When Nixon decided to run for president in 1968, he was a long shot. After all, he had failed in his bid eight years prior and he had lost the California governors race. After that last defeat he uttered the famous line, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” He then left public life and joined a law firm in New York.
By the time he was running again, the country was a different place than in 1960. The media, dominated by the Left, still hated him over Alger Hiss. His brand of politics seemed painfully old fashioned. His appeal to normal people struck the chattering classes as absurd. More important, Nixon had a bad brand, as the cool kids today are fond of saying. There was simply no way to sell old Tricky Dick to the public.
Five years later a young woman named Hillary Rodham was working as a low-level staffer on one of the House committees investigating Watergate. Jerry Zeifman, a counsel and chief of staff of the House Judiciary Committee, later wrote that she was a liar and a fanatical Nixon hater. He claims to have fired her. This claim is hotly disputed by Clinton supporters, because it looks bad for Clinton and it could possibly be true. Even so, Mrs. Clinton is strangely linked to old Tricky Dick.
I say that because here we are 40 years later and a well past ripe Hillary Clinton is trying one last shot at winning the presidency. Like Nixon, she is doing this as the latest Great Liberal Awakening reaches a denouement. As was true then, the current Democratic coalition is falling to pieces. The internal contradictions are ripping it apart. Similarly, there are looming economic and international problems facing the country.
The biggest point of comparison, of course, is personality. Like Nixon, Hillary has a well defined brand. That brand is not a flattering one. Even the most stalwart of Clinton supporters acknowledges that she is physically incapable of telling the truth. They laugh about it and treated as a quirk, but it says something when your best friends think you are a sociopath. Nixon people used to joke about their boss’s reputation for skullduggery, but it was never a compliment.
The differences are there too. Nixon was a very smart man, maybe one of the smartest presidents in the modern era. Nixon was also a foe of liberalism at a cultural level. This was as much personal as anything else, but he really hated the hippies. He could plausibly run as an antidote to the excesses of the Progressives. Clinton is in a very different position as sort of an old school lefty throwback and a member of the Democrat Party.
Even so, you can see how she intends to run as sort of an antidote to the last eight years. She will be Obama without the hatred for whitey. Her initial roll-out features nothing but white people. It is heavy on the homosexuals, young women and mothers. Hillary wants to position herself as a the wise old granny who could possibly be a lesbian, but is not making a big deal out of it.
Long term, the plan is to follow the Nixon model and be the champion of the downtrodden. Her trip to Chipotle is just one of many stunts intended to picture her as a regular person. Politicians often do this, but it is in contrast to Obama’s unrestrained elitism. Obama would show up at an ice cream shop to be flattered by his subject. Hillary shows up at a taco shop to mix with her people.
Whether it will work is hard to know. The Progressives hold all the high ground in American culture. Liberalism is the one true faith and Hillary is a member. If the choice is between her and some raging heretic, all the resources of the political class will swing her way. If the alternative is some accommodating trimmer like Jeb Bush, then I suspect Clinton 2016 looks like a parody of Dole 1996. Perhaps she will take a header of a stage as well.
Another departure from Nixon is that Tricky Dick went into his race fully aware of his reputation. Clinton, so far, appears to believe the bullshit being fed to her by the consultants. That goofy looking logo and campaign video has been the butt of jokes on social media all week. A lot of people hated Nixon, but no one laughed at him.
I think the biggest thing with Nixon is he could plausibly argue that he was right all along. In 1964 Goldwater ran on the slogan, “In your heart you know he right.” By 1968 most people had figured that out and could see it on their TV. Nixon did not have to make the same pitch because it was manifest. Voting for Nixon was, to a small degree, about normal people regaining control of their country.
Hillary, in contrast, has always been wrong. The one and only thing she has gotten right in 40 years is that Obama was not ready for the job. That’s the one thing she can’t say in this campaign. If anything, she is a reminder that the last 25 years have been a disaster and the country went down the wrong path when electing the vulgarians known as The Clintons. Symbolically, a vote against Hillary is a vote for closing the books on a run of very bad choices.