by Scoobie Davis
The Real Lessons of Watergate
As the Washington Post again basks in the faded glory of its Watergate coverage, many of the scandal's crucial lessons remain obscure even to people close to the iconic events of 33 years ago. Ironically, that's especially true for those on the winning side.Read the entire article
Indeed, it could be said that today's U.S. political imbalance--tilting so much in favor of Republicans over Democrats--derived from the simple fact that conservatives learned the real lessons of Watergate while the liberals didn't.
Most importantly, the bitter experience of Watergate taught the conservatives the need to control the flow of information at the national level.
Following President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, former Treasury Secretary William Simon and other conservative leaders began pulling together the resources for building the right-wing media infrastructure that is now arguably the most intimidating force in U.S. politics. A key goal was to make sure they could protect future Republican presidents from "another Watergate." [For details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]
Meanwhile, liberals largely treated the Watergate scandal as manna from heaven and assumed that similar gifts would be delivered by the mainstream news media whenever future Republican governments stepped out of line. The Left saw little need for media investment and instead stressed local grassroots organizing around social issues.
This progressive priority--summed up in the slogan, "think globally, act locally"--became almost dogma on the Left, even as conservatives expanded their political base across the country by exploiting their widening advantage in media, from AM talk radio and cable TV news to magazines, newspapers and the Internet.