Watergate with a Republican Congress

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Booster Gold, May 16, 2017.

  1. Booster Gold A Savage and an Idiot

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    Something I, and apparently fivethirtyeight.com have been thinking about lately, what would have been the result of the Watergate scandal if Republicans controlled Congress? What about just the Senate (the house is a hard ask at this point in history).

    What would be the knock on effects in 1976 and beyond? Could the moderate wing of the Republican party survive? If so, how would that affect American politics?
     
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  2. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

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    Okay, if the Republicans controlled the Senate but not the House, some case to be made that things would have played out largely the same.

    Same investigative journalism by Washington Post, same letter written by James McCord to Judge Sirica <-- And this may have been the key hinge point. The Nixon White House could not get their shit together sufficiently to make sure the families of the burglars were supported while they were in prison. They weren't asking for a huge pay day, just that their families be supported.

    Although Sam Ervin might still be in the Senate, he wouldn't be leading the committee. All the same, Pete Rodino in the House did alright. *Howard Baker was a Senate Republican who acted more in a nonpartisan way and in fact known for asking, What did the President know and when did he know it.

    And at the end, Senator Barry Goldwater told Nixon he could only count on 15 votes in the Senate, not because members took such high and mighty positions or put the country ahead of party, but because they felt hung out to dry by Nixon. More than once, they defended the guy and then he gets caught in another lie.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2017
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  3. Booster Gold A Savage and an Idiot

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    I'm not so sure the Republicans would abandon him if they were in the majority in the Senate. I think a lot of that was a fait accompli. Granted, things were less partisan in the 70s, but look how hard the Republicans stuck with Reagan during Iran Contra.
     
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  4. Colonel Zoidberg Well-Known Member

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    Bear in mind that it takes two-thirds in the Senate to convict but only a simple majority in the House. If Nixon's fate was sealed in the Senate, a hell of a lot of Republicans were sick of him.

    The House having a GOP majority may avert the threat of being impeached, but if there's enough evidence against Nixon, one of two things will happen - the House will cave, leading either to Nixon resigning or impeachment proceedings starting, or the GOP will be destroyed in 1974's midterms - and I do mean a possible "there is no federal Republican Party" after this.
     
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  5. James Ricker Own your mistakes

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    Same result,the Republicans of the time put country over party.The first person to file impeachment charges against Nixon was a republican.
     
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  6. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

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    I tend to agree. Humans are very attune at which way something is breaking. And then they use their considerable intellectual justifying a decision made for these tribal reasons.

    Just what we humans do. Not quite sure how to play to strength in this regard.
     
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  7. Booster Gold A Savage and an Idiot

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    So with a Republican Senate, it's at least plausible that Nixon wriggles out, maybe by the skin of his teeth like Johnson. If so, what are the knock on effects. Something similar to too, or different?
     
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  8. mattep74 Well-Known Member

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    Nixon is not Trump. They will stick with him until 1976 no matter how damaging the evidence are. Maybe Nixon manages his health care reform?
     
  9. Clandango Well-Known Member

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    I imagine the leaking of his swearing (or just seeing the transcripts were everything is bopped and letting people use their imaginations) would sour people to Nixon a bit. Here was a loose canon who didn't play by the rules.
     
  10. arjav Booker/Bullock 2020

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    This is a really interesting question given the possibility of what we're seeing right now. I would agree that Howard Baker (the one Republican I could bear in the White House), the leader in the Senate of the time, I believe, would probably still have gone ahead with impeachment.

    I doubt anything would be different, apart from the Republicans coming off as having spine (as opposed to today) and so not suffering as badly as they did in the subsequent elections.
     
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  11. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I think a Democratic House and a Republican Senate is among the more interesting Watergate possibilities.

    And really, I don't consider cheating on an election to be that huge a deal.

    Things like bombing Cambodia (and contributing to power vacuum) and supporting a 1973 coup in Chile, including agreeing with ITT and corporate interests in favor of the coup, for me personally rank much higher. Many of my fellow citizens give the president a pass on foreign policy, they admire 'toughness' even if the whole thing is misguided, and they rather assume . . well, if the president did it, it must have been a good idea.

