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Could It Happen Here?
I have often said (for example, in the article on The
Mexican Peso Crisis) that those who worked in the Administration during
the debates over NAFTA and over the winter 1995 peso-support package smelled
for the first time a whiff of Europe's politics of the 1930s--when Communists
and Fascists joined forces to overwhelm the center, both left and right
thinking that they would be the ones to pick up the pieces when the
center collapsed. The right was correct. Others have reminded me that people
on the conservative side smelled the same whiff at the end of the 1960s.
And this has provoked me to start putting up some stuff relevant to the
long-run stability of political democracy.
- William Safire. Excerpts
from the chapter "The Way to San Jose" from William Safire's
Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House (New
York: Tower Publications, 1975).
The historian Alan Brinkley (whom I generally like very much) more-or-less
makes fun in his classes of Theodore White's belief in The Making of
the President 1968 that the demonstrators had to be driven back
from the Democratic Convention in Chicago or American democracy at risk.
Yet from the perspective of anyone who remembered the 1930s: Hitler, Mussolini's
March on Rome, French Fascist mobs threatening the Chamber of Deputies
and inducing the resignation of democratically-elected governments--the
anti-democratic face of the end-of-the-1960s demonstrations must have been
terrifying, and a cause for true concern that this was the way that democracies
had begun to fall in Europe before World War II.
And that reminded me of this passage from William
Safire's Before the Fall, which when I first read it (in the
late 1970s), almost turned me into a Republican.
- Haldeman. There is an interesting
passage in the diary of Nixon's Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman,
that suggests that Safire's outrage and terror at the San Jose clash of
Nixon and his protective detachments with the demonstraters was exceptional;
that Haldeman's view, at least, was much more gleeful--that the Nixon team
had decided to delay its departure from the auditorium in the hope of triggering
some protester violence, and had won political points by succeeding in
getting pictures of protesters throwing rocks at the presidential party--and
thus that there was more justice on the side of the press's reaction (that
perhaps the real story was that Nixon was trying to fan the flames of violent
political dissent for short-term political advantage) than Safire would
have admitted then.
Go to Brad De Long's Home
Associate Professor of Economics Brad De
Long, 601 Evans
University of California at Berkeley; Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax