Dear Mr. Richard Nixon


Mary Grace Heartlein and Madelyn Rehkop

The face of democracy has changed a lot over the last 50 years.

Dear Mr. Richard Nixon,

My first question for you might seem a bit rude, but bear with me. Since 1994, your body has rested at your birthplace, Yorba Linda, Calif., but I wanted to ask you this: if you still believe in God, are you watching life unfold from above us, or below? Our current president likes to think about that — in a past speech, he predicted that the late Mich. Rep. John Dingell is looking up — so I figured it wouldn’t cross the line if I asked about Heaven, Hell or somewhere in between. And what about the other impeached presidents? Is Andrew Johnson your roommate? Is there a bed reserved for Clinton? Some would probably think our current president would get a whole house. 

Mr. Nixon, I’m curious about your thoughts on him. Our current president, I mean. Do you see him as a brother or the worst of your kind? He’s obviously surpassed you in the process — he made it to the actual House impeachment vote — but I think you’re a bit jealous. You entered the White House as a president in 1969 at the peak of the American government. The people believed in you, and they believed in the power of the presidency. The Oval Office was still sacred ground, the press briefing still of utter importance and the dignity of the first family preserved. 

Now, it’s a whole different ball game. It feels like Aug. 8, 1974 again, the day of your resignation. Maybe we aren’t somewhere in between; rather, now we’re really in Hell. It seems that way from where I stand. Fake news, apparently, is the biggest threat to the White House. It’s no surprise when a headline informs the public of some secret report or slippery trade deal. America functions despite the actions of the White House.

Mr. Nixon, I believe you were the creator of this world my generation was born into. You lost America. They trusted you, and you betrayed them in the most painful way. Watergate wasn’t just about a single break-in — it was the President of the United States repeatedly denying, dodging and ultimately flat-out lying in order to save his skin. You created an irreparable divide between the press and the White House for your own sake, and that has never gone away. Mr. Nixon, the people haven’t forgotten that. Now, we don’t trust anyone in Washington. 

You created an irreparable divide between the press and the White House for your own sake, and that has never gone away.

Mr. Nixon, I will tell you: I’m a Democrat. I’m not quite 18, but I plan on going blue in 2020. My political ideology quiz said, specifically, I’m a “Disaffected Democrat.” I know you had some friends there, back in the day — the southern Democrats. I bet our president envies you on that one. Or, maybe he’s satisfied with the insurmountable chasm between the two parties. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, comfortably settled into his role as right-hand man. Although he is one of the leaders of a separate branch, his loyalties lie, above all else, to the president. You had no one remotely similar, and I don’t see McConnell leaving our president in the same position any time soon. 

You see, Mr. Nixon, in a way, I do feel bad for you. Your actions were almost unprecedented, as the last presidential impeachment was in 1868 (thanks, Andrew Johnson). People were shocked. Now we have had three (well, two and a half; you didn’t actually get impeached) situations like yours under our belts. Untrustworthy presidents are simply another headline. Our president should send you a thank you note. You hid your unholy thoughts deep within your recorded tapes; our president tweets his instantly. The left and the right shook hands and went on with American politics in your time. Now, each wields their weapon of choice: impeachment articles, Iran and Russia. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, and the president are nose-to-nose on the streets of Washington.

Mr. Nixon, I won’t ask if you regret what you did. It’s hard to define what that is. I won’t ask about how you felt that early August day as Gerald Ford assumed the presidency. I’ll save that for my next letter. What I will ask, though, is this: do you see any remnants of your world left? Frankly, Mr. President, I do not.


Mary Grace Heartlein