America’s Democracy: Report Card
Table of Contents
The democracy in the U.S. is supported at all levels, including the governmental one. The country’s Constitution, branches of government, national policies, and the procedure of elections are designed in a way that promotes the power of the people. However, it is clear that even the well-designed governmental system has its flaws and shortcomings. Therefore, the following paper focuses on the analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the governmental system of the United States, namely in terms of the Constitution, national policies implemented by federal agencies, judiciary branch of the government, and federal elections. Additionally, it proposes the solutions to either strengthen or mitigate the effect they have on the system.
The major strength of the U.S. Constitution is its stability. Indeed, the process of making an amendment to it is quite lengthy and difficult. In fact, out of several thousand amendments proposed with regard to the U.S. Constitution, only forty were adopted by the Congress, with 27 of them gaining binding character (Tushnet, Graber, & Levinson, 2015). Thus, it is clear that the constitutional system is optimal. In turn, this feature insures the stability of the country’s governmental system as a whole, thereby reducing the risks of occurrence of events that may undermine it (revolts, uprisings, and others).
At the same time, the US Constitution has certain weaknesses. Apparently, the text of the U.S. Constitution that was written over 200 years ago is difficult to directly perceive (Levin-Waldman, 2012). It is worth noting that the Supreme Court alone has adopted more than 500 volumes of decisions interpreting the Constitution. The problem is that in the present-day world, many of its provisions are outdated. For example, one should refer to the paragraph 11 of Section 8 of Article I, which permits to attack enemy merchant ships approaching the civil seafarers (Fink, 2010). Despite the fact that privateering (sea robbery) was banned in 1856, this provision is preserved intact. As a result, one cannot exclude the possibility of misrepresentation of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution (Tushnet et al., 2015). For example, the mentioned paragraph 11 may be perceived as support for a sea robbery by the U.S. government.
To maintain the described upside, it is crucial to treat the Constitution not only as a code of laws that lays the foundation of the United States. Hereby, it must be perceived as an important political and legal document, which has had an impact on the constitutional development of many countries in the world, contributing to the spread of the doctrine of constitutionalism. Therefore, its main provisions must be protected at the federal level as the cornerstones of the American democracy. Moreover, it is vital to insure that the norms of the Constitution have direct connection to the national life. In turn, the society itself will restore it in the case of its violation, thereby contributing to its stability.
On the other hand, it is important to systematize the process of interpretation of the Constitution since its brevity requires one to conduct constitutional review on a constant basis. Most importantly, it is necessary to unify the decisions made by different entities in a single database to improve their accessibility and, therefore, simplify the process of interpretation of the Constitution. In turn, it will be possible to avoid the misrepresentation of its provisions, especially in the cases of emergency.
The National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy that must be implemented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S. Department of Commerce) is focused on the provision of stewardship of the fisheries in the conditions of growing coastal population. The strength of this policy lies in the fact that it acknowledges the authority of the state and local resource management agencies and advisory bodies in the process of overseeing the fisheries (NOAA, 2015). In turn, it is possible to say that it fully supports the principle of federalism, namely its marble cake type, by distributing the authority among all the governmental levels (Levin-Waldman, 2012). As a result, the peculiarities of a particular coastal area (ecology, richness, geography) will always be taken into account, thereby contributing to the successful implementation of the national policy.
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The weakness of this policy is in the fact that it does not specify the way of collecting the necessary information (catch and effort, as well as social and economic data) (NOAA, 2015). As a result, the states are likely to use their own ways of obtaining the required information, meaning that it can be difficult to collected and, therefore, analyzed at national level. In turn, this fact may present an obstacle to the successful implementation of measures described in the policy.
To maintain the mentioned strength, it is required to go even further in terms of the recognition of the authority of the state and local resource management agencies and advisory bodies while controlling the fisheries. Thus, it is possible to delegate more power to them, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration having primarily directive and supervising role in the process of implementation of the national policy. Considering that there is no tight time frame, each state can create a personal schedule that takes into account all the features of the local fisheries.
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On the other hand, to alleviate the impact of the described flaw, it is necessary to include the measures regarding the creation of a national database of saltwater fisheries. The state agencies and local advisors will be required to submit the information they have collected by using a universal form containing the mentioned data entries. As a result, data analysis will be conducted much faster, thereby improving the decision-making process regarding the stewardship of the coastal fishing areas of the country.
