Vidal

Donor
This topic has gotten some attention on the boards, but most of the comments were along the lines of "People trust government more" and called it a day. I'm hoping to begin a more earnest discussion based on a few central questions.

Point of Divergence: IOTL, the Watergate burglary was foiled by some plain-clothed cops who arrived in an unmarked vehicle as the original officer was at a bar drunk. (All the President's Men the film posits that he was getting gas, but Garrett Graff's new book has the full story). Let's assume that some misdemeanor earlier in the night means that cop never makes it to the bar. He gets the call to go to the Watergate and arrives in his cruiser. Alfred Baldwin, on lookout across the street, notices the cruiser, and successfully radioes to the burglars inside, who get out in the knick of time. It appears there may have been some kind of a break-in, but it appears just as likely that Frank Wills is misremembering removing the tape on the door... no one can say for sure.

Nixon learns of the close call the next day, Liddy is reprimanded for using people so closely connected to CRP and the White House in the burglary, and it isn't until the mid-2000s when a seemingly obscure White House tape is released and there's vague mention of something at the Watergate the night before that historians realize there really may have been some kind of a break-in and that CRP may have been involved.

With all of that in mind... I invite you to consider some or all of the following questions (and pose your own):

What happens to the other Nixon-era scandals? The Pentagon Papers, the Segretti dirty tricks, and the dairy pricing come to mind. Without a concrete center for the investigation, do any of these scandals evolve into a serious threat to the Nixon administration?

It seems unlikely to me that they ever amount to anything as serious as a Special Prosecutor or a Congressional investigation as the extent of them only became known through the investigations that began with the break-in. I think it would take some kind of a whistleblower to make them come to light earlier, and that seems unlikely to me given that most of the Watergate whistleblowers (think John Dean) had little trouble doing questionable deeds on Nixon's behalf and only came to see the light once their own livelihoods were threatened with prison time.

What happens to Agnew? In my opinion, Agnew is still likely to be doomed. That investigation was happening separately and would likely have followed along the OTL trajectory. The timing might change a bit, but Agnew is still likely to be centered in it. The question is if there's enough pressure on him to resign if there's not a belief that Nixon is going down, too. IOTL, the idea that his scandal might blow up right before or right after Nixon's own troubles came to light motivated Elliott Richardson to pursue the resignation plea bargain. It seems semi-likely to me that without Watergate, Agnew chooses to fight the indictment, though he is almost certainly confirmed. This would raise questions about whether or not Nixon decides to pardon him (probably not right away, but seems quite plausible he does it on 01/20/77).

Assuming Agnew still goes down, who succeeds him? It seems totally likely that without the dairy price fixing scandal emerging, Connally could get the nod, as Nixon wanted. Ford is unlikely to be seriously considered ITTL, and it's also possible that Democrats feel less inclined to accommodate Nixon's nominee with tame hearings. You could see a real knock-down fight in Congress over the nomination, or at least a slow one that limits the amount of time the new vice president has to build goodwill before trying their own presidential run. George Bush seems at least semi-plausible as an alternative vice presidential candidate here. What about Reagan?

What are Nixon's second term focuses? IOTL, Nixon's second term was totally dominated and eclipsed by Watergate. Even the Yom Kippur War is often told through the lens of his own domestic policy struggles. It seems clear Nixon intended to spend most of his second term on foreign policy. Are there areas where he may have been able to negotiate new peace agreements?

On the domestic policy side, it's hard to say what he'd do. I don't think he was particularly motivated to work with Congress any more than he was during his first term, and his desire would likely be even less given that he doesn't have reelection to worry about. Hopes of a healthcare bill, etc. seem more like liberal wish fulfillment than serious possibilities, but perhaps I'm wrong.

What happens in '76 and beyond? Assuming that Agnew still leaves the vice presidency, it's likely that the incumbent vice president to a reasonably popular Nixon is the Party's 1976 nominee, provided they have some political chops. I think a Vice President Bush or a Vice President Connally could beat Reagan in a primary campaign.

