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The United States of America (USA) is a federal constitutional republic in which the constitution is the supreme law of the land. The government is divided into two: the national government and state governments. The state governments operate autonomously and may carry out reforms as long as they do not contradict the federal laws. The national government is divided into three arms (Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary) that operate independently but are dependent on each other’s decisions to function properly. The Legislature makes the laws. The Executive implements them and formulates policies. The Judiciary interprets the laws and administers justice. This paper evaluates the Constitution, federalism, the branches of the government, political parties and by extension, the strengths and weaknesses of each element mentioned.
One of the main reasons why the Constitution has proven pivotal over the years since its implementation is the provision of a stable system of checks and balances within it and by extension, the government. The national government is divided into three main arms (Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary) that are partly dependent on each other. Each arm has powers and functions that regulate the operations of the other. This provision ensures that no branch assumes too much power. It also ensures that no arm is overwhelmed by its functions.
The legislature keeps the Executive arm in check in several ways. It can overrule the veto decisions of the president on rejected bills through a two-thirds majority vote. It may similarly pass an impeachment of the president through the majority vote. The Senate approves all presidential appointments including federal judges as well as the judges of the Supreme Court. It also consents international treaties made by the president. Moreover, the Legislature endorses the funding of the activities of the Executive. The Legislature also keeps checks on the Judiciary. The Legislature sets up lowers courts of the judicial arm. Furthermore, legislature approves the appointment of judges and may pass a vote of impeachment against the judges through a two-thirds majority.
The Executive, on the other hand, regulates the powers of the legislature in various ways. The office of the President and the gubernatorial office hold veto powers and can reject a bill proposed by the legislature by refusing to sign it into law. The Executive arm proposes bills to the Legislature for legislation. Moreover, the Executive has the power to call for special sessions of the Legislature. Notably, the President nominates and, with the approval of the Senate, appoints federal judges and judges of the Supreme Court.
The Judiciary is the arm of the government that interprets laws and administers justice. Once judges are appointed, they enjoy tenure of service free from interference from the Executive and may only be removed from office through impeachment by the Legislature. The Judicial review allows the Judiciary to evaluate the actions of the Executive as well as Legislative actions and may regard them unconstitutional.
However, the constitution of the United States has some weaknesses. One of the most striking flaws is the loophole that develops during the transition of the presidents. There is a nearly three-month period between the Election Day and inauguration of the next president. Confusions often arise due to the ambiguity of leadership during this time. The uncertainty can be averted or minimized considerably by immediate assumption of office by the incumbent president. The immediate assumption helps to avoid a dangerous power vacuum that develops during the transition hence prevent administrative errors such as during the Bill Clinton-George Bush transition that led to setbacks in the North Korea treaty. The separation of powers in the government has proven essential in maintaining an effective system of checks and balances. This system can be strengthened further by limiting the powers of the various arms of the government to help prevent a single arm from usurping too many powers.
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The Gun Policy
The Gun control policy of the United States consists of a set of laws that regulate the sale, possession and use of guns in the US. This policy is a mandate of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which oversees the implementation of the policies that have been legislated regarding firearms. The debate concerning has sparked severally in the recent past with strong points supporting both sides of the debate. The second amendment of the Constitution gives the citizens the right to bear arms. However, there are restrictions on the possession and use of firearms through amendments ever since which have laid restrictions on persons allowed to own guns and prohibitions on assault weapons.
The main advantage of the Gun laws, as asserted by the National Rifle Association, is that it guarantees self-defense among the people. This law protects the fundamental right of the people passed on the second amendment of the US constitution. Studies by the National Rifle Association have revealed that the rate of violent crimes has reduced since the laws barring possession of guns were struck down by the Supreme Court. The total violent crime rate decreased to thirty-seven percent from forty-eight percent in the year 2010, owing to the removal of local laws that barred possession of guns.
The main disadvantage of the gun laws, however, lies in the misuse of the firearms. More recently, the gun massacres such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy have been through legally obtained guns. It is more worrying that these gun massacres target the vulnerable members of the society such as children. Another tragic example is the killing of twenty children in Newtown in the year 2012.
