FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Secret Plans for the General Election: Trump 2016 & Nixon 1968

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 10.17.01 PM

Photograph courtesy of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

 

Hillary Clinton, her eyes on the general election and Donald Trump, unveiled her latest attack against the Republican front runner yesterday at a rally in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

This line of attack aims to show that Trump is a con artist, a liar, and has no actual plans for any of the policies he’s “outlined.” Clinton apparently believes that by pointing out that the Republican nominee has no substance behind his ideas, she’ll reap the benefits in November.

But history is not necessarily on her side. Almost 50 years ago, “secret plans” won an election for a political con man, and it could happen again.

In 1968, the US was being torn apart. Protests over the Vietnam War were escalating, the country was bitterly divided along age and racial lines, and a well known former Vice- President had captured the Republican nomination. His name was Richard Nixon.

Nixon had lost in 1960 to John F Kennedy, and he wasn’t prepared to face defeat again. His campaign used white backlash to the Civil Rights Act as the base of its appeal. Nixon’s coded language of “law and order” and “state’s rights” told those opposed to integration that he was one of them, while third party candidate George Wallace provided cover for the logical extension of those views.

But Nixon still had to appeal to a chunk of the general electorate if he wanted to win. And in order to do that, he had to address the war.

Nixon told the electorate that he had a “secret plan” that would end the war in Vietnam.

Of course, no such plan existed. Nixon wanted the war to continue, and hoped to avoid at all costs an “October surprise” of the wars conclusion before November. So he concocted a vague plan designed to sound relatively official while keeping the specific (and non-existent) details hidden until his election.

Nixon said that, upon becoming president, he would (1) arrange a summit meeting with the Soviet leaders to gain their help in ending the Vietnam War, and (2) seek to “de-Americanize” the Vietnam conflict.

None of this would come to pass with his election, of course. But it didn’t matter. The “secret plan,” which was laughed at by his political opponents for being so transparently fraudulent, didn’t hurt his candidacy. If anything, it may have helped Nixon and added to his supporters’ faith in him.

So when you hear Clinton mocking Trump, as she did on Monday, remember that she’s coming from a position of believing the American people won’t buy Trump’s bullshit plans to restore American jobs, build a wall between the US and Mexico, and defeat ISIS.

Clinton:

“So let’s suppose, here is the question, ‘so what is your plan to create jobs,’ His answer is, ‘I am going to create them, they are going to be great, I am going to do it. But I am not telling you what it is that I am going to do.”

“Now some people might say, well, all anybody wants to hear is just, ‘I am going to do it. I am not telling you how.’ I don’t believe that,” she added.

The likely democratic nominee may not believe that, but the historical record shows pretty clearly that if the electorate believes in the candidate, the details or reality of that candidate’s plans are secondary to the force of personality behind them and the power of the people’s belief.

It’s a truth that Clinton had better find a way to push back on, or she’ll lose the easiest general election match-up in a generation.

 

More articles by:

Eoin Higgins has a master’s degree in history from Fordham University. He lives in New York.

June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail