chapter  8
24 Pages

Class War: The Liberal Establishment Besieged, 1968-1980

Richard M. Nixons 1968 electoral victory successfully exploited resentment over the federal government’s role in addressing racial and economic inequities through broad social policies and programs. Yet the Nixon administration turned to the interventionist model of the political class when it undertook a controversial affirmative action program in the construction industry. Chap­ ter 8 outlines the manner in which the president’s turn to government policy planners and social managers on the minority job front offered an ironic con­ trast to White House efforts to marginalize New Left students and opponents of the Vietnam War as cultural elitists. By describing the pro-war rhetoric of organized labor leaders and politicians such as Nixon, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, and George C. Wallace, this chapter explores the class dimensions to public disagreements over the war and the role of political intellectuals. It then examines how the White House sought to shift public debate to the issue of the “Liberal Establishment” and how Nixon’s obsessions with the guardian class influenced his participation in the Watergate scandal. Chapter 8 concludes by outlining how liberal policymakers, social activists, and cultural liberals became prime targets of populist conservatives in the late-1970s and how disaffection with government undermined the presidency of Jimmy Carter.