    The second Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski wrote in his book The Right and the Power that Nixon cheating on his income taxes, that registered high on the emotional richter scale with the American public. In fact, this was the occasion in which Nixon said, The American public has got to know whether their president is a crook or not; I am not a crook. But this was not included with the articles of impeachment.

    The really huge charge would have been if it came out that Nixon took steps to sabotage the 1968 peace talks. This I consider to be tectonic shift. (the one saving grace might be that South Vietnam's Thieu not crazy about the talks since they would most likely require him to step down. so they might have failed anyway)
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
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  12. David T Well-Known Member

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    In OTL the 93rd Congress started with 241 D - 192 R in the House and 56 D - 42 R in the Senate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/93rd_United_States_Congress So it's really hard for me to see any plausible way the Republicans could have controlled Congress given that this was *after* the Nixon landslide over McGovern. Southern voters in those days were too inclined to voting for (usually conservative) Democrats for Congress--even if they voted heavily for Republicans for the White House--for the GOP to come anywhere near controlling Congress. So I just don't see a plausible POD here--it's not like changing a few close races would give the GOP control of either House.
     
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  13. David T Well-Known Member

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    Just how does this come about, especially in the Senate? "Despite Nixon's victory, Democrats increased their majority by two seats. After the election, Democrats held 56 seats and Republicans held 42 seats, with 1 Conservative and 1 independent Senator." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_elections,_1972

    If the Democrats lost *every* Senate race which they won by under 7.8 percentage points in OTL in 1972 (CO, DE, KY, ME and MT) they would still control the Senate.
     
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  14. RightTosser Used Citra-Frost Salesman

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    The answer may lie in the 1970 midterms, where Senate Democrats were defending around two dozen seats. Here, the GOP managed a net gain of two seats, but with some butterflies you could easily flip several outcomes to the GOP, so the GOP minority in the Senate going into '72 looks more like 46-48 seats instead of 44.

    IMO, if you have a closer race at the presidential level in '72, Dems running at the Congressional level will have their fortunes more closely tied to the presidential candidate/be less able to distance themselves from that candidate/expected to voice their support for that candidate. One can look at 1972 and '84 senate results for examples of how presidential-level landslides can give the losing party more breathing room at the congressional level, and 1968 for how close races at the presidential level can fatally narrow that breathing room. If you have, say, Humphrey or Muskie (basically not a moonbat Dem like Wallace or McGovern) running against Nixon in '72, and Nixon wins re-election with an EV count in the 300-360 range, the Republicans might see gains in the Senate, which when put together with better results for the GOP in 1970 might produce a narrow GOP majority in the Senate.
     
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  15. Pericles Well-Known Member

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    According to Nixonland, Nixon made a strong push, the most active midterm involvement of a President since 1938, to take Congress and a 'new Republican majority'. Nixon believed that with Democrats defending many seats from the 1958 and 1964 waves. Nixon hoped to ride the 'silent majority' sentiment and anger at the hippies to victory. Nixonland quoted angry letters to the Scranton Commission on the Kent State massacre, with one saying "What these radicals need is a good beating. And I will be the first one to break the backs of one of these little b****es or b******s" However, Perlstein says that Republicans "forgot the power of quiet" and Nixon's campaign was too inflammatory with Agnew being too partisan. Another suggested cause of Nixon's disappointing showing was the economy, which entered recession for the first time in a decade in 1970. Nixon raged against the result, despite Democrats losing 4 Senate seats. Nixonland says that "The Democrats' success showed the brilliance of a Democratic Congress's political menuver. In August, Congress had handed the president new powers to impose wage and price controls-because they knew a business Republican such as Nixon would never use them. Republicans, boxed in, lamely called Democrats economic pessimists. Democrats returned that they have given the president authority to do something about people's economic misery-but instead he sat on his hands."

