News from 2011: You’re All Dead Now

This post comes courtesy of my always-brilliant colleague Louis Wasser’s unassailable devotion to the discipline. The following image comes from Louis’s Yale library copy of Samuel Huntington’s Political Order in Changing Societies, published by Yale University Press in 1968. This, of course, was also the year of Richard Nixon’s ascendency to the White House.

Huntington and WatergateUnderlined in the text is one of Huntington’s claims about political culture in a country like the United States:

…the top national leadership and the national cabinet are comparatively free from corruption…the top leaders of the society remain true to the state norms of the political culture and accept political power and moral virtue as substitutes for economic gain (p. 68).

In response, an astute and self-aware Yale student, presumably mockingly, writes “Watergate forever.” What follows is a back-and-forth between Yale students about the impact of Watergate specifically and the Nixon Presidency more broadly.

The debate is headlined by the comment “News from 2011: You’re All Dead Now.” The irony is that neither the commentators nor their arguments are likely “dead” in any sense of the word. For instance, one student writes that “we had no choice–McGovern would have driven the country straight to hell. we had to vote for Nixon to prevent socialism…” Such logic is alive and well among many segments of the America electorate even today. Indeed, if we had any news to report to the past from 2012, it would be this reality–elections, even 40 years after Watergate, remain fertile ground for paranoid political half-truths.

For more of his not-so-optimistic thoughts about elections, follow William on Twitter.

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One thought on “News from 2011: You’re All Dead Now

  1. What I find most interesting is that this book excerpt was itself proven correct, but for the wrong reasons. Samuel Huntington argued that the “top leaders of a society” are not corrupt, because they put aside economic gain in favor of ensuring moral virtue and (more importantly) political power. By this understanding, Nixon could never be corrupt, because Watergate was not done to make money, but instead mainly to secure his political power.

    Of course, this may not be Samuel Huntington was thinking of. But at some point, Samuel has to be understand that not all “top leaders of society” are morally virtuous. He mentioned Egypt in those pages, and the Egyptian regime was not pro-“human rights” in 1968.

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