Nixon’s lessons for Biden and today’s GOP
Like the 37th president, the 46th can find success by working across the aisle
In his second inaugural, a triumphant president claimed a mandate and sought a legacy. He had won a true landslide—60 percent of the popular vote. He won all but one state in the Electoral College. Only George Washington and James Monroe had done better, with unanimous Electoral College reelections.
That reelected president was Richard Nixon, re-inaugurated 50 years ago in January 1973. After his second inaugural address, his popularity stood at 67 percent.
Nixon had campaigned in 1972 on prosperity and world leadership, and on the promise of peace. The economy was booming, with a real growth rate of 6.4 percent, falling unemployment (5.1 percent at the end of 1972), and 3 percent inflation. He did this, despite being the first president elected in 120 years without his party controlling either house in Congress.
Nixon campaigned in 1972 on prosperity, with a booming economy, falling unemployment, and 3 percent inflation. He did this despite being the first president elected in 120 years without his party controlling either house in Congress
And yet, within nine months, Nixon’s presidency was consumed by the Watergate scandal and economic turmoil, and his popularity had fallen to 30 percent.
Joe Biden was also sworn-in in January 1973—as a freshman senator. Five decades later, as President Biden prepares for his State of the Union before a deeply divided Congress, what—if anything—can both branches learn from Nixon’s reelection success and second-term failure?