Shades of '72 in national GOP tide

In 1972, a conservative tide was sweeping the country and the Republicans were in power. The Republican who was re-elected that year as vice president —one Spiro T. Agnew— would later be charged with accepting bribes when he was governor of Maryland.

During his fifth year in office, in the late summer of 1973, Agnew was allowed to plead no contest to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967, with the condition that he resign the vice presidency.

Best known — even notorious— for his strident right wing views and his attacks on the media as “nattering nabobs of negativism,” Spiro Agnew remains the only vice president in U.S. history to resign because of criminal charges.

A year earlier, Agnew’s running mate, Richard Milhous Nixon, had been re-elected in a landslide to a second term as president, sweeping every state save one. But during that campaign year of 1972, some of his campaign operatives were found out to have burglarized the Democratic National Committee office in a Washington business and residential complex. When it later was found that this sitting president knew of the burglaries and had promoted a cover-up — a scandal known as “Watergate”— he faced impeachment, and on Aug. 9, 1974, he resigned. He later avoided a prison sentence when he his successor, Gerald Ford, granted Nixon a presidential pardon for any federal crimes committed while he was in office.

To the Nixon-Agnew ticket in 1972, Massachusetts voters said a firm “no,” opting instead to support Democratic candidate George McGovern, who lost the other 49 states. And in our typically humble and self-effacing manner, Bay State voters that year came up with a new slogan: “Don’t Blame Me — I’m from Massachusetts.”

Now fast forward to Nov. 2, 2010. The national election results show another “conservative tide” has swept the nation, with enough Republican Congressional wins in the other 49 states to tilt the power balance in the U.S. House. But there was no such tipping in Massachusetts. The viral and angry divide that has captured the mood of much of the electorate out in the hinterlands was mercifully stopped at out borders.

We can be thankful we live in a state whose citizens can think for themselves, a populace that won’t be swayed by the incessant onslaught of hateful, hurtful, divisive propaganda financed by the hidden money of right-wing billionaires.

Massachusetts voters do not need people like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Karl Rove telling us how to think or heed their political canards. We can read, we can think, we can see for ourselves. And on Tuesday, we chose democracy over oligarchy. Just as we did in 1972.

So ignore any political screeds that begin with the phrase, “The American people believe…” from these new Republican powers. When, armed with subpoenas, rife with falsehoods, and keying on dilatory obstuctionism, this GOP crowd brings the country to the brink over the next 24 months, you must remember this: “Don’t Blame Me – I’m from Massachusetts.”