George Floyd

Violent Protests in 1968 Helped Elect Richard Nixon. Will Today's Protests Help Trump?

Princeton's Omar Wasow talks about the complicated effects of civil rights demonstrations, police brutality, and racial fears on public policy.


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In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests have erupted around the country. Some of these have turned violent and resulted in injuries to citizens and police as well as looting and property damage. 

Cities have implemented curfews and other restrictions on movement, further stoking tensions that were already present due to the coronavirus lockdown, the start of summer, and a 15 percent unemployment rate. 

The last time the nation faced this level of social unrest was 1968, the year that Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated

To help us make sense of the current moment and figure out where it could lead, Nick Gillespie spoke with Omar Wasow, a political scientist at Princeton, who has studied how protests of the 1960s affected public opinion, social discourse, and voting patterns. 

Will today's protests make policing reform more or less likely? Is it possible that violence in the streets will boost Trump's reelection chances—just as events in 1968 helped put Nixon in the White House?

Wasow's research also looks at the nature of police misconduct, analyzing whether headline-grabbing incidents such as the horrific killings of Eric Garner and Tamir Rice are the result of a few bad apples or a systemic problem with law enforcement in minority communities.

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Ian Keyser. Intro by Meredith Bragg.

Music: L0g1c4LR3d3mpT10N  & Oakland Media Network 

Photos: CreditMunshots/Sipa USA/Newscom, xxsipa_usa_owned, sipausawire, Joi Ito, Ford Foundation, ShawnThew/CNP/AdMedia/SIPA/Newscom, Andy Katz/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Michael Nigro/ZUMA Press/Newscom, Broken Window, ID 168385819 © Vitalii Bezverkhii |; Burning Car, Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire DKF/Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire/Newscom; Donald Trump, Stefani Reynolds/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom; Richard Nixon, Universal Images Group/Newscom

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  1. Well, sure. I can easily see how the Vietnam war and one killing are totally the same thing.

    1. It’s not one killing. There are at least three nationwide names of those killed on camera by the police in the past few weeks. How many more never made the news? It’s not one killing, it’s a continuing pattern of police abuse.

      Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT defending the rioters. I am defending the peaceful protestors however. Because it’s not just killing.

      The straw that broke the camel’s back is just one straw as well.

      1. The Vietnam war dragged out over 10+ years. It was manned by the draft. Not in any way similar to the current situation.

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        2. Cops have been murdering Blacks for over two hundred years. Blacks who were drafted to defend this country in uniform, and still murdered by the cops. It is the same.

          1. Cops kill around 20 unarmed black men a year. Most of these kids looting in the streets were having grand old times binge watching Netflix and spending countless hours of Instagram and video games. They’re not frustrated people on the edge exploding upon the last straw. It’s ridiculous.

            The most activist wing are perpetually aggrieved leftist who exist in a world of pure repression. The system is against them, white people are out to get them, big banks and corporations are hoarding all the money, etc. Floyd’s death confirm their preconceived notions.

            If these black kids were in a society like Korea, they would be spending 8-10 hours in schools and learning academies, their future and career depending entirely on passing their version of the SATs. 15 year olds commit suicide in that country.

            These motherphuckers, who are poor, still live OK to decent lives in the greatest nation on earth. People cross deserts to seek asylum here. Most of don’t know the definition of hardship. And whatever problem they endure in their lives, it could be easily addressed if THEY reached out.

            The notion that they had no choice but to riot is a laughable fantasy. No one who actually believes that should even be taken seriously in their lifetime. Poor people are everywhere in the world. But they have no stability in their lives. Migrants don’t crowd our border for free speech and 100,000 dollar salary. They want out of the chaos, one that being waged by the BLM miscreants.

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    2. A black man saw his shadow and looted Target!
      This means 4 more years of President Trump.

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  2. No dumb complaints about 3 words out of 10000 words Trump tweeted last month? That’s not what we’ve come to expect from Reason.

    Words cause sad face so orange man bad.

  3. They won’t help that fucking cadaver Biden.

    1. Can your cadaver do push ups? Lying dog-faced pony soldier!

    2. dude looked coked to the nines this morning.