Pro-gun control activists have advocated for carrying out background checks on people who are purchasing guns. This action is necessary to deter those with past criminal records or mentally ill persons from owning guns. Further precautions could be taken by making gun registration before purchase that will ensure that crimes committed using the gun can be solved. These measures may help prevent the mass killings that have resulted from misuse of the firearms. The key to enhancing self-defense is having informed citizens. It is important that the citizens learn about gun regulations. Safety precautions are also necessary to avoid possible accidents resulting from children playing with guns or general carelessness of the adults.
The Judicial Branch of the Government
The Judiciary is established as an arm of the government that interprets laws and administers justice. Typically, it has various strengths that prove its efficiency as an institution and like any system, it also has weaknesses.
The judiciary’s number one strength lies in the fact that the judicial system works within the dictates of the principle of presumption of innocence. Under this principle, a person is assumed innocent in the absence of contrary evidence that would prove him/her guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The principle, therefore, lays the burden of proof on the state. Under this code, one is entitled to release from jail before trial depending on the charge of the crime and the risk posed to the rest of the community upon release of the defendant. The defendant also holds the right to a speedy trial. This right requires that the prosecutor decides within seventy-two hours the charges that are filed against the defendant. This right protects one from serving lengthy jail terms before conviction. Presumption of innocence not only falls in line with the principles of a free society but also guarantees complete evaluation of the presented evidence before judgment is made.
However, the sentencing of criminals is compromised by the powers of the judge. The judge has the authority to determine whether one is to receive a maximum or minimum sentence for a crime leading to differences in the sentences handed to people who have been convicted of the same offense. The disadvantage of this weakness is that it opens a doorway to discrimination where particular groups of individuals may succumb to a certain consistency of serving maximum charges.
Such unfortunate scenarios of discriminatory judgments can be avoided. It is important to revise the guidelines and eliminate the possible alternatives to the ruling. There should be one type of sentence to a particular crime. The provision for maximum and minimum sentences should be removed so as to help promote equality before the law. The period between arrest and filing of charges should be reduced to perpetuate further the idea of presumed innocence. This reduction will ensure little interference with the routine of the accused. It also minimizes the stress of uncertainty that the charged may go through awaiting judgment.
The idea of political parties goes way back in time to the early days of the United States, after the gaining of independence. Despite the negative perception of political parties, initially, as evil institutions, political parties have prevailed through time and proven strikingly fundamental. The parties have had both positive and negative impacts on the political system of the United States. They have become indispensable nonetheless and are part and parcel of the established democratic system.
Political parties have stood out as an important tool in the establishment of democracy in the Unites States. Primarily, political parties gather different opinions from various people in the society. They evaluate these views and organize them into policies that form part of the party’s manifesto. In doing so, political parties ensured public participation in the government by inputting their ideas. The establishment of efficient democracies would not have been complete without a system of checks and balances. Political parties have provided a way of checking the government, as the opposition keeps the ruling party in check. Therefore, the political party system guarantees rationality in the decisions made by the government.
However, in as much as the political parties have impacted positively in the United States, they have had negative effects. Party politics has led to the corruption of the system therefore adversely affecting the functioning of the democracy. Political parties require funding to sustain the party and enable it to perform its democratic functions. The funding of a political party could potentially become the very threat to the democracy it seeks to protect. Parties with less funding often fail to build a popular participation and may lose to the party with more resources, despite the rationality in their policies. A more menacing threat comes from parties with few donors. In this case, the few donors’ voices may overwhelm the needs of the greater population. Therefore, the party ends up representing a narrower segment of the public.
The bias of interests and the popularity prejudices that may result from funding may be minimized by reaching a consensus on how parties ought to be funded. A proper political finance policy should be developed defining how parties are to be funded and drawing regulations on expenditure and public disclosure. Transparency during such procedures is paramount.
Democracy, on the other hand, could be maintained by the creation of a strong multi-party system. The United States operates predominantly on a two-party system. This system is a limitation on the adequate representation of the people since not all the people may be affiliated to the views of the two parties. Having more parties could solve this problem since it will ensure more people’s views are represented.
In summary, it is worth noting that the Constitution is the supreme law in the United States and every institution formed under the Constitution operates subject to it, including the government. The Constitution establishes the United States as a sovereign democratic republic. Democracy has been affirmed through the liberty of her citizens and the civic rights of the people. The system of checks and balances provided by the presence of political parties, special interest groups and branches of the government have helped ensure that democracy is maintained. The following elements of the American government have been discussed broadly in this essay: The Constitution of the United States, the gun control federal policy, the judicial arm of the government and the impacts of political parties.