Washington, D.C. — A presidency mired in constant scandal under Donald Trump could provide an opportunity for far-reaching political reforms similar to those of the post-Watergate era, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
The similarities between the Trump and Richard Nixon presidencies are striking: a willingness to tap into the darker currents of the American political climate, a disregard for the rule of law, and an overriding concern with settling political scores and damaging perceived enemies.
Given these parallels, the report says that it is instructive to look to the reforms of the post-Watergate era when considering lessons for policymaking in a post-Trump world. Those reforms sought to restore faith in the U.S. political system by combating the corrupting influence of money in politics; promoting ethics and transparency in government; protecting people against abuses of government power; and limiting certain extraordinary exercises of presidential authority.
“The brazenness of this administration’s corruption presents a unique opportunity to draw public attention to how the current rules skew the system toward those with political and economic power,” said Sam Berger, senior adviser at CAP and a co-author of the report. “Policymakers should begin planning now how to connect the wide-ranging scandals of the Trump administration to appropriate reforms.”
“Although many Americans are familiar with Watergate, we’ve largely forgotten the major legislation that followed Nixon’s misconduct and changed our democracy for the better,” said Alex Tausanovitch, associate director of Democracy and Government Reform at CAP and a co-author of the report. “In the midst of another administration with little regard for ethics or democratic norms, policymakers should not be standing idly by; they should be figuring out how to solve the problems that got us here.”
Read the report: “Lessons From Watergate: Preparing for Post-Trump Reforms” by Sam Berger and Alex Tausanovitch.
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