FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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.

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail