You Can’t Be the ‘President of Law and Order’ if You Thrive on ChaosBreaking News
tags: 1968, Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, Law and Order
A “law-and-order” campaign just isn’t available to Trump. If there is anyone who occupies a similar position to Nixon in this campaign, it’s Joe Biden, the vice president to a still-popular former president who is running as the candidate of normalcy and stability.
The simple truth is that comparisons to 1968 should be made sparingly. Yes, we have mass civil unrest, but it’s impossible at this stage to say how it will play out in November and you can’t simply plot the circumstances of a half-century ago onto the present. There are too many differences. There is no Vietnam War or disintegrating Democratic coalition. Our unrest is happening against a backdrop of deprivation and deep inequality, not the relative prosperity of the late 1960s. And while Trump benefits from a devoted coalition, it remains a vocal minority, not a “silent majority.”
The protests are different too, encompassing a large, diverse cross-section of America. In turn, there appears to be greater sympathy for the protesters and their grievances, so much so that most public officials outside of the president and his closest allies have shown some understanding of the anger and discontent even as they oppose riots and disorder.
All of this gets to a larger point. History can be incredibly useful for analyzing and understanding the present — that is, in fact, the aim of much of my writing. But we shouldn’t forget that our circumstances are not theirs, and our future cannot be divined from the events of the past. We simply do not know what comes next, nor can we predict the events that — as we have seen with the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd — can move an entire nation from one path to the other.