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Old 07-17-2017, 10:34 AM   #8 (permalink)
jacqueline trudeau
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A related misperception that some present-day liberals tend to retrofit to 1973 has it that the Washington Republican leadership of that time included ballsy, principled moderates who would speak truth to their gangster president as the pathetic Trump lackeys Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan will not. If only. A few Republican senators did ask tough questions during the Watergate hearings — Howard Baker and Lowell Weicker, famously — but it took even them a year after the Watergate break-in to find their voices, and they were not in the leadership. Then, as now, so-called Establishment Republicans were more likely to gripe about Nixon in private or in not-for-attribution conversations with reporters. In public, they usually cowered, sparing the president their harshest criticism and cordoning him off from impeachable offenses out of fear of him and his base. The Republican minority leader in the House, the Arizona congressman John Rhodes, found his mail running three to one against Nixon until he talked about a possible presidential resignation; then the count flipped to eight to one in Nixon’s favor.

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Nor did Nixon’s base ever desert him. At the nadir of Watergate, Nixon’s approval rating fell to 27 percent; by the time he resigned, that number had dropped to 24 percent. In other words, at least a quarter of the American populace had no problem telling pollsters that they were still behind a president who had lied repeatedly and engaged in unambiguously criminal conspiracies. They still saw Nixon as “one of us,” as he billed himself on posters in his first House run in 1946, and as a fighter who took on “them” — essentially the same elites that Trump inveighs against today.

Trump’s base is roughly the same size as Nixon’s then, or only a shade less. At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver quantifies that base as voters who “strongly approve” of Trump, a figure that peaked at 30 after the Inaugural and had dropped to 21 to 22 percent by late May. They will no more abandon Trump than their parents and grandparents did Nixon. If anything, Trump’s ascent has once more confirmed that this constituency is a permanent factor in the American political equation. Should Trump follow Nixon into ignominy, that base may in time rally around a more cunning and durable Trump — a new Nixon, if you will. He will be far scarier than an understudy like Pence, who is unlikely to survive his association with a tainted president any longer than Ford did (if even that long). Future Democrats may be just as ineffectual at stopping the next right-wing populist before he (or she) lands in the White House, but that’s a depression for another day.
Just Wait. Watergate didn’t become Watergate overnight, either.

As usual, a well researched and written article by Frank Rich on exactly this topic. Highly recommended reading.
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