Can Republicans Go Back After Trump As They Did After Nixon?


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851 points

Waving goodbye to a party in distress.
Photo: Left: Bettmann / Getty, Right: Ben Hasty / MediaNews Group / Reading Eagle via Getty Images

At a time when the Republican Party is backing down from Donald Trump’s stirring efforts to disqualify Joe Biden and the impeachment it will soon win, the party’s illness prognosis ranges from Fatal – lethal to me Weakened to me Sick but antiseptic and healing. However, it is worth noting that this is not the first time that observers believe that the party is facing an existential crisis from which it may not recover.

In October 2016, for example, Republicans were running toward the hills afterward I showed Their presidential candidate bragged about his ability to evade sexual assault, using crude terms that should have insulted every woman in America. Twelve years ago after Barack Obama’s election and the landslide of the Democratic Congress, there was talk that the Republican Party was doomed to failure demographically unless it made fundamental changes to recruit new types of voters.

So disaster prophecies often do not come true. But the moment in Republican vivid memory that closely resembles what we are witnessing today occurred in 1974, when another disgraceful president set out for Marine One on a trip from the White House: Richard Nixon.

Back then, as now, Republicans clung to their beleaguered president and scandals long before evidence of extremist behavior emerged (such as Nixon’s “stinging gun” tape and Trump’s January 6 speech inciting riots) ruining their unity and confidence. At that time, as now, the leader had to be pushed out. Back then, as now, there was talk that the Republican Party had been replaced by a new third party (today, A. Trump’s “populist” party, Then Conservative Party led by Reagan Uniting business circles with blue-collar workers and southerners).

But there are some very important differences in the endgame status of the Republican Party of these two disastrous presidents.

In the Final Gallup Survey Before his resignation, Nixon’s job support among Republicans was 50 percent, and 31 percent of Republicans favored his resignation. according to NPR / Marist SurveyTrump has received 77 percent of Republican job approval (with 64 percent “strong” approval), and only 15 percent of Republicans support steps to remove him from office before his term ends.

The “transition” from Trump will not be as easy as it was for the Republicans to put Nixon in the rearview mirror, partly because they kept the White House under his successor Gerald Ford, and partly because there was no fear of Nixon making another comeback.

While Nixon disgraced and resigned, he temporarily plunged his party into crisis (for example, the “Watergate election” Democratic landslide mid-term That happened less than three months after Nixon left office) it is important to remember that he won a second term by an overwhelming majority in 1972, and that the Democratic Party was in the midst of a chronic ideological crisis. The Democrats won 43 percent of the popular vote for president in 1968 and 38 percent in 1972. They took a temporary respite when Southern voters and those disgusted with Watergate gave Jimmy Carter 50 percent in 1976, but they retreated to 41 percent in 1980 and they didn’t win the majority vote again until 2008. The Republicans didn’t have much of a recovery at all: They came close to winning in 1976 and didn’t lose the presidency again until 1992.

Now it is the Republicans who run in long-term popular elections in presidential contests (1992 through 2020, with the exception of 2004). The Republican Party is known to be on the wrong side of demographic trends that are shrinking their coalition rooted in older white voters and expanding the smaller and more diverse opposition base. Yes, they enjoy more power than the benefits of their actual support thanks to the distorting influences of the Senate, the Electoral College, and the manipulation of legislative districts in the House of Representatives and the state. But it’s not as if they’re facing gales in their backs as they seek to recover from a losing presidential election and now a president faces double impeachment.

Despite his many years of service to his party and some real political accomplishments (albeit often “liberal”), Nixon had neither a clear ideology nor an enthusiastic personal following. Sometimes he led and sometimes frustrated the steadily rising conservative movement that had achieved a false dawn under Barry Goldwater in 1964, but when Nixon was smashed and burned in the Watergate scandal, the Tories were (rooted in the South and West, with Republicans at the fore.) To take over the leadership of the Republican Party. Their world-recognized leader, Ronald Reagan, nearly won the presidential nomination in 1976 over Ford, winning the entire ball game four years later. The slogan for Reagan’s re-election in 1984 was: “It’s morning in America,” but it was that morning in America for the conservative movement and the Republican Party in 1980.

There is no clear ideological backstory to the conservative Republican Party that Trump toppled in 2016, and no leader waiting on the wings. The complex republican classifications are It exists in abundance These days. Nobody thinks “Trumpism” is completely dead as a distinct grassroots movement and creed, albeit often incoherent. But Trump and his family will not step aside adequately to enable the emergence of “Trump Without Trump.” Yes, the Republicans can achieve artificial unity in the quest to thwart the new Biden administration. But the kind of positive momentum the Republican Party achieved in the 1980s and 1990s – and even in the early days of the George W. Bush administration – required a hymn book and a choir leader. Neither of them appears on the horizon now.

All of this adds to a real problem for the party that Trump is damaging as he makes his way out of the door: his voter might not leave him, and he might not go away. Meanwhile, the problems that Republicans raised before the forty-fifth president pushed them in a new direction, if not resolved through his defeat and shame. If they somehow manage to consolidate their business quickly, 2022 could be the year of the Republicans returning as they take control of Congress again and prepare to take back the White House. But confusion among Republicans in Washington and increasingly across the country about whether Trump is a victim saint or a delusional villain does not bode well for a quick recovery from the anger unleashed on him.


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