Monday, September 25, 2006

The Flaws of the American Democracy

Recently, my political science class was asked to write a paper answering the question, "Is our Constitution a democratic document?" Reproduced below are three paragraphs from my essay which discuss two important trends occuring in our country that need to be addressed. These factors are hurting our government by aligning the interests against democracy in our country.

"The Constitution was skillfully crafted with the provisions necessary to ensure a lasting democracy. The Framers felt they implemented all the ideals necessary to ensure the progress of the United States. Yet, as time has passed, special interests have been able to wield increasingly disproportionate influence and have harmed the democratic process. Is this a sign that our democracy is faulty and destined for failure? Not quite. Rather, certain trends after our country’s formation have allowed money and organization to increasingly influence elections.

Money has been used throughout the history of the country to influence elections and agendas. This problem has increased as campaigns have become more complex and costly, forcing politicians raise more funds. The problem with campaign contributions is that they make elected officials feel obligated to their financial supporters, and this causes them to implement the requests of these few wealthy patrons. The second problem has to do with the rising power of organized groups. Jesse Jackson has said that “in politics, an organized minority is a political majority“. Their political power has arisen due to the increasing pervasiveness of elections today. “A century ago, officials usually were elected on the same day,” but today a citizen is called to the polls repeatedly (FPSV 12). This has deterred a majority of people from participating, leaving the door open for any organized group have significant influence. These groups seek measures that directly benefit them, but the costs are usually spread amongst the entire population. The incentive is not in place for the population to participate in an election simply to vote against a measure that will marginally cost them. As a result of these two factors, special interests can wield unequal power and damage the democratic process as it was intended.

The root of this problem does not stem from a flaw in the design of the Constitution. The massive political organization of the population and the incredible complexity of campaigns were both unforeseeable by the Framers. Simplifying the voting process and coordinating elections so that they fall on fewer days will help voter turn out and decrease the power of organization. Stricter limits on direct campaign financing will limit the conflicts of interest regarding political donations. The Framers spent too much time coming up with an effective form of democracy that protected the individual’s powers and rights. The Constitution is proof that Agnes Repplier’s remarks are false and democracy can be achieved. Many foreign entities would be better off if they set up a government with similar properties of its structure. It would be a shame to allow these minor faults lead people to miss the truly intellectual beauty behind our democratic Constitution."

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