov 2005.

U.S. v. Rybar. Available at http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/wbardwel/public/nfalist/us_v_rybar.txt

After the disappointing resignation of Harriet Miers, one of President Bush’s Supreme Court nominations, the President chose Judge Samuel Alito on October 31, 2005. The selection was met by effusive praise from inside the Republican Party and wary criticism by the Democrats. Conservatives identified two qualities in Alito that they felt Miers had lacked. He […]

My topic is pharmaceutical companies and the role they play in the lives of everyday Americans, the economy, and the government. I believe that pharmaceutical companies have become quite corrupt over the years and that they lie, cheat, and do whatever they can to turn a profit and make their companies and the industry as rich as is possible. It also appears that the government will do whatever it can to continue this ongoing scheme, since pharmaceutical companies are one of their largest financial backers.

After reading several articles and looking up various facts and statistics, I have found a ton of interesting information about the system and how it works. Drug companies make pills for diseases they have completely made up, and conduct phony clinical tests. They put billions of dollars into consumer advertising, and even more, $10,000 per doctor, into getting our physician to sell their product. They bribe doctors into conducting phony research and prescribing as much of these medications as they can.

They can afford it too, they are a half trillion-dollar industry, making more than every single gas station in the U.S. combined. They also overprice the medication, so that us American consumers will have to pay more for it that we actually could be. This is where our government comes into play. Our president has blocked all prescription imports from any country, and made it only possible to purchase prescriptions from the monopoly-controlled United States pharmacies. Our president has also announced that he wants to have every child and adult in America take a mental health screening, more than likely so that many of us will be prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressive medication.

Maybe we should be learning more about the side effects of these harmful drugs before everyone in America is on them. We are a terrorist concerned country, but what we don’t know is that prescription pills kill 16,400% more people than terrorist do. That’s 12 million people each year. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they were at least honest about the pills they put out. It’s said that 94% of the information given out on commercials, and in brochures for our doctors to read so they will prescribe these pills, is false.

That is my view, and the information I have presented is true, but on the other hand a lot of people in our country have to deal with serious illnesses and do need medication. Without pharmaceutical companies every person in our country with an ailment or disease would be suffering. There is no doubt that these companies are needed to ensure the health and safety of our people and our economy. Without this huge industry our country would have a lot less money too. There is a pill out there for pretty much anyone who needs a cure for anything, other than AIDS and cancer of course. Many people with mood disorders also have a need for medication. The role that our doctors and psychiatrist’s play is a very important one. They are the ones who decide which medication to prescribe to which person and for what reason. We need these companies around to help many people in our country throughout their lives.

My main issue though, is that these people may be getting prescribed medication simply for the purpose of profit, and not because it will help them. If a doctor is getting paid by a certain company to promote a certain medication for depression, than he more than likely will prescribe that pill without thinking much about the patients symptoms and whether it is right for them, or thinking about the possible side effects that might occur while taking it.

It is the responsibility of the pharmaceutical companies to produce accurate information about their products and to do extensive research and testing to make sure, not only that it works, but also that it is safe, and they, sadly do not.





My topic is pharmaceutical companies and the role they play in the lives of everyday Americans, the economy, and the government. I believe that pharmaceutical companies have become quite corrupt over the years and that they lie, cheat, and do whatever they can to turn a profit and make their companies and the industry as […]

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