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Not together yet

It was a half-century ago, 1968, when Richard Nixon popularized the slogan “Bring Us Together” during his presidential campaign.

He didn’t get close to bringing that about, instead burglarizing his opposition and unceremoniously ending his time in the White House with a forced resignation and a premature departure from the South Lawn in a military helicopter.

The enduring picture is of ex-President Nixon, quite nerd-like, saying farewell to the assembled, sobbing hangers-on from the top of the helicopter steps with arms upraised in a sign of victory, as if he’d finished a race.

The collapse of his presidency came with the release of a taped 1972 conversation between Nixon and H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, showing that Nixon’s claim of no involvement in the burglary at the Democratic National Committee’s Watergate offices or its cover-up was a lie.

The released conversation “was the final blow, the final nail in the coffin,” acknowledged Nixon. “Although you don’t need another nail if you’re already in the coffin — which we were.”

True to form, the origin of Nixon’s “Bring Us Together” slogan may also have been a lie. According to the story, 13-year-old Vicki Cole waved a “Bring Us Together” sign at a Nixon campaign stop in her hometown of Deshler, Ohio. Nixon used the slogan throughout his campaign and put Cole on a float in the inaugural parade with a facsimile of the original sign.

Nixon speechwriter William Safire expressed doubts that Cole’s sign ever existed.

And on it goes, with Hubert Humphrey’s “Unite America” campaign against Nixon and Hillary Clinton’s “Stronger Together” campaign against Donald Trump. And still we seem more divided than ever.

“Thanks for messing up my night,” a friend said to me the other morning. I’d seen him the night before at a bar, talking with a woman. Trying to be helpful, I said, “He’s a good guy, a good Trumpster.”

“Everything was good until you said that,” he explained. “Not long after, I heard, ‘What good have white males ever done for this country?’”

In his Nov. 14 “Revenge of the Yahoos” article in Taki’s Magazine, Jim Goad, author of “The Redneck Manifesto,” occasional country singer and resident of Stone Mountain, Ga., wrote: “A fundamental but hugely unacknowledged divide in America is the intergalactically large chasm between urban and rural culture. The city slickers and the country bumpkins might as well live on different planets. … (I)t was the perennially scorned hicks, hillbillies, and rednecks in ‘flyover country’ who handed Donald Trump the presidency.”

Viewed on a map, wrote Goad, “2016’s presidential election results show an almost perfect divide between blue cities and red country — it’s almost like an infrared camera that renders all areas with substantial ethnic diversity and high crime in blue. … It recalls a map of Brexit results earlier in the year which shows except for the London area, nearly everywhere else in England voted to leave.”

Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor of economics emeritus at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur ([email protected]).

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