Issues in America's Democratic Republic

Published: 2021-09-12 15:45:11
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The United States of America is officially declared to have the form of government known as a Democratic Republic, but yet today many Americans still find themselves questioning the power of their vote in our democratic processes. We are told me live in a democracy, this essay aims to analyze the validity of it. There is a standard definition of democracy which the reader may look up in Merriam-Webster, but a true definition of democracy is one built from the dictionaries scaffolding and is also believed, embraced, and followed by those who govern and those who are governed. So yes, democracy is a system in which the population elects representatives. What makes it a true democracy however is that it also must be stabilized in its actions through equality, consent, and trust of the governed. As of now we aim and strive for those 3 goals, yet it seems than much of the American people is disheartened and feel as if their voice is lacking.
Just as my definition of a “true” democracy is based on the core values that I have developed over my life so are the definitions of every citizen. We also must not forget that it is in our job as citizens, to determine and promote for what we view as democratic and to vote in a way we view the most democratic. My core values are honesty, integrity, scholarship, and altruism whereas someone else may be less “self-guided” to altruism if they favor a more “self-made” society. Their vote is just as valid as mine when it is time to submit the ballot, their definition did not affect my own. The ringer comes when it is time for Washington to promote democracy and ensure democratic due process throughout election cycles. Can we assure a “true democracy” in which everyone is not fully informed or in which the uninformed vote recklessly?We can engage the debate of a scholarship driven democracy and its meaning with an analysis of popular and elite forms of democracy in context of current politics. The popular model is focused on the outcomes of the democratic process and assuring the process has equality in economic, social, and humanitarian aspects while also placing a high requirement of citizen participation. The elite model is focused on the rules, structure, and process of law within the democratic process focusing on 2 things, regular and fair elections and that the majority rules. No matter the outcome, the elitists are assured in a fair and constitutional result so long as the rules are followed, which is why they place such a high emphasis on the qualifications of the candidates. They have very minimalistic expectations of the citizens which would be fine if we could guarantee the legitimacy and remove all biases from the candidate, but we cannot. However, the United States now has an issue of an uninformed and politically inactive citizenry which had not been the case in the time of the founders. It may be time to shift from the popular model to the elite model as party polarization surges and more and more Americans are dissatisfied with Congress. Is it time to elect “professional politicians” to make those decisions for America, or is it time to force America to take responsibility and become more active in their governance, and how do we force ourselves?
This arises with a debate over what defines an “active and informed citizenry” and what defines and is required of civic duties. Voting and participation in US Politics in considered to be a civic responsibility and is not the same as our civic duties which are obeying the law, paying taxes, and jury duty (US Legal, 2018). Speculation tells me that we are very well informed and concerned about how much tax we pay, the legality of our own operations, and even the context and law when summoned for jury duty. If the United States where to make voting a duty rather than a responsibility we would definitely see an increase in voting…but ethical debate arrives when we discuss enforcing this, the results of action are unconstitutional at best. If voting were to become law purchased votes would flourish and democracy would crumble. An active and informed citizen requires in my mind but 2 things, desire to vote and accurate information. You cannot force people to vote but you can create an environment in which they feel empowered too; you cannot force people to have an opinion, but you can legitimize them with accurate information. While I do believe that it is the job of each citizen to accurately inform themselves, it seems ridiculous that they now must muddy through billions of sources, gauge their validity, and then dissect them to form their own opinions. Even the expert researcher is not devoid of the influences of political mediating institutions who probably paid for the ads he saw or clicked on when scrolling through social media. By no means am I saying that advertising techniques challenge the legitimacy of the researchers work, but the psychological effects of the advertisements may subconsciously lead to changes in subject and reasoning for the work. We live in a society of information overload with spoof cites and smear ads, how do citizens know what is accurate? Should we not censor but provide “accuracy stamps” like many organizations such as the USDA, FDA, or USSC?
Even if the United States were to implement an accuracy logo of some sorts, whose decision would it be within the government to determine the accuracy as well as potential infringements on the right to privacy? If this “stamp” was given to all informative media outlets post-review would it be the responsibility of the government to review all published media and place the logo or would it be the responsibility of the media institution to submit information they would like to be legitimized (a limit on freedom of press but assurance of legitimate content deserved by the public). Antonin Scalia discusses a case of child molestation where the Court rules the defendant is allowed to prosecute without confrontation of the plaintiff in saying “I have no doubt that the society is, as a whole, happy and pleased with what my Court decided. But we should not pretend that the decision did not eliminate a liberty previous existed” (Scalia [of Chapter 15], 2005, pp. 293). He provides an example in which the Judicial System declared the rights guaranteed in Sixth Amendment to not be lawful in specific circumstances. Modern information and technology has changed the American People and it is now the job of our Supreme Court to interpret the constitution in context of today, just as the job of our Congress and our President is to present and elect laws in accordance with the constitution in context of our current countries ever-changing needs.
