American Government

I believe that there should be a degree of flexibility in making laws that would either permit or forbid certain rights and freedoms. Although democracy can be a wonderful thing with its tolerance of freedoms, liberties, equalities and rights, too much of it can be very unhealthy for a democracy, especially in times of emergency such as wars and calamities. It is during these adverse times that there is no time to be “democratic” as expediency must take precedence over debate or consensus.

This should give leaders extra latitude in doing what is best for society without being hamstrung by the argumentative nature of democracy without having to become an autocracy. This practice is nothing new as it dates back to the Roman Republic that came up with a similar measure in the form of a dictator which was given considerable power to do what was necessary to bring about order and stability BUT as a safeguard, it was only for a limited time only. The American government need not do this.

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There is already a provision in the Constitution that empowers the government, particularly Congress to make laws that are necessary and proper and this implicitly applies as well to the President who will be the one to carry them out and can also implement measures as well to do what it takes for the good of society. The bottom line here is that the Constitution is not a “suicide pact” where too much emphasis is placed on following the letter of the law, but more emphasis should be in keeping with the spirit of it which matters more.
Lesson #2: Civil Rights In April 2010, the state of Arizona passed SB 1070, empowering law enforcement officials to ask anyone to produce proof of legal status in the U. S. Research the law, and then discuss it here. Is the law the equivalent of racial profiling, as some have indicated? Is the law a reasonable response to the problem of illegal immigration? Although America is a nation of the free where anyone has the right to come here and live their lives as they please in the pursuit of happiness, security is also a primary concern.
The issue of race or racism is coincidental since the United States shares a border with Mexico and majority of its people, especially the illegal immigrants do not happen to be Caucasian. One of the problems with the critics of the bill is that they immediately jump to the conclusion that the bill is a pretext for racial profiling where any Hipic is easily singled out for investigation or scrutiny on the suspicion that he or she may be an illegal immigrant. As mentioned before, race is coincidential. As most illegal immigrants apprehended and deported belong to that race.
Besides, Hipics, Asians too and numerous and repeated incidents have made authorities easily single out these ethnic groups for investigation and scrutiny. It is rather strange for liberals to defend illegals. While it is understandable that poverty is what drove them to come to the United States, they are taking away job opportunities due to its citizens and looking at it from a bigger picture, this would not be fair, especially if these aliens do not, voluntarily or not, take American citizenship to legitimize their right to stay in the United States or at least secure proper documentation as resident aliens.
The bottom line is that the United States does not forbid aliens to live on its lands and not take American citizenship if they so choose. But it is necessary for them to follow proper legal procedures to legitimize their stay in the United States. Lesson #3: Public Opinion It is incredibly difficult to measure public opinion accurately. Why is an accurate measuring of public opinion important for a democratic government? Does public opinion matter in a democracy? One must take into consideration where the word “democracy” came from. It is derived from the (Ancient) Greek word, “demokratikos” which means rule by the people.
Theoretically, America is a democracy and the sovereignty rests on its citizens. Government officials, elected or appointed, from the President of the United States to the low-ranking government clerk, all SERVE the people. The things they do depends on the needs of the American people since they are bound by the Constitution to serve them. Hence it is essential for them to be able to feel the “pulse” of the people to know what they want from their public servants. The most obvious way of knowing and measuring public opinion is through the use of surveys or polls.
This is by far the most reliable though not perfect instrument in measuring public opinion. The reason why it is not perfect is partly due to the composition of American society. America is a diverse society and being a democracy, people can freely be who they are. It is a society that encourages individualism and diversity. Its relationship in public opinion is there is a likelihood that there will be no definite or absolute response and most of the time, it will be mixed or show ambivalence, a difference in opinion(s). This is the “flaw” of a democratic society.
Despite these “flaws,” democracy still works in American society and it can be inferred that even though it is not perfect, have been able to make it work for over 200 years. Lesson #4: Political Participation In how many ways can people participate in politics? How have you personally participated in politics? What lessons did your participation teach you? One of the features of a democratic society is that anyone can get involve in politics without necessarily running for public office which is the most obvious form of political participation.
Perhaps the most common and simplest political exercise ordinary citizens do is to vote, putting their desired leaders into office. There are also other ways to participate. Another is to talk to their elected representatives – their congressmen and senators for they (theoretically) represent them in government and as such, they are supposed to look after the interests and welfare of their constituents and communicating with them, whether by letters or “lobbying,” are other forms of political exercises.
Other ways are extraconstitutional in nature, usually in the form of rallies and demonstrations as alternative means to air their grievances. I myself have done these exercises and whether the government responds or not does not matter. What matters the most is I made myself heard by the government since I for one, helped put them in office and they are obligated, by law to serve us, the citizens. Besides the given forms of political exercises, virtually anything we do is a form of political exercise though indirect such as paying income taxes and obeying laws.
