DISCLAIMER: This is an article written for POI UK. Due to it’s relevance to American politics, it was re-uploaded to POI US. Therefore, the perspectives are British and from British parties, not American like other POI US articles.
Trump is not a Nixon candidate – Conservative Article
Trump recently did his closing speech at the Republican Party National Convention on Thursday 27 August 2020. In it, he spoke of the rioters, looters and anarchists on American streets, and how a Biden Presidency would make the situation worse.
Trump throughout has tried to display himself as the law and order candidate. He appears to be trying to emulate Nixon’s 1968 law and order campaign. He has also claimed that the silent majority will support him, as they did with Nixon. There are other similarities as well. However, I do not think he’s a Nixon-like candidate at all.
Firstly, let’s give some background to the 1968 election.
The election was fought between Republican challenger, Richard Nixon and Democrat Vice President incumbent, Hubert Humphrey. Lyndon B. Johnson had decided not to run due to the fact that the Vietnam War was not going well. There was also a third candidate, George Wallace, who was a segregationist trying to capitalise on the backlash of the Civil Rights movement.
Democrat Party splits were evident, between the Old left (older generational Democrats) and the New left (students and counterculture members). The Democrat convention in Chicago was also was a disaster there were anti-war protests that clashed with law enforcement. The political climate was strained by the assassination of Martin Luther King, which sparked protests and riots. This allowed Nixon to emphasis a theme of law and order and coined the phrase ‘silent majority’.
Although America faces widespread racial turmoil again, Trump differs from Nixon in several key ways.
In 1968, Richard Nixon was the challenger. In 2020, Trump is the incumbent. This means that in 1968 Nixon would have been able to point to the problems of the past few years and have some credibility in blaming the Democrats, those in power. But for Trump, this is not the case. He has been in power for four years and the country is in more turmoil than it was when he entered. Trump said in 2016 he would fix it, that he alone could restore law and order. But he has not done that.
On a side note of this point, by pledging he would fix it, Trump broke with two centuries of tradition where Presidents ask the people to trust each other and God. But, Trump breaking tradition is nothing new.
Even though the phrase ‘law and order’ might be the same, I believe that Trump and Nixon are using it to mean different things. Nixon defined it as ‘you cannot have order unless you have justice, because if you stifle dissent, if you just stifle progress, you’re going to have an explosion and you’re going to have disorder. On the other hand, you can’t have progress without order, because when you have disorder, and revolution, you destroy all of the progress you have.’ Nixon did not over promise, he merely stated that he would take action.
Trump takes the phrase a lot more literally. He sent federal agents into Portland without the Mayor’s or Governor’s permission and threatened to send more to other Democrat cities. In one case he even broke up a peaceful protest for a photo op by a church. He constantly over promises and overhypes his achievements, whereas Nixon kept it vaguer.
The law and order approach worked for Nixon for two reasons. Firstly, was the lack of credible opposition. In 1968 the Democrats were disunited, fighting an unpopular war and failing to keep order at even their own convention. Secondly, many white Americans at that time were anxious about the riots, and Nixon tapped into that. He tapped into it in a way that appealed to the majority of American people.
The same approach won’t work here. Democrats are united behind Biden. Trump uses this approach because he believes in the macho man, he is friends with several dictators, and he is an authoritarian. He is trying to demonise his opponent, to make voters think the alternative is much worse. However, this sort of message only works if he isn’t in power. He is trying to blame Democrat mayors but this only undermines him and makes himself seem powerless.
Nixon also had a lot more honour than Trump. When there were impeachment proceedings against him, Nixon resigned. This clearly shows that he accepts that he was going to be removed and that he did not fight it. Trump fought tooth and nail against his impeachment, accusing people of treason. Nixon would also honour a result of an election, but I do not think Trump would, as I explain here.
Trump’s rhetoric and actions are more like George Wallaces’. He overturned an Obama act intended to help racial segregation in housing. He has also claimed that the suburbs won’t be ‘bothered’ by low-income housing anymore, which is typically owned by minorities. It got to a point where Twitter had to label a tweet because it was echoing the language of former racists.
Ending on the point of the silent majority, I do not believe that they will support Trump. He never technically had the majority in the first place, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Recent polls suggest that Biden is still comfortably in the lead, though obviously that can change. People are also more vocal with their political opinions nowadays due to social media.
Trump could obviously still win. However, if he does it won’t be because he is a Nixon-style candidate. It will be because of Biden’s failures, and lack of policy.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
Trump is not like Nixon. Why are we debating this? – A Liberal Response
I completely agree with Kieran, but who is comparing Trump to Nixon? And what worth does this add to Trump 2020 rhetoric?
Like most of Trump’s 2020 campaign and by extension his presidency, he is lying. He tweeted “When the looting starts the shooting starts” and Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s departing counsellor, said on Fox and Friends “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on whose best for public safety and law and order”. Trump wants unadulterated violence in the streets. He’s attempting to present a snapshot of life under Biden to the American people during his own presidency and make them fear it.
Furthermore, Trump’s supporter base ranks violent crime and the economy as their number 1 and 2 key issues they care about coming into this election. So Trump has to stoke violent crime in order to deflect the blame of the economic crisis from his lack of action with coronavirus to the increased riots and protests.
I disagree on Nixon having ‘more honour than Trump’ because Nixon has no honour he only admitted the White House’s involvement with Watergateuntil the ‘Smoking gun tapes’ were released. If the bar for honour is accepting impeachment – I want a higher bar.
Even entertaining the idea of comparing Nixon to Trump is unhelpful as Nixon won his reelection campaign by a landslide- something we are hoping to not repeat in 2020.
Written by Guest Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn
Past comparisons are tempting, but Trump is a different breed – A Labour Response
It is tempting to draw parallels between Trump and Nixon – after all, they are the only two Presidents to have faced impeachment over illegal political activities. However, Kieran is right to have distinguished the two very different Presidents.
A quiet, awkward, deeply troubled man, Nixon bore little resemblance to the showboating egomaniac we find in office today. If anything, Nixon had more in common with Joe Biden. A career politician and a former two-term Vice President with a previous failed election campaign behind him, Nixon was firmly part of the establishment when he committed those high crimes and misdemeanours.
There’s also no third-party candidate to leech votes from either side; a George Wallace or Gary Johnson type figure is mercifully absent from the 2020 race.
I wouldn’t say Nixon had more “honour” than Trump either, but he certainly valued his reputation as a serious politician more. Trump has no such pretensions; he is just as aware as us that he scored the top job through a campaign of barefaced lies.
Nixon was desperate to regain esteem in the political sphere following Watergate, and painstakingly cultivated the persona of an elder statesman over the following decades. I can’t imagine Trump has a similar future of quiet diplomacy planned for after his Presidency.
The most compelling connection between Richard Nixon and Donald Trump is the Nixon tattoo on Roger Stone’s back.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Max Ingleby