2020 Elections: Shades Of 1972

by Tim Donner

We are told in scripture that there is nothing new under the sun. Live long enough, and you come to realize the truth in that simple but power-packed piece of wisdom.

As we face the presidential election next year, consider the following political landscape: a Republican president reviled by the left and the media; the corresponding growth of a radical, collectivist resistance; and a Democratic Party blinded by hate, overcome by nonsensical policy prescriptions driven purely by emotion, and consequently prepared to nominate a far-left candidate for president. And somehow believing such a candidate could take down a despicable president elected by a previously silent majority.

Richard Nixon

We’re talking 2020, right? Actually, it was 1972.

Richard Nixon had won a narrow victory in the presidential election four years earlier in 1968, when the nation was riven by the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, race riots across the land, and growing protests over the Vietnam War. Revolution was in the air. Nixon appealed to voters who were turning against the war but rejecting the growing violence and anti-Americanism in the anti-war and hippie movements, which shook the country to its core and threatened the status quo.

Once Nixon captured the White House, the resistance turned up the heat. And in 1972, a senator from the far-left fringe of the Democratic Party, George McGovern, wrested the presidential nomination from establishment figures Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey and, believe it or not, segregationist George Wallace (in those days, the Democratic Party was more, shall we say, eclectic). Wallace was the victim of an assassination attempt while campaigning, rendering him a paraplegic (though incredibly he won primaries in Maryland and Michigan the following day), and the establishment candidates split the vote, allowing McGovern to seize the nomination and face Nixon in the general election.

Both Nixon and Trump were positioned by the left as radical conservatives, when in fact both supported multiple positions in accord with left-of-center thinking. In addition to his groundbreaking policy of detente with the Soviet Communists and historic reestablishment of relations with China, Nixon ended the military draft, established the Environmental Protection Agency, signed Title IX restrictions outlawing gender bias, and implemented wage and price controls. But none of that mattered, because the left believed Nixon to be evil.

Trump has decried the Iraq War and followed a non-interventionist foreign policy, which historically the left has favored. He has opened negotiations with the North Korean Communist regime, initiated trade deals that protect American unions, and supported criminal justice reform, campaign finance reform, infrastructure buildout, and protection of entitlement programs such as Social Security. But like Nixon, those positions are of little consequence to leftists repulsed by the 45th president.

Though a lot can change in the 20 months leading up to the next election, the similarities to 2020 are striking. The current president is even more despised than Nixon, the resistance is similarly full-throated, and the Democrats appear hellbent on delivering their nomination to one of a boatload of candidates tripping all over themselves to prove they are further to the left than the rest of the pack, can check the most intersectional (identity politics) boxes, and hate Trump the most.

In 2016, the Democrats tipped the scales in favor of establishment candidate Hillary Clinton in her battle with Bernie Sanders, just as they had done in 1968, in both cases infuriating their political base. So in 2020, just as in 1972, the party eliminated the rules that provided a built-in advantage for party favorites.

McGovern, pouncing on the new primary configuration, supported unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam, dramatic reductions in the military budget, and an overhaul of the welfare system in favor of a “guaranteed income” for all Americans. The Democratic field for 2020 favors all manner of government guarantees: “free” income, “free” healthcare, and “free” college, among other things. And, of course, there’s the Green New Deal, supported by the entire current top tier of candidates, which would shift control of the entire economy to the federal government at a cost of tens of trillions of dollars

Yes, we have seen this movie before.

And oh, by the way, what was the result of the ‘72 election? Nixon won the popular vote 62%-38%  and captured 49 out of 50 states.


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