The U.S.A. is democratic. It elects its presidents. Richard Nixon was elected President in 1968. He was quite a good president. He visited China and made friends with Mao Zedong, which surprised everyone and made the world seem much safer because it was less likely that America and China would drop nuclear bombs on each other.
Each president of the USA rules for four years, and after that there must be another election. Nixon very much wanted to go on being president.
He thought of dishonest ways of making sure that the people he was up against would not be chosen. His men found out embarrassing things about them, and sometimes made up things which were quite untrue. He said that one man was lying about medals he had won in a war, when he wasn’t. In spite of the fact that he had done quite well he was not sure that he would be chosen again when the next election came in 1972. He was up against John McGovern. McGovern’s headquarters were in the Watergate Hotel in Washington. Nixon got some burglars and told them to break into the hotel, read McGovern’s secret files and try to find something bad about McGovern, such as that he drank too much or was nasty to his wife.
If only he could find something like this about McGovern he was sure that the people would not want to vote for him. All his plans were successful, and he won the election by miles. Unluckily for Nixon his burglars were not very clever. They got caught. Two newspapermen noticed some strange things about their trial, and made some enquiries. To their surprise, and after many months of hard work, they discovered how Nixon had been cheating to get elected. Nixon was made to resign. The whole thing was called the ‘Watergate Scandal’. It showed how democracy can be influenced by the way in which information is handled. These days media like Twitter are used to influence people in elections.