The original Constitution was created in the idea of a government elected and ran by the people. The bulk of the first article in the Constitution is creating the framework in which the people would elect their representatives , these representatives are given a role in the check and balance system with the ability to impeach the president. The power of one branch of government to have power or jurisdiction over another branch is a form of the checks and balances system and is meant to facilitate the democratic access to the government. The writers of the constitution were scared of a monarchy form of government with power being centralized in one person that can overrule anything. However,checks and balances, along with the separation of power makes it nearly impossible for one person or branch of government to gain too much power.The overall form of our government is meant to regulate the power in all branches of government in order to facilitate the democratic access to the government.
The bill of rights is also meant to aid the democratic access to the government. The writers of the constitution main concern was the government having the ability to take away the freedoms and rights of the people. The Bill of Rights was created to stop this possibility from happening and gave us the framework to which rights the government cannot infringe upon. The fifth amendment restricts the government from depriving us from life,liberty, and property without the due process of law. This amendment is probably the most important one you can have in a democracy. With the court system in place, this stops the government from locking up or killing any voter that disagrees with them. Life, liberty,and property were the most important rights to the writers of the constitution and they wanted to make sure that while the government did have the power to take them away, they couldn't take them away from whomever they wanted but rather whoever was guilty of a crime punishable thereof. The eighth amendment goes along with this notion too: once the government gains the right to take away your freedoms,they can't give excessive fines or inflict cruel and unusual punishment. Again trying to protect citizens from any possible mistreatment from the government. These amendments impede the government from taking control of citizens and protect the people from possibility of the government jailing or killing anyone that disagrees with them. All of these factors protect democratic access in our country.
Democracy is a naturally slow form of government. Attempting to give every citizen a voice, in a country of millions of people, is a tall order to ask. However, the forefathers created the Constitution, along with the Bill of Rights, with the framework of checks and balances along with the separation of power to make sure that our country would stick to this form government and the people would retain their rights. Even though this has worked for hundreds of years, it has also created a bureaucracy for government officials to get anything done, only adding additional steps and procedures to the already slow form of government we have.The checks and balances system also stops any one branch of government from stepping up and trying to push the country forward as this might be misconstrued as too much power. So while these systems have done a wonderful job of protecting our rights and facilitating the democratic process they have also slowed this country down and made it much more difficult for people in power to get things done.
The kinds of citizens promoted in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights has changed over the hundreds of years they've both been in place. When they were first created, rich white landowners were favored and african americans did not have the right to vote. However, this has changed with time, in 1870 the fifteenth amendment was added to the Bill of Rights protecting citizens from having their rights taken away on account of race,color,or previous condition of servitude. Social stigmas and the population's opinion have also had an effect on who exactly the Constitution and Bill of Rights promotes. Because of the vagueness of the language in both of these documents people can look at either and interpret sections or amendments in different ways and take away their own opinion on who those rights promote. I believe at this current point in time the Constitution and Bill of Rights promote the average law abiding citizen. The Constitution and Bill of Rights have created a basic framework for which the government and the people should live by. Yes, there are discrepancies and vagueness here and there but overall these documents are here so people can live their lives without the fear of the government having infringement upon our rights.
After 8 years under the Articles of Confederation, leading citizens of the United States realized that they required a more powerful government. The Articles allowed too much liberty to the states and not enough power to the federation. The creation and ratification of the Constitution installed a more powerful federal government. Stronger, The United States reinforced ideals of democracy. With separation of powers, checks and balances, and the bill of rights, the constitution simultaneously established a greater national government and insured democratic principles. The document furthered the democratic nature of the United States by building a powerful government, controlled by the voting citizens. The separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches works against tyranny and ensures that power rests with differing interest groups. Checks and balances specify each branch’s powers so that they may exercise their right to subdue the others’. Lastly, the Bill of Rights lays out the protections that all citizens have against their government. The Constitution balances power between all citizens, and encourages a democratic rule of law.
