Despite Watergate, did Richard Nixon's presidency start the Republican ascendency of the following period? Why and how did this happen?
Despite Watergate, Nixon established the Republican ascendancy that followed him. Nixon claimed to represent what he called the "Silent Majority," by which he meant the conservative white Americans who had not benefited from the liberal policies of Kennedy and Johnson. By the time of Nixon's election in 1968, many white Americans felt left out and disregarded by the federal government. They felt that policies such as Johnson's War on Poverty were not aimed at helping them, and they also resented federal regulations and were eager to see them repealed or rolled back. In addition, growing inflation and the sense that Vietnam was going to be a lost cause made them eager for a stronger America, militarily and economically.
Although Carter, a Democrat, won the election in 1976, Republicans after Nixon, including Reagan and the Bushes, won office using many of Nixon's strategies and building on his appeal to the white voters who felt that the federal government had abandoned them and had jettisoned the idea of a strong America. For example, Reagan's 1984 promise that "it's morning in America again" was designed to restore American voters' faith that the U.S. could be an economic and military powerhouse, as it had been in years past. Nixon and his Republican successors established the idea that Democrats were associated with international and economic weakness, while Republicans could bolster the economy and the American military.
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