The first few minutes of this interview is about Donald Trump and takes place in 2015. I’m not interested in Donald Trump for this piece, but if you are then you’re welcome to watch the video.
But I am interested in Nelson Rockefeller and what was the progressive wing of the Republican Party at least from the 1950s through the 1970s and perhaps even 1980s. Nelson was a Progressive Republican along with Governor George Romney and a few Congressional Republicans like Senator Jacob Javits, Senator Charles Matthias, even President Richard Nixon and perhaps even Dwight Eisenhower when it came to economic policy and civil rights. The Republican Party use to represent the Northeast and Midwest and had a conservative-libertarian wing in the West like Senator Barry Goldwater and others. Thanks to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the 1960s in general , you saw Southerners who were anti-civil rights and anti-desegregation Democrats, move to the Republican Party. With Northern Republicans moving to the Democratic Party.
I wouldn’t say the Rockefeller Progressive wing of the Republican Party is dead, but certainly on political life support. Senator Susan Collins., Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, Representative Charlie Dent and perhaps 30-40 House Republicans. But the Republican Party today is essentially Southern Bible Belt Christian-Conservative party, with conservative-libertarian wing in the west led by Senator Jeff Flake and others. With a pro-business Northeastern wing of the Republican Party that is progressive if not liberal on social issues or at least neutral, but pro-business and wanting to see taxes and regulations down on business other than the environment and when it comes to safety.
I disagree with Michael Cohen right off the bat in his lecture about Nelson Rockefeller. Nelson wasn’t a Moderate, but was a Progressive and a Progressive Republican. Progressives in the real sense might look like Moderates compared with Socialists on the Far-Left who expect the national government to do practically everything for people. And in the case of Communists, want the national government to literally do everything for everybody. Perhaps even check people’s shoes to make sure they’re tied correctly before the central government allows for people to leave their homes. And Libertarians on the Right and if you’re talking about Anarchists on the Left, who don’t want government to do anything for everybody. That government in any form is corrupt and incompetent, and a form of enslavement.
Michael Cohen made my point that Nelson was a Progressive in his own lecture when he said that Rockefeller was a doer. He believed in government and that government can create positive change and do positive things for people. What do Progressives believe? They believe that progress can be made through government action. Limited government action since Progressives aren’t Socialists or Communists, and there not even Liberals. Less ideological than Liberals and really everyone who is not a Moderate or Centrist and stress individual rights and individualism less than Liberals.
By the time 1968 comes around Richard Nixon essentially takes over the Republican Party in order to not just win the presidential election, but to serve him politically. By campaigning strongly for Congressional Republicans in 1966 and contributing to their comeback both in the House and Senate and making the GOP players in Congress again. But also by campaigning in the South that was traditionally Democrat, but Dixiecrat and even Confederate, and even religious as far as how they looked at their politics. What we today call the Christian-Right comes to the Republican Party by the late 1960s thanks to Richard Nixon and others. With Northeastern Republicans leaving the GOP except for Nelson and a few others and become Democrats. Which left Nelson Rockefeller without a major political party to run for president for.
President Richard Nixon resigns the presidency in August of 1974 because of Watergate and his involvement in covering up that scandal coming to light because of his tapes. The House Judiciary Committee votes to impeach President Nixon that month as well with House Democrats clearly having the votes to impeach President Nixon by the full house. The Senate Republican Leadership led by Minority Leader Hugh Scott, with other GOP Senators like Senator Barry Goldwater, goes to the White House to meet President Nixon and tell him that he’ll be impeached by the House and then convicted in the Senate. There were Senate GOP whip counts back then with only 20 votes or so in the Senate to vote for President Nixon’s acquittal. So this is a little background for why Governor Nelson Rockefeller from New York, was up for appointment by President Gerald Ford to be Vice President in the first place.
After the Congressional elections of 1974 where House Democrats add to the majority and pick up around 40 seats and Senate Democrats add 6 seats to their majority, President Gerald Ford appoints Governor Rockefeller to replace him as Vice President. If you’re familiar with this era or lived though it you know that Gerry Ford was President Nixon’s last Vice President and was appointed to that office in the fall of 1973. But Nelson Rockefeller wasn’t your ordinary Governor. He’s part of the Rockefeller family dynasty and was worth what would probably be in today’s dollars in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He had a lot of business interests and at least potential conflicts of interest. When a new Vice President is needed and appointed before a presidential election, that person has to be confirmed by the entire Congress, not just the Senate. Which means the House gets to vote on the Vice Presidential nominee as well.
So that is what this Face The Nation interview was about in 1974 and while they were interviewing Senator Howard Cannon who was Chairman of the Rules Committee with his committee having jurisdiction over the Vice Presidency and vice presidential appointment. And what the reporters on Face The Nation including a very young, beautiful, and adorable, Connie Chung from CBS News ( I must say ) interviewing Senator Cannon about Governor Rockefeller and his potential conflicts of interest because Rockefeller was such a wealthy man and had money and investments all over the country. They were asking Senator Cannon what he believed his committee would do as far as looking into those potential conflicts.
Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, seemed to have a political rivalry in the Republican Party even though ideologically they were pretty close. They were both basically Progressive Republicans. Certainly Governor Rockefeller was, but Rockefeller and Nixon were very similar on economic policy and probably foreign policy as well. They were both cold warrior anti-Communists who believed in a strong national defense and protecting America from Communist Russia with a strong national defense. They both supported the civil rights laws of the 1960s and the environmental protections of the 1970s.
And yet the way that the media back then would talk about Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, you would think they both came from different ideologically wings of the GOP. As if one was a Conservative and the other was a Moderate or Liberal. When the fact was both were basically Progressive Republicans in the classical and real sense. Not the stereotypical big government socialistic sense that Progressives especially in the Democratic Party today get labeled as. It was Senator Barry Goldwater who was a Conservative-Libertarian Republican who strongly differed from the Rockefeller’s and Nixon’s in the Republican Party ideologically.
But when Meet The Press interviewed Governor Rockefeller in 1960, they were asking him questions implying that Rockefeller and then Vice President Nixon, were different ideologically. And that Rockefeller wasn’t sold on the candidacy of Vice President Nixon and wasn’t sure if he was going to support Vice President Nixon against Senator John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. But the fact is Rockefeller and Nixon, were both essentially Progressive Republicans at least on economic and foreign policy, as well as social issues, who politically at least could’ve been strong running mates for a presidential election.