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.