And I don’t mean that in a bad way.
Nixon represented self-consciously the “silent majority.” He was from a modest background, was a self-made man, much more so than Trump, and carried with him resentments against “blue bloods” all his life, owing to his experiences of exclusion from various social organizations in college. He ran for student government at that time when he realized there were a whole bunch of people who felt just like him.
As crime ticked upwards in the latter part of Vietnam War and race riots and hippy disorder of various kinds reared its head, Nixon ran on a Law and Order platform, made up of Greatest Generation types and older who were fed up with all these social changes that displaced and worried them. This included the crime wave that was associated with the civil rights movement, as well as other social changes. He won massively against McGovern in ’72, but was hated by elites, who truly did not understand him and his appeal.
He governed from the center, angering free market types with his price controls during the inflation episodes of the early 70s and angering movement conservatives with his pragmatic approach to the Cold War. He enlisted he help of China for realpolitik reasons against the Soviet Union and rammed through a “peace treaty” to allow a swift withdrawal from the failing Vietnam War. He was something of a foreign policy minimalist, in contrast to the more grandiose fantasies of hardcore “movement conservative” Cold Warriors who wanted to risk nuclear war to roll back Soviet communism.
Nixon stood for a basic, somewhat authoritarian cultural conservatism, but was economically pragmatic and centrist, and made largely symbolic gestures against the growing disorder of the times.
His “Southern Strategy” has longer roots than were observed at the time. I would argue that there was a natural alliance of Yankee Catholics and Southern (White) Democrats against old money WASPs since the 1850. That is, both groups were not totally on board with the typical “socially liberal and economically conservative” position as represented by John Lindsey in NY (in the 60) and George (Sr.) and Jeb Bush on a national level. They’re more Andrew Jackson, Al Smith, and Jim Webb.
Nixon won in a massive landslide in 1972 against McGovern. Times and demographics were different then, of course, but his appeal was similar to Trump’s. Trump understands ethnic politics well, including the anxieties of middle class whites, because of the very ethnic politics of New York City since the 1960s. Trump made a ton of money in NY in the 70s and 80s, but never quite fit in the “club scene” of Park Avenue and the like, and instead acted like any outer borough guy who won the lottery probably would. And that’s why working and middle class people don’t mind his wealth; he made it, and he doesn’t act much differently than they would in the same situation. That NYC outer borough crowd is not so different in its basic vibe as the blue collar South or Midwest, though not so much the more stoic and restrained German center of the country, nor the less anxious and more modern Western states.
Just as whites had a great deal of anxiety over racial and other social changes in the early 70s, they do again today, exacerbated by their stagnant wages and the threats posed by immigration. Trump channels the fears of this silent majority and, like Nixon, will likely surprise our out-of-touch elites with a stunning victory in November.