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Identify strengths and weaknesses of america s two party system

This essay then was written originally to inform non-Americans as to how the American political system works. What has been striking, however, is how many Americans - especially young Americans - have found the essay useful and insightful.

There is considerable evidence that many Americans know and understand little about the political system of their own country - possibly more than is the case with any other developed democratic nation. It has found that the two worst subjects for American students are civics and American history. On one of my trips to the United States, I was eating cereal for breakfast and found that the whole of the reverse side of the cereal packet was devoted to a short explanation of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the American government.

I find it hard to imagine that many democratic nations would feel it necessary to explain such a subject in such a format. It is probably more important than ever than both Americans and non-Americans understand the fundamentals of the American political system because, in Donald Trump, we have a US President who is behaving quite unlike his predecessors and effectively challenging the famed constitutional system of 'checks and balances'.

So I hope that this explanation helps.

From the SparkNotes Blog

But this is a fundamental neccesity in the case of the American political system. This is because the Constitution of the United States is so different from those of other nations and because that Constitution is, in all material respects, the same document as it was over two centuries ago. There were four main factors in the minds of the 'founding fathers' who drafted the US Constitution: The United States had just fought and won a bloody War of Independence from Britain and it was determined to create a political system that was totally different from the British system in which considerable identify strengths and weaknesses of america s two party system still resided in a hereditary King George III at the time or Queen and in which Parliament was increasingly assertive in the exercise of its growing powers.

Therefore the new constitution deliberately spread power between the three arms of government - executive, legislature and judiciary - and ensured that each arm was able to limit the exercise of power by the other arms. The United States was already a large country with problems of communications and a population of varied background and education. Therefore, for all the intentions to be a new democracy, it was seen as important to limit the influence of swings in public opinion.

So the election of the president was placed in the hands of an Electoral College, rather than the subject of direct election, and the terms of office of the president and the two chambers of the legislature were all set at different lengths.

The United States was the creation of 13 individual states, each of which valued its traditions and powers, and so the overarching federal government was deliberately limited in its powers compared to the position of the central government in other nations. Arguably the later Civil War was about states' rights more than it was about slavery and there is still a real tension today between the states and federal government.

The original 13 states of the USA were of very different size in terms identify strengths and weaknesses of america s two party system population and from the beginning there was a determination by the smaller states that political power should not be excessively in the hands of the larger states.

Therefore the Constitution is built on a 'Great Compromise' between the Virginia plan representation by population and the New Jersey plan equal representation for all states which resulted in the House of Representatives being constructed on the basis of population and the Senate being composed of an equal number of representatives regardless of population. This is why today six states have only one member in the House of Representatives but two members in the Senate.

Whatever the 'founding fathers' intended, the sheer longevity of the Constitution and the profound changes in America since its drafting means that today the balance of power is not necessarily what the drafters of the Constitution had in mind.

So originally the legislature was seen as the most powerful arm of government it is described first in the Constitution but, over time, both the Presidency starting with the time of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and the Supreme Court especially on social issues like desegregation, marriage and abortion have assumed more power. The Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1789 form the foundations of the United States federal government.

The Declaration of Independence establishes the United States as an independent political entity, while the Constitution creates the basic structure of the federal government. Further information on the thinking expressed in the Constitution can be found in the Federalist Papers which are a series of 85 articles and essays published in 1787-1788 promoting the ratification of the Constitution.

The United States Constitution is both the longest-lasting in the world, being over two centuries old, and one of the the shortest in the world, having just seven articles and 27 amendments the constitutions of Jordan, Libya and Iceland are the shortest in the world running to a mere 2,000-4,000 words.

As well as its age and brevity, the US Constitution is notable for being a remarkably stable document. The first 10 amendments were all carried in 1789 - the same year as the original constitution - and are collectively known identify strengths and weaknesses of america s two party system the Bill of Rights. If one accepts that these first 10 amendments were in effect part of the original constitutional settlement, there have only been 17 amendments in almost 230 years.

In fact, famously the 27th Amendment took over 200 years to achieve ratification, having been originally proposed at the same time as the 10 that make up the Bill of Rights but having only reached ratification in 1992. The last new and substantive amendment - reduction of the voting age to 18 - was in 1971, almost half a century ago.

