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Nixon, Trump, and Trust

In today’s reading, Howard Zinn declares that during the 70s, the American public lost trust in the government. While this loss of trust is often depicted in the media as being crazy or radical hippies trying to fight the US government, I think looking at the actions of the US government, particularly the Nixon Administration would make the mistrust of the government and promotion of counterculture during the 70s a logical response to an increasingly unresponsive government.


Indeed, the Watergate Scandal revealed more than just the workings of a man trying to gain information on his opponent. Rather, Watergate revealed a plethora of illegal activities that the Nixon Administration — one that had defined law and order as one of its defining characteristics — had partaken in. Obviously, the hypocrisy of this news angered the American people; however, I believe the specifics of the crimes were more harmful to the relationship between Nixon and the American people. I found the illegal bombing of Cambodia to be a particularly interesting crime that was uncovered in the aftermath of Watergate. Nixon had thought that bombing eastern Cambodia would help the war effort in Vietnam by stopping Viet Kong troops from entering through Cambodia. While this logic may have been sound, Nixon knew that the American public would not approve. Thus, he kept the operation secret. Indeed, the bombing of Cambodia furthered the point that Watergate had suggested. President Nixon — and, therefore in the eyes of the public, the American government — had abused his power and lied to the American people about it in order to maintain favorable reelection conditions.


It is impossible to look at the Nixon Administration — as well as the 70s in general — and not see parallels with today. Indeed, the current President of the United States has been accused of many of the same things that Nixon has (illegal fundraising, campaign fraud, and election tampering). Thus, it is important that we all think about our own emotions right now when trying to understand the culture of the 1970s. Indeed, people then, as they do now, distrusted the government because the President seemed to care more about electoral gain than their job. I think the sign that many Americans no longer trust that the election results will be accurate echoes the feelings of Americans in the 1970s.

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  1. Delaney Demaret Delaney Demaret

    The Kent State shooting and its response also cement Zinn’s idea that trust was broken between the people and the state in the 70s. If it wasn’t enough that the country was in a war that few wanted, the violent response to student protestors turned a fragile relationship into a massive distrust for the government and police.

  2. Zachary Andrews Zachary Andrews

    I completely agree with you Michael that the American people were not in the wrong whatsoever for mistrusting their government. The US government, and more specifically the Nixon Administration, lied to the American people while at the same time using their high position to try to gain an advantage over their political opponents. I am not surprised that in our nation’s history an event like the Watergate Scandal occurred; however, it leads me to think about what other things have happened that we as the American people do not know about yet.

  3. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I too believe that the 70s was the time when the people lost trust in the government. I also believe our involvement in the Vietnam War and the government not listening to the people to get out of the war had the biggest impact on the people being so discouraged with the government.

  4. Annie Waters Annie Waters

    Reading this chapter, I felt a lot of parallels between the political climate of the 70’s and that of today. We seem to be living through a time of increased opposition to the government considering the BLM movement and corresponding movement for police reform/abolition, increased attention to the unethical conditions in ICE detention centers, and awareness of countless other political subjects. This has all come during Donald Trump’s presidency, after his impeachment and amidst a COVID-19 response that many people viewed as inadequate. Trump is probably the country’s most controversial president since Nixon, and I feel like that reveals a large correlation between the controversy of a president and political engagement. Surely the government is constantly taking actions that many Americans would disagree with, but we seem to see the most vocal opposition during the terms of controversial presidents.

  5. Julia Leonardi Julia Leonardi

    I really liked your comparison to today’s world. Not only are the presidents similar, but the political climate is similar. It is so interesting to see how America is constantly switching and evolving, but it is also the same. I wonder what people who lived through the 70s and were politically active think about all of this.

  6. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    When reading Zinn’s chapter “The Seventies” and watching the Frost/Nixon movie, I also realized the similarities between the actions of the Nixon administration and our current administration. I am wondering if there is any way for the government to rebuild trust and respect from the American people in today’s divided political climate?

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