1968 and 2016 — differences on which was harsher

The latest Washington Monthly posited twice on the differences between the tumultuous paranoia political currents for the years 1968 and 2016.  But it’s like this

Despite Donald Trump’s aspiration to re-create 1968’s law-and-order election (with Trump cast in the unflattering role of Richard Nixon), the violent crime rate isn’t doubling, as it did during the 1960s; it’s halved over the past two decades. When we look back on 1968, we understand that its tumult was mostly a reaction to large and abrupt shifts in societal arrangements concerning race, sexuality, and deference to any sort of authority.

The current year is quite different. Americans are worried not about sudden disruptions but about problems of long standing like wage stagnation, growing income inequality, Islamist terrorism, easy access to military-style firearms, and police brutality. The only really rapid change has been in social acceptance of homosexuals and, now, transgenders, and I’d be very surprised if LGBT issues play much of a role in the general election; Trump just doesn’t feel comfortable discussing them. Otherwise, the issues that voters are worked up about aren’t new. People don’t feel scared so much as fed up.

But still…

The biggest shock is that the generational divisions and racial intolerance that created so many ugly images and memories in 1968 are back with a vengeance nearly a half century later, along with a dizzying sense that we have no idea what comes next.

The National Review, meanwhile, compares 1968 to 2016 and finds…

Nineteen sixty-eight was a good year for a candidate to run on a platform of kicking the status quo to hell, but 2016 is the darker moment. Nineteen sixty-eight opened with the country getting pummeled in Vietnam in the Tet Offensive, saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and witnessed urban rioting that killed twelve in Washington, 16 in Detroit, 26 in Newark, and twelve more in Baltimore and Chicago. But in the ghoulish stakes of murder, ISIS-inspired terrorism against the West in the last year has spilt more blood than all the urban unrest of 1968.

In terms of violence, National Review ranks a couple of mass attacks — particularly the ones they can align to Islam (and remember, from the National Review’s political perspective, the attack in the Orlando night-club was something that doubles over to ISIS, as opposed to lone gun man claiming whatever’s available) than the overall violent crime rate, down over a two decade span if up a tad recently — as opposed to the 60s where the rate went up…

And while the Tet Offensive was, as Teddy White observed, “a complete military failure” for Hanoi, today’s jihadists have been all too successful in bringing their madness into the heart of Western communities.

But the real difference is economic.  The 1960s were a golden age.

And we’re back to issues of long-standing concern, as opposed to startlingly sudden dis-ruptures.

The National Review does make an interesting point about Nixon’s public temperament as opposed to Trump…

Nor did Nixon embrace a politics of rage in the way Trump has. Throughout 1968 he tempered calls for a crackdown on “rampant lawlessness” with assurances of moderation; sensing that the nation wanted calm, he purposefully ran a bland campaign with little overt choler. Where Trump’s anger is exuberant and bouffe, Nixon’s was closeted. He disliked face-to face confrontation. “You’re fired”? Not for Nixon. He would have sent Haldeman to get rid of the guy. In private he talked about kicking people, but the talk was mostly cathartic. “People blow off steam in different ways,” he explained to journalist David Frost. “Some of them kick the cat. I don’t like cats, but my daughters I should not have said that. But nevertheless, if there were one around I would probably kick the cat.”

Nixon’s most egregious cat-kicking was hypothetical. He once startled Henry Kissinger by talking about going nuclear in Vietnam, but it was just that, talk. When he came to act he was generally sober and self-controlled. He liked to invoke Teddy Roosevelt’s man-in-the-arena bloodlust, but he was always stealing away from the amphitheater, retiring to his hideaway in the Old Executive Office Building; he did much of his governing by memo. Gentle Dick.

Sure.  But America was watching Lawrence Welk instead of reality television.  Or at least the “Silent Majority” was… maybe that’s a key difference on Nixon’s “quiet” for Law and Order and Trump’s twitter-shouting — the tastes of the great masses.

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