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History Politics

Tricky Dick: Negative Nixon’s Campaign Strategies

Richard Nixon, known as Tricky Dick, is perhaps one of the most interesting Presidents in American history. He’s got a personality and appearance that shaped our society’s viewpoint. For example, whenever you see our 37th President, don’t you just see images of used car salesmen and sleazy loan sharks? Our society has fabricated those images mostly off the face and name of Nixon himself; and his legacy will forever be tarnished by the negative aspects of his political climb from Congressman to Senator to Vice President to President of the United States.

If you take out the smear campaigns, the racist remarks that have been recorded, the terrible failure of the War on Drugs, his war criminal administration, the illegal and unconstitutional bombings of Cambodia and Vietnam, and that whole Watergate thing out of the picture, Richard Nixon has a relatively amazing five year track record in the White House. Not necessarily a good track record, mind you, but most definitely an intriguing and amazing one at that.

Nixon is far from perfect. He’s far from great, too. But we have to give him this: he’s interesting as Hell.

I’m a fan of studying Nixon, and I’ve studied him and his administration for years now. I’ve read all of his books, from Six Crises to The Real War to Beyond Peace to Seize the Moment to his own personal memoirs. I’ve read most of war criminal Henry Kissinger’s books. I’ve watched and read the Frost/Nixon interviews. You name the speech, if there’s a video recording of it online I’ve seen it twice. From celebrating his 103rd birthday to having an in-depth analysis of his debate against John F. Kennedy in 1960, I’ve done it. So, I guess you could call me a bit of a Nixonophile when it comes to the amount of interest and dedication I have when it comes to the politics and social construct of America between the 1950s and 1970s.

Nixon is the reason we got off the gold standard, steadily improving our economy and getting us out of the eternal limbo of stagflation.

He’s the final step in the swapping of political party foundations, as he desperately swooped through the south to pick up disenfranchised whites that felt dislocated from the changing Democratic Party.

Like it or not, Nixon is the reason we finally got our of the Vietnam War — even though we have evidence he sidestepped former President Johnson’s peace attempts and tried to win it through warfare rather than diplomacy.

He steadily improved relations with the communist powers of China and Russia; and for a period of time it seemed as if the Cold War was cooling down for good under his administration.

He led the nation through the Oil Crisis of 1973, taking matters into his own hands in the Middle East and making diplomatic deals with Saudi Arabia to lower the costs of oil (of course, Nixon promised to build up Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure to bring them into the 20th century and promised American support of the somewhat-terrorist-based regime the Arabian government has going on).

But, one of the more prominent political features that Nixon sported was his aforementioned smear campaigns. One of the main reasons Dwight D. Eisenhower chose him as his Vice President, besides his age, was the fact that he was a great antithesis to Eisenhower’s personality. While Eisenhower preached positivity across the states, Nixon played the negative card and used his previous Red Scare tactics to put fear back into the campaign. Eisenhower was Good Cop and Nixon was Bad Cop, honestly. This allowed just about everyone to be touched by the Eisenhower/Nixon ticket.

But if we take it back a notch, Tricky Dick had always been a sort of smear campaigner. Against Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis in 1945, Nixon started off his career with smear tactics. He claimed that Voorhis never did anything, focusing on personality rather than political problems. It worked in his favor, and he managed to take the position in California’s 12th Congressional District. This set the whole stage for Nixon’s future. In the next five years, in 1950, he found himself running for the Senate.

The 1950 Senate Election in California is famous for accusations and name-calling. It was a rather childish slew of yellow journalism and mud slinging, as both the candidates violently attacked the other.

Negative Nixon, soon to be known as Tricky Dick, gave up his congressional seat to fight Democratic incumbent Sheridan Downey, who he saw to be an easy target to take down and move up. However, his own party saw how politically weak Downey was, and Helen Gahagan Douglas gave up her own congressional seat to create a primary to fight against the incumbent. Downey dropped out really quickly, probably aware that he didn’t have a chance against either Douglas or Nixon, and he completely retired from politics afterwards.

The election boiled down to Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas, Republican Richard Nixon, and Los Angelous Daily News publisher Manchester Boddy, who targeted Douglas and Douglas only — helping Nixon out when it comes to how much was being thrown towards him. Boddy claimed that Douglas was a leftist, comparing her to New York Congressman Vito Marcantonio — who had recently been accused of being a communist.

Tricky Dick walked through the primaries without any problem. Douglas had a bit of a harder time, but succeeded rather easily as well. Boddy, funny enough, finished in second place in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.

It’s kind of funny and ironic if you think of it. The famous COMMUNIST HUNTER Richard Nixon was up against someone who was claimed to be a communist herself. Democrats were slow to endorse/rally Douglas, as the Democratic race was rather divided in terms of party functions. Some high ranked Democrats even endorsed Nixon. Days after the primaries, the Korean War broke out. Both Nixon and Douglas claimed that the other had voted with Marcantonio the so-called communist to the detriment of national security. Nixon, already skilled with being negative in campaign tactics, was more effective — and he won the election by almost 20 percent.

But the campaign was fucking brutal. Nixon earned the nickname ‘Tricky Dick’ for the amount of pure negativity and campaign debauchery that he slung into the election. So, it’s easy to see how a politician with such a negative beginning and negative uprising had such a negative ending to his otherwise successful political career.



I’m a writer and historian. Simple enough, right? I enjoy philosophy, sociology, social psychology, politics, basic programming, statistics, and old books. Unlike the stereotypical leftist, I do not necessarily censor myself. I apologize in advance if you find yourself offended by something I’ve said; but I do enjoy hearing criticism and having debates.

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Joseph Kaminski
I’m a writer and historian. Simple enough, right? I enjoy philosophy, sociology, social psychology, politics, basic programming, statistics, and old books.


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