In the late 18th century, the United States Constitution was designed as a foundation to build a stable governing structure for the 13 states that composed the United States around that time. These states were relatively different and consisted on predominantly rural and agrarian societies. Moreover, the same document regarded by these states as “the supreme law of the land”, serves the exact same purpose today as it did back in the day. The 200 year old Constitution of the United States, by far the oldest charter of government in the world, faces a time of increasing urbanization and technological developments. Nonetheless, its effectiveness at guiding this nation and providing individual freedom, economic stability, economic growth and social development has proven to be substantially enduring over the years.
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The United States Constitution is often referred to as a “living” constitution, because of its adaptability to the emerging and ever changing political and social views, needs and demands of Americans. Moreover, its enduring nature in a world of continued change has served as a role model for the evolution of numerous governmental institutions and their respective constitutions around the world. Its self-correcting and self-regulating nature made possible through amendments, the constitutional supremacy it embraces, the bill of rights, the separation of powers and its simplicity of design are major strengths of the constitution.
The Constitution is a timeless document due to the adaptability of its nature. It was designed so that it could be amended as the needs of Americans changed over time. However, the founding fathers were well aware that amending the constitution should require significant complexity to avoid the approval and ratification of ill-conceived amendments. Moreover, they made sure that amending the constitution was in the best interest of the majority as opposed to a select few by putting into effect a dual process that Amendments must undergo in order to be approved and ratified. Furthermore, amendments are subject to judicial review by the courts, a process that originated from the Marbury v. Madison case and allows the courts to review and revoke unconstitutional measures carried out by other branches of government.
The Constitution’s supremacy draws the boundaries along which state governments and congress adopt and ratify legislation. Despite its supremacy the Constitution is not entirely the absolute authority for it can be amended by the people through their participation in open elections aimed to provide political representation in the various structures of government. Appointed and elected officials are subject to be removed from office under the constitution if convicted of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors; which serves as an intensive to fulfill their constitutional duties, that is with the exception of lifetime appointees of the supreme court and/ or federal judges. The reasoning behind such exception is to eliminate the impact external influences often have on public officials.
The establishment of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution serves as a mean to protect the natural rights of the people. It is composed of the first ten amendments added to the constitution which aimed to protect individual freedoms from the government. The first amendment is perhaps one of the most important since it addresses delicate issues such as the separation of church and state allowing for freedom of religion. Also, it establishes freedom of speech, press, the right to assembly, right to petition the government, and protects individuals not only from the government but from each other by restricting libel. Moreover, subsequent amendments address other issues such as the right to bear arms, search and seizures, prohibition of self-incrimination, the right to trial by jury and counsel, reservation of powers to the state and people powers, among others. In addition, it has a significant influence on laws and policy-making under the principle “for the people and by the people”. It is the Bill of Rights along with other factors that distinguishes the United States from other less successful democracies around the world.
The separation of powers among the three dominant structures of government is another strength of the Constitution. It allows for the overlap of authority among all government institutions and hinders the concentration of power in one of these institutions. Foremost, the Constitution’s simplicity of design outlines the government structures and designated functions. Yet, it does not specify how power is to be distributed among the government institutions, resulting in an ambiguity that has made it possible for the Constitution to successfully guide the United States in the desired direction. Nevertheless both of these have been a source of conflict and harshly criticized for the broadness of the power allocated to the structures of government.
As can be appreciated, the United States Constitution is deeply flawed, to the point where some of its strengths represent major threats to its original purpose put forth by the founding fathers. Although federalism is vital to avoid the concentration of power in a single structure of government, it blurs the concept of the separation of powers by providing the national government with sufficient protection to surpass the power allocated to states. In the time being there is not an easy approach to deal with this dilemma; however, it is not terribly hindered to solve as to set it aside for another 200 hundred years. Therefore, one of the first measures to deal with the problem in question is to narrowly draw the jurisdictional boundaries in order to define the power reserved for each structure of government, so that no structure has an unfair advantage over another. Such a measure should address the insufficient protection given to the states as compared to the national government.
