Donald Trump declared himself the “law and order candidate” at a campaign event Monday in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“We must maintain law and order at the highest level, or we will cease to have a country, 100 percent,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told the invite-only crowd. “Or we will cease to have a country.”
Monday’s event was originally billed as a speech on veterans affairs, but it was given a new focus on law enforcement and crime following the shooting deaths last week of five Dallas police officers. The gunman said he was angry about the police killings of black men ― such as Alton Sterling, who was shot last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, who died in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Not only am I the law and order candidate, but I’m also the candidate of compassion, believe it,” Trump said, “The candidate of compassion. But you can’t have true compassion without providing safety for the citizens of our country.”
“Compassion” might not be the first word that people associate with the real estate mogul. Throughout his yearlong campaign, Trump has repeatedly targeted racial and religious minorities for suspicion and verbal attacks. He also offered to pay the legal fees of a supporter who punched a protester at a Trump rally earlier this year.
By declaring himself the “law and order” candidate, however, Trump has ripped a page from the campaign playbook of Richard Nixon, who successfully ran for the presidency in 1968 as the “law and order” candidate. Trump has also cribbed the Nixonian phrase “silent majority” to describe his supporters ― who, like Nixon’s, are largely white and middle class.
One of Trump’s longest-serving political advisers was a Nixon campaign strategist, which may account for the verbal similarities. Roger Stone is not currently working for the Trump campaign, but on Monday, he posted a tongue-in-cheek image on Twitter following Trump’s speech.