State of the Union Nixon's Great Society
TDA MARKED THE end of a three month moratorium on nationwide political protests. Two national news columnists had accused Nixon of anesthetizing the nation. and the Boston Globe editorially offered the hope that Victman war protest was not dead. but only sleeping. In either case, whether Nixon is the instigator or only the beneficiary, the national mood is lapsing dangerously into political som?????.
Because Nixon says he is going to end the war people believe him. Laird says that the withdrawal of troops is irreversible, and the public's reaction is an uncritical sigh of relief. Further antiwar demonstrations this spring will try to point out the fallacies in this position, but there is another. Administration contention that must also not escape challenge.
President Nixon's State of the Union Address on January 22 included the announcement that Nixon was going to improve "the quality of life" for the American people by spending ten billion dollars over five years for anti-pollution controls. But "the quality of life represents more than clean air and water: it should be the product of a national concern for the political and physical environment. Until the political inequities that ??? and threaten many people in this ??? are ended, there is little basis for ??? an improving quality of life.
CBS news comment ??? I've ??? believes that he origin??? the use of the term the quality of life in its present ??? in 1956. He used it then to refer to the Adla Stevenson campaign which challenged the New Deal ??? on "the quantity of life." Typified by Franklin D. Roosevelfs promises of material wel??. The change in rhetoric, from quantity to quality, called for more than just updating New Deal policies, it called for a monumental change in American goals.
The use of the term did not die with Stevenson's loss of the election. Both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson used the phrase while in office, but in a casual, non-policy-making context. With its emergence as a central theme in Nixon's State of the Union speech, however. Nixon appears on the verge of making "the quality of life" his Great Society pledge.
There are obvious political advantages to Nixons identifying his. Administration and his party with the concept of improving the quality of American life. There is no more practical goal for any President. But the term suggests far more than Nixon's limited context allows. Granted that ecological concerns are of the highest urgency, only a case of tunnel vision would confine "quality" to anti-pollution measures. If "the quality of life" can actually become a goal that the government and the people consider primary, then nothing short of a reordering of national priorities is required-and political liberties are high on the list of needed reforms.
THE TDA demonstrations, aside from their specific protest against the Chicago trial, were aimed directly at this void in the area of political freedom. The TDA chant. "the nation sucks." is a pretty damning indictment of the American quality of life. The polities of protest should not be considered separate from the ecological "quality of life" that Nixon pledges to improve. It means little to the Chicago 8 and other political prisoners that five years from now their prison water will be less impure than it is new. The quality of life must build from national attitudes that emphasize the ideals of freedom and equality and end with the adornments that Nixon proposed.
It is as if Nixon had a cement cake made, then covered it with decorative icing and presented it as a top quality cake. Critics of the cement interior would be told by Nixon (or Mitchell) that they are phony idealists who want to have their cake and eat it too. The whole point behind this crude analogy is that the cake is no good as a cake unless it can be eaten. By advertising his program as "an improving quality of life" for the American people, and then limiting his actions to minimal ecology pledges, Nixon is merely showing off the icing.
Ecology action, of course, is desperately needed. No conflict exists between wanting political freedom and wanting clean air and water. The personnel involved with one issue are often active in the other. There is the danger however of granting Nixon's presumption that the quality of life will be improved by anti-pollution spending.
That presumption is not so much false as it is slyly misleading. It is like the similar case of Nixon pledging to end the war by withdrawing American combat forces from Vietnam. Both cases ignore important unstated realities. In the case of Nixon's plan to end the war, it is apparent that 200.000 support troops, advisors, flight crews in Laos and Thailand, and the Theiu government will remain for many years, and that the struggle for Vietnamese liberation will continue. Antiwar groups have attempted to educate the nation to that fact by confrontation tactics with mass demonstrations. When shifting from this conflict to Nixon's hypocrisy about the "quality of life," one fails to see how or when demonstration tactics will succeed. In each case the demands are for just what Nixon has promised. He says he will end the war, so the demonstrations urge him to do so immediately. He has said he offers an improving quality of life, so he must be urged to fulfill that pledge, beginning with political liberties. It would be tragic to have Nixon use "the quality of life" as a political tool without being challenged to actually do something about that quality.