One of the major reasons for this relative immutability is that - quite deliberately on the part of its drafters - the Constitution is a very difficult instrument to change. First, a proposed amendment has to secure a two-thirds vote of members present in both houses of Congress. Then three-quarters of the state legislatures have to ratifiy the proposed change this stage may or may not be governed by a specific time limit.

This was first written in 1920, shortly after women were given the vote in the USA. The proposed amendment was introduced in Congress unsuccessfully in every legislative year from 1923 until it was finally passed in 1972. It was then sent to each state for ratification but, by 1982, it was still three states short of the minimum of the 38 needed to add it to the constitution. Various attempts since 1982 to revive the amendment have all failed. At the heart of the US Constitution is the principle known as 'separation of powers', a term coined by the French political, enlightenment thinker Montesquieu.

This principle is also known as 'checks and balances', since each of the three branches of the state has some authority to act on its own, some authority to regulate the other two branches, and has some of its own authority, in turn, regulated by the other branches.

Not only is power spread between the different branches; the members of those branches are deliberately granted by the Constitution different terms of office which is a further brake on rapid political change. So the President has a term of four years, while members of the Senate serve for six years and members of the House of Representatives serve for two years. Members of the Supreme Court effectively serve for life. The great benefit of this system is that power is spread and counter-balanced and the 'founding fathers' - the 55 delegates who drafted the Constitution - clearly wished to create a political system which was in sharp contrast to, and much more democratic than, the monarchical system then in force in Britain.

The great weakness of the system is that it makes government slow, complicated and legalistic which is a particular disadvantage in a world - unlike that of 1776 - in which political and economic developments are fast-moving and the USA is a - indeed the - super power.

Since the Constitution is so short, so old and so difficult to change, for it to be meaningful to contemporary society it requires interpretation by the courts and ultimately it is the Supreme Court which determines what the Constitution means. There are very different approaches to the interpretation of the Constitution with the two main strands of thought being known as originalism and the Living Constitution. Originalism is a principle of interpretation that tries to discover the original meaning identify strengths and weaknesses of america s two party system intent of the constitution.

It is based on the principle that the judiciary is not supposed to create, amend or repeal laws which is the realm of the legislative branch but only to uphold them.

This approach tends to be supported by conservatives. Living Constitution is a concept which claims that the Constitution has a dynamic meaning and that contemporary society should be taken into account when interpreting key constitutional phrases.

Instead of seeking to divine the views of the drafters of the document, it claims that they deliberately wrote the Constitution in broad terms so that it would remain flexible. This approach tends to be supported by liberals.

The President is the head of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. He - so far, the position has always been held by a man - is both the head of state and the head of government, as well as the military commander-in-chief and chief diplomat. The President presides over the executive branch of the government, a vast organisation numbering about four million people, including one million active-duty military personnel.

The so-called Hatch Act of 1939 forbids anyone in the executive branch - except the President or Vice-President - from using his or her official position to engage in political activity. Who is eligible to become a President? To be President, one has to: The President is elected for a fixed term of four years and may serve a maximum of two terms.

Originally there was no constitutional limit on the number of terms that a President could serve in office and the first President George Washington set the precedent of serving simply two terms. Following the election of Franklin D Roosevelt to a record four terms, it was decided to limit terms to two and the relevant constitutional change - the 22nd Amendment - was enacted in 1951.

Elections are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to coincide with Congressional elections. So the last election was held on 8 November 2016 and the next eelction will be held on 3 November 2020. The President is not elected directly by the voters but by an Electoral College representing each state on the basis of a combination of the number of members in the Senate two for each state regardless of size and the number of members in the House of Representatives roughly proportional to population.

The states with the largest number of votes are California 55Texas 38 and New York 29. The states with the smallest number of votes - there are seven of them - have only three votes.

