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American Income Life Insurance Company BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer -ks Progressive R By Robert L. Borosage Washington’s conventional wisdom has Republicans sail1 vating at the political parallels between Watergate and \\ Whitewater. With President Richard M. Nixon’s disgrace, Democrats benefited as demoralized GOP voters stayed home in the 1974 elections. Two years later, Jimmy Carter, an unknown, one-term governor from Georgia, defeated the Republican incum bent, Gerald R. Ford, largely on the promise, “I will never lie to you.” With President Bill Clinton’s disgrace, Republicans gloat about consolidating their hold on Congress and running the 2000 presidential race with a squeaky-clean candidate promising, “I will never embarrass you.” Ironically, a serious comparison of Watergate an4 Whitewater, of Nixon and Clinton, suggests something far di The stark contrasts should sober Republicans in the short term, and the striking parallels will hearten Democrats -or at least progressives in the longer run. Republicans shouldn’t break out the champagne yet. Clinton’s hapless attempts to cover up his tawdry private affair pale in comparison to Nixon’s abuse of his public powers. And the partisan witch hunt being staged by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with its shameless public debasing of the president, contrasts starkly with the bipartisan grayitas of the Watergate proceedings. No amount of puffery can turn Monica S. Lewinsky into John W. Dean Ill, or the maniacal zealotry of Starr into the judicious independence of Leon Jaworski. Unlike the Watergate proceedings, which slowly united much of the country against Nixon, GOP excesses may well be creating a backlash that could ignite Democrats and sour independents against them. At the same time, the more interesting historical parallels between the Nixon and Clinton eras will hearten progressives more than conservatives. For just as Nixon’s resignation delayed, but did not forestall, the conservative triumph, Clinton’s disgrace may delay, but need not preclude, a progressive resurgence. Nixon was elected at the end of a liberal era of reform. He tacked to the prevailing winds, expanding Medicare, creating the Environmental Protection Agency, recognizing China, pushing detente and cutting the defense budget. The more he donned liberal garb, the more liberals despised him -and rightly so. With his conservative theme of law and order, jeremiads about “acid, amnesty and abortion,” patriotic appeals to the “silent majority” and clever race-baiting politics, he was providing the message and strategy for a conservative resurgence. 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER But Nixon’s election didn’t end the long liberal era, nor did his disgrace save it. What brought it to a closewas the global economic crisis generated by the inftatn unleabedthe Vietnam War that discredited the libe Nixon didn’t foresee this “We are all Keynesians,” and imposed keep inflation under check poi election. His popular’ I tions but as inflation un when it was apparent t of significant e Clinton, a liber writhes in a similar vatives, from V-chi embracing free t ry themes, the more t gence through his pop ple, his call for investin health care and his stea on the wealthy while givi But just as Clinton’s elec disgrace need not condem era to a close is the global’eco ru bankruptcy of corporate-defined or Like Nixon, Clinton didn’t antics casualty of it. He announced, “The era of big go just as speculators were running amok and drama intervention became imperative. Now, Clinton’s great peril is that confidence in his presidency will plummet as the deflation unleashed by the tides of speculative capital washes up on these shores. In the end, Clinton’s survival may depend on whether he can sustain growth at home and revive it abroad. This is likely to require abandoning the embrace of conservative, International Monetary Fund-Wall Street economics and beginning the process of taming the global marketplace. The collapse of the old order is more important politically than presidential disgrace. In 1974, Democrats picked up suburban seats on both coasts but ended up culturally divorced from their working-class base. Carter was elected, but conservatives stayed on the march. They continued their intellectual assault on liberal DECEMBER 4, 1998 Continued on next page