“The images that are emerging as the most indelible In the public mind are a line of mothers taking the tear gas,” said Rick Perlstein, a historian who has written extensively on the Nixon era. “Or a 53-year-old Navy vet asking people to honor their oath to the Constitution of the United States.”
There have also been the dads with leaf blowers. And the peaceful protesters who were violently cleared from Lafayette Square outside the White House In June for a presidential photo op may represent one of the enduring scenes of Mr. Trump’s presidency.
In this moment, President Trump also differs from Nixon In 1968 In a crucial way. Nixon wasn’t yet president; he wasn’t In charge. It’s much harder to run against disorder when it happens on your watch, Mr. Perlstein said. And fanning fears of crime and violence was less effective for President Nixon later In his presidency for just that reason.
In recent decades, cities have grown safer, and the suburbs have become much more racially and economically diverse. They have been sites of Black Lives Matter protests, too. About one In 10 suburban voters In the Times/Siena poll said they had participated In such a demonstration. A clear majority of suburban voters also said they believed there were broader patterns In America of excessive police violence toward African-Americans and bias against them In the criminal justice system.
For white suburban voters who do still live In segregated communities, the historian Matthew Lassiter said that threats today to suburban exclusion are much weaker than they were when President Nixon was elected. At the time, busing was still on the table. So was the possibility that desegregation plans might send students across city lines to neighboring school districts. Courts were still considering whether it was constitutional for wealthy districts to spend far more on education than poorer ones, or for suburban municipalities to keep out low-income housing.
“The threat of comprehensive restructuring of suburban privilege was real In the late ’60s and early ’70s because it was coming from the courts, and it was coming from civil rights litigants who had a federal judiciary that was going to go all the way with them,” said Mr. Lassiter, a professor at the University of Michigan.
That was true until President Nixon put four justices on the Supreme Court, who together killed many of those remedies to racial and economic segregation. Today, it’s simply less effective to warn that anyone is the coming to destroy the “Suburban Lifestyle Dream” of advantaged schools and single-family neighborhoods because a previous generation of politicians and white voters were so successful at protecting it.