Sample Essay On The American Constitution Is Elitist And Anti-Democratic
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For reasons known only to God, you decide to drop this American Government class. For Fall 2015, you enroll in another American Government course, where a charismatic yet vaguely disturbing professor goes off on a day-one rant about how the U.S. Constitution is elitist and anti-democratic. Write a brief essay to your future self on the merits of this argument. Why would somebody hold this position, and why might someone else disagree? Advance your take on the professor's rant, touching on issues such as the practical politics of the time as well as how the Constitution of 1789 looks in light of today's standards and norms.
Is the American constitution made for the elites? Is it democratic enough? These questions are common in political science. What must be considered first is what entails democracy. Abraham Lincoln asserted that democracy entails the government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The U.S. Department of States Bureau of International Information Programs (n.d) claim that democracy is a set of idea on the fundamental freedoms of the people developed over time, and protected by the institutions in the country. From this perspective, therefore, each citizen in America ought to be protected equally by the law, have an equal right or representation, and the power to make decision without being coerced into such decision either directly or indirectly.
In a true democracy, such is done through elected leaders who make decision for, and on behalf of the citizens. If the rules of elections do not give an equally representation, the democracy is put into doubt. From these basic principles, and others not mentioned, it is evident that in as much as the American constitution seems democratic from the surface, it is indeed not.
The first constitution therefore, ended up having many undemocratic aspects. First, it did not abolish slavery (Robert A, Dahl, 2003). The framers of the constitution aimed at making an All-White government or simply put, slave masters ruling. The Blacks at that time were not recognized as citizens of America, and hence were not given rights equal to the citizens. The Slave masters ensured that the slaves were constitutional property of the masters. The constitution then allowed any one who finds a slave to inform the master or take him of. The salves did not owned property or the means of production. In addition, due to the slave-master relationship, there was no universal suffrage. The relationships were carried forward to even today with stiffened relationship among the majority Whites and the minorities. The history of poverty among the minorities is rooted to the salve-master relationship.
Further, an electoral college was established insulating the president from the majority. It also allowed senators to be chosen by legislators. In the constitution, the powers of the legislature were not limited in so far as declaration of laws unconstitutional. Although some of this aspect could not have been intentional, they inadvertently constrained the democratic space. The way democracy works can create very undemocratic space. The power of the majority or the tyranny of the majority was and still is underestimated in the constitution.
Consider the representation and the minority rights. Are there no issues with the minorities today? The senate has failed to protect some of the fundamental rights of the minorities in America. The constitution tends to favor the highly privileged or simply the salve owner during. In a true democracy, it is expected that the election system is not purely made of the majority. The majority can make laws that favor themselves to the detriment of the minorities. Further, proportional representation is more appropriate in nation with diverse majority groups as USA.
Representation election makes both the losers and the winners feel satisfied since equal chances were provided, and the minority also gets represented. In the pure majority rule, the winners feel very happy while the losers are completely dissatisfied till the next elections. Such stiff competition in as much as it can be good, can cause clashes between the minority and the majority. The majority rule does not favor the rule of laws in most cases.
One might be tempted to argue that the American constitution favor both representative and majority approach to democracy. Such is true, but the mix of the two makes neither of them strong. The two government approaches do not balance well as usually the majorities have their way. What is the point of claiming to hold to democracy that does not allow the minorities to exercise some of their fundamental rights? The real meanings of democracy doe s not hold in this case.
Such is evidenced by the fact that the ruling party can use the judiciary, the police, and other institution to advance its ideologies, and projects even when they do not favor the minority. There are enough claims that point at how the constitution favors the majority of the whites in a discriminatory manner towards the majority. The cases of racial profiling and religious profiling as evidenced by the 2014 case of Michael Brown (NBC NEWS, n.d), and Eric Garner (Christopher Mathias, 2014) can testify the lack of democracy in United State of America. There is general feeling among the minorities that they are targeted by the police unfairly.
The presidential power are in such a way that the president act as both the prime minister and a monarch at the same time. He or she being the head of the nation and the chief executive, he has various discretions that he can use to do things without being challenged by the constitution. Why would the president have so much leverage in a democracy? All the power of the president ought to be subject to the constitution and checks and balances from the people i.e. from the elected representatives of the people or directly from the people.
One may argue that the state of offers have changed since the first drafting of the constitution. That is a fact but the changes are too superficial in practice. The minorities can vote and are recognized as citizens. But has the governments liberated them from the initial disadvantages that it plugged them to? Definitely it has not. The Black and other minorities are in modern day slavery hidden in economical hardships. Economically, the elites usually have their way. The Federal Reserve has crafted laws that do not favor all the United States citizens. The rich claim more tax returns than the poor; the poor work for more hours usually for the majority Whites at minimum wage that cannot sustain themselves and their families. What then can be said of such a systems? It is unfair.
Consider the current cost of education since 1980. The cost has increased to such an extent that only few can acquire college education. When the poor seek the higher education, the governments give them student loans tying them to a debt even before working. Such is crippling of the poor through debts that benefits the governments, led by the majority. Such a system favors the elites only who gain higher chances of social mobility.
However, there are some aspects that point out that the democratic space in America is better than the majority in the world. First, it exercises universal suffrage with everyone entitled to vote having the liberty to do so. There are even chances for early voting aimed to ensure that those who may not be available on the set dates of voting can do so before leaving the country. Such a system makes all those eligible to vote to do so and elect their leaders.
The media is free in the United States more than in most of the other democracies. With freedom of the media, the public’s right to information is guaranteed (Paula Becker and Jean-aine A. Raveloson, 2008). The media is free owned and although sometimes may show political biases, there are numerous options of the media. In addition, there is strict separation of power in America. The Congress, the Executive, and the Senate, as well as the judiciary have different roles that work in compliment to each other.
In America, the minority have their rights respected better than in other democracies. There are States the have liberated the LBGT and allowed same-sex marriage. The public opinion is respected in many times as states vote in referendums in support or opposition of some fundamental matters, such as legalization of Marijuana or same sex marriage. In some countries since the world, their constitution allows the legislators to make laws and implement them without direct public participation, such as in Uganda that had, before nullification in the court, had enacted a law that could have hurt he LGBT community.
In conclusion, from the face value, the American constitution tends to be appealing especially when viewed in contrast to other constitution in the world. The fact that it is better compared to others does not make it error free. From an in-depth look of the constitution, it is evident that there are some fundamental flaws that make it favor elites, and anti-democratic aspects. The framers made the first mistakes that have been carried forward either directly or indirectly. There is a need to look in to the matters described above to make the constitution favor all the people, and make it more democratic.
Becker P. and Raveloson J. A. (2008). WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? Pdf. Retrieved on February 24, 2015 from <http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/madagaskar/05860.pdf>
Dahl R. A, (2003). How Democratic Is the American Constitution? PDF. Retrieved on February 24, 2015 from <http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/pdf/0300092180.pdf>
U.S. Department of States Bureau of International Information Programs (n.d). DEFINING DEMOCRACY. Web. Retrieved on February 24, 2015 from <http://www.ait.org.tw/infousa/zhtw/docs/whatsdem/whatdm2.htm>
Mathias C. (2014). Eric Garner Said ‘I Can't Breathe' 11 Times -- Now Activists Are Making 11 Demands In His Name. The Huffington post. Web. Retrieved on February 24, 2015 from <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/11/eric-garner-protests- demands_n_6308956.html>
NBC NEWS (n.d). Michael Brown shooting. NBC news Retrieved on February 24, 2015 from <http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/michael-brown-shooting/killing-unarmed-teen- what-we-know-about-browns-death-n178696>
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