Who do the Democrats nominate? I know the consensus is that Carter was a direct result of Watergate, and that's definitely true to an extent, but there's no doubt that he will run. He was already planning on a campaign before Watergate broke, and there's also no question he's going to work his ass off, doing the kind of retail politicking that enabled him to win Iowa and New Hampshire IOTL. The question is if some of those voters are more trusting of Washington insiders, which, of course, they would be. In my opinion, Birch Bayh is the Democrat most likely to benefit in this scenario. I would expect him to win Iowa or get a closer second place finish, but I also think Carter puts up a reasonably strong showing - enough to make him a serious vice presidential contender.

And, of course, trust in government will be different. Watergate has obviously played a dramatic part in altering the American public's relationship with government. I don't think you can really overstate that. Even if Reagan were to win in '76, I think a statement like "Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem..." would land totally different if its said at all. Though, I think forecasting this question is a little hard to do without a theory of who is in the White House and how they got there.

What of the Nixon legacy? It's interesting to consider that Nixon's legacy may unfold in a sort of atypical fashion. I think he'd likely go out on top only to be increasingly remembered as a flawed president and would-be tyrant as more and more records of his presidency are revealed and historians dig in to the archives of his time in the White House. While we often see history be kinder to presidents who leave office while unpopular, like Truman and Carter, as time goes on, we less often see presidents who leave with respectable popular support be seen as worse with time. Wilson comes to mind as one example. I think you could maybe argue Bill Clinton, too, but that carries a sort of ideological flavor to it moreso than I think a reexamination of Nixon come the 2000's and 2010's would...

Of course, part of the answer to this question relies on how you answer "What are Nixon's second term focuses?" Maybe, he doesn't leave office on a high note at all...

Anywho -- hoping for a robust conversation here about Tricky Dick and what America may be like without the Watergate scandal as its known today.

RichardNixon.jpg
 
Pentagon Papers before Watergate, Agnew no connection. Ford less controversial than Connally. Nixon.probably able to.partially save South.Vietnam, smaller Dem majorities.in.Congress 1975-77. Would guess Carter beats Reagan 76 - same from then on.
 

Vidal

Donor
Pentagon Papers before Watergate,

Certainly. I recognize that. I guess my question was more about if, on their own, they can become something that threatens the Nixon presidency. Given that they were already known, I think we're in agreement that they wouldn't...
 
Pentagon Papers before Watergate, Agnew no connection. Ford less controversial than Connally. Nixon.probably able to.partially save South.Vietnam, smaller Dem majorities.in.Congress 1975-77. Would guess Carter beats Reagan 76 - same from then on.
Without Watergate it’s doubtful that Carter would be the Democratic nominee in 1976.
 
Assuming Agnew still goes down, who succeeds him? It seems totally likely that without the dairy price fixing scandal emerging, Connally could get the nod, as Nixon wanted. Ford is unlikely to be seriously considered ITTL, and it's also possible that Democrats feel less inclined to accommodate Nixon's nominee with tame hearings.

Ford was picked without mind to Watergate, and the circumstances would be the same. The Agnew ship had already been sailing when Watergate got serious. Connally, as a former Democrat, would always be impossible to pass through Congress, with betrayed, resentful Democrats and skeptical, untrustworthy Republicans . I’d have to reread the Nixon bio I have lying around on my laptop to find the quote, but I know congressional leaders specifically told Nixon that they’d be able to swiftly pass any Vice President, besides of course, Connally. Nixon didn’t have the will to fight that losing battle, and he went for Ford. It would be the same ordeal with or without Watergate, and for the same reasons. Nixon would pick Ford as Vice President.

Who do the Democrats nominate? I know the consensus is that Carter was a direct result of Watergate, and that's definitely true to an extent, but there's no doubt that he will run. He was already planning on a campaign before Watergate broke, and there's also no question he's going to work his ass off, doing the kind of retail politicking that enabled him to win Iowa and New Hampshire IOTL. The question is if some of those voters are more trusting of Washington insiders, which, of course, they would be. In my opinion, Birch Bayh is the Democrat most likely to benefit in this scenario. I would expect him to win Iowa or get a closer second place finish, but I also think Carter puts up a reasonably strong showing - enough to make him a serious vice presidential contender.

