Law And Order Won’t Help Trump Win ReelectionRoundup
tags: 1968, Richard Nixon, Donald Trump, 2020 Election, Law and Order
Kevin M. Kruse is a professor of history at Princeton University. He is co-author of Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974. Follow on Twitter
As protests over police brutality rage across the nation, President Trump predictably responded with a call for an aggressive response against rioters.
“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,” he tweeted Sunday. “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW.” On Monday, he held a conference call with the nation’s governors, urging them to seek “retribution” against rioters he characterized as “scum” and “terrorists.” “You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks,” he told the governors; “you have to arrest and try people.” His approach was summed up in a simple all-caps tweet: “LAW & ORDER!”
The president’s theme is a familiar one for him. During the 2016 campaign, he insisted that “I am the law and order candidate,” and during his inaugural address he promised that “this American carnage stops right here and right now.”
Now his aides reportedly believe the approach will work well for his reelection campaign, staged against a drumbeat of demonstrations and uprisings. “Some in the president’s circle see the escalations as a political boon,” the New York Times reported Monday, “much in the way Richard M. Nixon won the presidency on a law-and-order platform after the 1968 riots.”
While the future of American politics is impossible to predict, that statement reveals a serious misreading of the past. This year, Trump may try to replicate the rhetoric of his predecessor’s campaign, but there’s one important aspect he can’t copy — the fact that Nixon, unlike Trump, wasn’t president when he waged it.