2016: Nixon v. Nixon

the election we deserve
• July 26, 2016 11:09 am


If you divided Richard Nixon into two and imbued each of the Redux Nixons with one part of the 37th president's ugliest features, you might get an election something like 2016.

Let's think about our two major party choices at the ballot box this year.

On the one hand, you have a paranoiac whose maniacal need to protect her secrets caused her to endanger national security and receive an essentially unprecedented tongue-lashing from the head of the FBI in front of a national audience. From her initial tenure in the White House—when she denounced the "vast right wing conspiracy" lined up against her—to her current complaints about the coverage surrounding her shady dealings ("I often feel like there's the Hillary standard and then there's the standard for everybody else"), Hillary has long been filled with loathing for the bastards in the press corps and resented the lack of respect she has received from the opposition.

As with Nixon—who, remember, got into trouble for breaking into the Watergate to help win an election in which he carried 49 states—her paranoia could be self-defeating. Thanks to the Russia-backed hack of the DNC's email servers and the ridiculous "home-brew server" Hillary used during her tenure as secretary of state, we're going to spend the rest of the election waiting for the other shoe to drop. If her emails as head of the State Department are released three weeks before Election Day, even modest revelations could put Trump over the top in a tight race.

On the other hand, meanwhile, you have a guy who is running something like a viciously concentrated version of Nixon's "Southern Strategy." Trump's is a law-and-order, fear-and-loathing campaign that has focused on whipping up angst about illegal immigration of Mexicans and legal immigration of Muslims. It's one designed to appeal to rural whites who feel ignored by the eggheads in Washington, D.C., those voters who believe that corporate fat cats have shipped their jobs overseas (regardless of how fact-based those feels are). And, at least in that regard if no other, it's been remarkably successful: In a poll that showed Trump's post-RNC bounce putting him above Clinton for the first time, Trump actually lost support among college-educated whites while gaining the allegiance of whites without college education. Trump's going to need to win as many of those college-less whites as he possibly can, given that he's polling at literally zero percent with black voters in several key swing states and only 14 percent of Hispanics who are registered to vote support him.

The biggest difference between the two? No one likes a paranoiac, but there's a constituency for fear-and-loathing, law-and-order campaigns aimed at the "losers" of the modern global economy: as it happens, terrorism and the economy are the top two issues voters are concerned with. So when the poll watchers tell you that Trump has a shot in states like Pennsylvania, you should probably stop gazing at Hillary's gaudy fundraising numbers for a moment and listen up.

Regardless of who wins, Girl Nixon v. Boy Nixon is the election we all kind of deserve: a paranoiac with a persecution complex versus an unbalanced fearmonger ruthlessly dividing the electorate. Hooray, 2016!