Today Spiro Agnew is best known for his resignation from the vice presidency of the United States as part of a plea bargain deal related to a legal case involving bribes he took as a public official. In Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America
(University of Virginia Press, 2019), however, Charles J. Holden
, Zach Messitte
, and Jerald Podair
present Agnew as a progenitor of the conservative populism associated today with America’s 45th president. As Holden explains, Agnew enjoyed a rapid rise in politics, going from his first election to a county office to the vice presidency in little more than a decade. Impressing many conservatives with his response as Maryland governor to riots in Baltimore, as vice president Agnew burnished his standing with them with a series of speeches that further fueled his popularity within both the Republican Party and much of the country. Though Agnew’s plea deal brought his political career to an ignominious and premature end, much of his rhetoric would be echoed by others in the decades to come, fueling changes within the GOP and becoming Agnew’s greatest political legacy.