Politics of discontent: Who will move to the center and win back Americans’ trust?


All polls and current anecdotal experience confirm that Americans are very disappointed in government and in politics generally. Since the Great Depression 90 years ago, political discontent has been near this level only at the worst of the Vietnam era (1966-1971), the depths of the Watergate crisis (1973-1974) and the frustrations of the latter Carter administration (1979-1981). 

On those occasions, one party bore most of the blame and a change of presidents produced a policy that addressed the widespread dissatisfaction. 

President Nixon resolved the Vietnam problem, even though a Democratic-controlled Congress eventually refused any assistance to South Vietnam and handed victory to the North Vietnamese. President Ford quickly alleviated the unfeasibly poisonous atmosphere of Watergate, and has been justly praised in subsequent years for pardoning Nixon. Under President Reagan, the hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran were released as he gave his…

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