Richard Nixon

In chapter 9, Freeman discusses in detail the various interest groups that were now rallying under the politics of identity rather than class and ideology. Many of these social movements transferred into government practices and new laws under the command of President Richard Nixon. American society was in a state of uncertainty, as these social groups fought to defeat discrimination and better their lives. Nixon took advantage of the turmoil in order to assist his popularity in office. Freeman shows how Nixon had taken advantage of the fragility and confusion citizens and interest groups had during this period with his reforms that seemed to be favoring all sides. “He adopted centrist positions, bobbing and weaving in an effort to maintain support from both the liberal and conservative wings of the republican party…he adopted strategies so intricate that his actual views and intentions often remained hidden.” (pg. 267) To gain votes from traditional democrats in order to strengthen the Republican party, Nixon supported New Deal programs and at the same time had conservative positions on other issues. Freeman calls Nixon the master of “mixed signals,” abandoning his support for programs and movements such as his proposal for a guaranteed minimum annual income in the place of welfare as soon as it was rejected by the Senate, as well as his support for the environmental movement which he deserted after it presented unpopular issues. He also played opposing political opponents against each other by putting a hold on affirmative action policies in order to check labor costs and save capital for major corporations. By doing this he forced a barrier between civil rights groups and the labor movements that opposed affirmative action. By his second term in office, his presidency began to unravel with the revelations of the Watergate scandal, leaking the private views of the president which were so shockingly unfamiliar with the persona he projected to the public  that it caused the breakdown of his reputation as well as the trust of the American people in their government.