  4. The only way this ‘works’ similarly for POTUS Trump as it did for Nixon is that POTUS Trump has to tar Sleepy-Creepy-Handsy Joe with something like this….If you vote for Brain-Damaged Biden, you’re voting for more riots, more lawlessness, more mayhem, more craziness. Now I might be bad, but that other guy really sucks for you.

    Then you need to hope like hell the ‘law and order’ types show up to vote. That was a major factor in Nixon’s victory.

    1. If you vote for Brain-Damaged Biden, you’re voting for more riots, more lawlessness, more mayhem, more craziness.

      Biden’s staff is paying the bail of rioters. Dems are cheering on the rioters. This shouldn’t be difficult.

      1. Team R has been notoriously incompetent in exploiting political advantage.

        1. Team R has been But Trump seems to make it work

        2. Trump is a New Yorker. He was born to shit talk people he doesn’t like.

          1. Lets be specific, because it matters. He’s from Queens. That’s like a double-plus New Yorker in my mind.

      2. And numerous Donkeys are pimping the rioters.

        Trump landslide when the Karens change sides.

  5. I think it’s very likely this will help him with some swing voters.
    Considering how every move the media and the establishment have made for the last 5 years has backfired and ended up helping Trump, I have a suggestion. They should try a Costanza. Do the opposite of their instincts. From here until November, it should be nothing but a full-throated endorsement of him from NYT, Vox, CNN & MSNBC. It might be the only thing that would make his supporters turn on him.

    1. Just not enough half-educated bigots left in America to position Trump for another Electoral College trick shot.

      1. Hillary won the popular vote. In my opinion, that makes her the only legitimate President.

      2. Do you ever get tired of looking like Bush standing on the aircraft carrier with the big “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him? Maybe the election, Russiagate and Ukrainegate should teach you to hold off on the the victory laps for a minute. It’s kind of hard to continue to claim that you’re enlightened at the same time you’re proven to be wrong about literally everything.

        1. Sorry, Rabbi. That was meant for the Rev.

          1. Works either way – – – – – – – – – – – –

  6. A majority of Democrats are in favor of keeping the peace with the military if necessary.

    1. Not the elected Donkeys.

  7. Yes, it’s going to help Trump. And not just because of the law and order issue. When governors and mayors are clearly taking sides, the voters aren’t oblivious to it.

    The Detroit mayor threatened to arrest anyone she found outside without a mask. Now she’s looking the other way when people are burning her city down. She’s only “tough on crime” when it’s teenagers playing in an empty lot.

    And all the rulers berating the right leaning protestors a few weeks ago for not wearing maks, but studiously ignoring the left leaning protestors all milling about without masks. Why the difference? You know the difference! It’s Team Sports, and regardless of hour violent the nihilists may be, regardless of the color of the neighborhoods they are burning down, the perception is that they are on Team Blue, and so the Team Blue leaders do jack shit.


    1. Sorry, I’m upset. It’s not good for my blood pressure. I fucking hate Team Sports Politics.

      1. Some city leaders and Mayors are flat out saying your business are not improtant and we will not risk one police officers life for it and how dare you question the motives of looters. they may as well shout out ” let the looting begin”

      2. Never apologize, Mister; it’s a sign of weakness.

      3. You participate in team sports politics all the time. You’re just too dumb to know it you’ve just chosen the team you’re against to be any and everyone who votes r and d. Doesnt make your argumentation any more valid. You almost never make logical, flowing arguments. The majority of your arguments are against one of those teams. You’re doing the same shit as you accuse others of.

  8. Geez people, will you give it a rest? Whether you’re a cultist – busy guzzling Kool-aid in swimming pool quantities – or a normal person who just wants the freak show gone, there’s no use fretting over these endless scenarios. Consider :

    (1) We had a roaring economy, and Trump’s approval couldn’t break 50%

    (2) We had a national emergency, and Trump’s approval only briefly moved.

    (3) Trump has embarrassed himself every minute of the CoronaVirus pandemic & his disapproval barely budged.

    (4) Trump is a sleazy bungling buffoon / pathological liar, but his supporters don’t care.

    See? There is a core group of people who want WWE-style entertainment in a president, but not a man or woman more. The swing voters who regularly tire of a party after two presidential terms are tired of this clown-show after one. Trump will lose; it won’t be close; just relax and enjoy the show. You know he’s gonna get pretty desperate before the end….

    1. Trump’s approval rating was at or better than Obama’s at the same point.

      1. And that is just last week.

        Don’t forget that the media have shamed a Karens into saying they hate Trump, and yet they’ll choose him in the privacy of the voting booth.

        1. Hilarious! You’re counting on the “Karens” to save Trump from himself ?!? That delusion of a very high order. DJT has been slowly bleeding female support since day-one.

          (you know, like ‘blood coming out of (their) wherever…..’

          1. grb
            June.2.2020 at 5:58 pm
            “Hilarious! You’re counting on the “Karens” to save Trump from himself ?!?”

            No, you pathetic piece of lefty shit, we’re pretty much sure he’s gonna win anyhow, but he’ll get support from them also.
            You lost, loser; fuck off and die

      2. Ra’s al Gore : “Trump’s approval rating was at or better than Obama’s at the same point”

        Kinda missed the point. It’s not that Trump has better approval than Obama at any one instance, but that DJT’s numbers have barely budged his entire term of office. Honeymoon period? Nope. Benefit from a strong economy? Nada. Rally behind the incumbent in national crisis? Gone in the blink of an eye.

        Sorry, but there aren’t voters enough who want this national humiliation back in office – not today and never once since he took the oath of office (then told his first presidential lie on the inauguration crowd, for God’s sake). Trump being Trump, he’s spent his entire presidency clowning it up for his base. After all, they fawn & slobber over him and our president is such an needy insecure little man-child. But the numbers there just aren’t there. (Thank Goodness)

        Come 20Jan21, the circus is leaving town…..

        1. “…Sorry, but there aren’t voters enough who want this national humiliation back in office – not today and never once since he took the oath of office (then told his first presidential lie on the inauguration crowd, for God’s sake)…”

          Gonna be really enjoyable to jam Trump down your throat again, scumbag

        2. See, here’s the thing; the number of people who want Trump in office FAR outweighs the number of you screeching infants in the corner who want the Stalinist Shit Show that was the Obama admin back, and the number of people who aren’t voting moreso.

          1. So that’s what skepticism looks like? Whoda thunk’t? A word of advice my friend : Save all your sweaty desperation and spittle-spraying spleen for Senate Republicans. Trump is a lost cause but – hey – you still might be able to salvage a few Senators circling down the toilet bowl after him

    2. What’s Biden flavored Kool-Aid taste like, prunes and Metamucil? We know Hillary’s is sour grapes and bitters.

  9. For the record:

    1. Insurance doesn’t cover civil unrest
    2. Insurance goes to the property owners. Stores generally lease the property, not own it.

    1. business owners can have insurance for their equipment and supplies etc but your no. 1 still applies

  10. There are a couple of differences between Nixon’s situation and Trumps’. Nixon wasn’t President in 1968, so the upheaval happened on Johnson’s watch. Trump’s response will be a matter of record come November. Secondly, Nixon’s most probable and formidable Democratic opponent was assassinated in 1968, leaving that party in as much chaos as the country. Now, we have Joe Biden eating popcorn in the basement, while Trump toils to manage the news cycle.

    1. Considering this pathetic race riot is being staged for Biden’s benefit, he’s probably chewing more of his nails than popcorn.

  11. >>events in 1968

    they meant it in 1968.

    1. 16,592 US soldiers died in Vietnam, most draftees, in 1968.

      What have there been, maybe a few dozen people whacked by the pigs this year? Tragic, but not earth shattering.

      1. today’s race marches aren’t even good theater … zzzzzzzzz

        1. I found the looting in Manhattan’s Soho district pretty entertaining

          1. yeah I did giggle when Chanel was getting torn up @2:00 a.m.

