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The United States of America is one of the countries in the world that promotes the exercise of democratic practices all over the world. The democracy in the USA comes from the many years of active dialogue and continuous improvement in leadership since the attainment of independence. The main source of democracy is the constitution since it has various chapters that seek to improve the rights of the people. Ironically, the same constitution that protects the rights of the people and fosters democracy has some rigidity to democracy. These sections of the constitution are very rigid to change that a change in guard from the republican to democrats or otherwise does not have any significant effect since the different leaders work based on the same constitution.
The United States constitution is probably one of the hardest constitutions in the world to amend. The areas that need a deeper look in the constitution are the ones that make it undemocratic to all the people. The most common areas that are not bound to be litigated are the presidential veto or except for some aspects of the veto such as the so-called pocket veto. The Electoral College is also less likely to be litigated upon (Tocqueville, 1-100). The power of the senate is the other area in the constitution that is also less likely to be litigated. However, despite the areas of contention in the constitution, some aspects make it very democratic. These areas make the constitution democratic since there are conscious efforts to protect the rights of the people. The paper will look at the individual instances where the constitution of the United States is both democratic and when it does not promote the democratic practices.
The democratic aspects of the constitution of the United States are numerous. The people have the right to elect the people that make the law. They also elect the people that execute the same laws while they also form the jury that delivers the judgment based on the same law. The institutions are democratic in principle and developments that they make. The people chose their representatives per year in order to ensure that they are independent and competent. This makes the definition of democracy as the rule of the people by the people to hold some truth in the practices of the people.
The other aspect of the constitution of the United States that makes it hold is the freedom of the press. This freedom gives the press the ultimate power over the political opinions. It also has the ultimate power over the opinions of the people (Tocqueville et al.,1-59). The freedom of the media is the most democratic aspect in the United States since it is an assurance of access to information by the publics (Sunstein 1).
As stated earlier, the power comes from the people. The access of information is the most valid way that people can use to gauge the performance and stability of the leaders that they elect into the positions. The ability of the people to obtain the best information that is free from bias and is collected from without any coercion makes the choices made by the people correct. This aspect ensures that people have the ultimate power over the people that run the affairs of the country (Tocqueville, 1-100). The representatives elected at the end of each year have to account for the reports made in the media about their performance for them to have the chance of being reelected.
The power of the freedom of association comes out succinctly in the United States. The American people have taken advantage of this aspect to the greatest of its advantage. There are some associations made by the legal stipulations such as towns and cities. However, the most explicit form of associations comes from the individual will (Tocqueville et al., 14). The people that live in the United States learn right from the birth that they have to rely on themselves on the struggle against all the factors that are in life. The people have to live on their own, and they only call on the social authority when they do not have an alternative. The associations that people have are the meant for the purposes of the security, morality, religion and industry. The collective power of the people makes the attainment of the dreams of the people.
The life tenure of the judges of the Supreme Court needs to be changed. The nature of tenure is a grievous error in the constitution (Sunstein 1). The error comes out in at least two ways. First, there is no good reason behind the members of the Supreme Court to serve for 25, 35, or even 40 years. The tendency of being accustomed to practice and forming stands on the way to handle some issues depending on the quarters from which they originate is also high. The immunity of the judges from being ousted may make them work without any fear, but it may also lead to the reckless behavior on the part of the judges. However, the above points occur on the rare occasions.
The other aspect of the lifetime tenure that makes the Supreme Court judges have some immense power is the fact that they can time their resignations. The judges according to their political affiliations, democrats, have used this aspect, and republicans have benefited from the practice in the same way (Sunstein 1). The judges time their resignations in such a way that when they get out of office their successors will be able to work for their interests and those of their parties. This turn of events reserves the right to occupy the offices of the Supreme Court judges to the people that pledge their allegiance to a certain political party.
The common practice in other countries is that the judges have to occupy office for a short time. The limitation of the Supreme Court judge’s tenure would be effective in reducing the political affiliations of the people that occupy the offices (Tocqueville et al., 37). This change would ensure that the rights of people would be protected by the court without any side loyalties clouding the judgment of the Supreme Court judges. This amendment of the constitution would make it constitutional (Tocqueville, 1-100).