Separation of power within the federal government allows for all three branches to operate with influence. Having three branches of government elected by different means allows interest groups to be heard through three different channels. The President of the United States was originally appointed by electors chosen by state legislatures. Similarly, Senators were appointed by state legislatures. The House of Representatives is elected by popular vote in the states, and federal judges are chosen by presidents. The end result is a government that stems from the voting citizens. Voters elect state legislatures, which choose electors and senators. The electors select the president, who chooses judges. The voting citizens also elect representatives to congress that together hold the same amount of power as the senate. The founding fathers created this extensive system with separation of power and democracy in mind. They didn’t only balance the three branches, but also the masses and the elite. The system ensures that no one person holds any more political power than another. The interests of all are held in equal regard in the constitution.
The system of checks and balances specified in the Constitution of the United States ensures that the three reigning branches have the ability to regulate each other. The President, Congress, and the Judiciary yield powers to overrule decisions made in the other branches. The President must sign all legislation passed by congress for it to become law. If the president refuses to sign and vetoes the law, checking the power of the legislature, then a two thirds vote in congress can overrule the president’s veto. Furthermore, the judiciary can overrule legislature and executive orders. The Legislative branch may also remove any judge, president or legislator with a two thirds vote. The intricate system was created to ensure that one power cannot institute radical or unsupported policy. If one of the branches acts radically without the consent of another, their actions can be canceled. In other words, if the general populus largely disagrees with a decision, politicians representing that group can work to stop the action. The nature of checks and balances in government is democratic because it limits the power of the elite and favors the ideals of the overall population.
The Bill of Rights represents the most democratic section of the original Constitution. The powers provided by checks and balances and the separation of powers only pertain to the select few whom held the power to vote in 1789. The Bill of Rights, however, provides all citizens with specific protections against their government. All citizens within the United States were provided with inalienable rights. These rights are democratic because they allow all denizens to rely on a set of unwavering freedoms so that they can be active members of their country without fear of persecution. The rights to free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and others allow for citizens to push for liberalization of their country. Those rights allowed for voting equality, racial equality, marriage equality etc. Some argue that the constitution of the United States was not democratic because it excluded most of the population from participating in government. It is true that only landed white men could vote at first, however, the bill of rights permits the extension of the vote. By designating freedoms, citizens of the United States could freely push to extend rights to the masses. The Constitution could not be an extremely radical document in 1789 because it had to be ratified by at least 9 states. That limited overly democratic ideals, like the extension of the vote, because the ratifying bodies of states were made up of elite white men. However, the constructors of the constitution built a framework for liberation into the constitution with the Bill of Rights.
The Constitution of the United States allowed for democratic governance. The Bill of Rights allowed for citizens to begin radical political movements that eventually became law. Checks and Balances ensured that no policy was permitted without the support of the voters and the separation of power warded off tyranny. Using the original framework of the Constitution, the United States has excelled and become an extremely democratic nation. Every citizen of the country now receives a vote which has allowed for incredible leaps forward in policy, like marriage equality. The Constitution of the United States is the longest standing governing document in the world and continues to act as the epitome of democratizing constitutions.
Is there evidence of political realism in either the Constitution itself or in the procedures the founders took to write and ratify the document? How did the realism or lack of it strengthen or weaken the Constitution?
A Living Constitution: The History and Practice of Expanding Democracy in the United States (by Ben Petersen)
My AP Gov class defined democracy as a system of government where people vote in fair, frequent elections that result in a deliberative rule of law. One of the most important aspects of this definition is the role of the people. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they wanted to be as specific as possible without restricting future generations. I do think the goal of the Constitution was to facilitate democratic access to the government, but it was geared more toward wealthy, white landowners rather than the average citizen. Because of this, the Constitution ended up hindering democratic access to government.
An example of the importance of fair, frequent elections is shown in the House of Representatives. Article I, Section II states that, “The Number of Representative shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative”. Representatives are chosen every two years to give a more accurate representation of the population. The other part of Congress, the Senate, is comprised of two senators from each state. When the Constitution was written, the Senators were chosen by the state legislatures (Article I, Section III). Unlike the House of Representatives, Senators serve a six year term. I think it’s important to notice an important distinction between the House of Representatives and the Senate; equal representation lasts longer than representation based on population. At this time, however, the Senate included older (because a person must be thirty to be a senator), career politicians. This means that men from a very specific demographic (i.e older and wealthier) are in Congress much longer. Because of this, I think the original plan for the senate stymied democratic access to government. Senators were the people that were allowed to serve the longest term, yet they were never elected.
