Will Political Hatred Spill Into the Streets?

Published March 15, 2024

Wall Street Journal

My mother hated Richard Nixon. She knew him when they were both young in Washington in the 1940s. He was an ambitious young congressman from California, and she wrote a weekly column for the Knight Syndicate and occasional articles for the Saturday Evening Post. They would sometimes run into each other at political dinners, like the one at the Shoreham Hotel one night when they both got a little drunk. Nixon couldn’t hold his liquor—his dark eyes, almost obsidian, would look wet, and he would slur a bit. My mother thought she could outdrink any man living. “Dick,” she told him, “you ought to get out of politics. You don’t like people, so why don’t you do everyone a favor and give it up?”

Nixon called my father next morning at his office and said in that growling basso of his: “Hugh, can’t you control your wife?”

The family thought the story was funny—typical Nixon, typical Mom—and passed it along down the years. But my mother’s hatred was serious and enduring. She really hated Nixon, and the hatred became, as it were, an aspect of her personality. Lots of people felt hatred toward Nixon. Hers lasted until her death in 2008. If I had mentioned his name to her on her death bed, her last words would have been: “That son of a bitch!”

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Lance Morrow is the Henry Grunwald Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His work focuses on the moral and ethical dimensions of public events, including developments in regard to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and political correctness on American campuses, with a view to the future consequences of such suppressions.

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