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Over the past decades, the rapid growth of digital technology has brought great convenience to human’s life in the area of medical, business, education, military, and etcetera. The digital technology such as computers has been gradually replaced the human brain to solve the complex and tough problems due to its strong computing capacity. However, at the same time, the evolution of modern technology brings the numerous negative impacts, including the environmental contamination, the higher unemployment rate due to the automation, and so on.
In addition, some people might even make use of modern technology to conduct some criminal activities or to achieve their personal goals in an illegal way. In this paper, I will elaborate how the digital technology affects the American politics, especially in the political election over the past decades, and then discuss how this situation further influences the people and the public’s thoughts in detailedly.
The early American political wiretapping can be traced in the early 1930s in Providence, Rhode Island. The governor of Rhode Island at that time used wiretapping to investigate Pawtucket Mayor and his attorney general. In order to eliminate election fraud and municipal corruption in Rhode Island, Republican Governor William H. Vanderbilt hired a New York Agency to investigate Pawtucket Mayor Thomas McCoy and Vanderbilt’s attorney general Louis Jackvony by using wiretapping devices and “whatever methods were available”.
The documents include a letter from Sevellon Brown, editor of the Providence Journal, to J. Edger Hoover from 1940s, expressing that “a ring of political corruptions has long controlled the cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls. For many years, the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin have been attempting to bring the ‘higher-ups’ in that ring to justice”. Vanderbilt defended his wiretaps, arguing that he has the responsibility to follow up allegations of election fraud and dismissed other forms of law enforcement as inefficient.
However, motivated by personal political ambitions, Democrat J. Howard McGrath made use of this scandal to undermine Vanderbilt and weaken his political power, though the Rhode Island state law against wiretapping was established only after this wiretapping case. This early scandal is in many ways similar to the Watergate scandal but happened much earlier.
Although this political wiretapping incident happened in Providence, Rhode Island did not bring the great impacts to the public until now, it not only shows how the technology interfere in the political election environment, but also demonstrate that, with the development of the technology in the 1930s, politicians already have the ability to make use of the technology to conduct the wiretapping activities to interfere the election.
By contrary, there was a similar case happened in the 1970s brought an immense and lasting influence until now. Began with a single Xerox machine, President Nixon’s Watergate case could be deemed as the most infamous scandal in the United States political history. “This copier, inside a small advertising agency in Hollywood, California, was that Daniel Ellsberg used to duplicate the classified Vietnam War documents.” At that time, the government was dominated by electrostatic copies of the Xerox system and influenced the information flow in all other major national institutions.
Moreover, copying machines changed people’s way of thinking and sharing the information. All of this change had a significant effect on people in the early 1970s, as people see the influence of the Internet today. We still have Xerox machines almost fifty years later, but the information flow is mainly about pixels, not paperwork. In other words, with the development of technology, it continues to play a central role in the political scandals of today.
President Nixon’s Watergate Scandal refers to a series of scandals beginning with Nixon failed to break up in Washington’s Watergate office at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters on the night of June 17, 1972. There are five men ordered by President Nixon were caught when they tried to install the wiretapping equipment to conduct the espionage activities.
Since President Nixon’s Watergate case, the technology has permitted surveillance to bear on not only the content of speech but precise patterns of behavior. The Watergate scandal is a crucial point because it exposed massive corruption in the U.S. government in the early 1970s. At the same time, it also demonstrates that, President Nixon abused the power of his position, and harm the people who had offended him deliberately, illegally and maliciously.
In addition, President Nixon ordered his subordinates to violate the U.S. law to achieve his objectives and tried to cover up his crimes. After this scandal was exposed, it created the enormous public opinions and what Nixon conducted in the scandal lost the American people’s royalty towards the president.
Although the case of President Nixon’s Watergate brought out a vast number of negative influences, the crucial impact was to open up more of today’s left-liberal bias in the media, print, and TV. This one-sidedness may have decreased for a while in the mid-80s during Reagan’s presidency, but it came back with ever greater momentum. One of the inspirations of the majority of the airwave and print press during Watergate was undoubtedly to return to the Nixon administration in late 1969 to drum public opinion.
