POL 201 Week 5 Paper: America’s Democracy

America’s Democracy

Week 5 Paper

POL 201 – American National Government

America’s Democracy

When the Framers of the Constitution met in Philadelphia, they came together with one common purpose in mind. They needed to form a fair and solid system of government that would stand the test of time. One that was both fair for the people and would not involve a monarchy. Each of these men had their own ideas on what would constitute this system, however, so many compromises had to be made. Together, the men gathered in Philadelphia created a federal system of government and drafted a constitution outlining this government. They took care in developing three branches of federal government with a system of checks and balances so that no one branch would gain too much power, thus avoiding any chance of regressing back into the government from which they had just escaped. The Framers even made sure that the most powerful branch had a check system within itself by creating a bicameral legislature, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives which could not function one without the other. The federal government that resulted from all this deliberation was an overall system of democracy. After carefully evaluating all the influences in our system of government, there are strengths and weaknesses that develop and undermine the true potential of the nation. To keep America democratic and operating with fairness and consistency, several changes should be established within the Constitution, federalism, our structure of government, and interest groups to continue the positive direction of this great nation.

US Constitution

The United States started out as an experiment in government because no one had a birthright to rule, there would be no monarchy, and the members of government would be representatives of the people. “It is a bold commitment by a people to the ideal of dignity protected by law” (Roy, 2016, p.667). The founders established a structure that allowed policies to be proposed, debated, argued, and then ratified or rejected. In this system, safeguards exist that would not allow the country to go to war carelessly, spend or print money it did not have, and not tax people more than necessary. The Constitution is a living document and because of its ambiguity, adaptability is its greatest strength. Through interpretation and discussion, amendments add clarity to existing constitutional design or add rights or restrictions. The American Constitution is the oldest written Constitution in modern history. The framers were wise beyond their years and stuck to the fundamentals instead of relying on specific provisions and laws. “They wisely spoke in general language and left to succeeding generations the task of applying that language to the unceasingly changing environment in which they would live” (Garnett, 2006, p. 396-397). Subsequent legislative decisions and implementations would be free of unnecessary restrictions and allow the Constitution to continue to reflect current times and necessities. The adaptability of the Constitution can be further supported by the strength of the amendment process and constitutional interpretation. However, the current loss of trust within our government leaders can be attributed to the abuse and private conquest for power. Republicans and Democrats continue to degrade and dishonor the Constitution. According to Caryl, “the political system should emphasize both freedom and workability. Vibrant democratic values and efficient governance do not have to be at odds” (p26). They have allowed wars without declaration, entitlement spending without reforms or change, and taken the responsibility out of state and local powers and placed it in the hands of the few. They have valued short term solutions over long term stability that satisfies the electoral majority to stay in power. The solution to correct this weakness of governmental mistrust is to return to the basics of the Constitution. Governmental officials need to be held accountable for their actions and take responsibility to restore the voice of the people. “A misplaced reverence for ordinary men who made groundbreaking but highly imperfect decisions has contributed to a dangerous refusal to confront the governments weaknesses head-on” (Carly 2016, p. 27). To remove the inefficiencies and the fat that the Democrats and Republicans have come to despise, the power needs to be returned to the legislature.

Branches of Government

The primary role of the legislative branch of the federal government is to represent the people and one way it accomplishes that task is by writing the nations laws and making public policy. “The views and demands of ordinary citizens are transmitted to government via legislature” (Radu, 2011, p. 106). The first step in the legislative process is the introduction of a bill to Congress. Once introduced, the bill is referred to the appropriate committee for review and they investigate the merits and flaws of the proposed measure. If the full committee votes to approve the bill, it is reported to either the House or Senate and placed on the calendar for discussion, debate, and consideration. A simple majority will pass the bill in either the House of Representatives of the United States Senate but requires passage in both houses of Congress before going to the President for a signature or veto. Through the checks and balances system, the legislature can vote to override a veto by getting a two-thirds vote from each chamber and then the bill becomes law. The legislative branch is only able to maintain its strength abiding to the Constitution and the people of the United States. “Congressional members are expected to represent the people by serving as their agent and acting on their behalf” (Fine & Levin-Waldman, 2016, chapter 4, p. 6). Federal action needs to be subject to popular control, as exercised through the representative Congress to keep the legislative branch accountable for their actions. The members of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives are ambassadors to the people and should operate at an elevated level of integrity and honesty to keep the legislative branch strong. If this were to ever fall apart, our separation of powers and checks and balances system of government would fall to the ways of an oppressive and tyrannical rule which our history has shown we fought to prevent. The members of both houses of Congress have a challenging time agreeing with one another and because of this inability to compromise on many issues, the legislative branch has on many occasions given away its lawmaking authority to regulatory agencies. Highly contested discussions and debates in Congress about proposed legislations becoming laws can prevent these measures from representing the people. This polarization of the political system can prohibit effective and necessary changes in society from ever taking place. “Divided government is a political situation where the governing party must cooperate with at least some members of the opposition party in order to legislate” (Baumgartner et al., 2014, p. 423-424). The members of the House of Representatives and United States Senate should govern by the people and for the people. Having the wrong individual in that congressional seat can open the door to corruptive and self-serving representation that will only cause harm to their constituents and damage the relationships to the citizens they represent. The congressional representatives must take an active role in the lives of their voters. “It is often the little things that win the support of constituents who see their lives improved as a result of a direct connection with the Congress member or his or her office staff” (Fine & Levin-Waldman, 2016, chapter 4, p. 12). A strong legislative body begins with understanding and compromise and only through debate, discussion, dialogue, and discourse of what represents the people can laws be passed.


