The face of the Republican party in those days was Richard Nixon, a politician whose savvy and sly abilities existed in equal measure to his corrupt and evil proclivities. Nixon knew that much of mainstream, white America was afraid, and he used it to propel himself to the office of president. The strategy of fear is hardly a new one for the rightwing, but there seems to be times of anxiety-ridden unrest that make it an better, more effective approach than others. With the Vietnam War heating up, the younger generation everywhere in cultural revolt, race-riots bringing violence to the streets of America, it is hardly any wonder that Nixon was able to capitalize on fear.
Cut to modern day Cleveland where the Republicans have once again made fear of chaos the cornerstone of their political raison d'être. Trevor Noah caught the mood beautifully in his Daily Show segment. (It seems that you need an American VPN to watch it but if you have one you can see it here.)
The BBC gives us a glimpse into the fear in a report from yesterday.
Maybe there is not more to be afraid of in 1968 than there is today, but for mainstream white America, whose hold on society has never been more tenuous, the new fears are perhaps more unsettling than the old ones. After all, white Americans are fast being outnumbered by non-whites, America's economic supremacy is quickly disappearing, wages have flatlined for years, and secure, well-paying employment is a thing of the past. For Republicans, someone must be to blame for this state of affairs, and the rightwing mind always looks to the "other" when things look rough.
Four years ago when the Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama, the more astute Republican commentators said that the Grand Old Party was doomed unless it could begin to appeal to people outside it normal purview, to blacks and hispanics, to more women and younger people. Four years later, the Republican Party seems to have decided on the opposite tack; instead they are everywhere intentionally alienating those that four years ago they realized they needed to appeal to. As I said, fear makes people stupid.
It seems that nothing will divert Republicans from their chosen path. To chose a new way forward requires a change of heart or a cool and collected mind. It seems that the Republican Party is not going to embrace either of these.
When people are afraid, it is often for the wrong reasons; they are afraid of the wrong things. There is much to fear in today's world. But Republicans are mostly afraid of people with darker skin and people who don't look or think exactly like them. But if we learn anything from history it is that we learn nothing from history. It is hard to say if the Republican campaign of fear will take Trump to power the way it did for Nixon. I suspect that if Trump were to win, fear in the rest of the world, fear of what he would do, would make white, American fear look like a walk in the park.