This is a replacement for my Boy Scout presentation paper. We discussed this in your office on 3/24/2014.
The Watergate Scandal
By: Trevor Travis
The Watergate Scandal was a topic that came up in a discussion in my A.Y.F.C.E. class. The discussion was how this specific scandal turned the United States citizens against the government. The issue of trust was brought to attention and my professor elaborated shortly about the connection between the Watergate scandal and trust of the United States Government. This conversation lasted a short time before he changed the topic.
My interests in politics lead me to think about this topic. The topic really left me with some questions I would like answered, what is the Watergate Scandal, how did Watergate change the view Americans had on the government, and if this is the case, do Americans still feel the same way today about government?
The “American Behavioral Scientist” written by Michael Schudson, who is a professor at California University, and has a PhD in Behavioral Science. The reason I picked this article is because Schudson has done extensive research on this topic.
The Watergate Scandal started when five main election leaders for President Nixon’s election, in 1972, broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office and apartment complex in Washington D.C. They were later arrested. They then revealed that two of Nixon’s closest advisors covered up the burglary.
The press was pushing for more information. This lead to an investigation that linked the scandal directly to White House officials. “The true evidence to link the scandal to Nixon was the phone tapings” (1233). They later uncovered the “dirty tricks” (Schudson 1232) that Nixon used to assure his election status. They uncovered other phone tapings, the infringement on political parties, as well as money laundering.
Nixon was on trial for 26 months. Finally, two years after the trail started, Nixon was facing impeachment. He elected to resign rather than being impeached. On August 9th, 1974, Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became president.
This article is a great account of the events that took place before and as well as during the two year ordeal. I gained a lot of knowledge from this article. I now understand the history and how it was the downfall to Nixon’s presidency. The only thing that this particular article is missing is the majority of the first person accounts. The article mentions the Washington Post but rarely features the article tidbits from it. The article also misses the whole other side of the Scandal, the lack of trust this brought to The United States government. The questions still remain, how did Watergate change the view Americans had on the government, and if this is the case, do Americans still feel the same way today about government?
The break through book “Bowling Alone” written by Robert D. Putnam describes the effects of the Watergate scandal on the American society. Dr. Putnam is a political science professor at Harvard. I have read this book in my AYFCE class and it looks at the effect that Watergate had on the American society.
The Watergate Scandal was during the baby boomer generation. This is the post World War Two generation or “Greatest Generation” as they were called. The baby boomer generation had already “suffered the Kennedy and Martian Luther King Jr. assignations” (Putnam 257).They also were drafted in Vietnam and were also the protestors against the war. Then to top it all off Watergate came into the picture. The Watergate Scandal “had alienated this generation from the involvement in politics” (Putnam 257).
The alienation began with distrust in the government starting with the hippie movement and draft dodgers opposing the war. The American people weren’t sure why they were involved in the Vietnam War. They also watched the TV every night, as American troops were being drafted and killed for a war that they found unjust.
The Nixon campaign was based upon bringing the troops back home. They also wanted to step up negotiations with North Vietnam to end the 10,000-day war. The hope that troops would be returning home gave Nixon a great reputation to run on. The American people entrusted him.
The Watergate Scandal shocked the American public. The trust that they had in Nixon vanished. This is why generations preceding the baby boomers were also alienated from politics. This issue is still effecting the generations today and is a major reason why “only 61.8% of the American populace votes” (U.S. Census Bureau). The average percentage of voters declined by almost 30% from age 75 and over compared to ages 18 through 24. This is a strong supporter just by showing how much the American people have strayed away from politics.
The information I gathered from “Bowling Alone” is exactly what I wanted to find. This described how the Watergate Scandal pushed the American people away from politics. This also gave the view of politicians as crooked and untruthful people. The supplemental evidence drawn from the census bureau on percentage of voters.
This article “Bowling Alone” matches up with the course of events I read from “American Behavioral Scientist.” These two viewpoints both suggest that Watergate was one of the biggest events that shaped the view of politics as well as the involvement with them. This image couples with the census bureau showing why the voting registration sharply fell post 1975.
I learned from Putnam that this is a big deal because not only are people not voting, they aren’t paying attention to the policies being past. This allows politicians to go unchecked. They can now pass any policy they want. The people will now fall victim to political self-interest. This is a scary thought, and it all stemmed from Watergate.
Where I stand now, if Watergate was the first major scandal in American politics, then what other major scandals have happened after Watergate. Furthermore, what are their significance to the American society? Do these scandals further drive people away from politics?
According to “Political Scandals in the U.S.A.” written by Robert Williams, a renowned researcher on politics, suggest that there were multiple scandals throughout the presidencies proceeding Nixon’s term in office. The biggest scandal was considered the White water scandal or also called Monica gate. This occurred during the Clinton administration when Monica Lewinsky released statements that Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with her during the time she worked at the White House. This took place during November 1995 through March 1997.
