November 16, 2012
Why the American Democracy Does Not Work
Democracy in America does not work. The system has failed too many times and when problems do get addressed, they get addressed by using tactics that break the Constitutional guidelines. Slavery almost broke the Union and if President Abraham Lincoln did not violate the Constitution, slavery would have destroyed the Union. Economic crises test the limits and powers of the government. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stretched the Constitution with the New Deal. The Supreme Court, not the House of Representatives choose George W. Bush for President over Al Gore in the 2000 Election. The financial crisis in 2008 showed a failure of the U.S. government to regulate Wall Street.1 These cases demonstrate the flawed structures formed by the Constitution. Though some have tried to change the system, the system flaws lie in the foundation of system: the Constitution. No matter what party holds the majority or the White House, the U.S. government cannot continue to function without systematic change. The American democracy needs to transform its system to work in the 21st century and this can only be done by restructuring the U.S. government. I will argue this from a Jacobs-King/Lazare perspective, analyzing the failures of the structures of the U.S. Federal government throughout history.
The Constitution justified slavery and nothing in the Constitution could prohibit it, showing how the system’s failure to protect minority voices. In fact the Constitution did not allow Congress to interfere with the slave trade until “the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight.”2 Nothing stopped slave holders from owning salves or trading slaves. Even as other countries abolished slavery, the U.S. could not because the Constitution stopped them. The Framers of the Constitution decided not to deal with slavery, making their system flawed from the beginning. “Slavery was the quadruple whammy of American politics, a problem that was at once intractable, intolerable, growing worse with every passing year, and constitutionally insoluble to boot.”3 Abolitionists fought to end slavery, but they had no constitutional basis to do so because the Constitution allowed slavery. The Constitution allowed slavery by promising not to interfere with the slave trade until 1808 and by having no means of prohibiting it. When Dred and Harriet Scott, two slaves brought from slave state Missouri to slave-free territory and back to Missouri, sued for their freedom, they were denied.4 Chief Justice Taney ruled against Scott and it was constitutional. Lazare writes “the real problem with Dred Scott was not that it was unreasonable, but that it represented a reasonable interpretation of an unreasonable, illiberal Constitution.”5 Dred Scot shows the flaws created by the system. No one can justify slavery on moral grounds, but the Supreme Court did not have to because the Constitution did. Congress tried over and over to make compromises over slavery, but tensions remained. “The legislative branch had become so tangled up over the issue of territorial slavery that the most prominent leaders were agreed that the judiciary was the only branch capable of sorting things out.”6 The legislative should have been able to write a law either allowing or prohibiting slavery. They could not because of disagreement between northern and southern leaders. The constitutional system could only solve so many questions over slavery before tensions reached their breaking point. By the time of the Civil War the U.S. government could barely hold itself together because the structure failed them.
Sectional tensions between the north and south divided the country and the Constitution did not have a way to deal with the problems. Henry Clay could not come up with any more compromises to solve the conflict between northerners and southerners. Abolition was not even about preserving...
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