.. the South, promising them better trade relations with the troubled Asian markets in the 1970s (Avirett 22). All these are just a few examples of politicians taking every advantage possible to gain more money for their campaigns, undermining the legitimacy of the American government. The method in which we elect the President, on the other hand, is fairly legitimate. The electoral college consists of representatives who we elect, who then elect the President.
Because this fills the requirement of regularly scheduled elections, it is a legitimate process. The President is extremely powerful in foreign policy making; so powerful that scholars now speak of the “Imperial Presidency,” implying that the President runs foreign policy as an emperor. The President is the chief diplomat, negotiator of treaties, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. There has been a steady growth of the Presidents power since World War II. This abundance of foreign Presidential power may cause one to believe that our democratic system is not legitimate.
However, Presidential power in domestic affairs is limited. Therefore, though the President is very powerful in certain areas, the term “Imperial Presidency” is not applicable in all areas. This was particularly evident in the last decade, with President Bush and Clinton exercising the “Imperial Presidency” as far as international affairs were concerned, yet being limited when it came to domestic issues and approval from the House and the Senate. Although Bush had strong control over military measures taken against Sadam Husseins attack on Kuwait, he was still in”check” by congress as far as the oil market was concerned, particularly the domestic oil production in the United States (Cerent 44). Clinton also had the power, along with the leaders of NATO, to declare and execute war against raging Serbia. Still, he was bound by Senate regarding the expenses put into the Balkan conflict, and had to rely on the congress to approve further monetary transactions (Cerent 46).
These recent examples of division of international and domestic powers clearly show that “Imperial Presidency” is not applicable in all areas and is moving towards the right direction, thus legitimizing democracy in the United States as far as the presidential powers are concerned. The election process of Congress is also very much legitimate because Senators and Representatives are elected directly by the people. Power in Congress is usually determined by the seniority system. In the majority party, which is the party which controls Congress, the person who has served the longest has the most power. The problem with the seniority system is that power is not based on elections or on who is most qualified to be in a position of authority.
“Congress is also paradoxical because, while it is good at serving particular individual interests, it is bad at serving the general interest due to its fragmented structure of committees and sub-committees” (Fox 56). The manner in which Supreme Court Justices are elected is not democratic because they are appointed by the President for lifelong terms, rather than in regularly scheduled elections. There is a “non-political myth” that the only thing that Judges do is apply rules neutrally. In actuality, they interpret laws and the Constitution using their power of judicial review, the power explicitly given to them in Marbury v. Madison (Lind, 175).
Though it has been termed the “imperial judiciary” by some, the courts are still the weakest branch of government because they depend upon the compliance of the other branches for enforcement of the laws. The best example of judicial weakness can be found in the act of impeaching the President. Although Richard Nixon never came under a full trial by the Supreme Court, he was ordered to give out a statement regarding the Watergate scandal in front of the Supreme Court Justices. Although the Justices placed a legal hold on all his presidential actions, the hold was not enforced until the congress reviewed the Courts decision (Lind 112). Even in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton first had to testify in front of a Grand Jury put together by congress, and then the Supreme Court Justices. In fact, Clinton was never tried in the Supreme Court, because the congress ruled not to try him for impeachment in the first place.
This brings Judicial power to questions, as well as the legitimacy of the government. The fact that our government is a bureaucracy in certain respects also brings about many controversial aspects which question its legitimacy. The bureaucracy is not democratic for many reasons. The key features of a bureaucracy are that they are large, specialized, run by official and fixed rules, relatively free from outside control, run on a hierarchy, and must keep written records of everything they do. “Bureaucracies focus on rules, but their members are unhappy when the rules are exposed to the public” (Lind 171). Bureaucracies violate the requirement of a legitimate democracy that public policy must be made publicly, not secretly.
To be hired in a bureaucracy, a person is required to take a civil service exam. Also, people working in bureaucracies may be fired under extreme circumstances. This usually leads to the “Peter Principle;” that people who are competent at their jobs are promoted until they are in jobs in which they are no longer competent (Lind 175). Policy making, on the other hand, should be considered democratic for the most part. The public tends to get its way about sixty percent of the time, as it was proven in the Princeton studies in 1995 (Avirett 13).
The studies were based on a simple principle of what people demanded from the government in the nationwide polls, and what they got in the near future. In the end, sixty percent of all issues were addressed and successfully solved by the government (Avirett 13). Because one of the key legitimating factors of a government is a connection between what it does and what the public wants, policy making can be considered sixty percent legitimate. Such a percentage puts the American political system and its democratic legitimacy into perspective of being legitimate for the most part, but not completely. Even though the individual workings of the American government may not all be particularly democratic, they do form a political system that prevails in its democratic ways at the end.
Considering that achieving true democracy is almost impossible, the United States government is coming close and is striving to get closer as the years go by. It is true that “the people who run for and win public office are not necessarily the most intelligent, best informed, wealthiest, or most successful business or professional people. At all levels of the political system,..it is the most politically ambitious people who are willing to sacrifice time, family and private life, and energy and effort for the power and celebrity that comes with public office” (Dye 58-59). But in the end, it is the choice of people that decides whether these ambitious individuals are worthy of their vote and their representation. The United States government might not be a perfect example of democracy, but it certainly has the main democratic principles that allow for a political system to strive for as true of a democracy as possible.
Bibliography Avirett, James B. Republican Rule is Soon to Come. September 1998. Education Corner. *http://metalab.unc.edu/politics/avirett/avirett/h tml* Cerent, Brian. The Political System. April 1996.
Online Politics. *http://harward/find/[email protected]/* Dye, Thomas R. Whos Running America? The Clinton Years. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Pretence Hall, 1995. Fox, James. Essence of Democracy. December 1996. Young Democrats. *http://www.knight.org/advent/athen/14039a.htm* Lind, Michael. The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution. New York: The Free Press, 1995.