Did the Watergate scandal demonstrate the overall strength or weakness of the American democratic system?Think about:- the power of the executive branch prior to Watergate- the role of the press in...

Did the Watergate scandal demonstrate the overall strength or weakness of the American democratic system?

Think about:
- the power of the executive branch prior to Watergate
- the role of the press in the Watergate scandal
- the role of Congress in Watergate
- the role of the courts in Watergate
- other great historical crises

I personally put that it demonstrated strength but I just need evidence to support my answer. Thanks in advance!

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with bullgatortail. Richard Nixon violated the law of this country and his oath of office to uphold the constitution. Had he not resigned, he would have been impeached and removed from office, the only President in history to suffer that ignominy. The American democratic system is not perfect, nor is it inflexible; but it does work. Watergate was appropriately described by President Gerald Ford as a "constitutional nightmare," but we survived it with the constitution and our form of government in tact. That to me is strong testimony of the inherent strength and durability of our system of government.

The press was instrumental in bringing this information to the eyes of the public, which led to the outcry and Nixon's downfall. As bullgatortail pointed out, this same outcry almost drove Bill Clinton from office. Both events have been stern warning to future leaders that they dare not violate the trust of those who elected them.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree that it demonstrated strength.  The reason for that is that a sitting president was forced out of office for trying to use his position to cover up a crime that had been committed.  The Congress and the Courts (and most importantly the people) did not simply allow Nixon to do what he wanted.  Instead, they pressured him enough that he was forced to leave.

No system can ever prevent officials from abusing their power.  But a strong system can punish an official who abuses his power.  Weak systems (think Italy and Berlusconi) allow the abuse to continue.  The US had a system that was strong enough to punish Nixon for his actions and then continue on without faltering.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am writing the day after Rep. Weiner resigned his position, following the outcry over his sexting exploits were revealed. I think the power of the media and the social networking made possible through Twitter, Facebook, IM, and other electronic means of communication is going to put the lives of public officials in particular under an increasingly powerful microscope.

I agree that Watergate demonstrated the basic strength of the American system of checks and balances within the government and the citizens involved in that process. I wonder if the "plan" would have even gotten off the ground if the communications we have available now had existed in 1974...

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there was an inherent weakness demonstrated in that the system itself neither guarded against Nixon's excesses of Presidential power, nor detected them when they happened.  I would bet that many if not most Presidents have done things beyond the Constitutional limits of their office and have not been caught or prosecuted. 

On the other hand, the Fourth Estate, the free press, was the element of our democracy that uncovered Watergate and followed it all the way to the White House, so as a check and balance of their own they functioned quite well.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that it primarily demonstrated the strengths of our system; as a previous post noted, Nixon was forced from office because of the public outcry. It also served notice to future presidents that such deceit and shenanigans will not be tolerated. President Clinton also faced the real threat of impeachment because of his indiscretions, and with the increased media scrutiny and the rising power of the Internet to publicly detail virtually all information, our leaders will continue to be under the microscope.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think Watergate demonstrated the strength of our system.  Yes, there was terrible corruption.  However, the system won.  We were able to root out the corruption and prove that the president or party in power could not do whatever he or the wants.