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On June 17, 1972, President Nixon was accused of sending five men that worked for his presidential campaign to break into the Democratic Party headquarters to avoid impeachment. Once the Watergate scandal was solved, it truly left behind major long-term and short-term impacts that changed American history. President Nixon’s actions changed the way citizens saw American officials which later gave future presidents a bad reputation and caused trust among people in the government to deteriorate. The Watergate scandal shows how corrupted the American government was and how far leaders were willing to disobey the constitution to cover up their mess. Since the Watergate scandal degraded American’s political system, many Americans agreed certain reforms were necessary to prevent another scandal. Several of these effects caused by the Watergate scandal led to many demands that prevented the president from abusing their power, lack of trust and manipulation among political leaders, and changed how civilians viewed American leaders.
Once Richard Nixon resigned as President in 1974, many citizens felt there should be several reforms to help reshape America’s political system and prevent another scandal from reoccurring. Although the government helped implement these laws, there was still corruption that was seen daily. In the 1970s, Nixon increased conflict into other nations such as Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Congress noticed that Nixon was abusing his power and established the War Powers Act of 1973 which limited the president from sending troops over without Congress’ approval. For the upcoming election, the U.S government decided to establish the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 which limited the spending on presidential campaigns and made all financing public. The corruptness among government officials can be traced back from the 1950s when a plethora of illegal FBI and CIA activities were discovered. This led to congress developing permanent committees to observe different agencies. Since many agencies were becoming corrupted, the government wanted different reforms to prevent any scandals. For example, in 1975, congress passed the Hughes-Ryan Amendment which made the president accept and report secretive information to congress. Eventually, one short-term effect caused the CIA and congress to cut off association between each other. Congress also had other reforms that they established to help reshape America’s political system and hopefully prevent another Watergate scandal. This led to the Ethnics in Government Act which required to disclose financial and employment history of executive and judicial branch officials. Many of these officials weren’t allowed to move into private sector and use their knowledge to their advantage in politics. The head in the Department of Justice were also required to report any accusation within 90 days to three different judges. During this period, many citizens started to trust the government’s efforts with total reforms until Ronald Reagan became president. At the time, congress was unsure about extending the Ethnics in Government Act. On December 15th, Reagan decided to sign the act so he could have “appearance of justice” and improve his reputation as president. However, after Reagan extended the law, Michael Deaver who was a former White House employee was arrested. This was significant because Deaver had a close relationship with Reagan’s family and shows another reason how broken the government was. These issues eventually led to a major long-term effect on American citizens because they didn’t trust politicians especially since the government continued to be corrupted after the Watergate scandal.
Once Richard Nixon resigned, many civilians realized that politicians were the ones who were mainly involved with the Watergate Scandal. As a result, many members of the Republican and Democratic parties were impacted both short-term and long-term. In the 1970s, many politicians such as Democrats used the Watergate scandal to their advantage to ruin Republican’s reputation. Although some Republicans were trying to reshape some of the issues they left, in the short-term, many Democrats made several efforts to continue to oppress Republicans and ruin their standing. Democrats such as Samuel J. Erwin made several efforts to expose those associated with the Watergate scandal. For example, Erwin investigated White House counsel John Dead who admitted about plans to harass “enemies” through tax audits and several other illegal methods so Nixon could cover up his Watergate scandal scheme. Also, Dean admitted how the White House was trying to cover up their wrongdoing which was later proved by conversations from tape recordings which were in the Oval Office. Cox and Erwin then tried to listen to the tapes that were related to Watergate, however Nixon refused. Eventually, due to executive privilege and separation of powers, the Supreme Court was able to release the tapes. After the Watergate scandal, the Democratic Party started to be in favor for American citizens especially since over 70 new members were elected for congress to help reshape society. In addition, due to Nixon’s actions, members of congress were trying to impeach him, however, he decided to step down to protect his reputation and prevent embarrassment. This led to a long-term effect towards future presidential elections because of the mistrust and broken political system Nixon left behind. In the 1976 election, many Americans were tentative to vote because they didn’t want to elect a dishonest leader. However, Jimmy Carter, stressed his faith as a devoted Christian and distance from the government in Washington. Carter used Ford’s failure to fix the country’s economic problems to his advantage and was able to win over blacks, organized labors, and whites who voted for Nixon in previous years. The Democratic Party was able to be victorious for a couple years, however, the election of 1980 marked a significant turning point because the Republican party were able to take over once again. Like Carter, Reagan also used Christianity as an important role for his campaign. Although the Republican Party was truly affected by the Watergate scandal, they were able to overcome their hardship and take over as the dominant party. If it wasn’t for the government’s broken system and the corruptness that look place after Nixon, then the government would’ve learned their lesson after the Watergate scandal.
The Watergate scandal left behind a bad history that made trust for the government deteriorate significantly. One of the most everlasting impacts on American society was when William Safire used the suffix gate to describe all the scandals that has harmed the United States. For example, Watergate and Debatagate. When the Watergate scandal occurred, many people involved with Nixon tried to flee and hide as it’s proven in the All the Presidents Men film. Many journalists from the Washington post made it their mission to reveal those who dealt with the scandal and hopefully inform the public with the truth. After the scandal, civilians felt that presidents such as Nixon were abusing their power which made left behind “struggle for leadership” and made them uncomfortable to believe anyone in the government. For example, during Reagan’s presidency, he was behind the Iran-Contra Scandal which secretly arranged selling weapons to Iran and Iraq. This led to consequential charges towards the Reagan administration because it went against congress’s ban on military aid to the contrast. The scandal was a reminder to citizens that the political system continued to be broken and no one could be trusted.
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