Back to the Present: Trump, Nixon & Taking Protest to the Streets

Guest writer Michael Kramer responds to his pro-Trump friends’ complaints about #womensmarch
By Michael KramerPublished on 01/26/2017 at 9:00 AM EDT

[Photo: a button from the anti-war demonstration which Michael attended back in 1971]

Since last week’s historic march on Washington – and other cities across the U.S. and around the world − my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with comments from Trump supporters who clearly don’t understand what happened last Saturday at the women’s march, and why it was important.

Before I answer the two major complaints from my pro-Trump friends, please allow me, in the interest of fairness, to reveal that I am an unabashed FDR progressive. Although I turned 18 in 1967, the 26th Amendment changing the voting age from 21 to 18 occurred in 1971. So I have voted in twelve elections (since 1972), and voted Democratic in all but one of them.

So what is bothering my pro-Trump buddies?

The guy has been in office for a day. Give him a chance. Let’s take a trip back in time: it’s Tuesday, November 5, 1968. Richard M. Nixon wins the presidency, receiving 500,000 more popular votes than Vice President Hubert Humphrey (and five fewer electoral votes than Trump did this year, 48 years later). Third-party candidate George Wallace actually won five states.

The country was infinitely more divided than it is today, over issues of race and the threat of war. Seven months before the election, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated; two months later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed while making a victory speech in Los Angeles after winning the California primary. Ten days after that election, 600,000 people – including me – gathered at the Washington Mall to demonstrate against the Vietnam War. (And they got there without websites or social media campaigns.)

Nixon was reviled by many of the 57 percent of voters who did not vote for him, not unlike our current president. Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War. No details, just a secret plan. Just trust him, he told us. That also sounds familiar.

As we know now, Nixon had no plan. But what he did have was secret communications with the South Vietnamese government before our election, to foil the peace talks that were taking place. Imagine consorting with the enemy during an election…(Okay, you get it!)

Incidentally, for those of you who are too young to remember Richard Nixon, or need to Google his name, let me make it easy for you. Nixon was the only president to leave office in disgrace. He constantly lied and he was a bigot. (“The Jews are all over government,” he once complained to his chief of staff.) He was paranoid about his enemies, keeping a list of people that he planned to get even with. The big difference between Nixon and Trump, however, is that Nixon kept his bigotry and paranoia under wraps. (Just check out the White House tapes.) Donald Trump tells us everything that’s on his mind, from defending the size of his hands to defending the size of his inauguration crowd. However, I suspect if Nixon were alive today, his reaction to Trump would be, “This guy could teach me a thing or two.”

We suspected that Nixon was a troubled individual, but as a nation, we were willing to overlook what our gut was telling us because our country was actually very torn: Nixon had deftly positioned himself as the candidate of change. (So did third-party candidate George Wallace, actually, but his bigotry was more overt; Nixon was much more subtle about it.)

In 1968, I was too young to vote, and would not have voted for Nixon if I could have; I thought the world of Hubert Humphrey and understood his predicament, being vice president in a very unpopular administration. No doubt if elected, he would stop the bombing and probably end the war. But when he lost, our only hope was Nixon and I thought, “well, maybe…” – and I gave Richard Nixon “a chance.”  How stupidly naïve I was.

So when I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of fellow demonstrators this past Saturday at the Women’s March in Orlando, I couldn’t help but think back to that Saturday afternoon, April 24, 1971, when I was one of the 200,000 demonstrators protesting against the Vietnam War. As a young man, I got caught up in the excitement and thought there was no way Nixon could ignore this outpouring of outrage. I am much older now, but no longer naïve. One protest, no matter how brilliantly executed, will not be enough. It must be a constant barrage of protests. And when President Trump begins to act like a president (for a little more than twenty-four hours), I will be happy to “give him a chance.”

You’re all a bunch of sore losers. Get on board or get out of the way. And what about the millions of protestors outside the United States who couldn’t vote in this election? Are they sore losers? So far as I know, none of the countries where there were demonstrations had any impact on our election. I stand by that statement since there were no demonstrations in Russia.

One last personal note: In 2000, when the Supreme Court elected George W. Bush president, I felt that “we wuz robbed.” However, the country went through a legal process and no matter how unfair I thought it was, I begrudgingly accepted the results. A few months later, President Bush was coming to speak at a private event in my community. A local jazz singer was performing, and she asked if I − a left-wing, bleeding-heart New York, Jewish liberal − would play piano at the gathering. Sure, I was still angry about the results, but Bush seemed like a decent guy, a self-proclaimed “compassionate conservative.” And who knows, maybe he wouldn’t be such a bad president (okay, I was wrong, but I gave him a chance!). I attended the event, played my little heart out, and shook hands with not only President Bush, but also Governor Jeb Bush, as well. So I “got on board.”

And I would have gotten on board with every president after Nixon, whether I voted for him or not. They were all patriotic men who actually did “put America first.”  After President Trump’s recent tirades about crowd size at the inauguration and his “belief” that three million people voted illegally in the last election, there is no question in my mind what he is putting first. And it’s not America.


Michael Kramer
is a professional musician who has worked in Central Florida for 30 years. He has accompanied many well-known performers including Merv Griffin, Bobby Rydell, and Julius LaRosa. And his piano offerings can be heard in the motion pictures, “Heartbreakers” and “Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius.” Michael has played with the Cab Calloway and Nelson Riddle Orchestra. And for his contributions to the community, Michael was named Seminole County’s Artist of the Year 2010 by the Seminole Cultural Arts Council. He is the proud father of two (including GrokNation contributor Samantha Taylor) and a grandfather of three.

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