Because of the enormous pressure under President Nixon’s Watergate scandal, the Congress put massive attention on the election reforms. After Congress introduced and passed new laws, a great number of politicians are required to disclose their past financial records. These transparent financial records could be deemed as an absolutely “cleansing effect” on the American’s political history after President Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. In other words, since each expense and assets are clearly indicated on the public records, it greatly limits politics’ power and further potentially avoids themselves engage in illegal activities.
In addition, President Nixon’s Watergate case has the fastest impact in the field of campaign reform in a number of ways. Since 1972, forty-two states have passed electoral reform laws, some with their own scandals. Congress is close to adopting a policy clean-up plan. From this standpoint, we can see that most states in the U.S. have the active positive responses on the scandal since they believe it is necessary to do the corresponding reforms to prevent such scandals happen again in the future. At the same time, these reforms make the election fairer and the government more transparent.
However, there was still a great extent of aversion towards the politicians and there was a story prevalent among the people at that time. As it states that, “On one town where I was introducing myself to people on the street, a guy told me, ‘If you’re a politician, you must be a crook.’” From this story, it could clearly demonstrate that President Nixon’s Watergate case greatly tightened the relationship between the politicians and the American people since they were no longer support or trust the government, and believed all of the politicians were hypocrites and engaged in the disgraceful activities.
By contrary, before President Nixon’s Watergate case, most American people trusted the government and the president in particular as the emotional support, but this scandal entirely broke the trust between these two groups. Because of President Nixon’s Watergate case, there were also a large group of American people believed that the president was over powerful, since it seemed like the president could order his subordinates to engage any activities he wants no matter it was illegal or not, and it is impossible for the people and the public to know any details if this case was not exposed.
More importantly, people believed that what the president did was for his own motive only rather than truly serve to the country. From this standpoint, we can see that this scandal left American people big emotional shadow, and they are no longer willing to trust their president any more. To regain the trust from American people, ‘Congress passed a series of laws sharply limiting a president’s power, including the Freedom Information Act, limiting the president’s power to wage undeclared war, and laws surrounding financial disclosure.”
By disclosing the financial records, it would effectively solve the president’s over-powerful issue and, at the same time, it would greatly the reduce the possibility of the president involved in the illegal activities since what he did in the past would clearly appear on his financial record. Moreover, these reforms also alerted the future presidents’ unlawful motives and reduced the possibility of similar scandals happen again in the future.
Correspondingly, there were also some laws and reforms passed for the presidential elections. One of the major rules was that for all presidential candidates, the spending in the presidential primary is strictly limited. There was also a ceiling on which candidates themselves could choose to participate in the election campaign. These laws and reforms can effectively restrict presidential candidates to plan or involve in illegal activities such as the political wiretapping with the extra expenses. In other words, these reforms could make the operations in the presidential election more fair and transparent.
By these new laws and reforms executed, Former Attorney General Elliot Richardson states that, “Watergate has made one significant contribution, at least to the extent that there are many officeholders who are becoming convinced that honest politics – open, candid politics – is the best politics.”, as well as Robert Griffin, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican of Michigan, states that “I think we should have learned that we do have to have an open Presidency and that the people need to know what is going on.”
From both citations, it clearly reflects that after President Nixon’s Watergate case, with the series of new laws and reforms, the U.S. government was moving in a positive direction. It also clearly shows that there was a much closer relationship between American people and the government compared to the past. To be specific, people have the opportunity to engage more in the governmental discussions and decisions with the politicians. People can communicate and share their thoughts with the government so that the government can better understand people’s needs and make desirable decisions.
In other words, the politicians are serving the people’s needs instead of their own personal motives. At the same time, American people are more familiar with what is the government’s future actions and motives. Overall speaking, these new laws and reforms greatly unify the relationship between the government and American people, so that the government gradually regains the trust from the people and people are more willing to trust the government and their president mutually.
Almost fifty years later to President Nixon’s Watergate case, there is a contemporary presidential election in 2016 also involved the wiretapping incidents by using digital technology. However, the presidential election in 2016 involved the usage of the much more advanced technology, as well as the interference from other nations, as the science and technology has been developed greatly compared to almost fifty years ago. The presidential election in 2016 can be also deemed as the technology competitions among different parties since mastering the more