The Resignation Tipping Point

Why Donald Trump may opt to resign rather than face his reckoning on November 3rd

I think if Richard Nixon were alive today, he’d bristle mightily at the constant mention of his name next to that of Donald Trump.

He’d definitely be dabbing his upper lip between rants and raves.

Nixon, apart from his intense, Trump-like insecurities and massive disdain for the youth of the late-60s and early 70s, as well as the media who reported his many misdeeds, was a master diplomat and an influential pillar of the Republican establishment prior to his downfall.

While primarily recognized in history for his role in the cover-up of the Watergate Hotel break-in on June 17, 1972, Nixon managed to land a few lasting achievements while in office.

In 1970, Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a result of the rising concern over pollution and conservation. He signed into law Title IX in 1972, a civil rights law preventing gender bias at universities and colleges that receive Federal aid.

Nixon also ended the draft, turning America’s Armed Forces into an all-volunteer force, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, and oversaw peaceful desegregation of southern schools.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but Nixon wasn’t just some schmuck who backed into the presidency.

That said, Nixon wears the label of a ‘Bad President’ because he was a morally-compromised, egomaniacal scam artist who essentially normalized racially-charged dog whistles within the GOP; terms like “the silent majority” and “law and order”were founded during his initial term amidst Civil Rights and Vietnam War uprisings as a way to consolidate Southern and Midwest voters who felt alienated in the wake of the abolition of Jim Crow laws and racial desegregation earlier in the 1960s.

Yes, the same Nixon who oversaw peaceful desegregation is the same one who looked to covertly rally racists and move them into his voting bloc, as well as the future voting blocs of all other GOP electoral candidates.

Naturally, the Watergate scandal only helped to better frame what many people already knew — for all his diplomacy and statesmanship, Tricky Dick was unfit for the office of the presidency. He believed, as he so bluntly blurted out during the Frost/Nixon interviews in 1977, that if he, as the president, did something, then it couldn’t be illegal. In his view, he was above the law.

It only served to cement what people knew and felt about him and history hasn’t been kind, even towards his accomplishments which, objectively speaking, were many.

But while Nixon is no Trump, it stands to reason that the two are bound together in history because of what may very well happen in the coming weeks and months leading up to the general election on November 3.

For those of us who aren’t pretending that we don’t remember who and what Donald Trump was before he was the president, or even a presidential candidate, there are a lot of well-defined and unattractive traits to the man, but one stands out above them all — he refuses to lose.

Not in the sense that he simply wills himself to wins against all odds, but that he’s like a kid who flips over the chess board just before the obvious checkmate against him, then blames the incident on the wind and spends the days afterwards saying things like, it’s too bad the wind did that because I was about to make a major comeback.

For his part, Nixon spent two years trying to prevent the release of the White House tapes that directly implicated him in the cover-up of Watergate. When his final appeals were lost, the White House released the tapes on August 5, 1974 to the public, including Congress.

That afternoon, an influential group of Senate Republicans sent Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater to the White House to respectfully inform Nixon that his own party would not protect him from impeachment in the House of Representatives or from conviction and removal from office in the Senate.

Nixon was now staring directly into the barrel of full-on historical disgrace. He knew, then and there, that he would resign. But while his announcement came on August 8, 1974, Nixon spent the time in between shoring up his affairs and assuring himself, through the pardons of his then-Vice President and soon-to-be President Gerald Ford, that he would face no punishment or legal reprisal for his crimes.

At noon EST on August 9, 1974, Nixon departed the White House and walked away a free man. He refused to lose, even though ‘resigning in disgrace’ doesn’t exactly scream ‘WINNING’ in big, fluorescent letters.

Trump’s deal is both simpler and more complex.

As the election grows nearer, Trump’s already-low national approval ratings have managed to sag closer to chaotic levels.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s national polling averages, Trump’s current approval rating sits at 40.6% with a disapproval rating of 55.7%.

Since presidential approval ratings began in 1945, only two other presidents have ended their first terms the way Trump is on pace to — George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter.

Coincidentally, those are two of the only three presidents since 1945 to run for a second term and lose. Gerald Ford is the other.

Trump’s stronghold — the south — is currently being ravaged by the virus after many of the states’ governors parroted Trump’s downplaying of the virus and began re-opening their states far too soon. Now, cases are exploding in those regions and the economic uprising Trump had expected as a result of re-opening is now all-but out of the question as the vast majority of the southern United States goes back to square one.

Many of those same governors, now politically imperiled due to their rhetorical mirroring of the president, are breaking from Trump’s rhetoric, encouraging and even enforcing the wide use of masks and the total pausing of re-opening efforts.

Same goes for Trump’s cable news propaganda machine, Fox News.

Even the ghost of Rupert Murdoch is encouraging people to wear masks now after months of feeding Trump his grist for the anti-intellectual mill.

As November approaches, it’s conceivable that vulnerable Senate Republicans could begin drifting away from Trump as a way to improve their own re-election bids.