The Constitution also stresses the difference between the powers of the state and the federal government. Article IV, Section II includes the clause that states how “citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens of the several states”. This clause gets rid discrimination between states and makes sure fundamental rights are universal. The separation between state and federal government was another way to avoid tyranny, and although states have the ability to deal with, “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings” (Article IV, Section I), federal law trumps state law (Supremacy Clause). It is much more difficult to make an impact on the federal level, so because federal law overrides state law, it is much more difficult for the people to gain meaningful access to their government.
Another important facet in the balance of power is the balance and check to power on the Executive Branch. By limiting the power of the President, the Founding Fathers were trying to avoid a monarchy or dictatorship. For example, the term of the President lies in between that of a Representative and a Senator. A four year term also emphasizes the frequency in the definition of democracy. Also, the ability for Congress to override a veto with a ⅔ majority shows how the voices of the people have the power to trump the voice of one person. However, the Electoral college system does not follow the definition of democracy; the definition states that it’s the people that should vote. With the Elector system, the President is not elected by popular vote and is instead elected by districts. The fact that a person could win the popular vote and still lose the election seems counterintuitive to the Founding Father’s vision of democracy.
From the first two amendments, I can see that something the United States values is regulated freedom. This means that citizens of the United States should be able to express their grievances (Amendment I) as well as the idea that a well regulated militia is necessary for the security of a free state (Amendment II). Both of these amendments, as well as the third and fourth amendment, highlight the idea of the right to be control of our belongings; these can be property, weapons, etc.
Both the ninth and tenth amendment state that both the citizens and State have rights that are not stated in the Constitution. The vagueness of both of the Amendments is another way the Founding Fathers allowed for change and ambiguity. Though federal law is supreme (Article VI, Section 2), the ninth amendment shows how the constitution is an evolving document and is subject to constant reinterpretation.
When the constitution was written, the people writing it were white males, so the Constitution is bound to promote the people that fit that demographic. Both women and slaves were excluded from both the ability to vote and the ability to take part in the rights granted by the Constitution. Slaves could not own guns, slaves could not assemble, slaves did not have freedom of religion, and slaves were not given the right to a speedy trial. Though these rights existed, they did not extend to everyone. When the Constitution was written, it had to be ratified by nine out of the thirteen states. In order to appeal to the colonies, they had to limit the rights of blacks because they people voting wanted to their slaves. Another example comes from the three-fifths compromise (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3) which made each slave only three-fifths of a person. In this case, the Constitution does impede democratic access to government for people of a certain demographic.
Allowing the people to access the government is an important characteristic of democracy. The rest of the people were not able to participate in the rights and freedoms granted by the Constitution because of their race or sex. The overall structure of the government, at the time, also restricted the voices of the people because of institutions such as the electoral college and the terms of senators. Though the Founding Fathers had good intentions, they limited the access and power in government to those who already had some degree of power.
Peter Woll, editor, “The United States Constitution” in American Government Readings and Cases, (Glenview: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008), 407-425.
The American Constitution was formed on September 17, 1787, which was 228 years ago to the day. The United States Government has strictly adhered to the terms of the constitution throughout this time period, and still refers to it as sort of its Bible. The government created by this short document has been maintained longer than any system of government anywhere in the world. The Constitution’s lack of specificity and vagueness has allowed every single party running this nation to be in accordance with it, and has also permitted it to be relevant in this day and age, which is a time extremely different from 1787. The Constitution has always attempted to represent people in a democratic fashion. Democracy, by definition, is an egalitarian system of government in which people are given a variety of rights and vote in fair and frequent elections that result in a deliberate rule of law. The individual people of society are the priority rather than the government itself, and are thus given large amounts of personal freedom. When a system has become more democratic, it generally means that it has become more representative of the people it serves and provides these individuals with more freedom in their opinions and in how they can live their lives. The Constitution’s ability to be amended has shown its flexibility, and in the past 200 years, through various points in this nation’s history, the Constitution has been democratized to become more representative of individual, ordinary citizens in this country.