The Electoral College is one of the aspects of the constitutional aspects that make the political system to be dysfunctional. These aspects are the ones that make the people that want to pass innovative legislature (Sunstein 1). The hitches in passing the legislation come from the realization that there are many veto aspects. The most common indicators of the veto are the absolute bicameralism and the presidential veto.
The Electoral College is also one of the areas that need changes. Since the 1968 electoral debacle, the House of Representatives proposed an amendment on the constitution that sought to abolish the Electoral College. The senate vetoed the amendment. The excuse that the senate gave for the veto was that at least the president was a representative of the majority of the American voters. This could have been the case at that time. However, it is not usually so. The mode of operation taken by the Electoral College has been responsible for the sending of presidents to the white house that did not have the majority of the popular votes. This has been the case since the Second World War. Such presidents include Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton in both cases, George W. Bush, and John F. Kennedy. Some of the presidents sent to the white house despite their failure in garnering the majority popular vote performed beyond the expectations of the people others failed to perform. However, their performance or failure to do so is not the matter of discussion in this context. The presidents were working in capacities that the general vote thought ought to be filled by other people.
This issue is a result of the bicameral conflict in 1969 that made the existence of the Electoral College to persist. This bicameral system led to shooting down of a bill that would have legitimized the power of the people as the main determiner of the people that can lead the country. The system looks at ways of ensuring that the will of the people is not the ultimate source of power for the people that sit in the highest political office in the nation and arguably in the world. It is not possible for the proponent of the sustenance of the Electoral College to state the president that went into the parliament was a manifestation of the desires of the majority of the people.
The majority of the members in the Electoral College do not represent the majority of the people. If the senate were honest with itself, it would have abolished the Electoral College in the 1968 in order to ensure that the dysfunctional nature of the political system does not center on the people (Tocqueville et al., 56). The simple focus on the working of the entire political system was going to have a significant impact on the way that the senate made the determination of the case. The political system failed in that instance since the sustenance of the Electoral College is bound to continue thwarting the will of the people.
In conclusion, the American system of government is marked with many instances of democracy. The attainment of the democratic practice is possible since the mode of government is stable. This stability can be attributed to the constitution. However, not all the stipulations in the constitution of the United States are indicative of the best approaches of governance. The constitution that promotes a lot of democratic practices that form benchmarks all over the world is also the one that is responsible for the creation of undemocratic practices all over the world such as the electoral college and a bicameral parliament that allocate the senators according to the size of the state and not the popular vote made by the people. The presidential veto is also a source of undemocratic practice since it makes the house assume some tricameral characteristic (Sunstein 1).
Tocqueville, Alexis De. "Democracy in America." Traducc~ao de James T. Schleifer. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, (2010): Print.
Sunstein, Cass R. "Why does the American constitution lack social and economic guarantees." Syracuse L. Rev., 56. (2005): 1. Print.
Tocqueville, Alexis De and Others. "Democracy in America." The University of Adelaide Library, (2008): Print.
George W. Bush was the 46th governor of Texas up to 2000 when he resigned and sought the republican presidential candidacy. His interests in governorship of Texas started merging in 1990 following the election of his father as the president in 1988. However, he proceeded to buy the Texas rangers baseball team and did not vie for the post until 1994. Following his election, he sought to change some of the policies that previous Texas governors had pursued. He focused on educational policy, social policy, and capital punishment as a way of reducing the level of crime in the state. His governorship and leadership style was popular among Texans such that he was reelected to the post. He became one of the few governors of Texas that were reelected. In 1998 election, he was reelected by the majority of the people. He even received substantial votes from populations that were traditionally deemed democrats. He received 27% of the African American Texans. The contribution of the minority groups to his campaign led to a landslide win of 69%.