I’ve pondered this before. Before Watergate, there were some candidates polling above and near the political Mendoza Line. You had Ted Kennedy, easily would win the nomination if he ran. However, he would not run for the same reasons, reasoning ultimately unaffected by Watergate. Next up was George Wallace. Now, the issue with Wallace is that although he was more integrated into the establishment by this point and redeeming himself with a more liberal party, more Democrats in 1976 (~30%) said they’d never vote for Wallace than Democrats who supported him (~20%) when he was a polling frontrunner. The field is ripe for an anti-Wallace candidate, if his lead even lasts into 1976. So who could that be? Taking a look at our near hitters, we’ve got an assortment of liberal candidates eating into each other’s potential support. There is the elusive possibility of a Humphrey bid, despite his age, he did show a willingness to run in real life, and that’s what matters. If he jumps in, he has good odds to win the primary. If he stays out, the next logical candidates are Edmund Muskie and George McGovern. As long as only one of these run, they’d be able to carry the field. Besides that? In the absence of these candidates, and even with their presence, the primary field was fluid, and you’d certainly have strong dark horse contenders. Carter and other candidates would be able to make strong showings, even if ultimately unsuccessful. With all that being said, I’d say Muskie, Humphrey, or McGovern would be the most likely Democratic nominees.

What happens in '76 and beyond? Assuming that Agnew still leaves the vice presidency, it's likely that the incumbent vice president to a reasonably popular Nixon is the Party's 1976 nominee, provided they have some political chops. I think a Vice President Bush or a Vice President Connally could beat Reagan in a primary campaign.

Ronald Reagan has the best odds at winning a primary, even if (Vice President) Ford decides to run. Nixon wanted Connally to succeed him as president, and while I could see a backstage push by Nixon to these ends, the base did not see Connally as the last Coca-Cola in the desert, for the same reasons he would not get the vice presidency. His chances at winning in a primary are not evenly matched, but maybe after being outwardly supported from the incumbent administration, he could be viable. As far as other candidates, Rockefeller might make a bid in 1976, and if not, some other last moderate Republican hope would make an unsuccessful run for it.

As far as the general election, the Republican is favored to win, although the margin would likely range from comfortable to narrow. Mostly because the economy would still be afloat, right before Nixonomics comes crashing down on his successor.

I’m too tired to be coherent and since I’m doing this on a whim I can’t cite anything, but hopefully this adds!
 
Eh, my headcanon is nixon trades uncritical support for ford as vp in return for the GOPe rigging things as much as they can for his man Connally in 1976 and screwing reagan.
 
Theres a fair chance a national health care bill passes next legislative session. Nixon had supported such & saw it lose a few critical votes for a few disagreements over the scope. Without Nixions support post Watergate the necessary Republican votes weren't there & the Democrats had no chance on their own. I'd not try to predict how health care in the US would have developed had there been the relatively modest legislation passed in the mid 1970s.
 
What happens to the other Nixon-era scandals? The Pentagon Papers, the Segretti dirty tricks, and the dairy pricing come to mind. Without a concrete center for the investigation, do any of these scandals evolve into a serious threat to the Nixon administration?
What about the Chennault Affair? I feel that would blow-up into a huge thing if it was leaked.
 
This is a tough one.

My understanding is that Nixon wanted to tackle Peace in the Middle East in his second term. If he can get that done, the Oil Shocks and subsequent Stagflation can be reduced. Meaning stronger manufacturing and labor unions, and less pressure to push Free Trade. And Health Care Reform or Nixon Care was a desperate attempt to get the Democrats to back off on Watergate. Agnew still resigns, and I question whether Connally can survive confirmation. So I'm thinking George Bush is the new Vice President. I'm thinking at Congress still appropriates funds to South Vietnam, but the ending is the same. Unless Nixon launches a Linebacker 2.0, and the madman theory holds. So Peace in the Middle East and a surviving South Vietnam are possible. Probably no Nixon Care.

