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Nixon, Trump and the lessons of Watergate – Audio Long Reads

Fifty years ago, the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon revealed flaws in American democracy that still haunt US politics today.

By Colin Kidd and Emily Tamkin

On 17 June 1972, a nightwatchman stumbled across a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington DC – triggering what became known as Watergate, the investigation that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Fifty years on, the historian Colin Kidd reflects on Watergate’s renewed relevance in a populist, post-Trump era. Did the scandal help fuel today’s political conspiracy theories? And did Donald Trump’s war on “fake news” begin with the “journalistic aggrandisement” of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein?

Kidd examines the parallels between Nixon and Trump – “the vindictiveness, the casual indifference to norms, the authoritarian instincts” – and the long-term lessons of Watergate: that lobbyists, millionaires and law-breaking still loom large in a corrupt system.

This article was originally published on on 6 April and in the New Statesman magazine on 8 April 2022. You can read the text version here.

Read by Emily Tamkin.

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