Bush was the pioneer of faith based welfare programs. His government extended funding to the religious organizations that were providing social services. He reached out to various religious leaders since he believed that their contribution to the society was important. He chose to work with the existing systems instead of developing his network of social services. This approach guaranteed his success as a governor. He urged the Texans to be mindful of the people in need just as if Jesus did buy signing a memorandum in April 17, 200. His religious based polices were termed as violations of the establishment clause of the first amendment. However, his move led to an increase of his popularity more so among the religious and conservative members of the society (Zelikow & Minutaglio, 2000). His contribution to the education sector included an advocacy for more control of the local schools, development of an updated and relevant curriculum and creation of higher standards of tertiary education. These advocacies led to the development of a better and more relevant education system in the state.
The Bush administration operated a fiscal policy whereby they tried to reduce the property taxes in order to benefit the homeowners. The administration also aimed at increasing the funding expended to the general education. To offset the deficit, the governor tried to introduce business taxes but he was faced by a lot of opposition from the members of his party who were the big business people. With the rejection of his proposal, Bush was left with fewer choices in terms of the amounts of money that he could raise for his expanded education budget. In order for him to deal with the issue conclusively, he sought other means of funding that did not require him to touch the tax rates. He pushed for an expansion of the budget by seeking a budget surplus of $2 billion (Zelikow & Minutaglio, 2000). This was the largest surplus budget in the history of Texas... the tax cut led to the development of the perception among the Texans and Americans that he was a fiscal conservative. In order for him to pay for the tax cuts, the governor ought the approval of the federal government to privatize the social services. The governor also contributes to the development of the state by investing in wind-generated power plants. His investments made the state the leading producer of the green fuel. The wind-generated power was a substantial part of his renewable energy policy. The policy proceeded to require that the electric retailers buy some of their power from the renewable energy generators.
The outright promotion of the capital punishment was the main setback for the administration. Under the leadership of Bush, the state carried out more executions than any time in the history of capital punishment. He executed over 152 prisoners under the death row such that his record was only broken by his successor. Some of the critics of his administration opine that he was not open to the clemency requests that the normal prosecutions required. Therefore, he may have ended up executing some of the prisoners that were later to be exonerated in the light of new evidence. This approach to death row in mates led to the development of the perception among the people that he was a ruthless ruler. The rate of the executions was so high such that there was an execution of a death row inmate every nine days. He only intervened in one of the cases for a serial killer henry Lucas. His intervention in the case was only temporary since the law requires that the pardon and paroles board awards a commute or parole to the inmate before the governor can make any move. The fact that the governor was willing to sit through the execution plan led to the decline of his image as a Christian. However, some argue that his approach contributed to lower crime rates.
Zelikow, P., & Minutaglio, B. (2000). First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty. Foreign Affairs, 79(3), 168. doi:10.2307/20049763
Chapter 12-The second War for Independence and the Upsurge of Nationalism
Section one: On to Canada over Lands and Lakes
It is important to understand that on the eve of the war in 1812 America had a weak, and a poorly trained army and old generals. However, at the time Canada and Britain had better forces. British forces were the weakest in Canada. It is critical to realize that indeed Americans had a poor offense strategy; and they attacked in a three-pronged invasion that stemmed from Niagara, Detroit as well as Lake Champlain. The Americans regarding weaponry had superior gunners, thicker ship sides to protect against enemies as well as larger crews. Therefore, the Americans realized that they had a better chance with their Navy. Oliver Hazard Perry captured a British fleet on Lake Erie, and the Americans continued to beat the British from the great lakes. It is of the essence to note that indeed by the year 1814, the Americas were defending their soil effectively against the British.
Section II: Washington Burned and New Orleans Defeated
In the year 1814, a second British force was able to land in the Chesapeake Bay. It is here that the British entered the Capital, and they set fire to most of the Public buildings. They burned down the Capitol and the White House. The British were able to hammer Fort McHenry, but they, unfortunately, did not capture the City. It is at this time that the Star Spangled Banner inspiration came to Francis Scott Key. The British came a third time, and they aimed at New Orleans. The battle of New Orleans was led by Andrew Jackson, and he had in his command over 7000 men. The British were overconfident, and they suffered the worst defeat in the whole war as they lost over 2,000 men in half an hour as compared to the 70 lives that the Americans lost. After the battle, Jackson became a national hero because of the victory and, in fact, the Battle of New Orleans helped to restore honor, nationalism as well as self-confidence. It is critical to note that before the battle, a peace treaty had been signed in Belgium at Ghent. It is after this that the Royal Navy threw up blockades as well as raided Americans. The American economic life was crippled because of the blockade.
