The Watergate break-ins took place in June 1972. In retrospect, the prototype of political scandals now seems pretty tame 50 years on.
Outrageous, shameful behaviour from our leaders became routine. That was just how President Trump, and his British tribute act Boris Johnson, did business. The president complicit in orchestrating a break-in to a rival’s HQ to wiretap their phones? That would be one of the least serious offences Trump committed during his time in office. Compared to inciting a mob to riot through the offices of government, what’s the big deal?
“I know, and that’s the shocking thing,” says US actress Willa Fitzgerald, best known for her breakout role as Roscoe in Reacher, this year’s punchy TV adaptation of Lee Child’s detective novels. “We clearly live in a very different political atmosphere in which things that would have been absolutely decried in the Seventies are now just treated as: ‘well, you know, it happens’.
“In looking back, I think what a lot of people are searching for is a sense of comfort. This terrible thing happened that shook everyone’s faith in the highest office in the country, and yet, we all banded together, we persevered through and democracy prevailed.
“There’s a hope of being able to understand where we’re going. But I don’t necessarily know if that’s true – we’re living through it right now – and I think the future is a lot less clear.”
Trump may have lost his re-election – and Johnson is haemorrhaging ministers while Fitzgerald is speaking to The Big Issue – but what of their legacy? In the US, the overturning of Roe vs Wade has put human rights back decades and the ongoing January 6 hearings are a constant reminder of divisions that exist in the country. Will replacing Johnson be a healing process or will it reopen old wounds?