Forty Years Later

I remember where I was when Nixon resigned. I was a teenager in the midst of a carefree vacation in the small Wisconsin town of Bayfield on Lake Superior. For a brief moment or two, as the President spoke, even Bayfield and its citizens and vacationers collectively took notice of the country transitioning.

Memories can be tricky, but I remember two things from that evening. First, there was such a sense of finality. There was no more debate. There was no question. Both sides of the political spectrum were in unison. And I also remember just how unremarkable it was. Life went on. No one felt threatened that the country was soon to collapse. I didn’t think it at the time, but I think it now. It might have been one of the best moments in the history of the United States.

This shining moment didn’t last very long as it was followed by partisan calls for retribution. For many, it wasn’t enough that Nixon was disgraced and forced out of office. Their hatred consumed them and their better angels.

I was a Humphrey guy, then a McGovern guy and always thought the Tricky Dick moniker was entirely fitting. But once he was gone, I never understood how inflicting more pain made any sense politically and socially and it felt dirty and vengeful. In short, some of Nixon’s harshest critics were becoming, well, Nixonian

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