When Richard Nixon was a teenager, he watched two of his brothers die. His little brother went first, at age 7, of a sudden and mysterious illness. Then his big brother died at age 22, after a long battle with tuberculosis. It was the 1920s. Health insurance hardly existed. The sicknesses sapped his parents’ meager resources. His mother stopped baking pies for the family’s little grocery store to care full time for her ailing son. Nixon worked as a janitor to earn extra money, and turned down a scholarship to Harvard because it didn’t cover room and board.
When Nixon, a staunch Republican, became president in 1969, he threw his weight behind health care reform.