The Watergate Scandal Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

How did the Watergate scandal demonstrate the vitality of democratic society?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,376 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Despite President Nixon's willful law-breaking and violation of the Constitution, American democracy proved itself remarkably robust throughout the long duration of the Watergate scandal. All the various elements of democratic society—Congress, the judiciary, the free media—held Nixon accountable for his actions. Nixon may have acted like an authoritarian ruler in a banana republic, but the institutions of American democracy continued to operate effectively during this major political crisis.

The United States is a country of laws, not men. And no one man has the right to break the law, however powerful they may be. The response to Nixon's law-breaking was entirely in keeping with America's long-standing political and legal traditions. The President was forced to leave office, not, as would be the case in some other countries, by way of a military coup or a violent revolution, but by the combined weight of public opinion and the actions of a democratically-elected Congress and a free media. Moreover, it's notable that the subsequent handover of power was entirely peaceful and in accord with the Constitution. American democracy may have received quite a jolt during the Watergate scandal, but ultimately it triumphed through adversity, just as it was always intended to.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

The main way in which this scandal demonstrated the vitality of a democratic society was in the fact that the US political system continued to function throughout the scandal.  Everything was done in a constitutional way instead of by force.

In a society with different habits, Watergate might well have led to the fall of the system.  At the very least, it might have led to some sort of extralegal (not according to law) taking of power from Nixon.  Instead, oppositional public opinion built to the point that Nixon decided that he had to leave office.  The presidency was then filled according to the constitutional procedure for replacing a president.  In this way, Nixon was removed and replaced in democratic ways rather than by force.

The fact that the US made it through the scandal without a major crisis and without any extralegal actions by anyone but Nixon and his staff shows the vitality of democratic society.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial