US Democracy and Its Media Representation

Introduction

Democracy refers to a system of governance whereby the citizens are allowed to participate in the policymaking process. In a democratic state, the people elect their leaders in a general election. The elected leaders usually represent the public in the process of policy formulation. According to Monten (2005), the decisions made by the leaders represent the voice of the public since the people elect them. Democracy evolves with time by giving the people more rights and powers over governance. However, such evolution may also produce negative effects as it may curtail the rights of the citizens.

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In the US, democracy entails the right of the people to elect leaders of their choice including the President and the members of the Congress. Mitchell (2009) asserts that democracy works better in developed countries as compared to the developing countries. Apparently, democracy in the developing countries is growing to replace authoritarianism, which has dogged such nations for years. Countries with a high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have higher democracy compared to those with low GDP.

In the US, democracy is at its maturity with the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. On the contrary, the developing countries have weak democracy with the citizens having low power to influence the policies of their respective nations. In most third world countries, bureaucracy characterizes the system of governance whereby the elected leaders exercise dictatorship. In such countries, the media is highly regulated by the government and the people’s freedom of speech is denied.

Goldberg, Wibbels, and Mvukiyehe (2008) identify two forms of democracy namely, the direct and the indirect democracies as the major forms of democracies. In a direct democracy, the citizens personally participate in the formulation of the policies. The indirect democracy, on the other hand, involves the formulation of policies by the representatives elected by the people. In a direct democracy, the citizens are selected from a lottery and empowered to make certain strategic decisions.

The citizens directly exercise their rights regarding the formulation of policies. Under the representative democracy, the electorates elect representatives who are charged with the responsibility of formulating the policies. The members of Congress are the representatives of the public regarding policymaking. In that regard, any decisions made by Congress is representative of the citizens’ views. The election of representatives in a democratic nation is informed by the view that the electorates are sparsely distributed, and thus they cannot run the country’s affairs.

Democracy is characterized by the freedom of the media. Therefore, in the countries where the media is controlled by the government, democracy is compromised. The media heavily contributes to the evolution of democracy since it educates the citizens of their rights and freedoms on the elections and the freedom of speech. Additionally, the media acts as a venue through which the politicians communicate with the citizens. Through such interactions, the citizens are enabled to propose policy changes facilitating their participation in decision-making.

Some of the Medias such as the social networks heavily contribute to democracy since it provides a venue through which the citizens can interact with each other and leaders to deliberate on certain issues affecting the country’s governance. In other words, it brings together the citizens and their leaders, and through such meetings, the citizens are enabled to make policy suggestions to the leaders. Such suggestions are incorporated during the policy formulation process giving the citizens the power to participate in policy formulation.

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Carothers (2007) states that in a democratic country, the freedom of the media must be guaranteed to give the citizens the freedom to express their views. He emphasizes the need for a free media in the advancement of democracy. The media facilitates the interaction between the voters and the leaders and enables the citizens to air their concerns regarding the policies. Some of the notable Media that are influential regarding democracy include the radio, TV, social media, and newspapers.

The listed types of media are influential since they offer a platform on which citizens get to learn about their rights and freedoms regarding elections and their freedom of speech. In countries where the government regulates the media, democracy is compromised since the citizens remain in the dark on the various issues revolving around governance. In most developed countries, the government does not regulate the media, and thus the citizens have the right to participate in policy formulation. Voter education is an important aspect of democracy, and it may only be accomplished through the media. The view is illustrative of the importance of the media in the advancement of democracy.

The free nature of the media in the developed states facilitates the advancement of democracy in the respective countries (Wolf, 2014). This paper seeks to unravel the relationship between the media and democracy. In the achievement of the stated purpose, the paper shall explore the nature of democracy in the US as depicted from news articles and the literature. This essay shall include the opinions of different politicians and political analysts regarding the topic of democracy. The paper shall explore the contrasting views on the topic to express the various strengths and weaknesses of American democracy as expressed by various politicians through the newspapers.

Democracy in the US

The US is one of the most democratic countries around the globe with the country having a representative form of democracy. The country has a representative form of democracy whereby the citizens elect the leaders in a general election. One of the important rights according to the Americans by the Constitution is the freedom of speech whereby every citizen has the right to air his/her opinions regarding the various issues affecting the country (Hazan & Rahat, 2010). In that regard, personal opinions characterize the media with columnists criticizing the government freely through the media.

As stated earlier in this paper, democracy is characterized by the freedom of speech coupled with free media. Every citizen is allowed to express his/her opinion irrespective of whether s/he is in the government or the opposition. The minority are free to disagree with a decision by the majority and to give the reasons for such disagreements. The mentioned right allows the citizens to air their concerns to the leaders without fear of intimidation.

The freedom of the media is guaranteed by the American constitution, and the government plays no role in its regulation. In that regard, the country may be termed as one of the most democratic countries in the world. American democracy commenced on July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed (Gore, 2008). Under the declaration, the people would elect the president of the US through a secret ballot. The Obama administration has made efforts to advance the democracy with the officials in the regime defining democracy as a government-run by the people of the country.

