hinking about Bush’s falling popularity and how his gang of extremists has been able to push things through a meek Congress, I began to wonder whether Republicans were in fact gritting their teeth when they voted for his resolutions, much the same way many cowed Democrats have, afraid of voter wrath if they’re seen to oppose a wartime ‘president’ when the country needs solidarity.

I remember the way Republicans also supported the last right-wing pyschopathic president, Richard Nixon. When Watergate hit, they rallied ’round the beleaguered president and stuck with him until it became clear that he was a liability to their own political careers rather than an asset, and then they deserted him in droves. The chart above shows just how slow the American public was to respond to Nixon’s excesses, and the Republicans in Congress were, as usual, a short step behind public opinion. There was hardly a peep from Republicans against Nixon until mid-1973, when popular support for Nixon plunged below 50%. By that time at least two dozen senior members of the Administration had been jailed or fired to try to keep Nixon distanced from the events. Nixon was on his third Attorney-General, who would soon also resign, and his VP, the pathetic Spiro Agnew, was under investigation for bribery and extortion. In the meantime, however, despite strong evidence that the Committee to Re-elect the President was implicated in Watergate and other security abuses against Democrats and private individuals, Nixon had won his second-term election by a landslide.

Since most of the Republican establishment is certainly old enough to remember Watergate, it seems likely to me that, 32 years later, they’re biding their time and watching two barometers that tend to go in lockstep: the state of the economy and the president’s popularity. The red arrow shows the corresponding point between Bush’s first and second term, exactly 32 years later. The parallels are spooky. Bush’s popularity ratings track very closely those of Nixon 32 years ago. Just like then, there are now concerns about Pentagon and Defense Department activities (just what did Bush know about 9/11, and when), about the Attorney-General’s abuse of security and breach of civil liberties, about the conduct of certain groups supporting the re-election of the president (‘Dirty Tricks’). Most of all, there are concerns about imminent collapse of the economy, disastrous to an incumbent president in an election year.

Thirty-two years ago, the recession held off until Nixon was re-elected, and I’m sure the Republicans, who must have known they had a wacko at the head of their party, but one who seemed destined to be re-elected and provide some coat-tails for his supporters, worried and fretted and wrung their hands and supported Nixon anyway.

This time around the economy, which the Bush regime has tried to stimulate with reckless tax-cuts so it will hang on until November 2004, is unlikely to cooperate — it’s already teetering and Bush has ruined it beyond short-term repair. So watch the economic indicators for the next eight months, and the popularity ratings for Bush which are likely to track them closely. Then watch the Republican establishment — not only will they abandon Bush in droves if he becomes unpopular, if the economy really gets ugly, watch for them to deny him a second nomination, since he’s leaving the convention very late in a cynical but risky attempt to capitalize on the anniversary of 9/11.

Political parties and politicians have strong survival instincts, and tend to nominate moderate presidents because the mood of the electorate tends to prefer them. My bet is that the Republican establishment is at least as uncomfortable with the extremism of the Bush regime as the average voter is, and won’t hesitate to throw him over in favour of a more moderate candidate if it becomes expedient to do so. And my bet is that it will.

Sources: NYU Statistics & Social Sciences Group, and

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  1. cs says:

    Thanks for the great graf. You know, I was watching the Chuck Hagel on one of the Sunday news programs, and it suddenly popped in my head that he was running for president. In the past month or two I’ve had several moments of thinking Bush may not be the candidate Prescience or paranoia? I also have spontaneous fantasies of Cheney as dictator!

  2. The problem is that Nixon was a Republican in a Democratic era (both houses of Congress were thoroughly Democratic). Also, there was still a sizeable Democratic contingent from the South – e.g., the Dems were a truly national majority party, and could not be ideologically pigeonholed. There were also a fair number of liberal or centrist Republicans who couldn’t stand Nixon for beating Rockefeller in a dirty primary campaign in ’68, or perhaps held grudges from farther back. Today’s Rs are interested in nothing except for power for its own sake and have solidified a strategy for holding it institutionally even when they are a minority in the electorate. A number of Rs were honestly appalled at the excesses of Nixon, irrespective of the politics. I just don’t think today’s batch has any kind of conscience, and they represent such gerrymandered districts that they don’t have to fear electoral retribution.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    CS: Now that’s a scary thought.Rob: I didn’t think anyone was more cynical than I was about this. I would hazard that Dems aren’t much better than Reps when it comes to self-interest. It’s precisely because they’re all such whores that regardless of their personal feelings they’ll support Bush if they think it helps their reelection, and, redistricting notwithstanding, will oppose him if he gets too unpopular. Since the media are still sitting on the sidelines it’s up to us to do the research, uncover the scandals, feed the facts to the media so they don’t have to do any work or take a stand, watch Bush’s popularity tank, and watch the Reps nominate another guy. Or we could just sit back and let the economy do it for us.

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