Since installing our Now and Then: 1973 exhibit in the gallery last spring we have had thousands of responses to the questions we posed in our Reflection Gallery. We use this space to ask visitors questions connected with the exhibit currently on display. The following post is the first in a series created by our student worker Sarah Hughes, reflecting on the visitor responses to our questions.
Question:Would a political scandal like Watergate have the same impact today?
We asked this question of visitors to our 1973 exhibit. Answers were of course varied, but the majority seemed to agree that the answer is no. Some said the lack of impact would be due to apathy among citizens, while others claimed that Americans are simply too desensitized when it comes to political scandal. One person went so far as to blame Watergate for this effect, saying “…the presidency has less prestige after Watergate.” Another said that “[people would] rather follow celebrities’ lives” than worry about political scandals.
On the other side, some visitors suggested that modern technology allows people to be more up to date on news, and therefore a political scandal would have more of an impact today. Another visitor said the impact would be equivalent today due to political polarization, citing Republicans’ eagerness to blame President Obama for everything. A few of our visitors drew interesting parallels between the Watergate scandal and more recent political events, like President Clinton’s affair, the 2011 attack on Benghazi, and the spying scandal involving the National Security Administration. One guest asserted “No. But the NSA should face the same scrutiny!”
What do you think? Are these more recent events on par with the Watergate scandal, and if so, should they/will they be received the same way by the American public? Has technology desensitized people to everyday scandals or has it caused them to be more informed? We’ll let you be the judge. For more information about Watergate and the other happenings of 1973, visit our exhibit on the second floor of the Russell Special Collections building on display through December 2013.