When Richard Nixon ran for presidency for the second time, 1968 had already become one of the most turbulent periods in American history. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had brutally inflamed both white and minority citizens across the country. Although the walls of Jim Crow segregation had finally began to crumble, blacks and other minorities, for the most part, still found themselves confined to the rat infested ghettoes of the inner cities that were riddled with crime, drugs prostitution and other horrors. During protests over the MLK killing, these slums in most cities were set afire in protest over the horrible living conditions that blacks still had to endure after 250 years of slavery in America, followed by another 100 years of of Jim Crow semi-slavery. There were also massive marches and protests over the growing unpopularity of the Viet-Nam war which had already claimed tens of thousands of American lives in addition to the hundreds of thousands Viet-Nam dead. To say that for most Americans, the world had been turned upside down would be an understatement. But for Richard Nixon, a golden opportunity had presented itself.
During the election that year, Nixon developed two strategies that would propel him to the White House. The first was his Southern Strategy. Ever since Republican Abe Lincoln had set the slaves free during the Civil War, the South had voted solidly Democratic in election after election. Even though Southern Democrats were usually highly conservative and generally racist, especially compared to their more liberal Northern counterparts, Southerners kept pulling the levers for for the Democratic Party through Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and into the 1940s. That began to change in 1948 when a young Democratic Senator named Hubert Humphrey induced his party to begin championing the civil rights of blacks and other minorities. (Humphrey would eventually become his Party’s nominee in 1968 and lose to Nixon.) While the black population in most southern states was significant, and would generally vote Democratic, they were no match for the white majority in these states that began to vote as a bloc for Republicans. This would give Nixon and his party an assured 200 or so electoral college votes in all future presidential elections, in a system where it takes 270 to win. Today, in the 2016 election, Nixon’s Southern Strategy is still in full blossom.
Nixon’s second strategy was to appeal to the nation’s “Silent Majority” which was primarily comprised of older white people that had become fed-up with massive anti-war demonstrations and the arson being committed in most inner city slums. Sound familiar? Today at almost all the GOP rallies, you’ll see people holding signs saying “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.” As the song goes- “everything old is new again.” And, of course, this so-called silent majority is almost exclusively white. And why shouldn’t the majority of whites favor the GOP. It’s not whites, for the most part, that have to inhabit inner-city ghettoes. It isn’t whites that still face residual racism and discrimination in housing, employment, wages, social mobility and other areas. Hence, it’s primarily older whites that are propelling the Trump candidacy and placing a highly deranged, vulgar, obnoxious snake oil salesman peddling a neo-fascist and xenophobic elixir, within hailing distance of the Oval Office. The GOP is betting that the white majority in this country is still large enough to get The Donald the 270 electoral college votes he needs to be the next president. Even with hardly any support from minorities or younger white people. And since the Democrats have such a damaged candidate in Hillary Clinton, the Republicans are probably right.
As for Richard Nixon, he won 2 landslide elections and had many accomplishments; but his volatile and narcissistic personality, similar to Trumps, eventually did him in. He did end the Viet-Nam war to a great sigh of relief from the American public. He initiated diplomatic relations with China, which was a huge foreign policy initiative. Probably one of the top five foreign policy achievements of the 20th century. He significantly raised spending levels for health, education, and welfare. He even tried to legislate for universal health care; but, ironically, it was the Democrats that foiled him in that attempt. It didn’t go far enough, they said. But like Trump, Nixon had a fragile personality disorder. He kept an “enemies list” of people he thought were out to get him or do him in. If you were on Nixon’s enemies list, you were likely to receive a visit from an IRS agent seeking to audit your tax returns. He got involved and sought to cover up a break-in by some GOP low-level thugs of of Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in D.C. Nixon was re-elected in 1972 in a massive landslide, winning 49 out of 50 states. However, the Watergate scandal, as it came to be known, seemed to mushroom from petty larceny by some Republican hacks to presidential felony cover-up.
Two reporters from the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein, gained huge reputations for themselves by uncovering the sleazy details of the Watergate cover-up, and Nixon’s involvement. The air was steadily seeping out of the Nixon presidential balloon until, one day, Congressional members of his own party came to the White House and told him he had to resign the presidency or face impeachment. Nixon thus became the first president to resign from the Oval Office and lived out the remainder of his days in disgrace and humiliation.
Today, thanks to a majority of white voters, we’re on the verge of putting into the White House, a man that has an almost exact replica of Nixon’s personality disorder. As Yogi Berra might have put it, it’s like deja vu all over again.