Spinning the protests: Is Donald Trump to have the success of Richard Nixon?
Will Trump do what Nixon did and use protests to help win him an election?
Most aspects of history tend to repeat themselves in later years. Despite the need to remember history to avoid this very situation, it happens often. One such example could be set to repeat itself in the coming months, that being the successful spin of riots by President Richard Nixon and, very soon, present day incumbent Donald Trump.
In 1968, President Nixon was confronted with across the country in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King. This event, combined with the increasing resentment of the American people toward their nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War, turned the streets of America into a tinder box. America seemed likely to implode in the summer of ’68.
Nixon unveiled the ‘law and order’ policy and addressed the millions of Americans who were not rioting, who he referred to as ‘forgotten Americans’. He relied on these people turning on the smaller number who were out on the streets.
1968, like 2020, was the year of an election. It was also equally tense, with the struggles for equality raging on the streets. Richard Nixon used the violence to his advantage, claiming that if he was President, he would clamp down chaos in the streets. This included the protesting of the assassination of MLK and the anti-war condemnation taking place in college and university campuses across the country.
Nixon said he would bring law and order back to the streets of America by the end of the decade, and it helped him to narrowly defeat incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
In 2020, President Trump’s condemnation seems similar in many ways. He too has criticised those out on the streets, but he has arguably done so with far less presence. Whether or not Richard Nixon would have been glued to Twitter as much as the current Oval Office occupant is at the moment is something the world will never know, but its fair to say Trump seems intent on fanning the flames of those protesting far more than Nixon did in 1968.
One element of this could be arrogance, its perfectly possible that Trump feels confident that his opponent in the coming election is of no real cause for concern. Overall and in comparison, Joe Biden is dwarfed by Humphrey in terms of political popularity, with the latter being a respected member of the Lyndon Johnson government during the mid-60s.
The riots in 2020 have also stemmed from the unlawful death of a black man. George Floyd was murdered by police last month, and the world wanted justice. Trump sent in the National Guard to disperse the protestors, and then posed with a bible outside a church in Washington DC; but not before his path to church was cleared by use of teargas and police officers. It was a PR stunt, and one which took place with thousands still on the streets elsewhere in the country. all it really achieved was to fuel the fires of the anti-Trump campaign, not that this particular fire needed much more stoking.
President Nixon wanted to stop rioting and protesting which had been a staple of America throughout the 1960s. The struggle for civil rights, the growing anti-Vietnam protests and a need to move away from New Deal style politics helped to get him into the White House at the end of the decade.
The Trump administration has continued to be heavy handed with protestors, and the wait to see if their attempts to capitalise on the anger of millions in the same was as Nixon 52 years ago will be over when Americans go to the polls in December.
Both Presidents were in office during chaotic times for America, the struggle for racial equality intensified in the 1960s and it can be argued that because even now, 60 years later, millions still take to the streets to protest the unlawful killing of black Americans, the country is still more fractured than ever. In reality, its far more than an argument; its an outright fact.