    Here are my alternate 1970 results.
    1970 Senate elections
    Hugh Scott-Republican: 49+6 43.9%
    Mike Mansfield-Democratic: 49-8 48.4%
    Independent: 1+1
    Conservative: 1+1
    100 seats
    51 for majority

    Florida: William C Cramer(R) defeats Lawton Chiles(D)
    Indiana: Richard L Roudebush(R) defeats incumbent Vance Hartke(D)
    Missouri: John Danforth(R) defeats incumbent Stuart Symington(D)
    New Mexico: Anderson Carter(R) defeats incumbent Joseph Montoya(D)
    Texas: George Bush(R) defeats Lloyd Bentsen(D)

    1970 House elections
    Carl Albert-Democratic: 235-8 49.6%
    Gerald Ford-Republican: 200+8 48.9%
    435 seats
    218 for majority

    Connecticut 1: Antonina P Uccello(R) defeats William R Cotter(D)
    Connecticut 6: Richard C Kilburn(R) defeats Ella T Grasso(D)
    Florida 7: Joe Z Lovingood(R) defeats incumbent James A Haley(D)
    Indiana 4: Incumbent E Ross Adair(R) defeats J Edward Roush(D)
    Kansas 2: Incumbent Chester L Mizel(R) defeats William R Roy(D)
    Kentucky 3: Incumbent William O Cowger(R) defeats Romano L Mazzoli(D)
    Maryland 6: George R Hughes Jr(R) defeats Goodloe Byron(D)
    Massachusetts 3: John McGlennon(R) defeats Robert Drinan(D)
    Missouri 6: Hugh A Sprague(R) defeats incumbent William Raleigh Hull Jr(D)
    New Mexico 2: Incumbent Ed Foreman(R) defeats Harold L Runnels(D)
    New York 1: Malcolm E Smith Jr(R) defeats incumbent Otis G Pike(D)
    New York 16: David D Smith(R) defeats incumbent John M Murphy(D)
    New York 27: Incumbent Martin B McKneally(R) defeats John G Dow(D)
    New York 35: John F Connor(R) defeats incumbent James M Hanley(D)
    North Carolina 4: Jack Hawke(R) defeats incumbent Nick Galifianakis(D)
    North Dakota 2: Robert McCarney(R) defeats Arthur A Link(D)
    South Dakota 2: Fred D Brady(R) defeats James Abourezk(D)
    Utah 1: Richard Richards(R) defeats K Gunn McKay(D)
    Washington 4: Incumbent Catherine Dean May(R) defeats Mike McCormack(D)
    Wyoming at-large: Harry Roberts(R) defeats Teno Roncalio(D)
     
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  16. RightTosser Used Citra-Frost Salesman

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    Wow, I didn't know the economy entered into recession in 1970.
     
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  17. Indicus Raianus Indicorum Gone Fishin'

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    A very brief one, greatly overshadowed by the later shit of the 70s.
     
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  18. Galba Otho Vitelius Well-Known Member

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    Pericles, thanks for the research.

    These Senate results produce lots of butterflies, mainly relating to the Bush family:

    Florida: William C Cramer(R) defeats Lawton Chiles(D)
    Texas: George Bush(R) defeats Lloyd Bentsen(D)

    The House result in KY3 also has some after-effects.
     
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  19. Booster Gold A Savage and an Idiot

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    Okay, so, based on what I'm seeing, a significantly stronger Republican presence in Congress is possible in the 70s and a Republican Senate is at least plausible.

    And considering that Watergate initially made Conservatives rally round Nixon

    https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/20...ent-conservative-public-opinion-trump-history

    Let's say we've changed the dynamics enough to save Nixon and he limps through the rest of his presidency.

    What are the effects? Does this slow partisan realignment, by allowing moderate Republicanism to survive the conservative onslaught (for a while anyway)? Does Reagan win in 1976 instead of milquetoast Ford (now without his incumbency advantage)?
     
  20. GeographyDude Well-Known Member

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    It's quite a challenge. No question about it.

    Might have to go back to one of my favorite ATL's. The U.S. uses desegregated military units slightly earlier in World War II and the ones we did use are much more widely known about.

    Desegregation comes earlier and easier to the South. And the South earlier moves to current politics OTL, maybe just not so hardcore conservative.