Messitte contributes to opinion piece about ‘spiritual godfather of Trump’ Spiro Agnew

“The man who pioneered Trumpism,” an opinion piece by President Zach Messitte, Jerold Podair and Charles Holden, was published Nov. 15 in The Washington Post. The article examines “an oft-forgotten figure (who) first blazed the path that President Trump is following.”

This was Vice President Spiro Agnew, who served under President Richard Nixon. The authors examine the political career and rhetoric of Agnew, whom he considers “the spiritual godfather of President Trump and a harbinger of the modern Republican Party.

“Agnew’s path rightward was slightly different from those of many other converts,” the opinion piece states. “He was initially considered a moderate who relied on Democratic support in his 1966 election to the governorship of Maryland. In his short time in Annapolis, he signed a fair housing bill and ended antiquated state miscegenation laws.

“But after starting the 1968 presidential primary campaign as a supporter of Nelson Rockefeller, Agnew broke with the liberal New York governor on issues of race and law and order in the wake of violence in his state and what he considered a tepid reaction by its black leadership class. Agnew’s angry denunciations of rioters in Baltimore following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. caught the eye of Richard Nixon and his assistants, who were looking for a vice presidential nominee who could be acceptable to all wings of the party — especially the critically important, and growing, conservative Southern wing.”

The authors explain how Agnew gave rise to the modern Republican Party, writing “it is Agnew who might be the best avatar of Trump’s party in 2018. His assaults on the media became the norm in Republican politics, as did his attacks on college professors, the purported immorality of popular culture and the perceived arrogance of ‘coastal elites.’”


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