Echos of 1968 play right into the hands of a demagogue.
Could the riots outside rallies for Donald Trump like the one Tuesday night in New Mexico put Donald Trump in the White House?
Though most national polls show Trump trailing Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, many who follow politics closely believe that outside events such as another terrorist attack or convention protests that get out of hand could change that dynamic. And the violence in Albuquerque is starting to turn that possibility into a reality.
It is easy to imagine more protests getting out of hand because they already have. Let's face it, when crowds are setting fires, throwing rocks and destroying police cars, they are rioting, not protesting.
Rioting at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 helped underscore Richard Nixon’s “law and order” message and his promise to reach “an honorable end to the war in Vietnam,” the war being a major contributor to the social unrest of that awful year, which saw Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy gunned down by assassins and President Johnson choosing not to run for re-election.
TV images of young people being beaten by Chicago police and the disruption inside the Democratic convention hall with charges of “Gestapo tactics” used by cops to quell the riots reinforced voters’ concerns the country was out of control and needed a strong leader. “The whole world is watching,” chanted the demonstrators. So they were, and those images helped taint the Democrats and their nominee, Hubert Humphrey.
And the mood in America is already sour. Even Hillary Clinton acknowledges that the economy is bad and that too many people are suffering, though she doesn’t blame President Obama for this. She blames George W. Bush. The last I checked, Bush lost the ability to help or hurt the economy on Jan. 20, 2009. Obama promised to fix the economy and virtually everything else, but he has made things worse. According to a Real Clear Politics compilation of polls, between two-thirds and nearly three-quarters of voters say the country is headed in the “wrong direction.”
This is a major part of Trump’s appeal. Illegal immigration is out of control. The war against the Islamic State terrorist group, despite administration claims, is nowhere near an end. People are increasingly alarmed by the perceived threat of radical Islam here at home and abroad. Iraq is a mess, thanks to Obama’s precipitous pullout of U.S. forces before the government could be stabilized. Health care costs are soaring, and United Health Care has pulled out of the Obamacare exchanges in all but a "handful" of states, citing costs that the Obama administration promised would go down. Taxes to pay for this failing program will soon be rising.
The unemployment rate of 5% masks not only real unemployment by those who can’t find a job — including many graduating college students — but also people who are forced to work part-time or take jobs below their skill set and at salaries lower than they have been used to, given their experience and level of education.
And images of unrest are spreading. May Day violence by far-left demonstrators in Seattle and other cities that included attacks on police, along with anti-Trump demonstrations in Southern California and Fort Wayne, Ind., that featured children waving Mexican flags, holding signs reading “brown pride” and giving the middle finger salute to passersby, can only further inflame already unsettled voters.
There is a growing sense among many Americans that the country is in trouble, and that no one seems willing to help fix, let alone acknowledge, what’s wrong. Except Trump.
With renewed violence outside the candidate's rallies on view from every living room TV in America, the political climate is a perfect setup for a demagogue or a courageous leader. Which label fits Trump, we are about to find out.