One such law passed with the sensitivity and agreement of the constituents of the legislative branch was The Clean Air Act of 1970. The legislation authorized the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both stationary and mobile sources. The Clean Air Act has set air quality standards for six common pollutants – particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. It also contains specific provisions for hazardous or toxic air pollutants, acid rain, regional haze, and stratospheric ozone layer depletion. These initiatives have made great strides in protecting public health and the environment. “Between 1990 and 2015, national concentrations of air pollutants improved 85 percent for lead, 84 percent for carbon dioxide, 67 percent for sulfur dioxide, 60 percent for nitrogen dioxide, and 3 percent for ozone” (Environment Protection Agency, 2017). There must be cooperation, participation, and partnership between local, state, and federal entities to ensure continued progress in cleaning up our air for generations to come. The Clean Air Act of 1970 was a major shift in the federal government’s role with the monitoring and control of air contamination. The comprehensive regulations to limit emissions within the Clean Air Act of 1970 started the movement on addressing the real problems of clean air and clean water. The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act have further resulted in improved environmental conditions, better health, and increased economic welfare. As our world continues to change, technological advancements and efficiencies will continue to help drive improvements in the environment. “Making improvements based on continuous monitoring and assessment of what works and what does not is the principal advantage of the air quality management system” (Bachmann, 2007, p. 692). Adaptability will be the key to continued improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of the Clean Air Act and a better quality of life. How companies assess risk would dramatically change if existing industrial facilities, like coal-fired power plants, were not exempt from federal limits on the most common, and harmful, types of pollution. “Evidence has continued to mount that rising concentrations of carbon monoxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases pose serious threats to public health, infrastructure, and the natural systems our society depends on” (Carbonell, 2015, p. 403). The lack of restrictions on these old plants has lasting consequences for public health, insulates companies from regulatory risks, and allows investment in harmful and unregulated activities. Stricter environmental laws have increased innovative environmentally friendly technology, such as catalytic converters in automobiles. Without such laws, businesses and individuals might do whatever is most convenient or cost-effective for their organization, rather than acting for the good of society and the environment. “Fossil fuel-fired power plants are far and away the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and emit carbon dioxide at levels that dwarf the emissions of many individual countries” (Carbonell, 2015, p. 405). Becoming more environmentally conscience will save businesses and individual’s money in the long run by reducing waste and energy usage, despite the cost of the initial investment.

Interest Groups

Interest groups contribute funds and resources to bring their concerns, problems, or issues to the forefront to facilitate change. An interest group is an organization where people come together that have the same position around one sensitive, impactful, and sometimes personal topic. Advantages of interest groups include, bringing a wide variety of unknown issues to light and keeping the powers of the majority in check, but the most important strength of an interest group is that they serve as a way for individuals to participate in the political arena or to gain additional experience. “Individuals might join associations engaged in collective action in order to receive selective material rewards, such as an invitation to an important meeting, an insurance policy, or professional training, that they could not receive if they remained outside the group as a free rider” (King & Walker, 1992, p. 396, para. 2). With the involvement of citizens in interest groups and specific initiatives, they can further develop the protection of rights for all members of society. People involved in these political action committees can perform important checks and balances and maintain the separation of powers with objectivity and impartiality in the interest of fairness and justice. These committees create diversity in the political landscape because of so many varying viewpoints and positions. “We find that the impact of interest groups on policy volatility depends on the degree of polarization or fractionalization in a society, suggesting that competition among groups may mitigate their impact” (Heckleman & Wilson 2016, p. 224). These organizations help to keep democracy strong and help to mitigate undue influence from one specific lobby. What is good for one individual can be bad for others. Interest groups interfere with the democratic process because they are seeking people who support their position instead of pursuing things that would benefit the entire society. “Classical pluralism argues that interest groups use their resources to exert influence in government, while an alternative view suggests that interest groups distort the democratic process because they succeed in having their interests trump those of the public” (Fine & Levin-Waldman, 2016, chapter 9, p. 15). This can contribute to a system that is only influenced by these interest groups and not the public because of financial resources and the necessary time to devote in pursuit of their interests. These groups usually have a one-track mind that looks at only their position on a certain aspect of society instead of looking from the perspective of the majority. “Interest groups represent the diversity of American society and speak to the issue of pluralism whereby different people get involved with different issues at different times. The United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed to protect individualism. Pluralism is individualism in its collective form” (Fine & Levin-Waldman, 2016, chapter 9, p. 16-17). To mitigate this type of performance, donations and financial contributions can be limited from individuals, businesses, and organizations to ensure a diverse representation across ethnicities, political orientations, professions, and cultures. Protection of the minority is an essential and necessary component of a democracy, and the preferences of that minority should not dictate public policy at the expense of the majority. Democracy is for all the people not just a select few.


Democracy is a new thing in the world. Well-developed forms of it have been in practice less than a century. We are still learning what it is and how to operate it. New features are continually being offered and put on trial and there is a great deal more to be learned. We would best handle it as learners, in a humble spirit of seeking to know the truth. There are weaknesses in democracy and its best to recognize and cope with them in rational ways. We must learn to respect expert knowledge, to employ it where necessary, and to depend on it. We must learn to submit to discipline, inspection, surveying, and whatever else is necessary to enable a complicated social organization to do its work efficiently.


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