This afternoon, I watched Richard Nixon’s speech accepting the nomination for president at the 1968 Republican convention. 1968 was a crazy year. One of the most fascinating classes I took in college was a class entirely devoted to the things that happened in 1968. Race relations were abysmal, the economy was stagnant, our position in the world was shaky, we were mired in an unpopular war, and crime was rapidly rising. It was a year that isn’t very different from 2016. Many of the issues that voters were thinking about then are similar to what people are thinking today.
It was an incredible speech from Nixon and it was impossible not to be reminded of Donald Trump at least a few times while watching it. There was something about this speech that really resonated today. The mannerisms. The talking points. The vernacular. You can make the argument it could have been delivered today. Watch it for yourself. It’s long, but you won’t regret it.
You can read the transcript here as well. Can you tell I really want you to check this out?
The central themes of this speech: Law and order. Opportunity for all Americans. Regaining respect in the world. Economic growth. Fighting bloated bureaucracy.
Sure, you can make the argument that those things matter every election. But the way in which Nixon talked about them is eerily similar to the language we hear today. Including a couple references to the greatness of America that obviously ring a bell today.
As you know, Nixon went on to win that election. A man from a poor family in Whittier, California who had his political career written off time after time, not unlike Trump, ended up uniting the country, winning the White House, and ending the war in Vietnam.
Say what you want about Watergate, but it looks as serious as stealing a pack of gum when you compare it to some of the shenanigans we see today.
We hear the comparisons between Trump and Reagan all the time and I don’t even really feel comfortable making a solid comparison between Trump and Nixon. I mean, Nixon’s conservatism on its worst day is probably on the same level as Trump’s on its best.
But, watching this speech, it is impossible to ignore the way in which Nixon’s words resonated and not be reminded of how Trump’s have resonated in a very similar way over the past year or so.
You’ve heard it a million times.
Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.