2016: Two Nixons, One Election

Joanne Butler | Former Staffer, House Ways and Means Committee

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are using Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign playbook, but they’re reading different chapters. In my opinion, it’s Hillary who’s more Nixonian than the Donald.

Like Nixon, Trump has adopted a ‘law and order’ stance after the recent targeted shootings of police officers and the after-effects of the anarchist ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. BLM arranges a protest, the result being a stage for the loudest, angriest, and most chaotic ‘activists’ to get media face time.

Granted, this summer is not like the summer of ’68. Cities aren’t burning, but what’s happening to police officers is, perhaps, more chilling.

In 1968, suburbanite whites locked their doors and hoped the riots would not spread beyond the inner cities – and they didn’t.

In 2016, America has a black president, and black police officers at every level (e.g., Dallas’ police chief David Brown), but police officers of all races feel under siege.

In response, liberals have embraced the Black Lives Matter’s language, if not the organization itself.

One church here in Wilmington, Delaware has a ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner on its property. Ironically, it’s located in a fashionable, largely while suburban community (as opposed to Wilmington’s inner city).

I’m waiting for this banner: ‘Family Marriage: Best Defense for Young Black Males.’ But I’m not holding my breath.

Trump has recognized that a large segment of the nation’s populace, especially white working-class Americans, are fed up by notions of ‘microagressions,’ ‘white privilege,’ and hate-filled language. Thus, Nixon’s law and order theme makes perfect sense for Trump.

Recall, however, that Nixon was a complex person, and there’s plenty of room within his complexities for Hillary Clinton.

Nixon’s resentments go back to his undergraduate days at Whittier College. He was unable to join a college club, so he founded his own, the ‘Orthogonians’ in 1929. He couldn’t afford to go to Harvard Law, settling for a scholarship at Duke Law, where he graduated third in his class. Graduating in the midst of the Depression in 1937, his Duke record wasn’t enough to get him a job in a New York law firm (another resentment), and he returned home to rural Whittier to practice law.

Now look at Hillary Rodham’s 1969 Wellesley commencement speechMy favorite quote from it:

But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living.

She engaged in some white-privilege angst too:

We worried about inside Wellesley questions of admissions, the kind of people that were coming to Wellesley, the kind of people that should be coming to Wellesley, the process for getting them here.

Hillary and her friends also agitated for a pass-fail system, probably because grades were a remnant of the patriarchal system of classifying people based on performance.

While the tone of her speech is not filled with red-hot resentment, it’s bubbling just beneath the surface.

This speech made her a media star at the age of 21. Yale Law School was next, where she met Bill Clinton in 1970. When she graduated, it’s unclear if she refused offers from prestigious law firms – or never got them. In 1973 she went to work for fellow Yale Law grad Marion Wright Edelman at her Children’s Defense Fund. The next year, she had a brief stint on the Democrat side of the Watergate investigation committee, and was made a member of the CDF board.  

When Nixon resigned, the committee closed up shop, and Hillary went to Arkansas, where she finally became a member of a law firm (the Rose Law Firm) when Bill (now her husband) became Arkansas Attorney General in 1977.  

To go (in less than ten years) from a young political media star down to an associate counsel in a flyover country law firm (and getting the job because of her husband’s status) must have been painful. And perhaps a cause of Nixon-like resentment?

The Hillary of 1969 and 1973 morphed into a creature with a chip on her shoulder. That chip resulted in iffy cattle futures trades, Rose Law Firm billing documents (related to the dubious Whitewater real estate deal) that disappeared then magically reappeared, national security-related emails stored on Hillary’s personal computer server, etc.

One turning point came in 1996, when Bill worked with Newt Gingrich to enact welfare reform. Hillary supported Bill’s efforts, causing her and (former mentor) Edelman to part ways. Twenty years later, their relationship remains cold but outwardly cordial. 

This year, there’s one election looming in November, but two Nixonian candidates. We’re fortunate as we’ll get to choose the Nixon we want: one that would improve civil order in America’s cities, or one who has a mania for hiding documents plus a history of being economical with the truth.

Either way, the result will be “Nixon’s The One!” But which one?

Tags : donald trump hillary clinton joanne butler richard nixon
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