..certain common elements of religious orientation that the great majority of Americans share....and [these still] provide a religious dimension for the whole fabric of American life, including the political sphere
The inauguration of a President is an important ceremonial event in this religion. It reaffirms, among other things, the religious legitimation of the highest political authority." (Bellah, p.3-4) Relevant examples in this regard can include the speeches that Nixon held in order to justify the situation, the entire ceremony of the hearings and even the forgiveness that President Ford granted to the "guilty party." Again, an action that is largely based on feelings which at its turn, stirs up feelings. It seems that D'Souza is right and that the connection between feeling and morality in the American society is very strong and makes itself present at every social level. The American society listens to the ideal of authenticity that Rousseau spoke about. The resolution of the Watergate scandal, the attitude adopted by the people underline the extreme importance that the American people give to the principles of morality. Consequently it proves the belief according to which America is a great and noble country.
The American society gives a lot of importance to the moral legitimating of the political regime. It is not only the Watergate scandal that proves it, but also other scandals involving presidents, such as the one involving Bill Clinton. In the case of President Clinton, the most serious mistake that he made was not that he had an affair (even if this too represents an action against the moral principles and reflects an unhealthy attitude towards family). The most serious mistake that both Nixon and Clinton did was to lie to the American people, denying their guilt. Nixon even tried to manipulate the cultural, military and political elites. This is something that a people such as the American one can not tolerate.
Furthermore, the engine that led to the change (Nixon's resignation) was in fact the public opinion. The Watergate scandal proves that the key element in determining the outcomes of politics is the American public, just like Durkheim claims, and not the power elite. President Nixon had all the means available and still could not hide the truth from the public. And here, the role of the media is crucial. Had it not been for the two reporters that, just as it can be observed in the movie "All the President's men," were driven by the desire to get to the truth (the truth being a superior moral value) and did not abandon the inquiries despite feeling threatened, the whole situation may have never had the social and cultural impact that it eventually had (through the intervention of the mass media). It is important to underline that the people who contributed to the truth being discovered (the two reporters) did it for the sake of an ideal (a higher moral purpose).
All in all the Watergate scandal proves that society works as an organism, having the necessary resources to fight against crisis situations when these occur. It is not the individuals that act upon society, but society as a moral force that acts upon them, leading them in the right direction. All the people of a country will act for its benefit even if they are not related to each other. Even if they do not speak to each other in a huge meeting reuniting the entire population, they are all driven by a deeper force, the social force. And it is this social force that unites them.
Furthermore, the American society is a society in which the religious factor plays a crucial importance. The elites, the entities in control are endowed with power by the people but only based on a moral legitimacy. The presence of the religious elements can be felt in all the rituals that take place in the political arena. In addition, the game in the political arena must be played by the rules of the moral principles. Otherwise, the public will punish it and eliminate those who do not have the necessary moral qualities.
It is the civil religion that stands at the basis of the collective awareness. At the same time, collective awareness, the engine of social and political changes as proven by the Watergate scandal finds its support in the religious elements that trigger it. Last but not least it must be underlined that the political scandal, despite being a negative situation, a moment of crisis, appears as a symbolical fracture in the everyday political life in America, determining the installation of a sacred dimension that reinforces the fundamental values that the society depends upon for a proper and prosperous functioning.
Alexander, J., "Watergate and the Durkhemian Sociology"
Bellah, R., "Civil Religion in America" in "The Broken covenant: Civil Religion in time of trial," Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967
Durkheim, Emile, "The concept of the state," in Anthony Giddens, ed. Durkheim on Politics and the State, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1986