Many countries of the world in the present day often strive to be more democratic as much as possible, this is mainly because people are nowadays more informed, familiar and aware of their basic fundamental rights. Democracy has a broad definition based on the context in which it is used, a country is said to be democratic if it meets some set form of criteria that act as guiding principles to democracy. In politics, democracy is defined as a structure of government whereby people of that particular country are given an opportunity to participate in decision making process mainly on issues that directly affect them. They do so through organized systems of participation e.g. voting during elections gives them a chance of deciding who they wish to be their leaders or representatives. Such leaders include presidents, governors and senators. In a democratic country, the majority often has their way or simply rule; however there is also the rule of law which affects uniformly on all the people of that particular given country.
Furthermore, a democratic state ensures that its citizens get a chance of putting the government in place during periodic open and just elections, thus in democratic countries there is absence of dictatorial systems and tyrannical regimes . Also a key element that is normally present in a democratic country is its ability to ensure that the human rights of its citizens are protected at all times. Democracy can therefore be said to be an avenue through which citizens can speak their out thoughts and chat a way in which they would wish their own future to look like as well as that of their children. The purpose of this paper is therefore to analyze in detail how the United States of America has enhanced its democracy over time and also identify aspects in its various processes that demonstrate lack of democracy. This paper will also propose ways and means through which an individual like me can participate in politics such that I can be in a better position to contribute to making United States a more democratic country.
The United States of America democracy has constantly evolved and undergone tremendous changes, as such it has become more democratic over time compared to the time it was founded during its declaration of independence in the year 1776 and subsequent formulation of the constitution of 1779. The main objective of the declaration of independence was driven by a political agenda; it was aimed at providing an explanation and motivation behind revolution. It wanted to show and encourage Americans to rebel against the Great Britain which was then the most influential country on earth and also seeks assistance from French to revolt. After the declaration of independence was made and later successful revolt against the Great Britain, approximately 150 years have passed after which a lot of things started changing in the United States of America. The Americans started to come up with new and diverse ideas about what an independent and a democratic system meant.
The declaration of independence had three main sections. Some of the key ideas and detailed explanation about government and democracy contained in the declaration are found in paragraph two of the document. One of the ideas was on natural rights, on this the document states that individuals have certain rights which are God given and therefore no government can take them away from its citizens. It also talks about the social contract which refers to a general contract that the people enter with the government. This agreement spells out that people must be ready to forfeit to the government some of the liberties that they are entitled such that their fundamental human rights are protected. Also contained in the document was that, the government could only reign when it has been consented by the people. A government could therefore be said to be legitimate if the majority of people had approved it. The document also contained a provision through which the people could be entitled to a right to revolt in an event that all the provisions outlined above failed.
When the declaration of independence had been made, there were new changes that required the United States to have a constitution in place such that it could be able to establish a government. This first initial constitution was known as The Articles of Confederation. It was drafted in 1777, a work that was done by the 2nd Continental Congress. Article II of that constitution assured that each state would maintain its sovereignty. This constitution therefore gave states more power than the congress, this has however changed. The present day system gives congress more power. Also important to note is that there was initially no president. The constitution had that time had no provision through which the president was going to be elected. However, this was later changed through various relevant amendments that have been made to the United States constitution to provide avenue through which people could participate more in democracy by electing the president. Democracy has further been enhanced in U.S in that the media is allowed to cover election processes for example in the elections of 2012. This ensures transparency and accountability, this however is not possible in countries where democracy is not embraced and mainly employs dictatorship in their type of leadership to rule and oppress.
The key characteristics of the U.S constitution which has enabled it to be a more democratic country than when it was founded is that it operates a Republican type of government, there is no appointment of political leaders, instead they are elected. People also are given a privilege of enjoying representative form of democracy i.e. people participate in democratic processes trough representatives. The constitution limits the powers of the government, unlike the ancient times which gave unlimited power to kings. Democracy has also been greatly enhanced by the U.S constitution that creates separation of powers and subsequent checks and balances. The powers of government in the United States is divided to three main branches, the legislature is given power to make laws, on the other hand the judiciary has a mandate of interpreting laws that have been made by the legislature and lastly the executive which administers the laws. This form of government in which powers are separated ensures that there is no abuse of power by either arm of government since the other arms of the government checks or rather limits power bestowed on each arm.