The big question is without Watergate, do the revelations of the Cointelpro and the CIA Clandestine activities come into the public sphere? Is their a Church Committee? And how do the 1974 midterms go? There's no Watergate Babies. Rockefeller is still Governor of New York here. The GOP only narrowly lost the California Governorship that year. And the Democrats only narrowly won Senate seats in Indiana, South Dakota, Iowa, and Vermont. I think the Democrats make gains, but not to the extent they did. The New Left may fade in prominence after the 1972 disaster. So no Governors Hugh Carey and Jerry Brown. Senators Bayh and McGovern lose. Jimmy Carter remains an obscure Governor. Bill Clinton loses his Congressional race by a lot more and maybe never runs for office again.

I think Nixon largely gets away with the dirty tricks. And we view them today in the same way we look at JFK's private life. The exception would be the Chenault Affair. I'm leaning towards Vice President Bush winning the Presidency in 1976, probably serving one term. You would have more moderate parties and a slower polarization. There might still be Liberal Republicans and Neo Conservative Democrats. I'm thinking a Southern Democrat is elected in 1980.

Nixon has a much better legacy than real life, but Vietnam lasting as long as it did, combined with Stagflation will be marks on his record. And some will criticize him for exploiting the political divides in the country.
 
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I question if Bayh would be the one to benefit come 1976. In OTL he barely won reelection in 1974 despite Watergate. I think he might well be defeated with this POD. Maybe Udall or Church could be the one to gain?
 
Im more interested in who might lead the House and Senate into the 1980s. Both those positions can at times be more important than the Presidency. however I'm at a loss to understand the alternatives absent Watergate.
 
Agnew still resigns and Ford is still nominated and confirmed as VP. I think 74 is still a Democratic wave year, but it produces less gains for them than OTL. As for Nixon's 2nd term, we likely bomb Vietnam one last time in 1975 in the hopes of saving it (something Ford wasn't in a position to do), only to still have it fall in the end. Healthcare reform of sorts may pass sometime between 1973 and 1975, but the economy also remains pretty stagnant from 73-75, which hurts the GOP going into 76. Speaking of 76, let's get into the Presidential race. I think Reagan gets the Republican nomination, whether Nixon wants him to or not as I don't believe anyone else in the party could seriously challenge him for it. I doubt Ford runs without first being President, Rockefeller was a has been at that point and there's no one else at the time that had the name recognition or the infrastructure in place to seriously challenge or especially defeat Reagan in the primaries. As was the case in 1976 and 1980 OTL though, Reagan would choose a moderate VP to unify the party. With the Democrats, if the economy remains stagnant like in OTL, someone like Scoop Jackson with strong ties to labor has a lot to gain, especially if Humphrey immediately outrules running again (which, IIRC, the fact that he didn't in OTL hurt Jackson), and that's despite Jackson's hawkishness. He too probably picks a VP that is an olive branch to the other wing of the party.

In a Jackson vs. Reagan match up for the general election, my money would be on Jackson narrowly winning due to the stagnant economy and Reagan's economic stances alienating enough Humphrey 68/Nixon 72 and even Nixon 68 and 72 voters. Going into 1977 and 78 with slimmer majorities than OTL could mean, with a strong enough backlash, the GOP could flip one chamber of Congress in 1978, and potentially both in 1980, if Jackson does in fact end up going down to defeat. Someone more moderate than Reagan is likely the Republican nominee in 1980 and we'll likely have a more moderate GOP (though still slightly to Nixon's right) through the 80s and 90s.
 
Agnew still resigns and Ford is still nominated and confirmed as VP. I think 74 is still a Democratic wave year, but it produces less gains for them than OTL. As for Nixon's 2nd term, we likely bomb Vietnam one last time in 1975 in the hopes of saving it (something Ford wasn't in a position to do), only to still have it fall in the end. Healthcare reform of sorts may pass sometime between 1973 and 1975, but the economy also remains pretty stagnant from 73-75, which hurts the GOP going into 76. Speaking of 76, let's get into the Presidential race. I think Reagan gets the Republican nomination, whether Nixon wants him to or not as I don't believe anyone else in the party could seriously challenge him for it. I doubt Ford runs without first being President, Rockefeller was a has been at that point and there's no one else at the time that had the name recognition or the infrastructure in place to seriously challenge or especially defeat Reagan in the primaries. As was the case in 1976 and 1980 OTL though, Reagan would choose a moderate VP to unify the party. With the Democrats, if the economy remains stagnant like in OTL, someone like Scoop Jackson with strong ties to labor has a lot to gain, especially if Humphrey immediately outrules running again (which, IIRC, the fact that he didn't in OTL hurt Jackson), and that's despite Jackson's hawkishness. He too probably picks a VP that is an olive branch to the other wing of the party.