Several of the relevant amendments in the modern day constitution prove that this nation’s system of government has democratized. For example, the very first constitutional amendment increases individual liberty. “Congress should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress in grievances” (Woll, 416). The original constitution indicated nothing about individual rights. It went into depth about the legislative power of individual states, federal power, and the power of the governmental branches, but individual power, or power of the common man and woman, was initially ignored. However, the openness of the document to improve allowed basic rights in a democratic society to quickly become part of the equation with the First Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment also democratized the Constitution by increasing individual liberty. Rather than policemen or other members of authority barging into people’s homes on any basis they so desired, the Fourth Amendment gave people the freedom to maintain peace and privacy in their homes if outside individuals lacked a search warrant. Inserting this amendment into the Constitution was a move toward democratization because it placed a system where common people were put above authority. In a government where the people in office, like a monarch or dictator, possessed all the power, search warrants would fail to exist, because the government would have absolute authority to do whatever they so desired, inside or outside people’s private spaces.
The Ninth Amendment probably most democratizes the Constitution. Because it emphasizes that individuals have rights not listed in the document itself, it basically tells them that they have huge amounts of power. Without this amendment, Americans were limited by the Constitution; all their rights were listed in the document. However, the Ninth Amendment, by telling people that they had even more freedoms and liberties than the Constitution already provided them, democratized the document as a whole.
The Civil War Amendments granted huge amounts of rights to people, and thus made the Constitution much more democratic. For example, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. Slavery allowed people to be owned by others, which was a completely unequal and dominating way of life for so many. The fact that the slaves were now liberated, and were considered equal before the law in the United States to the elitists that used to own them was a huge step toward providing the equality that representative democracy today strongly stands for. Furthermore, the Fourteenth Amendment provided so many with more unalienable rights. The individuals born in the United States that were previously scoffed at as foreigners were now given equal rights as American citizens; “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (Woll, 419). The fact that the government judged people of other ethnicities and races through a fair process of law and allowed them basically all the rights given to individuals of American origin showed that the Constitution really did begin forming a government for all the people. The Fifteenth Amendment, stated that “The rights of citizens… shall not be denied or abridged… on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (Woll, 420). For years before the Civil War, African Americans were treated as property. The fact that they could now vote indicated the further representation of people, and thus a democratization in the Constitution.
The Seventeenth Amendment also further democratized the government. By allowing senators to be directly elected, rather than handpicked by white collar, traditional, state legislature, the United States Senators would now be placed in power as a result of majority vote. This resulted in further democratization because it led to the government allowing more participation from society, and thus made it more “by the people”.
The Nineteenth Amendment finally provided equal rights for members of both sexes. The fact all sexes were now allowed to vote indicated a more democratic government because at this point in history, citizens of all color, race, and sex were able to vote to create a government that they so desired to represent them. Before the initiation of this amendment, only a portion of citizens were able to vote, because the Constitution did not provide individuals with the equality that democracy promised. However, the fact that women, too, were now considered productive and equal members of society made this a fair system of government.
The Twentieth Amendment, giving information about how a President and Vice President would be sworn in, made this government even more democratic. The fact that there was now a proper and organized system in which all members of power had to adhere to was democratic, because it showed that people of authority, too, had guidelines and rules to obey.
The Twenty First Amendment, too, increased individual freedom. By allowing individuals to consume alcoholic beverages, the government was granting them more freedom to do what they desired with their health, wellness, and bodies. If they felt like alcohol would improve their mental states and abilities, they could consume it. If they felt it was a harmful form of intoxication, they had the ability to avoid it. This freedom to do as they pleased was a further step toward democracy because it gave individuals yet another right.
The Twenty Second Amendment built on one of the foundations of democracy. By limiting the term of the president to two terms, it allowed people the ability to participate in frequent elections to elect which candidate would best serve their interests at a given time. Frequent elections, because it is one of the aspects of what democracy should provide people in order to have representation in the government.
