Public Disenchantment with Politics

After World War II, changes in the political system allowed a democratization of American life. More people were allowed to vote than ever before, and were given additional opportunities provide their own input in political decision making. Although the role of government in the lives of private citizens grew tremendously, it was not appreciated by a large part of the population. People felt disgusted by the government, especially after the revelations of the Watergate scandal, the attitude of the American population “reflected a blanket rejection of politicians and a growing belief that elections had little to do with daily reality.” (319) This lack of trust and unconcern in politics was clearly seen in the massive decrease of participation in national elections. During the 50’s and 60’s, sixty percent of the electorate population voted, whereas in the 1978 election, only 38 percent of the voting population casted a ballot. The public became interested in the immoral behavior of politicians, which was aided by the press. A law was passed in 1978 to set up a system appointing prosecutors in cases specific to the misdeeds of government officials. Trust in the federal government declined by 40 percent between the decade of 1964 to 1974. This crisis of authority did not only apply in the sphere of government, but society also began to lose trust in the medical and legal profession as well. When Gerald Ford came into the political spotlight it seemed as though he had the ability to restore the public’s trust in government with his modest, straightforward personality and normal suburban background. Confidence in Ford shattered soon after his pardoning of Nixon’s crimes during his presidency. The result of this act caused a slump in his approval ratings since people believed that the two had secret dealings, restoring the suspicions of government.