In a Jackson vs. Reagan match up for the general election, my money would be on Jackson narrowly winning due to the stagnant economy and Reagan's economic stances alienating enough Humphrey 68/Nixon 72 and even Nixon 68 and 72 voters. Going into 1977 and 78 with slimmer majorities than OTL could mean, with a strong enough backlash, the GOP could flip one chamber of Congress in 1978, and potentially both in 1980, if Jackson does in fact end up going down to defeat. Someone more moderate than Reagan is likely the Republican nominee in 1980 and we'll likely have a more moderate GOP (though still slightly to Nixon's right) through the 80s and 90s.
Seems pretty plausible.

Another idea.

Nixon puts out feelers on Health Care Reform, Ted Kennedy voices interest as Nixon is obviously in much better political shape. However, Nixon Care fails due to the GOP and Conservative Democrats. Ted Kennedy, feeling burned by the experience, decides to run for President.
 
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This is a tough one.

My understanding is that Nixon wanted to tackle Peace in the Middle East in his second term. If he can get that done, the Oil Shocks and subsequent Stagflation can be reduced. Meaning stronger manufacturing and labor unions, and less pressure to push Free Trade. And Health Care Reform or Nixon Care was a desperate attempt to get the Democrats to back off on Watergate. Agnew still resigns, and I question whether Connally can survive confirmation. So I'm thinking George Bush is the new Vice President. I'm thinking at Congress still appropriates funds to South Vietnam, but the ending is the same. Unless Nixon launches a Linebacker 2.0, and the madman theory holds. So Peace in the Middle East and a surviving South Vietnam are possible. Probably no Nixon Care.

The big question is without Watergate, do the revelations of the Cointelpro and the CIA Clandestine activities come into the public sphere? Is their a Church Committee? And how do the 1974 midterms go? There's no Watergate Babies. Rockefeller is still Governor of New York here. The GOP only narrowly lost the California Governorship that year. And the Democrats only narrowly won Senate seats in Indiana, South Dakota, Iowa, and Vermont. I think the Democrats make gains, but not to the extent they did. The New Left may fade in prominence after the 1972 disaster. So no Governors Hugh Carey and Jerry Brown. Senators Bayh and McGovern lose. Jimmy Carter remains an obscure Governor. Bill Clinton loses his Congressional race by a lot more and maybe never runs for office again.

I think Nixon largely gets away with the dirty tricks. And we view them today in the same way we look at JFK's private life. The exception would be the Chenault Affair. I'm leaning towards Vice President Bush winning the Presidency in 1976, probably serving one term. You would have more moderate parties and a slower polarization. There might still be Liberal Republicans and Neo Conservative Democrats. I'm thinking a Southern Democrat is elected in 1980.

Nixon has a much better legacy than real life, but Vietnam lasting as long as it did, combined with Stagflation will be marks on his record. And some will criticize him for exploiting the political divides in the country.
Perhaps Nixon convinces the Shah to deal with Khomeini and thus we avoid his involvement with Iran eventually goes and erupts into revolution.

That said, we would still be dealing with a stagnant economy and problems from Oil Shocks since they come from speculation. If HW Bush does win in 1976, I suspect that his prioritizing foreign politics over domestic would cost them, leading to a liberal Democrat winning in 1980s and pushing for greater reform, especially if the Liberal GOP isn't as down and out.
 

marathag

Kicked
If he can get that done, the Oil Shocks and subsequent Stagflation can be reduced. Meaning stronger manufacturing and labor unions, and less pressure to push Free Trade. And Health Care Reform or Nixon Care was a desperate attempt to get the Democrats to back off on Watergate
Economy would still be a mess from the Price and Wage controls he put in, and then the Oil Shock would still happen, as it was also tied into the price controls as much as the embargo.
Tricky dick's interest in Basic Income for Welfare reform, along with Health Care, that was real, and not just smoke for Watergate
 
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