She requested to leave the White House because she was spending too much time around Clinton. She left the White House for her new position at the Pentagon. There she told her coworker Lina Tripp about her relationship with Clinton. To protect Tripp from lying under oath to protect her job, Tripp released the statements and evidence to the independent counsel, Kenneth Starr.
Upon investigation Clinton released his first statement concluding, “I did not have any sexual relations with Miss. Lewinsky” (Clinton). They looked at the submitted evidence to reveal any truth to this. The evidence included a blue dress Lewinsky wore that had Clinton’s semen on it. The second statement Clinton released was “I did have a sexual relationship with Miss Lewinsky, which was inappropriate” (Clinton). Clinton was later threatened to be impeached and his law lenience was suspended for five years. Ironically, Lewinsky later released a statement saying “I hate Linda Tripp.”
The article directly relates more recent scandals to the way people feel about politics. This further strengthens the relationship between scandal and mistrust. I selected this eBook to further my investigation in this particular topic. This passage informed me with the most recent scandals and their significance. This also answered my questions about political scandals and allowed me to learn about them.
I learned how easy a scandal can ruin a campaign, as well as the politician’s life. This also goes hand in hand with their reputation that sticks with them throughout their lives. The most important thing is that it denies any further reelections to occur because of their history. This will hurt them financially because that is their choice in employment.
The eBook “Political Scandals in the U.S.A.” agrees completely with “Bowling Alone,” where more recent scandals further added to the distrust that the American people had for politicians. These lead to new stereotypes. The new stereotypes included politicians are selfish and aren’t good spouses because they are only concerned with self-interest. This further made people disengaged in politics, which is what “Bowling Alone” is expressing.
The other interesting facts I learned link the Clinton scandal to the Nixon scandal in more ways than just being political scandals. Clinton’s wife, Hillary, worked as an assistant lawyer in the Watergate investigation. The other bizarre part is that during the Clinton scandal, Monica Lewinsky left her home to live with her mother. Her mother lived in the Watergate building, where twenty six years earlier was the spot of a burglary that ruined Nixon’s political career.
I have one final question to ask. What was life like before scandals were common place in federal politics? I think this question holds the answer why civic engagement with politics has declined over time.
The source in going to recall for this is “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam. I chose this book for my source as well as my wildcard. It describes life over the course of the last century and puts it in the perspective of how engaged we are in society, that is why it makes perfect sense to use it again to answer my final question.
In “Bowling Alone,” it described life before the 1960’s as a tight knit country that took pride in elections and being civically involved. The politicians were truthful individuals that took time to listen to people’s issues as well as trying to resolve them. The newspapers, nationally and locally, kept a close eye on politicians and citizens paid close attention to the news. This established a check system that kept politicians in check with morals as well as society.
The book also recalls a nation that was strong when it came to the voting polls. The men and women, after 1920, were flocking to the polls to vote. Everyone that could vote ,would vote to fully fulfill civic duties.
The other side to this was social capital. The clubs and churches throughout the United States were full. People came to meet and socialize. They truly trusted and cared for one another. During this time, Putnam describes the United States as “being at its strongest.”
I learned that this book really describes the way we act as a society as a whole. The trends of our society have changed over time. The most significant point of this book is that around the 1960’s and 1970’s, the country takes a dramatic turn. The American society becomes less civically and politically involved. Putnam points directly to Watergate as a major reason for this.
The other point I learned is that the American society after Watergate becomes less trusting. The People fall out of favor with politics due to scandal and self-interest. The country as a whole becomes less trust worthy as well. Crime rates begin to escalate, while clubs and church organizations begin to decline. The communities became unknotted and the fabric of society was diminished.
This intellectual journey took me from Watergate to the disconnection of the American society. Thanks to Putnam and the United States Census Bureau, I have multiple facts and numbers that answered the questions I had about the relationship between scandal and society. This also lead me to questions about politicians and trust not only as citizens, but as a society overall.
The stance I have now complies with Putnam. I can fully understand how society has fallen apart due to trust issues between others and politics. This also relays the fact that a strong trustful leader keeps a society together and reinforces strength among us.
The research I would like to peruse in addition to the exploratory essay is weather or not there is a way to save this society and what would be the outcome of that. I also would like to find physiologically what makes politicians so easily persuaded to become scandalous. I think this holds a lot of truth to which leaders we consider to put in office and if we are picking the right officials to lead us.
Michael Schudson. “American Behavioral Scientist”vol. 47 no. 9 (2004) 1231-1238.Print.
Robert Putnam. “Bowling Alone” New York: Touchstone, 2001.Print.
U.S. Census Bureau, “Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2012 - Detailed Tables” Table 2. Reported Voting and Registration, by Race, Hispanic Origin, Sex, and Age, for the United States: November 2012, All Races, XLS, (2012), Web. 20 Mar. 2014.
(I wanted to ask you about the above one in class Thursday)
Robert Williams. “Political Scandals in the U.S.A.” Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1998.Print