Following FDR’s new deal, progressive change came rapidly. So much so, that within 30 short years, social revolt had reached almost every aspect of American life. We saw civil rights advance, increased drug use, alternative religious beliefs, the beginning of the gay-rights movement, the start of the environmental movement, and the birth of modern feminism. It was hippie heaven.
The only people unaffected by the social upheaval were old rich white people, but that was about to change. With the help of two treasonous presidents who sold out their country before they were even elected, it wouldn’t take long for the conservative revolution to get going.
First, back in 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson was trying to find a way out of the increasingly bloody Vietnam War. LBJ was desperately seeking a truce between North and South Vietnam. It was an election year, anti-war sentiment in the country was high and Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, was in a tight presidential race against Richard Nixon. Johnson knew that so long as the war raged, Humphrey could not win.
Johnson had it all but done. He forced the leaders of South Vietnam into an all-but-final agreement with the North. A cease-fire was imminent, and Humphrey’s election seemed guaranteed. But at the last minute, the South Vietnamese pulled out. LBJ suspected Nixon had intervened to stop them from signing a peace treaty.
Seymour Hersh of the New York Times revealed Henry Kissinger – then Johnson’s adviser on Vietnam peace talks – secretly alerted Nixon’s staff that a truce was imminent. According to Hersh, Nixon “was able to get a series of messages to the Thieu government [of South Vietnam] making it clear that a Nixon presidency would have different views on peace negotiations.”
Having sabotaged the peace talks, Nixon won a narrow election victory. The war would go on for another 4 years killing 20,000 more US troops and a million more Vietnamese. Nixon would win re-election and Kissinger was given the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the same settlement he helped sabotage in 1968.
As previously mentioned, when Nixon was in power, conservatism was in dire straits. “We are under siege” as corporate lawyer Lewis Powell put it. Powell wrote what is now referred to as the “Powell Memo.” In it, Powell laid out a strategy for conservatives: Dial back the power and financial stability of the middle class, and restore the role of the wealthy at the center of power to regulate society. Less than six months after the memo was written, Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court.
The memo called for corporate America to become more active in molding politics and law in the United States. It sparked the development of several influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, and ALEC. It also influenced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to become much more politically active. The new gilded age had begun.
Following Watergate, the conservative revolution had to be put on hold, but it wouldn’t take long to get back on track. Corporate America had begun to take the Powell Memo seriously. They found their patsy in actor, governor, and corporate spokesperson Ronald Reagan.
Reagan managed to get elected by doing two things. One, he turned a population still angry about the Watergate scandal into a weapon by claiming government was the problem for society’s ills. Two, he made the Carter administration look incompetent by sabotaging the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
Nixon got elected after violating President John Adams’s 1797 Logan Act, which banned private citizens from intruding into official government negotiations with a foreign nation. Although there is far less physical proof than in Nixon’s case, it can be argued that Reagan did the same thing.
President Carter was close to negotiating the release of 52 American diplomats being held hostage in Iran, but Reagan’s campaign was long-rumored to have undercut an agreement to free the hostages because it would likely mean Carter’s re-election. It is said that with the help of Reagan campaign man and future CIA director William Casey and ex-CIA director and VP candidate George H.W. Bush, the Reagan campaign promised Iran a better deal than the one Carter could give them.
At the same moment Reagan completed his twenty minute inaugural address on January 20th, 1981, Iran released the hostages. Six years later, the Reagan Administration was caught selling weapons to Iran in exchange for American hostages in Lebanon. In short, it is likely the Reagan administration assumed power also as a result of treason.
What Reagan did with his eight years in office was nothing short of devastating to the middle class, its unions and income inequality. Reagan did what the Powell Memo suggested; reduce the power and financial stability of the middle class, and restore the role of the wealthy at the center of power.
It is a model that is followed still, if not more, to this day by the presidents that came after them. Two treasonous presidents sabotaging negotiations for political gain at the future expense of everyone.