  12. It depends on Biden’s VP. I’m assuming he will wait until 2-3 weeks b4 the election to silence the chatter on the whoever props up the old guy. Its either: Harris, Warren, Abrams, (maybe Booker?). On a side note..yesterday Biden quote “Shoot em in the foot, not in the heart”. Biden thinks George Floyd was shot to death, I assume.

    Although, there’s always the chance that the entire country is now so Californicated that voters will not mind if teen carjackings and lack of indoor plumbing are the new normal. Also, the paper of record says that the destruction of NYC is not violence- so there’s that!

    1. It depends on Biden’s VP.

      Sure, if he can just find the next Geraldine Ferraro, I’m sure he can convince the voters that he’s the man for the job!

      Get serious.


  13. “After spending the weekend hiding in a bunker and firing off incendiary tweets, Trump finally addressed the country on Monday evening. In his first official speech since the killing of George Floyd by police sparked global protests, #BunkerBoy stood in the White House Rose Garden and threatened to mobilise the American military against the American people.”

    Nixon whatever his failings did not have Trump’s history of laughably desperate attempts to use bluster to conceal his decades of assorted acts of cowardice. Trump from “Cadet Bone Spurs” to “Bunker Boy” has been and is, but, a worldwide object of mockery.

  14. The Democrats held the economy hostage and imprisoned most of the country in their homes for two months based on doomsday hysteria, misinformation and faulty models. They slandered anyone who so much as batted an eye in protest as violent terrorists in Trump’s secret Nazi army (no, seriously, Snopes is running with that) who were going to infect your grandma with COVID.

    Then -literally fucking overnight- they completely dropped this pretext to cheerlead the coming-together of their favorite astroturfed black supremacy group and their favorite astroturfed anti-First Amendment Communists as they proceeded to burn, loot and assault in the name of social justice bullshit.

    Yeah, this election is pretty damn done. And that’s without even going into Biden, or the Dems prostrating us before the Iranians and Chinese.

    1. Anyone who actually believes that the democrat lefties are ever going to solve these problems is certifiably out of his mind. They’ve have had control of the big cities going almost all the way back to 1968!

      You could give these fuckers another 100 years of total and they still wouldn’t solve the damn problems, because they don’t really want to!

  15. Will people that didn’t vote for Trump last time, vote for him this time? Is Biden better than Clinton? I think Trump will win, but I am voting Libertarian anyway.

    1. “Will people that didn’t vote for Trump last time, vote for him this time?”

      Most definitely.

      1. Source: several members of family, plus me

    2. Is Biden better than Clinton?

      Biden is a scumbag, he’s just as arrogant as Hillary, and not even as smart. Hillary blew her chances with that “deplorables” snark, and Biden decided to tell black voters that their race depended on obedience to his demands.

      All the Democrats needed to do to win this time was nominate a non-scumbag, but their internal problems made that impossible. Obama really fucked them up. I don’t see them recovering within a generation.


  16. Trump’s chances of winning go up every day the riots continue and Democrat leaders continue to publicly side with the “protesters”.

  17. This is silly. Nixon won reelection because someone did him the favor of shooting George Wallace before his huge lead could make him the Democratic nominee. After that, race-suicide Dixiecrats went over en masse the way the Prohibitionist Klanbakers abandoned the Dems when Whiskey Al Smith was nominated. Racial collectivism moved from the Solid South to bipartisan Kleptocracy policy. It was the New York Times that published “Cocaine Negroes” hysteria to get votes for Harrison Act racketeers in 1914.

  18. This is silly. Nixon won because JFK, RFK and MLK were killed, and won reelection because someone did him the favor of shooting George Wallace before his huge lead could make him the Democratic nominee. After that, race-suicide Dixiecrats went over en masse the way the Prohibitionist Klanbakers abandoned the Dems when Whiskey Al Smith was nominated. Racial collectivism moved from the Solid South to bipartisan Kleptocracy policy. The New York Times published “Cocaine Negroes” hysteria to get votes for Harrison Act racketeers in 1914, so racial collectivism politics are their baby too.

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