I Like Tricky Dick!

Richard Nixon, outdoorsman (Wikimedia)

Yesterday I noted the contrast between Ted Cruz’s steady emergence as the GOP’s non-Trump possibility of the day, and the flat-out dislike so many of his own Republican party members seem to have for him. Have we ever had so “popular” a politician who was so personally unpopular?, I wondered. Maybe Nixon?

Not so, according to several readers. First let’s hear from Mike Lofgren, longtime veteran of legislative politics and author of The Party is Over and a new book, The Deep State: the Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.

Is Nixon the comparison?

Nope. Plenty of people hated Nixon, but not substantial numbers of his own party, at least up until late 1973 at the earliest. The hatred for Cruz by his own party members in the Senate is probably unique in history, with the possible exception of Senator Joe McCarthy after Army counsel Joseph Nye Welch finished with him. (possibly an apt analogy, since Cruz channels McCarthy both physically and in his methods, e.g., insinuating that combat vet Chuck Hagel was in the pay of the North Koreans).

That said, on ethanol a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Longer version of the “he’s no Nixon!” analysis after the jump.

Another reader writes:

Three observations:

1.        Of course, you’re right—Cruz’s opposition to the ethanol subsidy is principled.  It’s also true that even when he’s acting on principle (which is rare for him in this campaign), he can’t help letting his dishonesty bleed through.  Calling the opposition to his position a reaction from the Washington “cartel” and establishment ludicrous.  No one in Washington gives a hoot about the ethanol subsidy; it’s strictly an Iowa issue and the negative reaction to Cruz comes from Iowans who support the subsidy and the other candidates, who also support the subsidy because they are afraid to take an unpopular position in Iowa.  It probably never occurred to Cruz to simply say, I oppose this on principle and I’m the only candidate willing to do this; no, he has to turn this into an attack on the establishment.

2.       Nixon is hardly a precedent.  We now think of him as unlikeable, but that’s after having read/seen the White House tapes and Watergate.  True, Democrats and liberals always hated, or at least disliked, him.  Republicans didn’t.  In 1964 and 1966, he campaigned for a lot of Republicans running for the Senate and House and built up a lot of loyalty.  He wasn’t loved, but he was admired.  I don’t think that Cruz has helped more than a handful of GOP candidates, and his attacks on the GOP “establishment” have enraged his fellow Senators.  Nixon never did anything remotely like that.

3.      I suspect that if either Trump or Cruz get the nomination, there will be plenty of local Republican officials who will lie low during the election.  They won’t admit it, but I suspect that many of them would rather see Clinton win than either Trump or Cruz.  Deep down, I think many of them know that Trump is totally unsuited for the job and that Cruz is a power-hungry, ruthless ideologue who will attempt to take control of the party.