The American Two-Party System

The District of Columbia, which has no voting representation in Congress, has three Electoral College votes. In effect, therefore, the Presidential election is not one election but 51. The total Electoral College vote is 538. This means that, to become President, a candidate has to win at least 270 electoral votes. The voting system awards the Electoral College votes from each state to delegates committed to vote for a certain candidate in a "winner take all" system, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska which award their Electoral College votes according to Congressional Districts rather than for the state as a whole.

In practice, most states are firmly Democrat - for instance, California and New York - or firmly Republican - for instance, Texas and Tennessee. Therefore, candidates concentrate their appearances and resources on the so-called "battleground states", those that might go to either party.

  1. Therefore, for all the intentions to be a new democracy, it was seen as important to limit the influence of swings in public opinion. So the President has a term of four years, while members of the Senate serve for six years and members of the House of Representatives serve for two years.
  2. Especially when wide range of false propaganda by the United States, ability to refute, provide coherent and reliable information is a crucial aspect.
  3. The US Constitution is relatively immutable so it is very difficult to change the provisions to reflect the reforms that have come about over time from the pressure of events. They have equal weight when voting on a case and the Chief Justice has no casting vote or power to instruct colleagues.
  4. Between the selection of candidates, they are less active than their counterparts in other countries and, during elections, they are less influential in campaigning, with individual politicians and their campaigns having much more influence. The United States was the creation of 13 individual states, each of which valued its traditions and powers, and so the overarching federal government was deliberately limited in its powers compared to the position of the central government in other nations.
  5. Another variation is that, in some cases, one can only take part in a caucus or election if one is registered for that political party but, in other cases, anyone in the state - including those registered for another party or none - can vote.

The three largest battleground or swing states are Florida 29 votesPennsylvania 20 and Ohio 18. This system of election means that a candidate can win the largest number of votes nationwide but fail to win the largest number of votes in the Electoral College and therefore fail to become President.

Indeed, in practice, this has happened four times in US history: On the last occasion, the losing canidate Hillary Clinton actuallu secured 2. If this seems strange at least to non-Americansthe explanation is that the 'founding fathers' who drafted the American Constitution did not wish to give too much power to the people and so devised a system that gives the ultimate power of electing the President to members of the Electoral College.

The same Constitution, however, enables each state to determine how its members in the Electoral College are chosen and since the 1820s states have chosen their electors by a direct vote of the people.

23a. The Era of Good Feelings and the Two-Party System

The United States is the only example in the world of an indirectly elected executive president. In the event that the Electoral College is evenly divided between two candidates or no candidate secures a majority of the votes, the constitution provides that the choice of President is made by the House of Representatives and the choice of Vice-President is made by the Senate.

In the first case, the representatives of each state have to agree collectively on the allocation of a single vote. In the second case, each senator has one vote. This has actually happened twice - in 1800 and 1824. In 1800, the House of Representatives, after 35 votes in which neither Thomas Jefferson nor Aaron Burr obtained a majority, elected Jefferson on the 36th ballot. In 1824, neither John Quincy Adams nor Andrew Jackson was able to secure a majority of the votes in the Electoral College and the House of Representatives chose Adams even though he had fewer Electoral Colleage votes and fewer votes at the ballot boxes than Jackson.

What are the powers of the President? Within the executive branch, the President has broad constitutional powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government. The President may issue executive orders to affect internal policies. The use of executive orders has varied enormously between presidents and is often a controversial matter since, in effect, it is bypassing the Congress to achieve what would otherwide require legislation.

Very few such orders were issued until the time of Abraham Lincoln the Emanicpation Declaration was such an order ; use of executive orders was considerable and peaked during the terms of the seven presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin D Roosevelt 1901-1945 ; but, since the Second World War, use has been more modest with Democrats tending to issue them a bit more than Republicans. Barack Obama has made very sparing use of this power, notably to reform immigration law and to tighten gun controls.

Executive orders can be overturned by a succeeding President. The President has the power to recommend measures to Congress and may sign or veto legislation passed by Congress.

The Congress may override a presidential veto but only by a two-thirds majority in each house. The President has the authority to appoint Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices. The President has identify strengths and weaknesses of america s two party system power to pardon criminals convicted of offences against the federal government and most controversially President Gerald Ford used this power to pardon his predecessor Richard Nixon.