Bob Schwartz

Des Moines Register Endorses Richard Nixon


The story of the Des Moines Register’s endorsing Mitt Romney—the first time the newspaper has endorsed a Republican since Richard Nixon in 1972—has been covered with entirely the wrong emphasis.

The point is not Mitt Romney’s potential for success in the office or Barack Obama’s supposed failures.

The point is that the Des Moines Register endorsed Richard Nixon. Yes, that Richard Nixon.

The Register was far from alone among major newspapers endorsing Nixon that year. Unfortunately, no archive has been found with the particular words of praise and support the newspaper used, though the search continues. It would be lovely to read those words—and then to compare them to the actualities of Nixon’s truncated term in office.

Absent that record, it is a good guess that the Des Moines Register did not predict that Nixon would lead a criminal conspiracy from the Oval Office, and that the cover-up of that behavior would include the undermining of the U.S. Constitution. That would not make for a very effective endorsement. Nor did the newspaper likely mention his nickname “Tricky Dick”, an allusion to his reputation for deviousness and ruthlessness.

The well-known moniker began not with his 1968 presidential campaign, nor with his 1962 gubernatorial campaign, nor with his 1960 presidential campaign, nor with his 1952 vice-presidential campaign, but with his 1950 senatorial campaign. By the time of the 1972 campaign, Nixon had been touted by some respectable people as “Tricky Dick” for 22 years.

For whatever reason, the Des Moines Register refused to believe it. They endorsed Nixon, and though we can’t really blame them for the election results—the late George McGovern’s historic loss—they didn’t help, and the rest is history.

Why Vote?

If you are someone who thinks that voting is pointless, that “they” (the people in power) only use it to give you the illusion of power, that “they” (those same people) are all the same, no matter what their party, you are misguided but not beyond redemption.

Today is an early voting day, and those who showed up at the county board of elections offices understand some of the reasons to vote:

It Matters

Do the math. In local elections especially, your vote may represent a fraction of a percent of a major public decision. Even in the broader-scale elections, at the state or national level, we know that elections are regularly decided by a few hundred votes. Yours could be one of them.

It’s Valuable

This is a line that seems a corny cliché, but if you think so, shame on you. Americans have died so that their countrymen and people around the world can enjoy this privilege. Things worth dying for are by definition valuable.

It’s Community

Absentee voting is effective and important, but if you vote at a polling place, you get a unique experience, especially at early voting. Precincts tend to be homogeneous in most places, in terms of class, race, etc. But entire counties tend to cut across those lines. We have precious few opportunities to stand up with the people who live nearby but not next door. Again, it may be corny, but in that polling place, it is no more or less than one person, one vote. Everything else is irrelevant.

It’s Fun

The naysayers and sophisticates may say that, sure, voting is fun, the same way that beanbag and Keystone Cops silent comedies are fun—for a bunch of really ancient and out of touch citizens. Not true. Fill in a little oval on the ballot and you can elevate the worthy and kill the evil, electorally speaking. What could be more fun than that?

You Get A Sticker