The Watergate scandal has had a monumental effect on the political culture of this nation. Since the story broke in 1972, Americans' cynicism and distrust of government has steadily increased. The media have become more aggressive and investigative reporting has become more common as young journalists hope to become the next Woodward and Bernstein. This type of muckraking reporting can be seen today in the coverage of the numerous "pseudo-scandals" of the Clinton administration (i.e., Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, etc.).
Shortly after Nixon's resignation, new campaign finance laws and regulations were passed, in hopes of eliminating corruption and scandal from government. Also, the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution regarding executive privilege has held up for over 25 years, although it has come under further challenge this year from the Clinton administration.
The Watergate affair also introduced new words into the American vernacular. Now scandals or potential scandals have been termed "-gate" by the media (i.e., "Filegate," "Travelgate, ""Monicagate"). The words "stonewalling" and "cover-up" have also entered the American political vocabulary.
The Watergate scandal itself also took a toll on those involved. The total casualties were:
one presidential resignation
one vice-presidential resignation (for tax evasion unrelated to the scandal)
40 government officials indicted or jailed
H.R. Haldeman & John Ehrlichman (White House staff) resigned April 30, 1973, subsequently jailed
John Dean fired April 30, 1973 subsequently jailed
John Mitchell, former Attorney General and Chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) jailed
Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy (ex-White House staff), planned the Watergate break-in, both jailed
Charles Colson, special counsel to the President jailed
James McCord (Security Director of CREEP and head burglar) jailed
On August 9, 1974, Richard Milhous Nixon became the first President in United States history to resign from office. Gerald R. Ford was sworn in that day and subsequently pardoned Nixon.