Exploring Levin’s Trump/Nixon vs. Reagan/Cruz analogy

Last week on his radio show, Mark Levin made several references contrasting the Nixon campaign of 1968 and Reagan campaign of 1980 and their relevance to 2016.  He connected dots on how the current Donald Trump campaign message and strategy is Nixonian, while Ted Cruz is running a more Reaganesque campaign.

He was immediately chastised for being a Trump basher and Trump hater – mostly from people who clearly did not listen.  There's a lot of that kind of commentary floating around talk radio and the internet lately – but that's another topic.  Levin has said many times he likes Trump, is a friend of Trump's, and is giving him friendly advice.  Trump validates their friendship and mutual respect as well.

To demonstrate his point, Levin said, "I actually think he would have a higher percentage of the popular vote if he and his Nixon friends would cut this out...his negatives are way, way high.  They're double what Cruz's are.  Tthere's no need for that at this point."

Levin goes on: "You're the frontrunner, but you're already lurching towards that insider establishment side. ... [You] shouldn't do any of that[.] ... [G]et back to the issues."  Levin then separates himself by adding, "I'm giving positive advice. ... I'm not one of these phony cheerleaders ... who pretend that things that aren't happening are happening."

The inference was clear.  There are a lot of hardcore Trump supporters on the internet as writers and commenters and on talk radio as callers and hosts who refuse to see this inside leftward lurch of Trump's.  Or they suddenly have jettisoned their principles.

Thus, this analogy has merit and deserves consideration and a historical perspective.  In fact, the historical perspective will be uncomfortably ironic.  First, the merit.

"This is not a matter of personality or style," says Levin.  "It's process versus principle.  [Trump adviser] Roger Stone used to work for Richard Nixon ... so we have some people running the 1968 Nixon campaign ... really not terribly concerned with principles, but bigger on making the trains run on time."

Levin acknowledged that such a campaign can be successful.  Nixon was elected twice.  He points out that Trump's campaign seems to be following suit.  "Trump is shifting, from outsider to insider.  Visibly.  Intentionally.  To cut deals.  To support ethanol.  He's done it without his outsider supporters criticizing him.  Actually, they're now praising it.  It's a remarkable thing."

What's remarkable is that while Trump is charging full speed ahead into establishment thinking on ethanol and the McConnell-Cruz dynamic, Stone is insisting that Trump "is the conservative who can bring radical change."  Levin points out that "Roger needs to get with the message ... doing deals, currying favor, and ethanol."

Stone infuriated Levin by adding on Fox that Cruz is a "Bush policy guy, who got us John Roberts ... the Council on Foreign Relations and is the Manchurian Canadian candidate."

That's "all the Nixon stuff," says Levin.  "It can be quite successful, but let's call it what it is."  Classic Nixonian.  Trump is running as both the only agent of change and someone who can "do deals" and "curry favor" with the insiders he is running against.

There's another successful model, however, and that's how Reagan campaigned.  Like Nixon, Reagan won twice but Reagan was the one who had to clean up Nixon's mess, which had led directly to the Jimmy Carter presidency.  It matters that you win of course, but it also matters how you win.

"Then we have the 1980 campaign, which is more Cruz-oriented," said Levin.  "It is a campaign where they want to run it on principles in order to win.  And we're being told that you can't run on principles anymore and win."

Valid question.  Let's consider:

Reagan won in 1980 and '84 with obviously Reagan campaigns.  Then George H.W. Bush easily won in '88 under the assumption he would be Reagan's third term.  When Bush was exposed as more "Nixonian" philosophically flexible he was crushed in 1992 by Bill Clinton.

In 1994, with the Reaganesque "Contract with America" as the main issue, the Republicans won a historic landslide and flipped the House for the first time in 40 years.  Then in 1996, with a "Nixon/Dole" campaign effort, the GOP got spanked again.  Isn't it ironic and teachable that the Viagrasaurus re-emerged last week as preferring Trump to Cruz?

Both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 ran more Nixon-style campaigns going squishy on principle for practicality’s sake and of course both got destroyed.  Meanwhile, conservative principle was front and center in both the 2010 and 2014 midterms and Republicans won smashing victories.

In other words, for all the conventional wisdom that may line up for the Nixonian practical strategy, the principled Reagan strategy actually works better.

Now of course, under Mitch McConnell's Senate and John Boehner's House, the GOP did nothing with those election mandates.  This is what led to Trump's emergence in the first place.  And now it's the supposed agent of big-time change Trump who is criticizing Cruz for not getting along with that very same Washington Cartel.

That's a dark political irony that we should examine.

Levin, by deigning to do so, has drawn the wrath of those who will not admit what is going on with this recent Trump shift.  It's totally consistent with what Levin has always stood for to point it out.  What is odd is that it is also consistent with a couple of others in the talk radio stratosphere but for whatever reason, this irony is lost on them, or they are pussy-footing around it.

Edmund Wright is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and Talk Radio Network and the author of Amazon Elections bestseller WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.

