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But Nixon counterpointed such liberal moves with a series of gestures toward the conservative instincts of his Middle American constituency. In naming U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Warren Burger to be Earl Warren's successor as Chief Justice, he began readjusting the Supreme Court's balance toward a stricter constructionism. His voting rights bill would have the effect of weakening the Negro gains accomplished under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Even though the Supreme Court ordered "all deliberate speed" in school integration 15 years ago, the Administration sought to delay the process once again by allowing some Southern school districts more time to formulate their desegregation plans. Then the Supreme Court, in its first major decision after Burger became Chief Justice, unanimously rejected the delays.
Nixon was pursuing not so much a "Southern strategy" as a Middle American strategy. The South is only one part of the Middle America that Nixon has installed in Washington. His Administration—with such exceptions as Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Henry Kissinger—is like the reunion photograph of a Depression class that rose to the top by Horatio Alger virtues. Interior Secretary Walter Hickel arrived in Alaska at the age of 20, with 37¢ in his pocket. George Romney, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is the son of a Mormon who was driven out of Mexico by Pancho Villa and supported his ten children for a time as a carpenter in El Paso.
Nixon himself is the embodiment of Middle America. There is opportunity for everyone, his mother taught him back in Whittier, Calif.—work hard, love your country, never give up. God likes fighters. Nixon's philosophers are Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham. Like the rest of his Administration, the President has gone far beyond his humble origins. But Nixon, John Mitchell and Spiro Agnew minister to and play upon the discontent of Middle America by conjuring up the imperatives of discipline and restraint.
Americans of different generations inhabit the same continent, but they exist in different eras. The American mind is, in effect, stretched out over several decades. The radical young dwell in a projection of the '70s. The values of many of their fathers are the ethics of the Depression, of World War II or the later '40s. In the imagination of his ideals, the Middle American glimpses cracked snapshots through a scrim: a khaki uniform, trousers gathered at the waist; a souvenir samurai sword; a "ruptured duck"; a girl with Betty Grable hair and hemline; the lawn of a barely remembered house. The ideological order that he sees is a civics-book sense of decency. The Depression taught him the wisdom of accumulation and the fear of joblessness. He knew from schooling on the G.I. Bill what education could do and what it meant.
The Middle American's faith is not merely grounded upon nostalgia and emotion. He believes in a system that did work and in large measure still does; a brilliant, highly adaptable system, heir to the Enlightenment and classic democracy, with innumerable, ingenious, local accretions. But the country has become too complex and the long-hidden inequities too glaring for the system to continue without drastic