Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Nixon Isn't A Good Model for the Trump Impeachment

As congress debates impeachment, this 538 piece on the development of support for the impeachment push against Nixon is interesting reading. TLDR: While right before his resignation the push to impeach Nixon was bipartisan, that was a very, very late development with most Republicans supporting him till the last minute.

However, I think there's a key difference in the nature of the scandals that led to that change to a bipartisan push to get Nixon out.

In Watergate, it was known from early on that a crime (breaking and entering, illegal wiretaps, various other election "dirty tricks") had occurred and that it had been done on behalf of Nixon. However, Nixon insisted that he had not known about or protected those who did the crime. What finally caused Nixon to lose the support of his own party was when it became clear via the tapes that he had known about the crimes from the planning stage on, had approved the crimes, and had helped to cover them up afterwards. That Nixon was revealed to have participated in what he and the public had labeled crimes was key to his fall. (Even so, a lot of Nixon voters continued to support him and held that the Watergate crimes were run-of-the-mill politics, which arguably in the JFK and LBJ era was true.)

The Ukraine scandal seems fundamentally different in that the facts of what happened have been pretty much agreed on from the beginning. Trump supporters mostly agree that Trump used his control over military aid to Ukraine as a negotiating tool to ask them to investigate the Bidens. Indeed, far from being contrary to Trump's image in the way that Nixon's involvement in the Watergate break-in was, what Trump is accused of is very much in keeping with his "tough negotiator" image. This his behavior comports with what his supporters were expecting when they supported him to "drain the swamp". It also comports with what Trump opponents feared his presidency would mean: that he would play fast and loose with our international commitments while seeking "deals" that might well stem from ideas he got from unreliable sources.

In this sense, I don't think that there's much likelihood of a Watergate style shift to a bipartisan consensus that this scandal means Trump needs to go. Trump supporters have already expected this kind of behavior and indeed to some extent selected him because of it.

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