It Took a Long time to Get Rid of Nixon

Jonathan Rauch: “Nixon’s second-term approval started strong, in the high sixties, but plummeted as Watergate revelations emerged. By the time the Senate Watergate hearings began, in May of 1973, his ratings were under 50 percent. By the time of the Saturday Night Massacre, in October of 1973, his approval was mired in the mid-twenties, never to recover.”

“Still, Nixon held onto office for more than 17 months after his ratings sank below 50 percent, and for more than nine months after they sank into the twenties. Being loathed by the American public, and being widely and correctly perceived to be a criminal, did not do him in for a long time.”

“The reason was that the critical variable was not overall approval but Republican approval. Removal either by impeachment or under the 25th Amendment, the two mechanisms available, requires a 67-vote Senate supermajority (unless a president is too incapacitated to serve). As a result, even though Democrats controlled Congress in 1974, Nixon could not be removed without Republican legislators’ support.”

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