“The Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan had been posing the question: ‘Is the government run by a few big interests looking out for themselves?’ The answer in 1964 had been ‘yes’ from 26 percent of those polled; by 1972 the answer was ‘yes’ from 53 percent of those polled… The courts, the juries, and even judges were not behaving as usual. Juries were acquitting radicals: Black Panthers, whom the government had tried in every way to malign and destroy, were freed by juries in several trials.”
Over the course of eight years, the general population’s opinion of the government has started to change in an extreme manner. More than double the amount of people said “yes” to whether or not the United States government is only looking out for themselves in 1972 than in 1964. People started to stray from the previous belief that the government’s sole purpose is to protect their citizens when the Vietnam War began. When people start to lean towards a certain opinion, the only way to abolish it is for the government to show their sincerity in bringing a peace of mind to its people. However, that was not the case because of the Watergate Scandal that exposed the hidden agendas of the beloved President Richard Nixon. President Nixon decided to resign before he could be impeached by the Senate. The preceding President then decided on giving Richard Nixon a pardon for his crime, which riled up the people even more. How can such a scheming person be pardoned at a time when the government was being slandered? Well this wasn’t the only case of a “villain” being let off the hook during the 1970s. Several people were put up for trial for their misdoings, particularly the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers were a group of radical African Americans who resorted to violence towards local police force. The point of their party was to push back the oppression that was forced upon them due to their ethnicity. When the Black Panthers were tried, they were acquitted by the jury because the majority of people believed that the government’s behavior was more devious than that of the Black Panthers.
“What seemed to be happening was that the Establishment—Republicans, Democrats, newspapers, television—was closing ranks behind Ford and Kissinger, and behind the idea that American authority must be asserted everywhere in the world.”
After Nixon left his position as president, Ford took over his seat as president. Ford had to face the chaotic events of major trends included a growing disillusionment of government, advances in civil rights, increased influence of the women’s movement and etc. All amid war, social realignment and presidential impeachment proceedings leading to the false values created by the Watergate scandal, American culture was changing by the chaotic 60’s to the uncontrollable 70’s. In the Ford years, even with Nixon gone his system still remain, his foreign policy. The establishment represented the private sector consisting of business corporations, media, political parties and etc was losing hope amid Ford’s years because of Watergate and Vietnam. Zinn explains that the public opinion of the Establishment – the government and the military – continued to be low, unemployment and poverty were up making it similar to the depression in Ford’s years. The loss of American confidence that they had during the world wars of being a predominate power led to the from the loss of government authority and the system, the Establishment was losing faith and trust to the government as well in the 70’s. In order to fix the hopeless war in Vietnam the insert of American authority in Cambodia was to close on Ford’s and Kissinger’s system by the Establishment.
“How may we have pride in our work when the entire basis for this work is immoral?”
A widespread of distrust between the general public of America towards their own government was prevalent during the Seventies. But that lack of loyalty that more than 50% of the population had wasn’t solely towards the government, as it was also directed to their workplace and employers. One organization in particular to receive backlash from not only anti-war protesters, but also the very employees working there, was the Honeywell Corporation. Once word got out that Honeywell produced and distributed weapons used in the Vietnam War, weapons that include the very painful and deadly cluster bomb, Honeywell employees expressed their opinions. Nearly 60% of the workers felt that they could not be able to take pride in their jobs and expressed that the company should discontinue making these weapons altogether. Having a large portion of the population go against their own employers on top of having a major lack of trust with the government is a prime example of how the system, and life in general, seemed out of control during the seventies.
Zinn’s chapter on the 70s is titled with a question: Were the 70s under control? The turbulent social, political, and economic changes of the 60s carried on into the 70s. The 70s were characterized by antiwar sentiments and distrust in the government due to the immorality of the Vietnam War and the disgrace Nixon’s administration displayed with the Watergate Scandal.
Nixon, as well as the advisers who were involved in Watergate, were not reprimanded harshly at all. Rather, Nixon himself was pardoned by the new president, Gerald Ford. The American government tried to move on from the scandal and hoped to restore faith into the American people. Meanwhile, Ford definitely maintained Nixon’s policy. He continued Nixon’s policy of aid to the Saigon regime. Ford and many government officials not only boasted of victory but they also saw profit to be made in Vietnam. Yet on April 29, 1975, the North Vietnamese moved into Saigon in what is known as the Fall of Saigon. This defeat only deterred faith in the American government.
