Monday, September 9, 2013

Conrad Black's Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full 16

On page 543 of Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, Conrad Black says that Richard Nixon in 1968 "campaigned widely with Senator Edward Brooke, the African-American Massachusetts Republican, who was at this point the highest elected black official in the country's history."

After reading this passage, I became curious about Edward Brooke.  Who was he?  Why was he a Republican?  What kind of Republican was he?  Was he a conservative Republican, or a moderate or liberal Republican?

I read the wikipedia article about him.  Apparently, I had heard the name before I read Black's reference to him, since Edward Brooke is the person Barbara Walters claimed she had an affair with throughout the 1970's.  In terms of political ideology, Brooke leaned more towards the more liberal George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller wings of the Republican Party.  Brooke initially supported Romney for the 1968 Presidential nomination, then Nelson Rockefeller.

In reading about Brooke, I wondered why exactly he was a Republican.  His positions (at least the ones that I was reading about) struck me as socially, economically, and militarily liberal.  According to this article, however, Brooke was not a fan of big government, and he believed in promoting a strong work ethic (which is not to say that liberals don't want people to work), as well as a balanced budget and "cutting costs".  The wikipedia article says that Brooke was a strong supporter of the Job Corps, the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which were parts of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.  Perhaps Brooke especially supported the parts of the Great Society that would give people a hand-up, not just a hand-out.

I also found a line from this article excerpt to be interesting: "...it was Edward W. Brooke who represented the most important moderating voice of black conservatism. Yet his reasoned challenges to ultraconservatives, including Barry Goldwater, won few blacks in the 1960s and 1970s when civil rights leaders garnered support for liberal agendas."  

Brooke was the first African-American Attorney General of a state, and the first African-American elected by popular vote to the U.S. Senate.  Brooke won the election to U.S. Senate in 1966, and he served until he was defeated by Democrat Paul Tsongas.  You may remember Tsongas from the 1992 Presidential election, or the Saturday Night Live skit in which Mike Myers played him.  "Tsongas!"

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