What we Can Learn from Watergate

In United States v. Nixon (1974,) Nixon sued the United States for violating the Impeachment clause, Article I, Section III, Section VI of the Constitution. In the midst of the “Watergate” dispute Nixon was subpoenaed to court and he refused to hand over his communications. The Courts found that  the president’s executive privilege does not outweigh the demand of evidence in a criminal trial. Executive privilege is not truly confidential unless it’s something involving either the military or diplomatic affairs. This is just one of the many ways Former President Nixon has influenced the way in which the United States government connects with its citizens. However, Nixon did not single handedly do this. In Notes on Scandal and the Watergate Legacy Michael Shudson, a professor of Journalism at Columbia University, makes the point that “We have a politics of scandal today because democracy and the media put before us the scandal of politics.” The Media has allowed us as a people to be more critical of the world around us and showed us that it is well within our right to do so simply because there are areas of improvement. The government can’t be held accountable to take measures if nobody is paying attention.  

In contrast to some of the constitutional predicaments we face today, these various coverages of the Impeachment conversation are vital to how we, as a country respond to President Trump’s electability going into an election season. The media’s role during the Watergate scandal is as important as it is today. In a world inundated with distrust in politics, lack of confidence in our government and our leaders, it’s vital that we recognize that this is our time to prove to the government that we are listening and that we disapprove of their actions. There are many lessons to learn from Watergate, as journalists, as students, but most importantly as citizens. We need to learn that more often than not, the government does not always have our back. 

I leave you with this. John Locke is famously known for developing the “right to revolution.” In his essay Concerning the True Original Extent and End  of Civil Government, the right to revolution outlines that if and when the government is not acting with its citizens interest in mind, it is well within the right of said citizens to replace that government. 

2 thoughts on “What we Can Learn from Watergate

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  1. I really enjoyed this piece! I feel like we often learn about political scandals of the past, but we don’t always have a way to conceptualize how big of a deal these scandals actually were unless we lived through them. Watergate also helps us conceptualize how big of a deal Trump’s Ukraine scandal is because we are so desensitized to all the awful things that he does so it can be hard to be grounded in our perspective.


  2. I like your post. You’re right, we can’t always trust our government. The Watergate scandal was obviously an important time where journalists, citizens, Congress, and a lot of the country was able to fight against the president (and win), and it makes me wonder why it is so hard now to make this a reality today when scandals occur. Yes, Watergate was definitely a teachable moment not only about the government but about how journalists handled the situation; thanks for sharing your perspective on this.


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