If this is like 1968 then Trump is in big trouble

If Donald Trump were the GOP challenger, running to unseat President Hillary Clinton, the violence sweeping over America’s cities might well have worked to his advantage. But he’s not. He is a deeply polarizing and, by historic standards, unpopular president who has overseen almost four years of unrelenting chaos and drama—white nationalist violence in Charlottesville and beyond, bitter attacks on the press, temper tantrums on (and now against) social media, a botched response to Covid resulting in 100,000 deaths and a broken economy, and criminal scandals of a volume not seen since the Harding administration. He was also impeached earlier this year, though that seems an eternity ago…

Unlike Johnson, Trump has proved stubbornly indifferent to the responsibilities of governing. He shuns expertise, science, data or any of the other assets a typical president avails himself of. He has little in the way of achievement that he can point to. He thrives on division, where LBJ sought to make America a more inclusive place for people of color, the poor and the left behind. In this regard, the two men are night and day, both in how they’ve executed the job and the moral bearing they brought to it.

But if Trump walks like Nixon and talks like Wallace, he looks a lot like Lyndon B. Johnson, a president who by 1968 seemed unable to put the country back together. If what today’s Middle Americans (or, in Nixon’s words, “forgotten Americans”) want is an end to the violence, drama and discord, this week’s unrest may ultimately benefit the one candidate who has built his brand on a basis of empathy, shared sacrifice and loss and a sunny belief in a better tomorrow. 2020 could be Joe Biden’s year.