Washington Post

By Tom Switzer

Richard Cohen contended that Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy to make race a polarizing issue in order to drive white Southern Democrats to the GOP “fouls our politics to this very day” [“Nixon’s lasting damage,” op-ed, Aug. 6]. The Nixon White House, Mr. Cohen argued, “would not do a damned thing for African Americans.”

This is the same Nixon who created affirmative action to help break the power of racist trade unions. He was the president who expanded the use of racial preferences to provide opportunities for minorities in federal contracting. He was the president who did more to desegregate Southern schools than any president in history. Surely Mr. Cohen remembers the Philadelphia Plan?

Nixon, far from being “morally reprehensible,” represented a Republican repudiation of segregationists. If anything, today’s GOP would do well to learn from his pragmatic brand of conservatism.

This letter was originally published in the Washington Post