Donald Nixon and Richard Trump

Donald Nixon and Richard Trump

DAY

To mark 50 years since the Watergate scandal, which forced President Richard Nixon to resign in shame and dishonor, CNN aired a four-part documentary series titled Watergate: Blueprint for a Scandal.

Among the people interviewed in this fascinating documentary, there were of course the journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, but also several former politicians and members of the Nixon administration, including John Dean, the former legal adviser to the White House who testified against his former boss. 

PAVING THE WAY FOR TRUMP

All agree: by his contempt for laws and institutions , and by his belief that when a president does an illegal act, that act magically becomes legal, Nixon paved the way for Donald Trump.

“Trump is Nixon on steroids and perched on stilts,” says John Dean. At least in Nixon's case the institutions worked.

The Supreme Court stood its ground and bona fide Republicans voted to impeach Nixon. Nixon…

In short, the state was able to resist. 

Whereas in the case of Trump, the Senate (majority Republican) crushed in front of the president and the vast majority of Republicans rallied round their leader.

Donald Nixon and Richard Trump

Donald Nixon and Richard Trump

To say Elizabeth Holtzman, 1973 Democratic Representative to the House of Representatives to 1981: “We showed at the time how one should behave in the face of a president who despises the institutions. We put aside our political differences to protect the Constitution.  

Unfortunately, today, the context is no longer the same.

“Not only do the politicians who sit in the Senate and in Congress do not show the same courage and do not have the same strength of character than the men and women who held those positions at the time, but Americans no longer base their opinions on a set of common facts… 

“And that is a very great threat to democracy…”

THE POST-TRUTH ERA

At the time of Watergate, American voters still trusted the traditional media, they all read the same reports, consulted the same newspapers: the Washington Post, the New York Times >, etc.

So they based their opinions on the same facts.

Facts verified, corroborated, authenticated. 

And, if a reporter made a mistake, corrected.

But today, with the unprecedented splintering of news sources, and the popularity of social media and podcasts that allow anyone to say anything without being accountable to anyone, there is has almost as many “facts” as individuals. 

Truth has become a hyper relative notion. 

Joe's “truth” is not that of Sam, which is not that of Betty. 

How to create a popular consensus, in this context?

A CONFUSED TIME

That's why Trump is “Nixon on Steroids”. 

Because he emerged at a time of great confusion when there is no longer, strictly speaking, “opinion”. public.”

But public opinion. Which, for the majority of voters, are all the same.

How can you block a madman who dreams of putting the institutions under his belt, in such a context?

Donald Nixon and Richard Trump