If it seems like history is repeating itself in the way Donald Trump is running against Black Lives Matter, that's because as Victoria Massie at Vox points out, Goldwater ran against the civil rights movement in 1964 as the "law and order" candidate.
Three years after the Black Lives Matter movement began, not everyone understands the movement’s mission. And as evidenced during the Republican National Convention, some people like Donald Trump are invested in exploiting those misunderstandings for political points.
But the fire Trump’s igniting is fueled by a country that has historically resisted black social justice movements.
According to American National Election Studies, 57 percent of Americans in 1964 said most of black people’s actions during the Civil Rights Movement in the most recent year were violent. Sixty-three percent of Americans believed that the Civil Rights Movement was moving “too fast.” And a majority of Americans (58 percent) believed that black people’s actions for the movement hurt their own cause.
And just a reminder: Two of the key actions by civil rights activists in 1963 were the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech; and “Bloody Sunday,” where Alabama state troopers brutally beat peaceful protestors attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery for their right to vote.
But Americans today share similar attitudes toward the Black Lives Matter movement.
According to the Pew Research Center, 43 percent of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Thirty-six percent of Americans of who have heard about Black Lives Matter don’t really understand its goals.
And Americans are split on the effectiveness of the movement in achieving racial equality in the long run: while 8 percent say Black Lives Matter will be very effective, 30 percent say Black Lives Matter will be somewhat effective, compared to 33 percent who doubt the movement’s effectiveness. The remaining 29 percent either weren’t familiar with the movement or did not provide an opinion.
The practical upshot is that while Barry Goldwater got smoked in 1964 by Johnson, Nixon won in 1968 running against the civil right movement too when Americans had an even dimmer view of both Johnson and the civil rights movement he helped to propel.
That Pew Research poll also finds that a plurality of white Americans believe Black Lives Matter isn't helping achieve racial equality with only 14% strongly supporting it.
We still have a long way to go.