There were no echoes of Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America,” George H.W. Bush’s “kinder and gentler nation” or even George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism in Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination here Thursday night. Instead, in both theme and target audience, Trump offered a powerful echo of Richard Nixon almost 50 years ago.No accident. At The New York Times, Michael Barbaro and Alexander Burns write:
Trump’s speech proved once again that he would continue to throw out the traditional campaign rulebook that might dictate softer language and broader appeals. Instead, he offered his grim portrait of the country and a law-and-order message in the hope of summoning an army of disaffected and forgotten voters large enough to topple the political status quo in November.
In a startling disclosure on the first day of the convention, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, declared that the candidate was using, as the template for his own prime-time speech accepting the Republican nomination, Nixon’s convention address 48 years ago in Miami Beach. “If you go back and read,” Mr. Manafort said at a Bloomberg News breakfast, “that speech is pretty much on line with a lot of the issues that are going on today.”Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR:
Mr. Trump himself, in an interview, drew explicit comparisons between his candidacy and Nixon’s, and between the current political climate and that of the United States in 1968.
“I think what Nixon understood is that when the world is falling apart, people want a strong leader whose highest priority is protecting America first,” Mr. Trump said recently. “The ’60s were bad, really bad. And it’s really bad now. Americans feel like it’s chaos again.
However, in many ways, the America Trump will address differs vastly from Nixon's America. By the time of 1968's Republican convention, both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated, and destructive riots had torn through major U.S. cities. Meanwhile, thousands of young soldiers were dying overseas — that year, casualties in Vietnam would reach their peak — and the Cold War was the backdrop to U.S. foreign relations.
And yet: Amid the horrors and divisions of 1968, Americans weren't as polarized as they are today; the major-party presidential candidates weren't nearly as disliked; and Washington wasn't as distrusted. Nixon was appealing to a nation still hoping for a solution to its ongoing catastrophes — a nation in which an overwhelming majority of Americans believed he was of "high integrity." Trump, meanwhile, is addressing a nation in which a majority of voters view him unfavorably, and where even more have seemingly little expectation that government can solve its problems.