The American political arena isn’t unfamiliar with impropriety. Startling parallels are continuing to emerge between the former Republican president Richard Nixon and the newly appointed ‘Wolf of the White House’ Donald Trump.
In times of heightened cultural division, Trump’s rhetoric demonising Mexicans and Muslims is all too reminiscent of Nixon’s war on drugs aimed at criminalizing black people.
Just days ago Trump’s fledgling ‘administration’ responded to Intelligence agent Christopher Steele’s accusations that Trump’s campaign managers had colluded with Kremlin officials by attempting a live censorship of the media at his New York press conference.
When asked to denounce the allegations made against him he branded one of the “Big Three” media outlets in the nation he will preside over as “fake news”. Trump’s campaign exuded echoes of Nixon’s campaign in 1968, a campaign synonymous with a harsh media strategy. Echoes of the Nixon’s era the remarks of a former New York Times General Counsel who wrote “many who covered the election for the press said they felt under threat with everything they wrote.”
Nixon presided over a period of history that was plagued with racial inequality. Trump’s foreign policy proposals have been similarly riddled with hatred and division.
The respective ‘secretive’ plans to destroy the threat of ISIS and remove American troops out of Vietnam are not just evidence of similarities in their rhetoric, but similarities in their actions. You will recall Presidential candidate Trump’s persistent attacks of Hilary Clinton’s handling of the Iraq war, all the while keeping quiet about his historic backing of the controversial conflict.
Being economical with the truth was a characteristic Nixon seemed to perfect as he similarly lied about his foreign policy, escalating the Vietnam War as he claimed to pour cold water over it.
A worrying parallel to draw here is Trump’s proposed plans to withdraw 28,000 troops from the Korean peninsula, because there is “no guarantee” of a peaceful resolution, as revealed in an interview with The New York Times. As North Korean nuclear capabilities appear to continue to grow, any deceptive policy replicating that of the 60s and 70s could prove disastrous.
The president elect is nothing less than a habitual liar, his twitter account goes some way to proving that. From claims he never mocked a disabled reporter to allegations Muslims were seen celebrating 9/11 the Billionaire businessman is no longer just a worry for the Grand Old Party, but the rest of the world too.
Trump and Nixon enjoyed campaign success due to one reason: the ability to identify a demographic.
Call it unashamed populism, call it nationalist narrative, the President-elect managed to appeal to an electorate that felt abandoned by mainstream politics, in the same way Nixon deployed his revolutionary ‘Southern Strategy’.
Nixon’s administration was famed for its utilisation of pre-existing racial tensions in southern states to harbour his electoral success. Nearly 50 years later, continuing in a similar vein, Donald Trump has branded Mexicans as ‘rapists’ and has been happily endorsed by former KKK leader David Duke.
It has to be acknowledged that Nixon departed the White House riding a wave of allegations surrounding his professional conduct. Trump's promise to purge the intelligence agencies ‘en masse’ if they’re not sympathetic to his values, creates a hive of potential whistle-blowers in the civil service. Combined with a bad record, impeachment becomes a very real possibility.
In a time of political disenchantment, European populism, and ever growing division, only more challenges are bound to rear their unwanted heads, putting even more pressure on Trump.
A new era of political scandal has emerged. Melania Trump’s plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speeches has been coupled with her husband’s blatant misogyny and now collusion with a kleptocratic Russia. What has become clear is that both Trump and Nixon’s respective campaigns were occasionally inseparable and often alike. However, what is still unclear, is whether they will end in a similarly untimely and disgraced fashion.
Out of the ‘so-called’ ashes of an Obama administration, that didn’t dare scrape the surface of a political scandal, has risen a capricious phoenix in Nixonesque form. The world can only hold its breath.