Last week on his radio show, Mark Levin made several references contrasting the Nixon campaign of 1968 and Reagan campaign of 1980 and their relevance to 2016.  He connected dots on how the current Donald Trump campaign message and strategy is Nixonian, while Ted Cruz is running a more Reaganesque campaign.

He was immediately chastised for being a Trump basher and Trump hater – mostly from people who clearly did not listen.  There's a lot of that kind of commentary floating around talk radio and the internet lately – but that's another topic.  Levin has said many times he likes Trump, is a friend of Trump's, and is giving him friendly advice.  Trump validates their friendship and mutual respect as well.

To demonstrate his point, Levin said, "I actually think he would have a higher percentage of the popular vote if he and his Nixon friends would cut this out...his negatives are way, way high.  They're double what Cruz's are.  Tthere's no need for that at this point."

Levin goes on: "You're the frontrunner, but you're already lurching towards that insider establishment side. ... [You] shouldn't do any of that[.] ... [G]et back to the issues."  Levin then separates himself by adding, "I'm giving positive advice. ... I'm not one of these phony cheerleaders ... who pretend that things that aren't happening are happening."

The inference was clear.  There are a lot of hardcore Trump supporters on the internet as writers and commenters and on talk radio as callers and hosts who refuse to see this inside leftward lurch of Trump's.  Or they suddenly have jettisoned their principles.

Thus, this analogy has merit and deserves consideration and a historical perspective.  In fact, the historical perspective will be uncomfortably ironic.  First, the merit.

"This is not a matter of personality or style," says Levin.  "It's process versus principle.  [Trump adviser] Roger Stone used to work for Richard Nixon ... so we have some people running the 1968 Nixon campaign ... really not terribly concerned with principles, but bigger on making the trains run on time."

Levin acknowledged that such a campaign can be successful.  Nixon was elected twice.  He points out that Trump's campaign seems to be following suit.  "Trump is shifting, from outsider to insider.  Visibly.  Intentionally.  To cut deals.  To support ethanol.  He's done it without his outsider supporters criticizing him.  Actually, they're now praising it.  It's a remarkable thing."

What's remarkable is that while Trump is charging full speed ahead into establishment thinking on ethanol and the McConnell-Cruz dynamic, Stone is insisting that Trump "is the conservative who can bring radical change."  Levin points out that "Roger needs to get with the message ... doing deals, currying favor, and ethanol."

Stone infuriated Levin by adding on Fox that Cruz is a "Bush policy guy, who got us John Roberts ... the Council on Foreign Relations and is the Manchurian Canadian candidate."

That's "all the Nixon stuff," says Levin.  "It can be quite successful, but let's call it what it is."  Classic Nixonian.  Trump is running as both the only agent of change and someone who can "do deals" and "curry favor" with the insiders he is running against.

There's another successful model, however, and that's how Reagan campaigned.  Like Nixon, Reagan won twice but Reagan was the one who had to clean up Nixon's mess, which had led directly to the Jimmy Carter presidency.  It matters that you win of course, but it also matters how you win.

"Then we have the 1980 campaign, which is more Cruz-oriented," said Levin.  "It is a campaign where they want to run it on principles in order to win.  And we're being told that you can't run on principles anymore and win."

Valid question.  Let's consider:

Reagan won in 1980 and '84 with obviously Reagan campaigns.  Then George H.W. Bush easily won in '88 under the assumption he would be Reagan's third term.  When Bush was exposed as more "Nixonian" philosophically flexible he was crushed in 1992 by Bill Clinton.

In 1994, with the Reaganesque "Contract with America" as the main issue, the Republicans won a historic landslide and flipped the House for the first time in 40 years.  Then in 1996, with a "Nixon/Dole" campaign effort, the GOP got spanked again.  Isn't it ironic and teachable that the Viagrasaurus re-emerged last week as preferring Trump to Cruz?

Both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 ran more Nixon-style campaigns going squishy on principle for practicality’s sake and of course both got destroyed.  Meanwhile, conservative principle was front and center in both the 2010 and 2014 midterms and Republicans won smashing victories.

In other words, for all the conventional wisdom that may line up for the Nixonian practical strategy, the principled Reagan strategy actually works better.

Now of course, under Mitch McConnell's Senate and John Boehner's House, the GOP did nothing with those election mandates.  This is what led to Trump's emergence in the first place.  And now it's the supposed agent of big-time change Trump who is criticizing Cruz for not getting along with that very same Washington Cartel.

That's a dark political irony that we should examine.

Levin, by deigning to do so, has drawn the wrath of those who will not admit what is going on with this recent Trump shift.  It's totally consistent with what Levin has always stood for to point it out.  What is odd is that it is also consistent with a couple of others in the talk radio stratosphere but for whatever reason, this irony is lost on them, or they are pussy-footing around it.

Edmund Wright is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and Talk Radio Network and the author of Amazon Elections bestseller WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.