Doing these duties can also be considered a form of political exercise as it suggests not only compliance, but as our way of ratifying the legitimacy of the incumbent administration. In other democratic societies, protests are a sign of rejecting or refusing to ratify that legitimacy. Lesson #5: Campaigns and Elections What is the Electoral College? How does it work and why is it so important? Are there any changes you would make to the Electoral College? What are they, and why? If not, why not? The electoral college is a special (electoral) body that actually elects the President and vice President of the United States.
This body is nothing new and dates back to the Middle Ages when it was created as means of choosing its leaders. Theoretically, the College is supposed to vote in accordance to the vote of the majority of their respective states. Despite the mechanisms in place, it is not perfect as there have been instances when the popular votes and the electoral (college) votes do not correspond and in the end, it is the latter that ultimately decides the winner even if the former decided otherwise; the most recent case underscoring this was the 2000 Presidential election which saw George W.
Bush winning the electoral votes even though his rival former Vice President Al Gore won the popular votes. Although I could not guarantee that my suggestions are perfect, if there is one thing I would propose, is for the abolition of the College. The reason for its abolition is obvious as its votes sometimes do not jibe with that of the majority. In other words, the popular vote should be enough to determine who gets to be President and Vice President. The only catch here is the ground to cover as the United States has a vast land area and may be difficult to process votes with so large an area and population.
Should the College be retained, the electors must vote in accordance to the will of the majority. Lesson #6: Political Parties When Ross Perot ran for President in 1992, he famously said, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between a Republican and a Democrat. ” Was he right? Are there differences between Republicans and Democrat? If so, what are they? There is no definite or absolute answer if Perot is right. The difference between a Republican and a Democrat is the ideology they subscribe to. Republicans are by nature conservatives while Democrats are liberals.
Their political agendas or platforms correspond to their respective ideologies. Where Democrats are isolationists, Republicans like to engage in foreign affairs; Democrats are pro-choice, Republicans are pro-life, and so on. Both parties present differing agendas which they feel are for the good of the American people and there is nothing wrong with that. However, in recent times, there is hardly any difference between Democrats and Republicans as both sides seem to advocate the platform or agenda of the other once they see it their way.
This was shown by Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and even John F. Kennedy when they engaged in military interventions when the ideology of their parties did not permit it. When interests of the American people are at stake, history has shown that America’s leaders are willing to overstep party ideology to do what is necessary to serve the people, even if it means subscribing to the other party’s ideas. Lesson #7: Interest Groups Two schools of thought seem to center on interest groups. One school sees interests as good representatives of the people and an added voice for the committed citizen.
Another sees them as greedy bribers of elected officials, manipulating government for their own purposes regardless of what the people want. Do you agree with one of those approaches, or perhaps a different one of your own. Explain your choice. Yes. There is no absolute or definite way to label interest groups as good or bad. Both kinds of groups exist and like it or not, they are here to stay. How they function depends on the agenda of its leaders, giving it their raison d’etre. There are “legitimate” interest groups, sometimes called pressure groups or even cause-oriented groups.
They exist because they are pursuing issues ranging from abortion to (anti)war. They provide an alternative venue for the citizenry, especially the marginalized ones, to be represented in voicing out their concerns to the government, which is supposed to serve them. The other group is driven by ambition and profit and they have the advantage of material resources used to leverage the government to lean in their favor in terms of financial rewards or political support whereas the former relies mainly on human resources.
Another difference is that the latter represents a select few, they are the “oligarchs. ” They make up for their lack of a majority with their wealth and influence. If there is one thing this shows, interest groups live up to their billing as groups looking out for their interests, whether it is for the good of all, or for self-serving reasons (unfortunately). Lesson #8: Mass Media Liberals tend to complain about a conservative bias in the media, while conservatives tend to complain about a liberal media.
Do those two accusations of bias cancel each other out? Read a few news articles (not blogs, but traditional media sources like websites for TV networks or newspapers) and look for bias, either liberal or conservative. Link to the story in your post, and explain why you see bias (if at all) in the piece. Media is a neutral entity, it can be used as instruments of conservatives or liberals but more often than not, they tend to lean more on the liberal side where they tend to be very critical of the government and its policies.
A liberal media also tends to be very expository, giving expose-type reports, thereby compromising national security in the name of the “right to know” and “freedom of information. ” One recent example of how liberal the media could be is the recent leakage of classified military operations ongoing in Afghanistan. One such newspaper featuring is is the British newspaper The Guardian (http://www. guardian. co. uk/world/2010/jul/25/task-force-373-secret-afghanistan-taliban? intcmp=239). What is so “liberal” about this article is it is exposing classified military operations when it is not supposed to.
In this particular case, the “right to know” cannot be applied because such exposes puts the lives of men in uniform in danger for their identities are revealed and serves the purpose of the enemy more. Liberal media becomes the unwitting ally of the coalition forces and uses their stories to further glorify themselves and vilify the supposed “good guys. ” Lesson #9: Congress Watch one of my favorite video clips ever http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=mEJL2Uuv-oQ Bill, the hero of the story, is trying to become a law. How tough is his job in reality?
