Trump is no Nixon

By renominating in 1968 its candidate of 1960, the Republican Party seemed to be repudiating its radical lurch to the right under Barry Goldwater in 1964—and offering a return to the civil-rights Republicanism of the recent past: Nixon had served for eight years as the vice president of that most consensus-minded of presidents, Dwight Eisenhower.

Nixon’s message of a return to calm and peace resonated because he stoked memories of a presidency that had delivered just that. In 1968, Americans remembered well that Eisenhower had promptly extricated the United States from the Korean War, which he’d inherited from his Democratic predecessor. Nixon promised to do the same in Vietnam…

Today, we know the Nixon of the secret tapes: crude, amoral, often bigoted. The public Nixon of 1968, however, behaved with the dignity and decorum Americans then expected in a president. Trump in 2020 occupies the place not of Nixon, but of Daley and George Wallace: Trump is the force of disorder that is frightening American voters into seeking a healing candidate—not the candidate of healing who can restore a fair and just public order. Trump on Sunday retweeted a right-wing media personality: “This isn’t going to end until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys.”