Why Conservatives Are Channeling Richard Nixon

Prominent conservative figures look to a surprising source for envisioning America’s future.

Written by David Zimmermann

What’s going on? Conservatives are increasingly referencing former President Richard Nixon and his policies as a model for the next Republican presidency. They see parallels with the 1960s, both in domestic and global issues facing America.

Domestic policy: Influential activist Chris Rufo points to Nixon's tenure as a "blueprint" for a modern conservative "counterrevolution." Nixon took aggressive stances to establish law and order, notably disarming left-wing groups involved in mob violence and revolutionary activities.

  • Deep state: Nixon, foreshadowing modern concerns, identified government bureaucracy as a left-leaning entity in need of reform. He wanted these agencies under tighter presidential control and more responsive to elected leadership.

  • Now: The GOP’s 2024 frontrunners, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both want to rein in the administrative state. They each have detailed plans to do so, consisting of the mass firing of bureaucrats and purging agencies such as the FBI. Trump notably had the FBI and other institutions working against him, just like Nixon.

  • Revolutionary activity: They’re also gearing up to use the federal levers of power to counter left-wing radicalism, particularly diversity, equity, and inclusion roles in academia, corporations, and government.

Foreign policy: GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is explicitly drawing from the Nixon era on geopolitics. He wants a minimal global footprint for the U.S. and an end to the Ukraine conflict — similar to Nixon's Vietnam strategy. He also wants to bring Washington closer to Moscow to corner China, echoing Nixon's own geopolitical chess moves when he isolated the Soviets by allying with China.

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