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 about that unity but instead burglarized his opposition and unceremoniously ended 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 of that occasion is of ex-President Nixon, quite nerdlike, saying farewell to the assembled crowd of sobbing hangers-on from the top of the helicopter steps with arms upraised in a sign of victory, as if he’d finished the race.
The collapse of his presidency came with the release of a 1972 taped conversation between Nixon and H. R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, showing that Nixon’s claim that he had no involvement in the burglary or subsequent cover-up of the break-in of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate 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, little 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 placed 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 Trump, and still we seem more divided than ever.
"Thanks for messing up my night," a friend of mine said to me the other morning, a few days after the Trump victory. I saw him the night before at a bar talking with a nice-looking woman. Trying to be helpful, I said "He’s a good guy, a good Trumpster,"
"Everything was going fine until you said that," he explained. "Not long after that, she said "What good have white males ever done for this country?"
Eventually, she finished things off by expressing the prediction that there weren’t going to be many white babies being born nine or eight months from now.
In his November 14th "Revenge of the Yahoos" article in Taki’s Magazine, Jim Goad, author of The Redneck Manifesto, occasional country singer, and resident of Stone Mountain, Georgia, described the nation’s division: "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. Last Tuesday, it 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 an Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, the owner of Amel’s Restaurant in Pittsburgh, and a columnist with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His email: [email protected]