HomeInvestmentJan. 6 and the Unhealthy Nostalgia for Watergate

Jan. 6 and the Unhealthy Nostalgia for Watergate

The House Jan. 6 select committee held its first public hearing on Thursday to uncertain political effect. Next Friday, eight days later, is the 50th anniversary of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in Washington’s Watergate complex. The latter led to a summer of hearings in 1973. The following year President Nixon resigned rather than face certain impeachment and removal from office. America, Michael Barone says, was never the same again.

Mr. Barone, arguably the premier journalistic historian of contemporary American politics, doesn’t consider the anniversary timing a happy coincidence. Of this week’s hearings, he says, “I don’t think they’re going to drive public opinion to a different place.” The Watergate hearings, by contrast, had a defining impact, thrusting Nixon’s approval rating down from 68% in January 1973 to 31% in August. Beginning in May, they commanded a national audience, with live daytime coverage on all three broadcast television networks. But looking back over five decades, Mr. Barone thinks Watergate was a historical watershed and had a baleful influence on politics and journalism that still bedevils us today.

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