As time has gone on in this nation, democracy has progressed. Today, we live in a day and age that our founding fathers would have probably imagined unthinkable. The Constitution, however, has lived through all this time and has been able to appropriately adjust to give people the rights of a changing society. It is doubtful that James Madison, or any of the constitutional fighters before him would have ever thought that women would have rights, or that same sex couples would have the right to marry, but the Constitution that these people drafted, whether they knew it or not, was eventually molded in such a way that all these rights became permissible.
Peter Woll, editor, “The United States Constitution” in American Government Readings and
Cases, (Glenview: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008), 407-425.
"Are backroom deals necessary for a productive democracy?"
Many people believe that corruption and backroom deals are the worst things to occur in American government. Many people say our government is a joke, that it is a whole bunch of men who pretend to be running our country. Many people think that our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves if they saw what our government has come to. Many people think the government isn’t doing its job. Many people think the government is just for show and that there is a secret underground facility running our country. When I say ‘many people’, I mean me. For a long time, I thought our government was pure hogwash. Lately, my opinions have changed a tad. Do I know how the government plays a role in our country? Yes. Do I see the point of the law? Yes. Do I think that the government is full of corruption? Still, yes. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.
When a person thinks of corruption, they immediately flinch. Their mind flashes to the Gilded Age; choked full of backroom deals. However, a person cannot doubt that those backroom deals, among many others, have made this country what it is today. What if I told you that backroom deals could maybe be a good thing? Does this sound impossible? Not to me.
Now, picture Democracy. Laws being passed through many systems that deem it good or bad. Think about how many systems anything has to go through in this country. It takes time. A lot of time. It doesn’t matter if a law is trying to be passed or a permit is trying to be obtained; it is slow. To quote a previous history teacher, ‘democracy is slow’. The word ‘democracy’ and bureaucracy are forever linked in my mind.
Now picture backroom deals. A person might see a myriad of old men with beer bellies in pinstriped suits with cigars in a small room in the back of an old restaurant filled with smoke and a table covered in stacks of dollar bills.
Democracy and backroom deals seem kind of opposite. But they have more in common than dudes sitting around in nice suits discussing the future. They both have structure. They both have rules. They both involve the cooperation of others. They both require people who are dedicated; no matter what their motives are. And, lastly, they both set things into motion for our country.
Explaining the american government is so complicated and yet so simple. It is a system within a system, and on and on and on. Call it what you want, a death castle, a hog pit, a sophisticated hierarchy, a mind control facility, a secret club; but you cannot doubt its place in our society. It may be one of the few reasons our country is still standing today.
Long story short, the government is complicated. It takes months and years for anything to get approved, let alone put anything into motion. Getting a whole bunch of people to agree that something is or isn’t okay is a long and banal process. How are we supposed to progress as a country when we can’t get anything done, you ask? Political machines, that’s how. They are best at pushing things through that would otherwise be rejected by our government. Maybe the government is just for show and political machines is where things really happen. Even if the idea of political machines and corruption is frightening, at least its something; a tangible thing to invest hope. If that’s what it takes to get things done, then that's what it takes.
Do we want all political machines and no formal government? No. Do we want all formal government and no political machines? No. We need to find a balance. But first we need political machines that aren’t too extreme. We don't want the black heart of corruption running our country. But we could use a touch of that darkness to our advantage. It happens all the time, we just don’t know about it. So, if corruption is unavoidable and our government is in trouble and it’s already happening, why the hell not?
This article was terrifying. The goal of this article was to convince the reader that the United States needs to get more done. The method it suggests is basically that third parties should be eliminated, people with strong beliefs should be villainized, and that money should control the elections. My question is this, where do the “political machines” stop and an oligarchy being? The line is thin and not clearly defined. This political machine suggestions is an attempt to put the power in the hands of the parties and remove the freedom of voting from elections. The author suggests that political parties become more formal and more powerful, focusing on the reelection of candidates that obey their wishes. He suggests they create a hierarchy to keep a “balanced” system where people get elected through backhand deals and bribes. This kind of government is what the founding fathers sought to avoid. There is a reason the government is slow.