A pivotal figure in the expansion of government food stamps, which give low-income citizens financial aid for buying food, wasn’t a community organizer, philanthropist or far-left politician. It was Richard Nixon.
In the early 1970s, the Republican president was facing an eventual reelection campaign against George McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota and a champion of expanding federal aid. But unlike many of today’s post-Reagan conservatives, Nixon made a robust social agenda one of his hallmarks.
“Nixon was not going to be outflanked by anybody on domestic policy,” says Chris Bosso, a professor of public policy and political science at Northeastern University. “He had a remarkably liberal social agenda on the environment by today’s standards, on consumer safety, on food programs.”