Voice of the Silent Majority

In the eight years he served as vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon later recalled, he “saw DDE [the president] alone about 6 times in the whole deal.” That notation, recorded in the Oval Office by H.R. Haldeman on April 24, 1969—roughly 90 days into Nixon’s first term—captured the president’s thinking about the role he expected his own vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, to play in the Nixon administration. And so it went: The former governor of Maryland was barred from Nixon’s inner circle and given no substantive policy role.

On Election Day 1968, Agnew stood only two years from his first elected office: Baltimore County executive. In the annals of modern politics, the swiftness of his rise to the national ticket is rivaled, among career politicians, only by that of Sarah Palin. Equally stunning was Agnew’s fall. On Oct. 10, 1973, less than a year after he and Nixon won re-election in a landslide, the vice president pleaded nolo contendere in a Baltimore courtroom to tax evasion, a result of his having accepted cash envelopes from Maryland contractors for several years—including in the White House. He resigned in a deal that spared him prison time.

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