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Synopsis

Bag Man is an investigation into how a sitting vice president, Spiro Agnew, directed a vast criminal enterprise within the White House. Rachel Maddow draws parallels between Agne and Trump that highlight how Agnew’s corruption has been easily forgotten. Plus, she highlights that Agnew was a prototype for the Trump era of fake news and division we see in America today. The conclusion is that these events in the 1970s can teach us something about how to react to history repeating itself.

About Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow is an American television news program host and liberal political commentator. She hosts The Rachel Maddow Show, a nightly television show on MSNBC. Plus, she serves as the cable network’s special event co-anchor alongside Brian Williams. Maddow holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University and a doctorate in political science from Oxford University.

Agnew Attends a Republican Women’s Conference

“If Anything, Vice President Agnew got more aggressive over time. His default setting was attack mode. He cheerfully derided liberals, the establishment, ivory tower professors, and the press. It wasn’t that he was proselytizing for his own cause or for pet policy ideas; instead, he made a marquee act out of just taking a flamethrower to the other side.” – Rachel Maddow

Agnew decided to attend a republican women’s conference in Southern California in 1973. He made this decision even after Nixon had told him to resign and the justice system had indicted him. Agnew talked in front of this conference and shouted at them, ‘I will not resign.’ Like Trump, he also explained to them that the media is untrustworthy. In response to this, some of the Republican women started screaming at the reporters and calling them the enemy of the people. These women also brought tape recorders with them as they believed the media would warp what Agnew was saying. This obsession with fake news is comparable to what we see today under the Trump administration.

Agnew was Involved in But Not Taken Down for Watergate

Agnew was vice president to Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Many assume Agnew lost his job due to Watergate. However, Agnew involved himself in another scandal. Throughout his political career, including after he entered the White House, Agnew was taking cash bribes from external sources. These bribes influenced the political decisions he made. As governor of Maryland and a Baltimore County executive, Agnew had carried out a bribery and extortion ring in office for years. At the height of the Watergate investigation, three federal prosecutors discovered his crimes. On the back of this, they launched a mission to take him down before Richard Nixon’s own downfall. They needed to do this to ensure Agnew would not ascend to the presidency. On October 10, 1973, after months of maintaining his innocence, Agnew appeared before the federal court in Baltimore. He pleaded no contest to one felony charge of tax evasion and resigned from office. Subsequently, he has the dubious distinction of being the only sitting vice president to be convicted of a felony. Plus, he is only the second vice president to resign.

We Can Learn From History

“Ultimately, Agnew failed to save himself. But he left a scorched-Earth battle plan for any corrupt officeholder that followed: Attack the investigation as a witch hunt. Obstruct it behind the scenes.” – Rachel Maddow 

Like Donald Trump, Spiro Agnew was a corrupt politician who abused his power. There were differences in Agnew. For example, Agnew used long sentences. Trump has made a name for himself for being your average man who relies on brief and simple sentences. Despite this difference, the political climates are highly comparable. Agnew’s antisemitism is comparable to Trump’s behavior towards the Muslim community. Similarly, Agnew was one of the most prominent users of the race card to manipulate American politics. Racial division has grown under Trump’s administration. Finally, Agnew focused less on policies and more on encouraging the public to fight back against the media, prominent professors and liberal politicians. Trump has adopted an identical approach during his presidency.

Agnew is not where America should learn its lessons, though. Instead, the people who should be made famous from this book are the heroes during this period. We can learn from those who challenged Agnew and implement their approaches as a way of overcoming the divisive aftermath of Donald Trump.

Comment below and let others know what you have learned or if you have any other thoughts.

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