Congress had promising beginnings with its body ideally governing and presenting to the needs of the American people, however due to changes in social and economic environment the political institution has morphed and polarized creating a need to evaluate its structure. The creation of committees, swerving around statues, and influence of lobbyists on congress have created polarized parties that work against each other. Each party has determined what is right and instead of discussing and making changes to either parties proposed legislature, it is not passed or is almost insignificant in action upon approval. We are now in a time of not only citizens but our own President Trump claiming “…those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us” (Tatum et al, 2018). More polarizing rhetoric but it is the law, we approved it, and it was approved under a democratic majority and at the digression of our checks-and-balances system. While the ideology and works of Congress are adequate, the process of electing officials without bias or opposition interest is now impossible. Congress does in fact have a “Rules Committee” in which “…the majority leadership may write special rules to control debate and amendments on the House floor” (Mann & Ornstein, [of Chapter 13], 2008, pp. 244). However, the rules committee is not required to be bipartisan so often the majority controls the committee that approves changes the majority suggests which in my opinion creates a massive conflict of interest. Creating a bipartisan Rule Committee would not solve ethical dilemmas of minority vote underrepresentation but it could help to perpetuate trust in the system, trust between Republicans and Democrats, and trust between the representatives on the floor.
Additionally, the introduction of “earmarks” in relation to pork-barrel spending is dumbfounding. The process allows for representatives to allocate funds for specific projects in specific states or districts, bypassing opportunities for state and local governments to select and review professionals before beginning on projects. Mike Pence in Indiana for example decided to enter a public-private partnership in the Spanish company (instead of contracting locally) called Isolux Corsan who was constructing I-69 until it went horribly wrong. Interestingly, “…the lobbying firm for the road’s private operator delivered more than $100,000 to Pence’s gubernatorial campaign” (O’Neal & Sirota, 2017). Official release determined that their reasoning for selecting Isolux that was they “outbid” other candidates in their estimate which was millions lower in cost. Interestingly enough, after the contract was finalized by the State of Indiana, some of the company’s executives and public officials were arrested on the grounds of embezzlement from an illegal bribery scheme of another Isolux project in Spain (Alesia & Lange, 2017). The influence of lobbying and donating to representatives is dangerous, the fallout and dissolution of the project with Isolux created extremely long commutes and increased traffic accidents. Private sector investment in public assets is fantastic for funding. Nonetheless, if this is the path our government is deciding to follow in terms of paying for public projects, excruciatingly detailed audits and money monitoring tactics should be employed to avoid further bias and potential danger to the public. As long as lobbying is funded by the private-sector, and the lobbyist have a heavy hand in politics, the integrity of Congress members and political leaders can no longer be assumed.
It does seem however, that mediating institutions such as private sector investment in lobbying contribute considerably to the growth of what I have called “information overcrowding.” Companies can use economic profits to pay for lobbyist who then push for legislature changes that benefit already economic giants. According to opensecrets.org, an online center for responsive politics, top spenders in Washington are US Chamber of Commerce ($82 million), The National Association of Realtors ($55 million), with Business Roundtable, and Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America spending over $25 million each in an effort to have their voices be heard. (Lobbying Spending Database, 2018). It seems to me that our system is flawed here in that typically, the people who need people lobbying for them most are the ones who cannot afford to do so. Poor farmers concerned about fertilizer runoff will never have the funds to lobby in order to push for stricter regulations, but a company such as DowAgro does. Let’s say DowAgro is aware of potential harm from their chemical formulation but it is not illegal albeit causing a problem; and if it became illegal it would be extremely costly to reproduce a new formulation. DowAgro has established lobbyist working for them in Washington already, so their choice is to pursue other legislature that may benefit the company such as looser manufacturing laws to save money during production. In the end the poor farmer still has polluted ground water, yet the company makes more money. Our textbook We the People even says that “Well-educated, upper-income business and professional people are more likely to have the time, money, concerns, and skills needed to play a role in group association” (Ginsberg et al, 2005, pp. 442). The more lobbyists that individuals can afford to employ in Washington, the larger that organizations “crowd” grows. Even if a local company could afford to send a lobbyist to present their issues, the chance that a single lobbyist voice will improve efforts is slim. Our aggressively capitalistic economy now affects the United States political system so much that it is nearly impossible for the marginalized and minority to be advocated for. The cure to America’s political gridlock is to regulate and reduce the influences of big money, not to allow big money to regulate and reduce the influence of the government.
Overall, the United States of America continues to exist and attempts to better itself via social, political, and legislative reform. Our system is not flawed as we engineered our founding Constitution to permit for adaptation to changing times. The caveat is that the USA has used this permission to create a stronger central government which might have been okay for the socioeconomic era of “The New Deal” …but now no longer is needed as our economy status and social demographics are very different. The wealthy and upper classes spend more money and spin more policy in their favor than the impoverished ever will. To make America function more democratically we need to limit the influence of money in politics, promote active and accurately informed citizenry, reduce polarization, and unify as citizens with patriotism. If we manage to pursue and success these four difficult goals I feel as if The United States will function much more democratically than we currently do.

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