On this day in 1974, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee started formal hearings on the impeachment of President Nixon. When I think back on Watergate, I see a great defeat for democracy in America. The issue isn’t Nixon. Presidents do all kinds of illegal things and about the only thing that stops them from getting thrown out of office is that they have political support. What’s more, I think Nixon would have survived the whole thing if there hadn’t been the tapes. Since then, I’m sure that worse things have been done. But the way our media is, unless there is a smoking gun, it is treated as though nothing has happened. As it is, after everything that clearly indicates that Chris Christie is the most corrupt of politicians, he is set to announce a run for president.
But the reason Watergate was so bad is that it caused Democrats to turn against ideology and toward anti-corruption. Of course, all that meant was that they supported status quo while the Republicans pushed hard to the right. Meanwhile the Democrats pushed efforts to make the government more transparent. But as you may have noticed, the government is less transparent than ever. So even on that front, they failed. But it really did set up the environment in which neoliberalism could take over the Democratic Party. So when it came to economic policy, Americans are offered the “choice” of conservative policy competently administered or conservative policy incompetently administered. Gee, ain’t democracy grand. It reminds me of the democracy that existed in the Soviet Union.
So that’s what Watergate brought us: less choice in politics. I still look back and find it strange that three consecutive Republican administrations could be shown to be corrupt, and yet the American voter keeps on giving them power. And then you can add to that the George W Bush administration that got appointed by a partisan Supreme Court and then went on to be both corrupt and incompetent. Yet the American people, in their wisdom will certainly make Scott Walker the next president if everything lines up the right way. And then, when he signs a federal “right to work” law, everyone will be shocked — Shocked! — that he would do exactly what he had campaigned on.
Nixon may have run a crime syndicate out of the White House. But as we’ve seen, there are much worse things that the president can do. And if the American electorate is clueless enough to elected another Republican, we will see more of them.
Happy anniversary to the House of Representatives standing up for something while they allowed the country to go to hell over the next forty years.