Historical analogies are sometimes interesting and occasionally illuminating, but often they’re a substitute for thinking seriously about what’s going on in front of you.
For instance, around the time President Trump started tweeting “LAW & ORDER!” at seemingly random intervals, a slew of political observers concluded that the Trump White House was going to replay Richard Nixon’s successful 1968 bid for the presidency. “Law and Order” was indeed one of Nixon’s campaign themes, though the official slogan was “Nixon’s the One”—which raises the question of whether there was a hidden pro-Nixon message in the Matrix movies. (Keanu Reeves’ character, Neo, was also referred to as “the One.”)
There wasn’t. But there’s as good a case for that as there is for the idea that this is 1968 all over again.
It’s true there was a remarkable amount of violence and social unrest in 1968, as there is today. But by almost any measure it was worse in ’68. First of all, the overall crime rate was higher in the late 1960s. More importantly, political violence was worse. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Sen. Robert Kennedy, arguably on his way to securing the Democratic presidential nomination after winning the California primary, was assassinated two months later. The riots after King’s death claimed dozens of lives and did vastly more damage in cities across the country than the current unrest has.