How did the Watergate Crisis change America?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Watergate crisis contributed to various types of change in America, which were happening anyway. It certainly acted as a catalyst for a widespread cynicism about politics and an attitude that rigorous journalistic scrutiny was required to prevent politicians from acting corruptly. On a more trivial level, it ushered in the era of the celebrity journalists when the little-known Bernstein and Woodward duo became a large and integral part of the story rather than simply telling it.

Other changes were more specific to Watergate itself. The scandal had various repercussions on the legal profession. It strengthened the power and reputation of the Supreme Court when a unanimous decision ordered the release of the recordings, essentially ending Richard Nixon's presidency. This confirmed and exhibited the court as the ultimate curb on executive power, ensuring the President would never be above the law. At a lower level, however, many of those involved in the scandal were lawyers and, while the Supreme Court's prestige was increased, that of the legal profession as a whole suffered. The American Bar Association reacted to this by rewriting its code of responsibility, and the mid 1970s saw most law schools instituting mandatory courses on professional ethics and responsibility, largely in reaction to Watergate. The idea that there was a gentlemanly consensus about the way in which attorneys should behave broke down after Watergate and gave way to a culture of stating responsibilities and parameters as explicitly as possible.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial