You might not expect a presidential candidate to compare himself to America’s most crooked and disgraced President, but Donald Trump and his campaign chairman did just that this week.
Trump and chairman Paul Manafort said that, just as with Richard Nixon in 1968, Americans want a strong “law and order” leader at a time when it may feel like the country is coming apart.
They didn’t mention the racial appeals that lie at the heart of Trump’s campaign today, much as Nixon’s Southern Strategy embraced racists like Strom Thurmond.
Nor did they mention a very different slogan that Nixon used in 1968 to overcome his reputation as a divisive, partisan gut-fighter: “Bring Us Together.”
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From Rudy Giuliani’s screaming, arm-waving tirade to Ben Carson’s linking Hillary Clinton to Lucifer, there hasn’t been much “Bring Us Together” at Trump’s Republican convention. It’s more like “Drive Us Apart.”
In the end, Nixon’s darker instincts overcome his better angels. He became one of the most divisive, vengeful and hate-filled Presidents ever. He was driven out of office, eventually, by his own party.
Nixon had a gifted mind, but a tortured soul. The lesson is that character counts.
So this week Americans are getting a peek at the character of Donald Trump, the character of the Trump Republican Party (one that many Republicans reject) and the likely character of a Trump Presidency.
At their convention next week, Democrats have a chance to offer Americans a very different tone. They can offer to “Bring Us Together.”
Then Americans can decide in November which they want: Come together? Or fall apart?
Gary Pearce is a veteran N.C. Democratic strategist writing on the 2016 conventions. He and Republican strategist Carter Wrenn blog at talkingaboutpolitics.com.