Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Campus Protests Helped Elect Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon

Protesters at UCLA in front of Royce Hall
Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Republicans, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, know that campus protests are a law and order issue for many voters. And as protesters become more disruptive and aggressive, they can become as big an issue as urban crime and the border for Republicans.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan in his first gubernatorial campaign, blamed incumbent governor Pat Brown of being soft on crime (Watts Riots) and coddling radicals (UC Berkeley).

Richard Nixon presented himself in 1968 as the candidate of social stability in the face of national upheaval, highlighted by the youth counterculture, students anti-war protests, and urban riots.

Although the law and order issue helped elect Republican candidates, it didn’t stop the protests. Two years later, on May 4, 1970, a National Guard shooting at a Kent State campus anti-war protest ignited a national student action that closed many colleges, including in California, for up to six weeks.

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