Section III. The Treaty of Ghent
Tsar Alexander, I of Russia wanted peace between America and England and therefore, he proposed mediation. Five American peacemakers went to Ghent. The British had previously made high demands to the Americans. However, the news of weakening for the British and the news regarding their immense losses made them more willing to compromise. The treaty of Ghent was signed in the year 1814 on the Christmas Eve. It was an armistice, and both sides agreed to stop fighting as well as restore conquered territory. There was no mention that was made regarding the rights of Americans.
Section IV. Federalist Grievances and the Hartford Convention
It is important to realize that during the war, the New England area prospered because of the illegal trade that went on with Canadian enemies. The New England Minority were prospering, and they proposed secession from the Union. Discontent was however manifested during the Hartford Convention. It is critical to realize that indeed it was a convention of Hartford that states got together to discuss the grievances and sought redress for their wrongs. However, was not very radical and, in fact, it has been said that it only gave the minority a place to vent. They demanded financial assistance from Washington to be able compensate for the lost trade. They also wanted to abolish the 3/5th clause and limit the presidents to one term as well as prohibit successive state Presidents. They went to give their demands to Washington, and they found that the city had been burnt down. Further, they also heard the news regarding New Orleans. Their complaints seemed petty at best.
Section 5: The Second War for American Independence
It is critical to realize that indeed the war of 1812 was not a big global war, and this is because Napoleon had Europe distracted. Naval officers and people that were leaders who negotiated in other countries were listened to, and in a diplomatic sense, this has often been described as the second independence war. The New Nation was solidified as well as brought together. Further, it is important to realize that at this time, war heroes such as Andrew Jackson as well as William Henry emerged and they became Presidents. It is of the essence to realize that because of the British blockade, manufacturing prospered, and industries were simulated. Canadians felt that they were betrayed by the Treat of Ghent. The Rush-Bagot agreement between U.S and England limited naval armament on lakes. It is of the essence to realize better relations eventually brought down the border fortifications in the year 1870, and the U.S and Canada can share the world largest unfortified border. Further, it is also important to note that After Napoleon defeat at Waterloo, Americans turned into nation building because the Europe slumped into an exhausted peace.
Section six: Nascent Nationalism
America after the year 1812 emerged as one nation. People started to write about the country America, and for Americans they started to paint their country proudly. Congress was able to revive the bank of the United States and rebuild the capital. Further, the army was expanded, and the Navy continued to win more battles.
Section seven: The American system
The Americans were able to take pride in their economic development and especially their mushrooming factories. Henry Clay was able to launch a plan named the American system that had three main parts. The first was a strong banking system with easy credit. Secondly, there was the development of roads and canals to be able to send materials. The third part was helping the country to become economically and politically closer.
Section eight: The So-called Era of Good Feelings
In the year 1816, James Monroe was nominated, and he won. This meant that the Federalist Party was dying out. Monroe represented two generations, the founding fathers, and the new nationalism. He was in between, and this is the reason he is the least distinguished of the first eight presidents. He traveled throughout the New country, and he was able to usher in the Era of good Feelings, and this has been described as a misnomer because the years were only nice for the first couple of years.
Section Nine: The Panic of 1819 and the Curse of Hard Times
There was speculation in the frontier lands that was followed by deflation, depression and bankruptcy as well as unemployment. This has what ended the era of goodness. The Panic created trouble both in the social and political world. People were often imprisoned for debt and mothers were taken from their children because they owed a few dollars. The nation had moved up to around 22 states, and the Ohio Fever had made people start moving and expanding west. The West at the time was however still weak in independence and population. The land act of 1820 had helped to improve conditions, and this is because people were able to buy 80 acres at once at a minimum of $1.25 per acre.
