Trump’s Thinks 2020 Will Be a Repeat of 1968

Nixon’s call for “law and order” resulted in a resounding victory. That may not work this time around.

On the day that Trump staged his photo-op in front of a church, Tucker Carlson ranted that the president should return to his instincts when it comes to responding to the protests against police brutality. There is one person in particular that Carlson blamed for the fact that Trump strayed from that path.

Claiming Trump will lose in November if he doesn’t ratchet up his response to the protests, Carlson blamed Kushner for not understanding the gravity of the situation and advising Trump not to address the situation.

“No one has more contempt for Donald Trump’s voters than Jared Kushner and no one expresses it more frequently,” Carlson said.

Adding that Trump’s “law and order” worldview remains “fundamentally unchanged” since he first ran for president, Carlson insisted that the president’s “famously sharp instincts” have been “subverted at every level” by Kushner.

While Trump appears to sense that Kushner is leading him in the “wrong direction,” Carlson said, Kushner convinced the president to pass criminal justice reform in order to win over black voters.

“Several times over the past few days, the president signaled he was very much liking to crack down on rioters,” he continued. “That is his instinct. If you watch it—you believe it. But every time he’s been talked out of it by Jared Kushner and by aides that Kushner has hired and controlled.”

That is the context for a report from Jonathan Swan that Trump regrets taking advice from Kushner.

President Trump has told people in recent days that he regrets following some of son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s political advice — including supporting criminal justice reform — and will stick closer to his own instincts, three people with direct knowledge of the president’s thinking tell Axios.

One person who spoke with the president interpreted his thinking this way: “No more of Jared’s woke s***.” Another said Trump has indicated that following Kushner’s advice has harmed him politically…

Trump has made clear he wants to support law enforcement unequivocally, and he won’t do anything that could be seen as undercutting police.

We can all enjoy the spectacle of Trump taking Carlson’s advice over Kushner’s. But not many of us have a dog in that fight. The more salient point is that, even though Trump has consistently touted criminal justice reform whenever the topic of Black voters comes up, he now seems to have decided that it hurt him politically. That is because, as one person told Swan, “He truly believes there is a silent majority out there that’s going to come out in droves in November.”

All of that talk about “law and order” and a “silent majority” makes it clear that Trump’s instincts are to assume that he can do a repeat performance of Nixon’s victory in the 1968 election. It also tells us that the president’s instincts are racist. In a confrontation between African Americans and police brutality, Trump is clear about which side he stands on.

Numerous people have weighed in on the question of whether 2020 is a repeat of 1968. I recently watched the PBS documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and many parallels were striking, not the least of which was then-California Governor Ronald Reagan objecting to the efficacy of the Panthers protesting at the state capital while armed. One has to wonder what he would have said about white people doing to same thing to protest precautions taken during a pandemic.

But the documentary is a good reminder of the fact that the Black Panthers were founded in Oakland, California for the specific purpose of protecting African Americans in that city from police brutality. They did so armed and unapologetically, which is why they were viewed as such a threat.

When it comes to comparisons to 1968, the centrality of police brutality hasn’t changed. But is there a “silent majority” out there ready to support a president who vows to impose “law and order” by supporting law enforcement unequivocally? Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t think so, which is why he is uncharacteristically hopeful.

I don’t want to overstate this, but there are significant swaths of people and communities that are not black, that to some extent have some perception of what that pain and that suffering is. I think that’s different.

In the 1968 presidential election, voters gave Nixon’s “law and order” response a resounding victory. It’s clear that Trump’s instincts are to attempt a repeat performance in 2020. In about four months we’ll find out whether America has changed over the last 52 years.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.