Why President Donald Trump Could Be as Bad as Nixon – Or Worse

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tags: election 2016, Nixon, Trump

Ronald L. Feinman is the author of Assassinations, Threats, and the American Presidency: From Andrew Jackson to Barack Obama (Rowman Littlefield Publishers, August 2015).

Two threads are emerging that make for a relevant and scary connection between the 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon, and the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee to be the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump.

What is in common between Nixon and Trump?  Archie Bunker and mental instability.  Both Nixon and Trump are the heroes of the poorly educated white males in American society, who see the rise of minority groups in America—African Americans, Hispanic and Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans—as a growing threat to their economic status and to their past monopoly as the vast majority of Americans. 

Archie Bunker, portrayed by Carroll O’Connor (who happened to be liberal), on the series “All in the Family” perfectly fits the image of those Americans in the early 1970s who hated the civil rights movement and the opposition to the Vietnam War, and who now, forty-five years later, hate various minority groups and the fact that we have an African American President (who in many minds has not adequately dealt with the terrorism problem because he is a “secret Muslim”).  They do not want a woman in power, as their view of women then and now is that they are to be in a subservient role, so Hillary Clinton scares them. That they are losing their culture and nation to forces they can’t control terrifies them.

Not only are Archie Bunkers backing Trump as they did with Nixon, but the two men show alarming signs of mental illness. Richard Nixon was resentful of the “elites” as he perceived them, who he felt did not respect him, and he set out to attack the news media and do everything he could to undermine freedom of the press. He promoted widespread wiretapping and bugging and other illegal actions during his Presidency against his critics. 

Now Donald Trump, who has resentments against the “establishment” which does not “respect” him, has suspended the rights of the Washington Post  to cover his Presidential campaign. This reminds us of the role of that newspaper in exposing the Watergate scandal four decades ago.  It is likely that were Trump to win the White House, he would declare war on the press, and attempt to cover up the actions of his administration, denying Americans the right to know what their government is doing.  Trump, similar to Nixon, represents a dire threat to the concept that our government is inherently accountable for everything it says and does.  Without a media free to inquire and investigate, one can be certain that there would be massive abuses and scandals in a Trump Presidency. Such a situation could make Nixon and his scandals, including Watergate, seem minor by comparison.

Nixon was clearly mentally unstable, and Trump is demonstrating similar symptoms, seeing enemies everywhere, whom he is constantly prepared to denounce and obliterate. We know now that Nixon went to a psychiatrist and took medications, and while Trump may not have done the same, it is clear he desperately needs to be vetted as to his mental stability and the possibility he suffers from dementia, to which his father succumbed.

As stated in an earlier essay for HNN, both Nixon and Trump are egotists and narcissists, with Nixon being the most dangerous President we have had, but Trump now contending as a possible worse case than Nixon.  When one considers that Trump constantly promotes conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and so many other people and groups, and has utilized so much reckless rhetoric over the years and in his Presidential campaign, one can conclude that Trump is delusional much of the time (assuming it’s not just an act). Sadly, few in his circle seem in a position to challenge him. Trump is a “loose cannon” in a way that represents a dire threat to the Presidency and the nation, much as Richard Nixon was.

We were fortunate enough to push Nixon out of the Presidency without enduring long-term harm to the nation, but Donald Trump, if elected, could be expected to suppress the First Amendment and declare martial law in the event of another terrorist attack. We could have a “true believer” Fascist in power, backed by the “Archie Bunker” crowd, who would be cheering him on.  Civil war between racial, ethnic and religious groups could break out, and we could be in the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War. The question is who would save us from a total breakdown in such a circumstance if Republican leaders now seem reluctant and unwilling to do anything about Trump’s bizarre behavior even before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Donald Trump is a clear menace to American democracy and our constitutional system, and his psychological state is a threat to all Americans. Let us hope that Archie Bunker’s desires for a Trump victory are overcome by the sanity and common sense of the American people.

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