In an effort to re-introduce the United States’ image to both its’ own country and the world, Secretary Kissinger said, “The U.S. must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power.” So, when the Mayaguez cargo ship was stopped by Cambodians and taken to a nearby port, President Ford sent a message to the Cambodians to release the ship and crew. When there was allegedly no response, Ford sent U.S. planes to bomb Cambodian ships. He also ordered a marine assault on Tang Island. No Americans were hurt, Ford knew this, yet he continued the assault. Ford’s own assault killed 41 Americans. It was considered a “very successful operation” by Secretary of Defense Schlesinger.
I think that Zinn mentions these events because it supports his statement, “What seemed to be happening was that the Establishment- Republicans, Democrats, newspapers, television- was closing ranks behind Ford and Kissinger, and behind the ideas that American authority must be asserted everywhere in the world.” Ever since America was established as a world power, the government in charge sought to retain that power. In a time when confidence in the government was low, the government attempted to divert attention from serious internal affairs by involving themselves in external affairs. Many efforts were made to create the illusion that the system was cleaning itself up, when indeed the system was left unscathed.
“People no longer felt the same obligation to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.”
Samuel Huntington was a part of the group called “The Trilateral Commission” and contributed by writing about problems he has noticed in America, discussing the topic, “The 1960’s witnessed a dramatic upsurge of democratic fervor in America.” Samuel Huntington was a very intelligent man who was a political science professor at Harvard University and a long-time consultant to the White House on the war in Vietnam.
Huntington observed how there was a huge growth of civil participation, however overtime there has been a drastic decrease of government authority, which worried him deeply. Howard Zinn mentions this because during this time, the President needed the public in order to win the election. Meanwhile, the authority of the President was decreasing. Huntington made brave statements about how the position and role of the President wasn’t as strong since many other cooperated and incorporated their ideas, therefore the United States was being governed by anyone. During this time period, there was an extension of democracy. Samuel Huntington even suggested “desirable limits to the extension of political democracy.”
This was very important because throughout the 1960’s, the authority of government continued to drecrease. “The great demands in the sixties for equality had transformed the federal budget.” The fact that the population was spending more and more on foreign affairs as time went by concerned Huntington.
Throughout the 1960s, there was a democratic wave. This effected the power of people who influence others. The authority of the government was at stake. The democratic surge played a role in different forms effecting families, the business world, public and private associations, the governmental bureaucracy, and the military services.
During this time period, Huntington served as a primary force of assistance to bringing back the authority that the government needed to have. He tried several ways in order to create a more powerful force, and attempted to create change in many ways. He made a brilliant point of how bringing non-partisan soldiers, Republican bankers, and Wall Street lawyers into his force would help. He also got assistance from Eisenhower and Kennedy who also tried teaming up and getting in touch with similar authority figures.The proper solution, according to the Trilateral Commission, was that a tie between the relations of United States, Europe and Japan was necessary.
Nixon would go, but that the power of the President to do anything he wanted in the name of ‘national security’ would stay–this was underscored by a Supreme Court decision in July 1974″ which affirmed the “confidentiality of presidential communications”
During the 1970s, the political corruption was exposed. The government has lost the trust of the population. At this point, Watergate scandal exposed, at first, Nixon lied again and again, tried to cover his involvement. The resignation was the final act of the Watergate scandal that was fundamentally about abuse of power. Nixon was caught using the power of the presidency to obstruct justice. We cherish the idea that no one is above the law and that idea was violated. When Nixon resigned, everything stills the same as Nixon administration. And so the faith in the presidency was damaged. People reduced the amount of trust to the government.
However, I think Zinn mentions it because it is ironic; Zinn argues that the resignation of Nixon and the exposure of Watergate Scandal during the decade were done by the government in order to regain support for the government from the American people. When Gerald Ford took office and said the nightmare was over. In reality, government tried to get back the trust from the population without making fundamental changes to the system. Nothing changed. Foreign policy remained the same, and one of Ford’s first acts was to pardon Nixon. Even though Nixon resigned from office and was considered for impeachment due to the Watergate affair, his policies were still continued to be used. The best quote to summarize what happened after Nixon’s resignation regarding his policies was stated by a Wall Street financer: “What we will have is the same play with different players”.