Trump’s Lessons From Nixon Missed One Important ThingHistorians in the News
tags: Richard Nixon, Donald Trump
Mr. Trump’s photo op began with Nixon on his mind. Just before he marched across Lafayette Square, his path cleared by law enforcement who violently dispersed peaceful protesters, he declared himself “your president of law and order.” It was a conspicuous appropriation of the catchphrase Nixon deployed to sell himself as the candidate for Americans weary of the tumult of the 1960s. Then when Mr. Trump reached St. John’s Church, he held a Bible aloft for the cameras.
But there are plenty of reasons that messaging might be a harder sell today.
“The world has moved on,” said Rick Perlstein, author of the book “Nixonland.”
“Maybe the last laugh is on Donald Trump,” he continued, “the guy who had signs at his rallies saying ‘silent majority’ and who uses phrases like ‘law and order,’ and thinks he can run the same kind of script in a different act.”
Right now there appears to be no “silent majority” — at least in the sense that Nixon meant, when an actual majority of Americans resented the more vocal, left-leaning protest movements of the day.
Polls today show strong support for the demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. A Monmouth University poll released this month found that 57 percent of Americans thought that the anger that set off the current protests was “fully justified.” And 76 percent said that racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem. A separate PBS/NPR/Marist College poll found that 62 percent of Americans believed the protests were mostly legitimate.
“Inconceivable in 1968,” Mr. Perlstein added, when more Americans were on the side of the police.
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