While Sen. Goldwater served as Nixon’s presidential ‘Angel of Death’, there’s no denying that Sen. Mitch McConnell will be the one likely put in the position of either closing ranks with Trump or pushing him to the trash heap of presidential history.

First, a quick lesson here. Mitch McConnell is the most powerful man in the United States.

As the Senate Majority Leader, the Kentucky Senator is the one who makes things ‘go’. If the House passes a unanimous resolution of some sort, which it has done many times since 2017, McConnell can simply choose, on his own, with no council necessary, to hold the bill in perpetuity, or to kill it in some other way. He actually doesn’t even need to address its existence.

He can make sure the president never sees a bill on his desk or put the pressure of the mob all on the president. He can obstruct Supreme Court appointees from ever receiving a confirmation hearing, which he did in the case of Merrick Garland in 2015, and then push through the confirmations of guys like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

The point is, it’s all up to McConnell. A lot of people do a lot of the leg work before and after that, but there’s no cutting McConnell out of the equation. He’s ‘That Guy’.

To show you how powerful he is, he’s been Kentucky’s senator since 1984, yet he is the lowest-rated home-polled senator in the United States.

While McConnell has consolidated power and influence over the past 36 years, his state has remained one of the poorest in the country. He succeeds, primarily, because he has successfully gerrymandered many of his state’s districts, but also because the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in some spots in Kentucky is so out of whack, it’s almost like he runs unopposed most times.

In 2020, he’s running against former Air Force pilot Amy McGrath, a centrist Democrat who has gained enough national traction to become a serious threat.

While McConnell is projected to win, it’s still too early to tell, the lead is slim and if McConnell begins to feel like being aligned with Trump hurts more than helps, he may pivot away, which would signal an end to Trump’s presidency.

All of this is to say — if there’s an ‘Angel of Death’ for Trump, it’s McConnell.

In politics, a stable wall of support can collapse into ruin, and when it does, historically speaking, it does so quickly and all at once.

Nixon’s approval ratings dropped from 68% to 44% in a matter of 40 days. By the time he was gone, his approval rating was 25%.

Somewhere between 44 and 25%, Republican lawmakers in 1974 decided they could no longer use their majority in the Senate to protect their own party’s president from conviction.

Trump’s approval rating is not just in that range already, but it has been virtually his entire presidency!

Trump is, far and away, the least popular president in history, and his approval ratings have been historically consistent in that he has lived almost his entire term in the 39–44 percentile.

Zoom out far enough and that’s just a straight line of mediocrity.

If his numbers continue to sag as the summer continues, Republican lawmakers will leave him.

If swing states he so narrowly won in 2016 continue to drift further towards Joe Biden, he won’t even be able to lean on the Electoral College to keep himself competitive.

Still a ways to go, but none of this looks good or even slightly promising if you’re Trump, or someone who likes the guy.

I believe, knowing what I’ve known for a long time about Trump, that he will not allow himself to simply sit there on November 3 as Joe Biden crushes him.

Trump won’t allow people like me to feel the overt joy of watching the United States issue an authoritative and absolute rejection of his presidency.

I believe he’ll announce his resignation or his refusal to accept or pursue the nomination for another term as president in the weeks leading up to the election.

He’ll do so in the face of certain defeat, but in doing so, he’ll claim plainly that he would have won, that the election was rigged, that he wouldn’t let his supporters or himself be embarrassed by a sham election, and that he doesn’t need the presidency to do what he wants to do.

He’ll talk about how he was treated so unfairly, and how the fake news media made him out to be such a bad guy despite the fact that without the very media he disparages, he’d still be just another failed reality TV star asking NBC for a new gig.

Consider also the legal ramifications of Trump leaving early or simply bowing out.

If he can negotiate a deal with Vice President Pence, much like Nixon did in the hours before he passed his office onto Gerald Ford, that pardons him from a majority of his crimes, Trump will only have to worry about civil and state cases that likely won’t result in anything resembling jail time or protracted, public hearings.

I have no delusions of Trump simply receding into the darkness at Mar-A-Lago.

No, he’ll flip the chess board just before the smackdown is layed down, then he’ll claim the wind did it and that it’s a shame about that wind because he was about to steal the show. Big comeback. Yuge.

People who love him will believe him and follow him. He’ll still hold rallies and feed his narcissistic need for praise and applause. He’ll rant incoherently and he’ll cast blame for his failures on any and everyone but himself.

As time passes, his crowds will get smaller, and a major piece of American history will finally be cast in stone for future generations to study and work to prevent from ever happening again.

In the meantime, the Republican Party will attempt to rebuild itself and search for a new identity while the world is rebuilt and remade around them. Here’s hoping the lessons they seemed to have learned in the wake of the 2012 election finally crossover from echoes into action.

Joel Roza Jr. is an at-large writer covering a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from sports to politics and other special interests.