Section 10: Slavery and the Sectional Balance
There was the rivalry between the South and the North regarding who would control the West. The House of Representatives passed what is referred to as the Tallmadge Amendment, which meant that no slaves should be brought into Missouri and granted gradual emancipation for the children. This made the Southerners angry, and this is because they were falling behind in population and yet they still wanted equal representation. The future of the slavery institution were making them uneasy and more so because moral questions about the evils of slavery were slowly popping up.
Section 11: The Uneasy Missouri Compromise
Congress agreed to admit Missouri as a slave trade state. However, it also wanted to separate part of Massachusetts and add Maine as a state. It was determined that Missouri could be able to keep their slaves, but there would be no more that would be permitted in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase. In the Missouri Compromise, the North go not more slave states and the South got Missouri as a slave State. The Missouri compromise was able to last 34 years. Monroe was elected for a second time.
Section 12: John Marshall and Judicial Nationalism
It was Chief Justice John Marshall that dominated the Supreme Court. He, for example, did not permit Maryland in the case of McCulloch vs. Maryland to tax banks. His ruling showed that he followed the loose interpretation of the Constitution. He agreed that indeed the Constitution was intended to endure for ages and to be adapted.
Section 13: Judicial Dikes against Democratic excesses
Fletcher v. Peck in the year 1810-The Georgia legislature granted over 35 million acres to private speculators and proceeded to cancel it. The Supreme Court ruled that the grant was a contract and that the constitution forbade states to impair contracts. It is this law that helped in the protection of property rights. In the case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Dartmouth had a charter from King George III but New Hampshire wanted it changed. Marshall in the matter ruled that the Charter must stand, and this is because it was a contract. This decision helped to keep the nation amongst conservative lines.
Section 14: Sharing Oregon and acquiring Florida
Nationalism had played a big part in the shaping of foreign policy. Monroe was able to team up with John Quincy Adams, who has been described as one of the greatest Secretaries of State. Americans wanted the whole of Florida. Soon after, revolutions broke out in South America; Americans were disappointed when Spain sent troops from Florida to squash the rebellion. General Jackson at the time saw an opportunity to take the Swampland, and he stated that slaves that were hostile had gone there, and he had to get them. Jackson was able to capture two posts in Florida, and he exceeded Washingtons’s instructions. Each and everybody in Monroe’s cabinet wanted to punish him, and only John Quincy Adams disputed. In the Florida Purchase Treaty, the U.S got Spanish Florida and some of Oregon in exchange that the US gave up claims to Texas to the Spaniards.
Section 15: The Menace of Monarchy in America
Europe had feared democracy because of what they had witnessed during the French Revolution. The Crown of England had been able to quell the rebellion in Spain and Italy. They were going to South America. The Americans believed that that if the Europeans intervened in the New world, Republicanism would be harmed. Britain proposed to Americans a joint document that would renounce interest in getting the South American territory.
Section Sixteen: Monroe and His Doctrine
Secretary Adams was wary of Britain needing an alliance, and this is because he believed that the U.S had to keep expanding. Monroe doctrine in the year 1823 served as a stern warning to the Europeans, with two main basic features. Firstly, there was non-colonization and secondly non-intervention.
Section Seventeen: Monroe’s Doctrine Appraised
The monarchs of Europe were enraged. However, they could do nothing about it. The Tsar decided to retreat even before Monroe’s message of the Russo-American Treaty of 1825 fixed the lines at exactly 54 degrees 40’. It has been argued that indeed the doctrine was more of a self-defense policy. It never became law, agreement or even a pledge. It was only a statement of policy.
The British undermined the Americans and, as a result, they were crushed at New Orleans. This was a period of newfound nationalism. However, the panic of 1819 attempted to dislodge the United. Further, it is critical to realize that indeed the struggles between the South and the North regarding who would control the West led to the Missouri Compromise. Under the leadership of Monroe, there was a renewed sense of patriotism and when John Quincy Adams came on board. The U.S was able to acquire more land through diplomatic means and further, it was also able to recognize itself as a country on its own. It wanted to ensure democracy at the expense of the monarch of Europe, and this Monroe was able to accomplish.
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