The U. S. Constitution – three branches interacting together
The effectiveness of Self-government
The United States is governed by an elected President who is elected every four years. He apponts an inner cabinet of secreatries who guide him in his daily duties. However the President does not have any sort of total power as he/she has to contend with the House of Congress, the Senate as well as theJudiciary in the form of the Supreme Court.
Separation of powers
The Constitution calls for three branches of power, the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. The President has limited powers as if laws have to be passed, they are first proposed by the Executive but then have to pass muster first in the House and then in the Senate. Often there is a lot of horse trading going on as laws are watered down according to congressmen or senator’s constituents requirements.
Checks and balances – how do these work?
However the system provides for a certain amount of checks and balances as the President cannot impose a law without proper consultation and at the same time neither can the House or Senate for that matter. Ideological differences are often ironed out in the courts as laws then can be applied according to interpretation so the system of checks and balances can be said to be complete.
Duties and responsibilities
The Executive is there to ensure that the country is run in a proper manner, that laws are passed with appropriate thought according to what the country’s needs are as well as taking the necessary decisions on defence and other similar matters.
The Legislative branch has to ensure that laws are amended and proposed to the Executive according to what is needed by the country be it an infrastructural project or a civil right.
The Judiciary’s role is to uphold the laws passed in a strict interpretation of these according to the Constitution. Often, views may vary so the ideological balance is also very important.
The three branches interact in the sense that all of them have a different relationship to the running of the country. The President proposes a law which is then debated in the House and eventually passes to the Senate which also debates it and after this is passed it is again sent to the President for approval. If the law is not to the President’s liking or it has been watered down too mutch, this law may be vetoed accordingly. Finally the Judiciary upholds the laws passed by its own interpretation in the courts when cases come up for scrutiny.
Checks and balances – particular cases
The seperation of powers has had some important cases especially in the court packing case of the 1930’s when President Franklin Roosevelt attempted to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who were more liberal and attuned to his New Deal policies. The nominees were eventually rejected during Senate hearings and as a result, the President could not impose his will without any sort of restraint.
Another similar case where the Senate had its power checked was during the Civil Rights debates in the 1960’s. Due to immense opposition from Southern senators, the Civil Rights Act was in danger of not becoming law through constant filibustering and other similar tactics. However through negotiations and a guided legislative process, President Lyndon Johnson managed to persuade enough senators to vote for the bill and to end debate.
We have also seen the system of checks and balances work quite well in the recent debate on healthcare. Although the President eventually had his way on the substance of the bill, the voters concerns were addressed through long and intense negotaitions in the House and Senate. This demonstrates the process of checks and balances in action as we can observe how one side gives and takes with the other.
The effectiveness of the process of government.
According to the Constitution, the three branches are supposed to act in tandem to promote liberty and the alienable right to freedom. When they work together appropriately the result is fine but on several occasions, especially when there are contentious bills such as the Health Care system, the situation can turn nasty and we observe a lot of petty horse trading and posturing which practically shuts down government.
Elected representatives vary in their loyalty to the nation but more often than not they are more concerned with their constituents’ needs. This has had several unfortunate examples especially in the South when several senators and congressmen pandered to their white constituents’ needs to shut out blacks from the voting rolls.
The electorate is obviously very important as through it, the type of politician elected can have an influence on what sort of laws are passed. Occasionally politicians are elected according to how much favours they dispense or how much they promise can be done for their electorate. It is important that the electorate weighs the pros and cons carefully before taking any decision
More often than not, in the past, politicians used to be elected on charisma alone or on ‘how much pork’ they brought back to their state. This is obviously not the right attitude to take when electing politicians as many times these become self serving and as a result their insular attitude affects legislation and government.
It is also important that when electing a President, proper care is given to policies and other characteristics as these will obviously affect the nation in the long run.
One can argue that the effectiveness of the Constitution remains so only if the three branches work accordingly well. Obviously the most important remains arguable the Executive branch although each has its own relevant importance. We have seen cases where the Legislative has held sway over the executive especially during times when both came from opposing political parties while the Legislative has also handed down landmark decisions which ultimately affect the interpretation of certain laws.
The Founding Fathers definitely intended the Constitition to be workable and with the separation of powers, it has worked quite brilliantly for almost three hundred years. Over the years there have been episodes when the system failed but by far and large, it has been quite an unqualified success on all counts. The United States has prospered through this three pronfed system and good government has been the result.
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