President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, ride along Pennsylvania Avenue after his second inauguration on Jan. 20, 1973. He won re-election in a landslide against Democrat George McGovern after helping to knock a stronger candidate, Sen. Edmund Muskie, out of the race. Washington Post photo by Charles Del Veechio
President George Washington, in his celebrated 1796 Farewell Address, cautioned that American democracy was fragile. “Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government,” he warned.
As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and undermine democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest.
The heart of Nixon’s criminality was his successful subversion of the electoral process – the most fundamental element of American democracy. He accomplished it through a massive campaign of political espionage, sabotage and disinformation that enabled him to literally determine who his opponent would be in the presidential election of 1972.