Another weakness of the United States Constitution is Congressional stagnation. The absence of term limits in Congress has proven to be an issue of high debate among politicians. It seems reasonable to argue that term limits in Congress would result in inexperienced individuals taking roles which have been adequately fulfilled by previous political officers and that the degree to which they represent their constituents as well as their ability to do is questionable. Nevertheless, it is crucial to point out that a large majority of incumbents, that is those currently in office, get reelected [INSERT STATS] to a point where most Congress representatives have rather established a career in Congress. Their reelection is primarily due to the low turnout of elections since the public is less involved in these elections as compared to presidential elections, name advertisement and credit obtained from the service provided to their constituents.
Because elections take place every two years, reelection is the main drive for incumbents, which includes obtaining name recognition among their constituents and service credit within their districts. Incumbents aim to meet the interests and demands represented by the majority of constituents, which has proven to be very problematic due to the emerging concerns regarding whether they act as puppets to secure their seat or act in the faith of making a difference for their constituents by having their voices heard. Either way, incumbents enjoy unfair advantages over competitors since they are allotted higher campaign funds than subsequent competitors, for instance through free mail. Additionally, due to the large sums necessary to fund a successful campaign and the diminished chances of election when running against incumbents, the number of candidates is inconsequential, limiting the choices of voters. Lastly, the long term retention of office by legislators may result in corruption, through the means of lobbyists seeking that legislators address their cause which may not be related or benefit by any means the constituents that such legislator represents.
The need to have checks and balances for Congress is evident; which constitutes the reason why term limits should be implemented in Congress. The power to establish term limits is delegated to the states and the people and further protected under the 10th amendment. Therefore, a state can propose an amendment by obtaining a two-thirds majority of state legislators to call for a constitutional convention, after which legislators must ratify the amendment with a three-fourths majority. Similarly the house and senate members can propose such amendment, which is very unlikely to occur due to the fact that the ratification of term limits will affect their personal interests.
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On similar grounds, the Electoral College has been harshly criticized since the purpose it served 200 years ago is viewed as rather outdated today. This election system is not only compelling in terms of its design but also the extent to which it is representative of the popular vote in presidential elections. For instance, in the 2000 election featuring George W. Bush running against Albert Arnold Gore for the presidency, Al Gore won the popular vote; however he did not win the election. Therefore, it is legitimate to question how accurately do outcomes of the Electoral College reflect the will of the people. Moreover, because the number of electoral votes allocated to states relies primarily on the number of district and house representatives of the states, it gives larger states the power to influence the outcome of presidential elections. Since larger states are delegated such power, most presidential candidates focus their campaign and attention on the states with the most electoral votes; therefore, smaller states have a disadvantage regarding their political involvement in presidential elections and the value of their vote as compared to larger states and voter turnout can be further discouraged. The Electoral College can also result in a minority president being elected
It is not terribly difficult to acknowledge that the removal of the Electoral College is by far the best strategy to solve the present situation. Nevertheless, the difficulty lies in designing a system that accurately represents the people. Some politicians argue that providing a representation of the electoral vote proportional to that of the popular vote would ease the problem at stake. However, it is very likely to raise new concerns, especially if both candidates running for office win 50% of the electoral vote, then a method for splitting the vote must be addressed, which complicates the nature of the Electoral College and furthermore defeats the initial purpose of correcting the flawed design of such institution. One way to do this without further complications is by establishing a direct vote system in which all individuals have an equal say in presidential elections and are equally pursued by the candidates running for office.
Please discuss the suitability of the Constitution as a governing document for the contemporary United States. What are the strengths of the Constitution? What are some of its weaknesses? Should we attempt to reform the Constitution? If so, why? If not, why not? You should rely heavily on course materials, but feel free to use any outside material that will help your argument.
Is it public officials or government officials?
Are supreme court justices and federal judges public officials too as compared to senators and house members?
Paragraph about the separation of powers. Am I making my point clear enough, since its rather a transition into the weaknesses? Purposely chose it..
As can be appreciate itâ€¦Is this contradicting somehow?
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