I've suggested before that 2016 is beginning to look more and more like 1968. This is true in terms of the presidential contests—on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is Eugene McCarthy, Hillary Clinton is Lyndon Johnson, Joe Biden will be Hubert Humphrey, and (the big question!) Elizabeth Warren could be Bobby Kennedy; and on the Republican side, where Donald Trump is "a kind of cartoon version of Richard Nixon."
But the reason our politics looks like 1968 is that our broader social condition is increasingly reminiscent of 1968. This was brought home in remarks Saturday by Houston district attorney Devon Anderson, after the shooting of Harris County sheriff's deputy Darren Goforth.
"Anderson...said the criticism of police had gotten out of hand: 'It is time for the silent majority in this country to support law enforcement,' she told reporters at a news conference."
"The silent majority." The phrase is back, and rightly so. I'm pretty sure the silent majority does support law enforcement, and will speak up. But isn't it time for political leaders to speak for and support the silent majority? Donald Trump claims to do so. Can't the Republican party do better? Won't some other Republican candidate—a current contender, or someone not yet in the race—emerge to speak convincingly for middle America?
After all, when GOP candidates did aim to speak for the silent majority, they won 5 of 6 straight presidential elections (1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988). Since then they've lost the popular vote 5 of 6 times—with the one exception being when George W. Bush came closest to being a silent-majority-type candidate in 2004. Obviously, the phrase won't be enough. There will have to be a re-thinking of Republican and conservative orthodoxy, something both Nixon and Reagan were willing to do. I'd prefer more of a Reaganite than a Nixonian re-thinking. But either way, the time is right and the moment is now.
During President Obama's tenure, religious Americans have been increasingly marginalized by an administration that can be intolerant or at least unaccomodating of beliefs that conflict with its policies, regulations, or legislative goals. Perhaps most notably, President Obama campaigned by expressing support for traditional marriage, more than once citing his Christianity as the basis for his position, a position he later "evolved" away from. This has not stopped the president, however, from invoking scripture in support of other items on his agenda.
The White House is now using the phrase "unlawful migration" instead of the more commonly heard phrase "illegal immigration." The new term is used in a readout of a phone call President Obama had yesterday with President Peña Nieto of Mexico.
The Obama administration has been under heavy criticism from foes and even some friends for selective enforcement of laws. Executive orders and executive actions have contradicted, delayed, or otherwise modified laws regarding same-sex marriage, immigration, and, most controversial in the last several months, the Affordable Care Act.
The American left loves Western European democracies for their cultural sensibilities and for their policies on everything from crime to health care. One policy area where you won’t hear American liberals cite the European example, though, is abortion.
President Barack Obama uses his weekly address to tout the immigration bill that's currently being debated in the Senate. "It’s a bill that would continue to strengthen security at our borders, and hold employers more accountable if they knowingly hire undocumented workers, so they won’t have an unfair advantage over businesses that follow the law," Obama contends.
Yesterday, Congress passed a series of bills to promote gun control and mental health. Among other things, the bills aim to remove “unnecessary legal barriers…that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system,” to “give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun,” and to decide what things shall count as “essential health benefits” (including potential mental-health benefits) “within [Obamacare’s] exchanges.”
Of course, it wasn’t actually Congress that passed any of these things through the constitutionally prescribed legislative process.