Short Answer: Maybe, but it’s too soon to tell.
Long Answer: Let’s dive in…
Throughout our time on this trip everyone from Congressmen to journalists have asked the same question, “is this really a unique time in politics?” They have all had different answers, some said yes while others said no. Unique is a vague term and, in some cases, yes this is a unique time in politics. For example, these past midterm elections saw the most female representatives elected to Congress ever and our current President is the first to not have had previous experience in the political or legal fields. For clarification, I’ll narrow the definition down to how divisive we have become as a country and in terms of the current administration’s actions in dealing with the Mueller investigation and the possibility of impeachment.
One person we spoke with who worked on the Hill made a very valid point. We won’t know how unique this administration is until we have an administration or two after it to compare it to. This administration could be the creation of a new normal in which case, no this would not be a unique time in American politics. During one of our lectures, some students were asked to describe the current political environment in one word. One student said chaotic, one said terrifying, and one, in theme with this paper, said unique. I disagree with that student based on two pieces of evidence.
Firstly, parallels can be drawn between this administration and the Watergate scandal. According to John Lawrence, one of our lecturers, these parallels are very real. He also believes that the Nixon administration’s attempts to cover up the break-in was worse than the actual break-in. He also doesn’t understand why we as a society can’t see the parallels, are we choosing to ignore them or can we really just not see them? Lawrence alludes to this current era not being as unique as we would all like to think. According to Lawrence, there are too many parallels with the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal and the Trump administration and the possible collusion between Trump and Russia. The probability of Trump’s impeachment and conviction is going to depend on how Trump’s actions fall under executive privilege. However, there are many, like Lawrence, who can see parallels between this administration and the possibility of collusion with Russia and the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal. There are parallels between the ’70s and today with Women’s rights and the economic boom post World War II. As we saw on Sunday, there were Women’s Rights marches across the country, and the economy is doing better than it has in quite some time. There are more parallels than most of us would like to admit.
Others argue that this is not a unique time because this country has seen itself more divided previously. This country had a Civil War because it was so divided in the 1860s. A man was nearly beaten to death on the Senate floor in 1856, and that was before the war had even begun. Senator Charles Sumner was delivering a speech about abolition when word spread to the House side and Representative Preston Brooks went to the Senate floor and because he was so distraught he nearly killed Sumner. Our country was arguably much more divided in the 1860s than it is now. We haven’t started a war over our disagreements, yet.
Many believe that this could be a unique time in politics and in some cases, it is, but as far as being an unusual administration or being our most divided, it’s still under investigation but many believe that this country has seen a lot worse. As the saying goes, history repeats itself and this is more than likely just one of those times. Therefore, I predict that in fifty years when we look back at this administration and this era of politics we won’t think it to be as unique as we do now. Things are a lot more dramatic when you have nothing to compare it to so only time will tell how unique this administration really is.