This FiveThirtyEight article breaks down the three biggest scandals of the last 50 years to try to illuminate what might happen with the Trump presidency. The article stops short of saying it, but the take-away is that party loyalty will save even this toxic clown. Those of us who believe that Trump is clearly unfit for office and has already committed impeachable offenses, and who are wondering why in the world Republicans can’t see this, will have no satisfaction.
The article analyzes the Watergate, Iran/Contra and Lewinsky scandals, and points out that virtually every step of the way, only a handful of lawmakers of the incumbent’s party ever voted against him, and that those few who did were “centrists”, an obsolete designation in today’s G.O.P.
The piece notes that,
Even as Nixon aides resigned and the Watergate controversy grew around the president in 1973, many congressional Republicans were arguing that the investigations of the president were overly aggressive. Two future GOP presidents, George H.W. Bush (then chairman of the Republican National Committee) and Reagan (then governor of California), called Nixon and assured him that he could get through the scandal.
Reagan counseled Nixon to hang on because “this too shall pass”.
Even after the Saturday Night Massacre, which many see as the fatal blow for Nixon’s presidency, Republicans stood by him:
The House Judiciary Committee held a series of votes about recommending Nixon’s impeachment in July 1974. All 21 committee Democrats, and six committee Republicans, voted for the first article of impeachment, which essentially accused Nixon of obstructing the investigation of the Watergate break-in. The other 11 Republicans voted against that article. There were three articles of impeachment against Nixon. Nineteen Democrats voted for all three articles of impeachment. Just one Republican did. A majority of the Republicans on the committee, 10 of the 17, voted against all three articles.
Note that the committee consisted of 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans, and that Democrats controlled the House, unlike today, and only a simple majority is required to send Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Today’s House is controlled by Republicans, 246-187.
What finally killed Nixon was that there were a handful of principled Republican Senators who were willing to do the right thing, notably Howard Baker, the top Republican of the three on the Senate Watergate Committee. Even he let party loyalty cloud his judgement, as he let his aides discuss progress with the Nixon White House.
The Senate at the time of Watergate was controlled by Democrats 56-42. A two thirds vote in the Senate is needed for impeachment, so the task at hand wasn’t as difficult as it is today, where Republicans control the Senate 54-44-2 (2 independents).
But today’s political landscape is completely different than those good old days of simple partisan divisions. Cable news, the internet, gerrymandering, Dark Money, Citizen’s United, and many other factors have produced a state of hyper-partisanship which really has little resemblance to the Watergate era.
This Wapo article, entitled “Only Republicans can stop Trump right now. History suggests they won’t.” says,
Recent history also justifies fears that Republicans will not stand up to Trump. Flake, McCain, Sasse and other senators have all clashed publicly with the president before. But those are just words, and talk is cheap. With the occasional exception when Republicans have been able to spare one or two votes, GOP senators have marched in lockstep with the Trump White House. McCain in particular has continued his years-long pattern of tut-tutting Republican leaders and then voting with his party anyway.
If Flake, McCain and others want to show us they are truly troubled, then they will need to do more than put out a statement. They need to join with Democrats and refuse to vote for a new FBI director (and perhaps even other Trump appointees or legislation) until a special prosecutor is appointed. Nothing short of that is acceptable.
It’s fun to watch Trump’s “disapproval” ratings go up each week and his “approval” ratings go down, but we need to remember (and the man-baby is constantly reminding us) that these numbers do not matter and that those who predicted the election based on such numbers were completely embarrassed.
What matters is that Trump’s approval rating among those who voted for him has not changed at all. It’s holding steady at 88% and will edge up whenever he does something “big”.
What matters is that the electoral map of Trump’s victory remains the same.