Democracy has also been enhanced in the United States through Federalism. This can be defined as form of government in which powers are divided between the Federal government and the various States. This gives an opportunity for equal representation of people from different states. This is because there is no established strong central government; the presence of powerful states in America ensures that individual liberties are protected more as opposed to existence of a strong central government that might threaten sovereignty of individual states as well as liberties and individual rights. The United States constitution ensures that the congress has no power to eliminate a state; similarly the states cannot assume power that is designated for the national government alone. As such the constitution ensures that the will of Americans in various states is fully represented thus reflects democracy. Most importantly, the level of democracy and freedom enjoyed by the Americans at the moment can largely be seen through their ability to participate in politics and government by choosing their leaders through elections that are held after every four years. Even former felons are nowadays allowed to vote in some states once they are out of prison unlike before whereby felony convicts were not allowed to participate in an election. Women have also been given an opportunity to lead; this can be seen by the increase in number of women in the 2012 congress which was 20 % and also 18% in the House of Representatives. The reason of their few numbers in leadership positions is however due to the poverty gap between them and men (Casper, 1994).
Despite the various progresses that have been made by the United States in its attempts to becoming more democratic, there are however various ways that still makes it less than fully democratic. Such things which make it so include the fact that it practices a form of representative democracy rather than direct democracy. It therefore means that the people do not participate directly in making decisions on matters that affect them but instead rely on the people they elect as their representatives or leaders to make decisions on their behalf. For example the case of electing a president is not done directly by the voters who are the citizens but instead the president is elected by an Electoral College vote. This Electoral College represents each of the state in America and it does so by adding up the members in the House of Representative which is normally relative to population and the number of members in the senate. Two senators represent each state irrespective of its size and population.
This arrangement of election therefore means that a presidential candidate can fail to become a president of the United States despite being voted in by largest number of voters nationwide if he/she does not win an Electoral College vote .This has happened thrice in the history of United States elections, the first one being in the year 1876, secondly in 1888 and thirdly and most recently in the year 2000. This thus may render the people’s choice and popular presidential candidate ending up not being the president, meaning that the majority will have been denied an opportunity to determine who they wish to be their president. This system of election was devised as way of denying people too much power by the founding fathers that came up with the United States Constitution. I find this therefore to be a major hindrance to making the United States a fully democratic country where majority always have their way. There are also threats to democracy. Such treats include women not fully taking part political activities i.e. vying for elective positions because of a number of reasons such as cultural attitudes; politics affects their personal and family life. Also women lack role models to inspire them to run for political office (Halloran, 2008). Another threat to democracy also is racism. This is a case whereby people are mistreated based on their color. This threat is slowly being eliminated through the fact that Americans no longer discriminate that much as evident by the election of an African American president, Barrack Obama. Segregation and racism also impacts democracy in that people who are segregated find it difficult to get and keep jobs and in most cases they remain unemployed, this therefore means that he/she cannot participate much in democratic processes because of poverty. They therefore cannot vie in political elective posts or support one of their because they cannot raise funds to finance their campaigns since they can’t even afford to gather for their own health insurance cover (Kaiser Foundation, 2010)
Conclusively, in working to make the electoral system of the United States more democratic, I would participate in politics through a number of ways such that I can contribute to this outcome. One way through which I can participate in politics is by joining a social movement. Alternatively, I can also support various interest groups that seeks to influence how public policies are formulated. Through this interest groups and social movements, I will get a chance of expressing and voicing my concerns on the need of changing the kind of democracy in place from the current representative to a direct democracy system that would give citizens or rather voters the opportunity to directly elect their president. This can be made possible by using the interest groups to try and influence the congress by presenting facts and a detailed analysis of issues that I consider to be of very significant importance to the U.S, this might in turn lead to making the congress to come up with bills that are aimed at making the United States a fully democratic country.
Halloran Liz. "AN UNCERTAIN LEGACY." U.S. News & World Report 145.5 (2008): n. pag. Print.
Kaiser Foundation. health insurance (2010): n. pag. Web. 18 June 2015. <Kaiser Foundation: http://ehbs.kff.org/pdf/2010/EHBS%202010%20Chartpack.pdf>.
Lynne M. Casper. "The Gender Poverty Gap: What we can learn from other countries."American Sociological Review 59.4 (1994): n. pag. Web.