Branches of Government
The strength of the judiciary branch of the U.S. government is in the parallelism of the federal and state courts, with the independence of the latter ones. A wide array of issues is within the competence of the federal and state courts both in criminal and civil matters, which has given rise to complex rules of differentiation of their functions. In certain situations, the prosecuting authorities and the plaintiffs in civil cases may choose between going to court in one of the states or the federal court. In some cases, they are allowed for an appeal in a federal court with a complaint in the case that was reviewed in state court (Crowe, 2012). Such freedom of choice contributed to the thorough examination of the majority of cases, insuring that justice will be served appropriately.
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One of the weaknesses of the judiciary branch of the U.S. government is in the process of the constitutional control that is conducted by the Supreme Court. First of all, the issue of unconstitutionality of the law or another act occurs when these acts have been published and come into force. Secondly, the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of an act not with regard to its principles but only in connection with the hearing of a court case, thereby grounding on the case (Blanks & Blakeman, 2012). As a result, it is clear that the Supreme Court takes no preventive measures to avoid the adoption of the unconstitutional laws and acts, which may lead to lengthy court processes that require significant time and financial resources.
To maintain the mentioned advantage, it is required to simplify the rules of differentiation of functions of the courts. Hereby, such task can be achieved by defining the overlapping fields of competency of the state and federal courts and distributing the functions between them, while leaving the possibility of choice for the applicants. At the same time, the freedom of choice must be left only for the cases that are connected to the most pressing matters (parental rights, homicide, and discrimination, among others) to avoid the overload of the particular courts.
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On the other hand, to mitigate the influence of the described flaw, it is necessary to introduce the rules regulating the constitutional control that is to be conducted by the Supreme Court. In particular, it must be conducted on a preliminary basis, meaning that all the bills that are to be recognized as laws must be examined by the Supreme Court prior to being transferred to the President. As a result, the constitutionality of a particular law will not be defined directly during the court case, meaning that no additional time and financial resources, as well as the hearings, will be required.
Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Elections
One of the strengths of the federal elections in the U.S. is their open and transparent nature. In fact, the procedure of votes counting during the elections of the President and Vice President is held publicly in the presence of the press in the Senate in Washington. Moreover, there is no mandatory number of voters, meaning that the elections are declared valid, regardless of how many people have voted (Kalb, 2016). As a result, there is almost no room for the falsification of their results, the need for the re-elections is eliminated, and the risk of their disruption is significantly lowered.
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One of the greatest weaknesses of the federal elections in the U.S. is the absence of a single centralized voter registration system, meaning that each state conducts this procedure in a different way in accordance with its electoral law. Additionally, this fact is often overlooked by the citizens. As a result, there are many problems regarding the registration of voters that have changed their residence (voters being registered simultaneously in two or more states), people not being included in the voting lists, and their records on the ballot being either inaccurate or even invalid. It is clear that such situation does not contribute to the clearness of elections, providing fertile ground for corruption (Alvarez & Hall, 2008). The problem is that the data of the voter registered simultaneously in two or more states may be used multiple times in favor of a particular political party and affect the outcome of the elections.
To maintain the mentioned upside, it is necessary to implement highly specialized electronic voting terminals (instead of the use of personal computers with special software). In this case, after the procedure of verification, a voter will receive a card with a bar code instead of a ballot. With it, they will activate the terminal and vote for a worthy candidate by using a touch screen. Afterward, the data will be transmitted to the database of the Federal Election Commission, being delivered almost immediately. As a result, both the election commissioners and the spectators will receive a picture of voting in real time, which contributes to the transparency of the elections (Alvarez & Hall, 2008). Thus, any machinations or forgery at this stage will be obvious.
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On the other hand, to reduce the effect of the described defect, it is crucial to implement a universal system of automatic registration of all citizens eligible to vote, which must be the responsibility of the federal government. Moreover, such registration should be of a permanent and portable nature, insuring that any citizen eligible to vote will be registered no matter where they move, with their ballot records being updated on the constant basis. It is worth stating that the current level of technology development allows implementing such system (Alvarez & Hall, 2008). Therefore, the cloud services in combination with a wireless connection allow creating a nationwide database and update it at a moment’s notice.
It is clear that the governmental system of the U.S. has its strengths and weaknesses. Although the U.S. Constitution is quite stable, at the same time, it may be difficult to interpret. The national policies formulated by the federal agencies support the principle of federalism, but sometimes lack the ways to combine the efforts of the separate states. The judiciary branch of the U.S. government is known for the opportunity for choice it presents to the applicants, but the constitutional control it conducts cannot be called satisfactory. Finally, the federal elections are quite transparent and difficult to disrupt, but the procedure of the registration and re-registration of voters is far from being perfect. Thus, it is possible to say that the analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the governmental system of the United States has been performed successfully, allowing to uncover the shortcomings of the country’s Constitution, federal policies, the judicial system, and the procedure of the elections. Consequently, the ways of improvement of the current situation were proposed.