How likely is it Bill will actually become a law, and why? Should it be easier for laws to pass? Why, or why not? Becoming a law is no easy feat, especially in a democratic form of government. When Bill was “born,” in the Lower House Congress, not everybody welcomes his arrival and needs a lot of support, more than his sponsor could provide. His sponsor needs to be able to make his colleagues see things his way in order to agree to endorse bill. His passage will face rough sailing as lawmakers debate on the his merits and weaknesses which will take time.
By the time he passes the Lower House, the next obstacle is the Upper House for further endorsement and the same “democratic” process of debating and filibustering. Once he gets through the Senate, it is off to the White House for the President to make him a law, if it does, he becomes recognized nationally as the law of the land. However, there is no guarantee it will happen all the time. The President can veto Bill by simply not signing it if he does not agree to the content but there is a way for Congress to get around it by overriding the veto by at least two-thirds vote and when this is accomplished, Bill becomes a law.
One might wish there must be an easier way to make and pass laws, given that the “democratic” approach seemed tedious. But despite its “imperfection,” it is still an accepted system. This is what makes democratic systems different from regimes that practice rule by fiat where the word of the ruler alone is the law which may not sit well with the people for they were not given a chance to be heard. The “democratic” process ensures all concerns are addressed and interests are met. That is the beauty of the democratic law-making process despite its “flaws.
” Lesson #10: President How much does public support matter for the President? Does the President need public support to get things done? Reference real-life acts of the President and explain how the public was a part of that success or not. Theoretically, the President is the highest-paid public servant, being elected by majority of the people to office and given this fact, he needs the support of the people in order to legitimize his actions as well as determine the policies of the state.
But in reality, this has not always been the case and there have been times when Presidents act without the need for public support most of the time. One example would be President Franklin Roosevelt when he passed the New Deal as a way of addressing the problems caused by the Great Depression. It was not popular or accepted and yet it came to pass. A recent example would be the case of President George W. Bush when he ordered the invasion of Iraq despite the large-scale opposition to it. The result of it was it made him more unpopular though the irony of it all was he got reelected in 2004 on the strength of his morality.
If there is one thing these Presidents proved, what is popular is not always right and they would be willing to do what is necessary for the good of the country even if it may not be popular. Looking at it from the perspective of the President, they were elected not because they were popular, but expected to serve and run the country to the best of their abilities. Lesson #11: Judiciary The Supreme Court, and the two levels of federal courts underneath it, are not elected bodies. As a result, people are highly skeptical of the power the courts wield. So, how powerful should the courts be?
Do the courts have too much power now? If so, what is that relative to? More power than Congress, the President, or its Constitutional grant of power? The Constitution guarantees a separation of powers between the three main branches of government – the executive, legislative and judicial. The rationale here is that it prevents one branch from usurping or dominating the other because, in the Founding Fathers’ minds, domination of one branch was an invitation to tyranny, something that has become anathema to democratic ideals. The idea of the separation of powers is to provide a check and balance and prevent such a domination.
In the case of the judiciary, from the lower courts to the Supreme Court, they serve as legal arbiters, determining the constitutionality of actions taken by the executive or legislative. This is its “power. ” In my opinion, this power will suffice for the judiciary. There are times when the executive and the legislative do not get along in terms of policy-making and there is a need for a mediator and that is the judiciary that decides who is right though not exactly in Solomonic proportions. What makes the judiciary a valuable asset are the people in it. Not everyone can be part of the judiciary.
One particular qualification needed is wisdom and rectitude. The people who serve here as justices are the ones considered above reproach though not infallible and yet they are the go-to people when legal or constitutional are raised and they are the ones who resolve such issues though the powers they wield. Lesson #12: Bureaucracy Americans’ view of the bureaucracy is highly negative. Why is that? Is that a fair characterization of the bureaucracy? Refer to any interactions you’ve had with the bureaucracy for reference. Whenever one thinks of “bureaucracy,” negative connotations emerge.
It is often associated with red tape and corruption; and members of the bureaucracy are often stereotyped as lazy, pompous or self-important or self-serving, if not corrupt people who like to make things difficult for the citizen in need of their assistance. In reality, this is the price to pay of a democratic bureaucracy. To the insiders, they live by a system of rules and procedures to follow to ensure a smooth and efficient flow of operations. The need of procedures is intended to give some semblance of control for without it, there would be chaos, especially when many people try to expedite at the same time.
In fairness, one cannot blame bureaucrats who look so bored considering they do the same jobs every day and the routine gradually diminishes their zeal. But it would be unfair to accuse all of them as corrupt or pompous. Most of them know that public service is a public trust and they knew what they were getting into the moment they joined the government and could not abuse that trust. I experienced that when I got my license from the DMV. The process was tedious given there were many applicants but I did get my license in time because procedures have been followed and the staffers were anything but rude because that would be unprofessional.
In reality, these “bureaucrats” are still public servants and as such, they are there to serve the public and they know that. Therefore, they forfeit the right to complain (needlessly) and what makes them different from employees in the private sector is their standards of professionalism are much more higher given their status as public servants and it is also fair enough that they deserve respect and our cooperation as much as we want them to respect us and serve us.


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