BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In early June, in a piece titled "Watch Out for Trump Becoming the 'Law-and-Order' Candidate" I wrote: "Picture Trump kicking off the final months of the campaign with: 'We'll give you the greatest amount of law and order that you've ever seen. There will be so much winning law and order that you might get tired of things being so quiet.'" The police shootings in Dallas has apparently moved up the timetable for bringing the "law and order" meme into play.
In a speech to veterans in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Monday, July 11, Donald Trump, reacting to the police shootings in Dallas, declared himself the "law and order" candidate. He then went on to maintain that he is the "candidate of compassion."
"We must maintain law and order at the highest level, or we will cease to have a country. 100%, we will cease to have a country. I am the law and order candidate. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is weak, ineffective, pandering, and as proven by her recent e-mail scandal, which was an embarrassment, not only to her, but to the entire nation as a whole, she's either a liar or grossly incompetent. One or the other. Very simple," Trump said.
In a flip worthy of an Olympic gymnast, Trump said: "Not only am I the law and order candidate, but I'm also the candidate of compassion, believe it. The candidate of compassion. But you can't have true compassion without providing safety for the citizens of our country."
I was focusing on the demonstrations outside of Trump rallies that had turned violent; where anti-Trump protesters roughed up several Trump supporters, responding specifically to the scene outside the Convention Center in Anaheim, California, where pro-Trump supporters clashed with anti-Trump protesters.
By declaring himself the "law and order" candidate, however, Trump has ripped a page from the campaign playbook of Richard Nixon, who successfully ran for the presidency in 1968 as the 'law and order' candidate," Christine Wilkie reported for The Huffington Post. "Trump has also cribbed the Nixonian phrase 'silent majority' to describe his supporters -- who, like Nixon's, are largely white and middle class."
American RadioWorks' Stephen Smith and Kate Ellis pointed out that "Historian Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, says Nixon's victory in 1968 was 'one of the most improbable comebacks in American political history.'"
According to Smith and Ellis, "Democrats didn't take him seriously at first," figuring he would be beaten easily. "Rick Perlstein says Nixon could see that voters 'were angry at liberalism, angry at race riots in the city, and angry at violence on campuses.' In a world that seemed to be falling apart at the seams, Perlstein says, 'Richard Nixon reestablished himself as a figure of destiny by speaking to people's craving for order.'"
"Nixon defend[ed] his use of the term" law and order, and he maintained that it wasn't "a code word for racism." At one rally, Nixon ended with "Law and order is in the interest of all Americans. Let's just make sure that our laws deserve respect; then, they will be respected by all Americans."
Interestingly enough, according to The Huffington Post, "One of Trump's longest-serving political advisers was a Nixon campaign strategist, which may account for the verbal similarities. Roger Stone is not currently working for the Trump campaign, but on Monday, he posted a tongue-in-cheek image on Twitter following Trump's speech.
Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley thinks it preposterous that Trump would venture into law and order territory, because, "if you look with a careful eye at Donald Trump's career-long history of violating every possible law, rule, and norm at every possible opportunity, it starts to seem a touch hypocritical of him to present himself in this manner."
In addition, Mathis-Lilley points out, "Trump's current campaign manager has worked extensively on behalf of notorious human-rights criminals"; "Trump's former campaign manager was arrested on a battery charge after grabbing and yanking a female reporter"; "Trump panders to dangerous white extremists"; Trump has vowed on several occasions to violate U.S. and international laws"; "Trump's longtime butler and 'historian' has called for President Obama to be lynched"; "Trump was fined for violating racial discrimination laws in an effort to placate a mafia-affiliated tax-fraud felon who was a top casino customer"; "Another one of Trump's '80s associates was a cocaine trafficker for whom Trump reportedly did several legal favors"; "One of Trump's 'senior advisors' at the Trump Organization had been convicted of racketeering and of stabbing a man in the face," and so on and so on.
These would be important points if Trump supporters, and potential supporters, were actually interested in looking at their candidate with a careful eye. But, judging from the past year, looking at their candidate with a careful eye is not what attracts his followers. He may not be the "law and order" candidate as Mathis-Lilley concludes, but he is the first to reboot the "law and order" theme and being first has always been his strong suit.