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Context of 'January 13, 1970: Nixon Snubs Black Voters in Re-election Plans'

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President Richard Nixon writes an action memo to senior aide H. R. Haldeman saying, “One of our most important projects for 1970 is to see that our major contributors funnel all their funds through us.” Haldeman and Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans set up a secret fund-raising enterprise, the “Townhouse Operation,” designed to bypass the Republican National Committee. By doing so, Nixon intends to ensure the GOP will field candidates suitably loyal to him, and reliably opposed to the GOP’s traditional Eastern Establishment base that Nixon so resents. Although George H. W. Bush is a charter member of that Eastern Establishment, Nixon likes and trusts him. Bush is “a total Nixon man,” Nixon once says. “He’ll do anything for the cause.” Bush is the main beneficiary of the slush fund, which is made up of about $106,000 in contributions from Texas GOP sources, but up to 18 other Republican Senate candidates also receive money from the fund. The Wall Street Journal will later lambast Townhouse, calling it a “dress rehearsal for the campaign finance abuses of Watergate, as well as for today’s loophole-ridden system.” (Werth 2006, pp. 115-116)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]President Nixon, deep in planning for his 1972 re-election campaign, issues several orders regarding the campaign’s approach towards African-American voters. He notes in the margin of a news story about some blacks possibly supporting his re-election, “Be sure our [public relations] types make it clear we aren’t adopting policy for the promise of being 100% Negro and winning their vote—We know this is not possible.” Beside a headline proclaiming that a court-ordered desegretation deadline will not be enforced, he writes, “Excellent job.” And on a news article about a proposal to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a national holiday, he writes: “No! Never!” He tells his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, “That would be like making Nero Christ.” He does learn of one idea for mobilizing black voters that he likes. He reads of the formation of a black-led political party in Alabama that will siphon votes from Democratic candidates, and memos Haldeman, “Get this subsidized now.” He underlines “now” twice. (Reeves 2001, pp. 159)

Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Nixon aides H.R. Haldeman and Charles Colson celebrate a breakthrough in the US-Soviet SALT II disarmament talks by taking a dinner cruise on the presidential yacht “Sequoia.” The conversation turns to the subject of press leaks, and Nixon vows: “One day we will get them—we’ll get them on the ground where we want them. And we’ll stick our heels in, step on them hard and twist—right, Chuck, right? Henry knows what I mean—just like you do in negotiating, Henry—get them on the floor and step on them, crush them, show no mercy.” (Werth 2006, pp. 346)


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