Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

As FiveThirtyEight's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux reminds us, it took more than two years for Republicans to abandon Nixon, but when it happened, it happened in the span of two weeks.

On July 23, 1974, Rep. Lawrence Hogan, Sr., a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, bought airtime on TV networks across his home state of Maryland. He had a big announcement to share: Hogan was the first Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to publicly say he would vote to impeach Nixon. It was just over two weeks before Nixon would announce his resignation, and the Judiciary Committee was poised to approve three articles of impeachment against the president — except nobody knew that yet.

Today, as another impeachment drama unfolds, it’s easy to see Republicans like Hogan, who were willing to break ranks with their party, as a fundamental difference between Watergate and today. And it’s true that Republicans are currently staying in President Trump’s corner. But while we tend to focus on the bipartisan rebellion that led to Nixon’s resignation, it’s also worth understanding how public opinion and the party eventually turned against the president.

Support for impeachment had grown slowly over the course of 1974, but there still wasn’t an overwhelming public consensus behind it until right before Nixon left office in early August. And Republican support for Nixon had remained mostly strong, even in the face of a scandal that consumed his second term. As the truth about the scope of Nixon’s misconduct emerged, though, impeachment became increasingly popular and the president lost even his most fervent defenders in Congress. Of course, there are many differences between the Nixon impeachment and the Democrats’ current inquiry, which is still in its early stages, and each impeachment investigation will unfold differently. But as today’s Republicans are scrutinized for signs that they might turn on Trump, it’s important to remember that even in Watergate, it took more than a year of investigation — and a lot of evidence against Nixon — to reach the point where Republicans like Hogan were voting for impeachment.

When the House of Representatives voted in February 1974 to give the House Judiciary Committee subpoena power to investigate Nixon, it did not have the weight of public opinion behind it. According to a poll conducted by Gallup just days before the vote, only 38 percent of Americans were in favor of impeachment. And although a solid majority of Americans did eventually come to support impeachment, that moment didn’t arrive until quite late in the game.
But this didn’t mean the public wasn’t souring on Nixon as the Watergate scandal unfolded. After winning a sweeping victory in the 1972 election, the president began his second term with an approval rating around 60 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker of presidential approval. Then that spring saw a stunning 30-point drop in Nixon’s support starting around when one of the people charged with breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters confessed to a judge that he and the other conspirators had been pressured to stay silent.

Support for Nixon continued to plunge throughout the long summer of 1973, while former White House lawyer John Dean testified in Senate hearings that the president had been involved in a cover-up of the burglary and a White House aide confirmed in closed-door testimony that Nixon had set up a secret White House taping system. And by the time of October’s Saturday Night Massacre — where Nixon ordered the firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been demanding those tapes, and the closing of the special prosecutor’s investigation — his approval rating had plunged to 27 percent, which is about where it stayed until Nixon resigned.

As Nixon’s approval ratings fell, support for impeachment was rising more gradually, reaching solid majority support by early August 1974. That was right in the midst of the crucial two-week period when the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to turn over the White House tapes, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve three articles of impeachment and Nixon released the transcript of what became known as the “smoking gun” tape, which showed that he had helped orchestrate the cover-up. His support among his allies (who had included some conservative southern Democrats as well as Republicans) had already started to erode significantly, but it was the “smoking gun” tape that finally forced his resignation on August 8, before the House could vote on impeachment. At that point, the public was clearly behind impeachment, although a significant minority of Americans — including most Republicans — still didn’t think Nixon should be removed from office.

Of course, the biggest difference today is that there are zero moderate Republicans, they're all zombies who have enabled Trump for three years...or lost their jobs trying.

Still, the poll numbers now show a slim majority for both impeachment and removal from FOX News State TV.

More than half of US voters want President Donald Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll out on Wednesday. 
The poll marks the fourth in two days that showed public opinion is shifting on the impeachment inquiry. A formal impeachment inquiry, launched by the House last month, centers on Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, after a whistleblower filed a complaint about the call. A transcript of the conversation released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden in Ukraine. 
The Fox News poll found 51% of registered voters want Trump impeached and removed from office and another 4% want the President impeached but not removed from office. Forty percent of respondents were opposed to impeachment altogether.

The breakdown of that poll is fascinating:

39% of independent voters, 38% of rural white voters, 39% of white non-college voters, and 28% of white evangelical voters all say Trump should be impeached and removed.  Even 12% of Trump voters say he should go, and considering Trump effectively won by less than half of one percent, that's dismal news for him.

And remember, Democrats haven't even gotten to hearings yet, really.

If these numbers get worse...and they will, mainly because Trump can't stop criming... then even the Senate GOP may have to dump him.  We'll see.

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