Note: Before we begin this section, unless otherwise noted all quotes in this article are from Rick Perlstein’s book Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America
During the 1960’s, there was an ostensible shift in the conservative dynamic of how to run campaigns and what issues conservative politicians should focus on. Perlstein writes that in the 1960’s that “millions of Americans recognized the balance of forces in the exact same way –that America was engulfed in a pitched battle between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. The only thing was: Americans disagreed radically over which side was which.” This continues the use of fear by the Republican Party to take back their party and by extension be able to win the Presidency and enact this agenda.
Nixon as a President and even before then had a method to be able to turn the world into a black and white dilemma. After the Checkers speech, that we have talked about in the past, the responses were split between those who were supporters of Nixon and enemies of Nixon. Nixon exploited this idea 16 years later when he was running for President, again. Nixon after watching Ronald Reagan in California and deployed to swing Congressional districts was able to use the strategy of fear to mobilize voters.
President Lyndon Johnson recognized this pattern and the fear of the Republicans to try to win votes prior to 1966. He said,” “Fooling the people has become the name—of—the—game for a good many Republicans in Congress. They have no constructive programs to fight inflation. They have no program to ease racial tensions. They don’t know what to do about crime in the streets, or how to end the war in Vietnam. But they do know that if they can scare people, they may win a few votes!”
Before the election, the Republican National Committee produced a video to be shown days before the election that would show the problems of America including crime, caskets from Vietnam, and riots with Johnson talking about the Great Society. While some of the more liberal Republicans were trying to pull the video because it was tasteless, Conservatives complained that it wasn’t hard-hitting enough.
Nixon decided rightly or wrongly that the way to get back in the good graces of the Republican Party and be in the White House was to focus on law and order issues. To back him up was a memo titled “Middle America and the Emerging Republican Majority”. The theory was that elections were won by focusing on people’s resentments. One of the aspects that he focused on is that is the assumption that voters will only vote their “blood line, church, neighborhood, or caste.”