During the 2012 presidential campaigns, the candidates emphasized they would do what is best for the country (Goldman, 2012). From their slogans, democracy may be defined as having officials that will do what is best for the citizens of the country. The slogans aired on the local and the international media was significant in the advancement of democracy in the country as they promoted a sense of involvement in the policy formulation process among the citizens. The local televisions aired the debates live to the citizens as each leader defined their strategies for the country to persuade the electorates to vote in their favor.

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The American leaders portray the US as being a democratic nation owing to the process involved in the passage of a Bill into law (McClam, 2014). The process commences with the drafting of the proposed bill whereby the concerned member documents every proposal in one document. The bill is then presented to the Congress for deliberations. During the debating, the members of Congress make the necessary amendments to the bill before it is subjected to the voting. Voting takes place through the secret ballot, and if a majority of members support the Bill, it is presented to the President for assent.

The president has the authority to approve the bill into law or reject it. In case the president rejects the bill, it is returned to the parliament with the necessary amendments proposals. Once the proposals are deliberated, the members vote for or against the bill. The president cannot reject on any grounds a bill that is voted by a two-thirds majority. The requirement that the President assents to the Bill before it becomes a statute ensures that there are checks and balances. The president, for example, may reverse a bill passed by the Congress after consulting with the various stakeholders including the lobby groups. The power to reverse the undesired bills eliminates dictatorship among the Congress, which is the sole policymaker. On the other hand, Congress is in a position to check the extremes of the executive by enacting the law to elevate or trim the president’s powers.

Besides, Congress may force the president to assent a bill into law through a two-thirds majority vote (Magen & McFaul, 2009). The ability of the two offices to check on the extremes of each other ensures that the policymaking process is streamlined and that none of the mentioned authorities can exercise dictatorship. The role of the media is to mobilize the public and to educate them regarding the prospective bills. The media acts as a venue through which the pressure groups air their concerns regarding the proposed bills. The concerns raised by the lobby groups may influence the decision of the president on whether to assent to a bill or to reject it altogether.

The executive and the legislature are also subject to checks by the judiciary with the Supreme Court having the power to overturn a bill passed by the Congress on the grounds of inconsistency with the Constitution. The Supreme Court may declare such a Bill null and void irrespective of whether or not the president assents it into law (Carothers, 2007). The existence of a strong judiciary is a clear indicator of the strong checks and balances that characterize the American governance systems.

Every American citizen has the right to challenge a Bill in a court of law to have some of its parts amended or rejected in totality. The three arms of government must thus work together to formulate policies that are in the best interest of the citizens. The power of each of the three arms to limit the extremes of the other ensures that democracy is upheld since none of the arms may enact legislation that goes beyond the confines of the constitution. The ability of every citizen to challenge the enactment of a Bill illuminates the democratic rights of the citizens and enhances democracy.

O’Donnell (2007) disputes the view that America is one of the most democratic nations in the world. The article cites as a source of bureaucracy since other arms of the government cannot dispute the judicial system court decisions. The American Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the judicial system. The verdicts delivered by the court are not subject to appeals hence creating some form of bureaucracy. The Supreme Court judges are elected by the president and approved by Congress. If the Congress has more of the president’s party members, the head of state shall tend to appoint those judges who will favor his/her decisions.

Congress will have no role to play in scrutinizing the appointed judges since the tyranny of numbers will prevail in the approval of the judges. In that regard, the president may introduce dictatorship through the enactment of policies that undermines democracy without such decisions being challenged in a court of law. The judicial system is one of the areas where reforms are needed to advance the democracy of the US. Additionally, the appointment of the judges by the president as opposed to their election by the public denies the citizens their rights to elect their leaders (Finkel, Pérez-Liñán, & Seligson, 2007).

As stated earlier in this paper, democracy refers to a system of governance whereby the citizens are allowed to elect their leaders in a general election. The leader who gunners the majority of votes finds their way into leadership positions. The appointment of judges by the president is contrary to the provisions of direct democracy that require that the citizens exercise their rights to elect their preferred leaders.

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Another area where bureaucracy presents itself is in the election of both the President and the members of the Congress. The election of both the President and the members of the Congress are done by the citizens through the secret ballot. The leaders who manage to acquire the majority votes occupy the respective seats. Given that the American population is comprised of both the natives and the non-natives, the elections may favor the majority population. The non-natives may not get a chance to elect their leaders in any way (Newman & Lake, 2006). The view is informed by the fact that in America, racism is a common phenomenon. The black American population is often discriminated against thus their ability to elect their leaders is compromised. Democracy may thus be compromised in light of the stated fact.

Next, bureaucracy may emanate from the absence of a strong opposition to criticize the government policies. Apparently, the work of the opposition is to put the government under check. In case the president’s party gets the majority of the seats in Congress, bureaucracy will be a common phenomenon (Wejnert, 2010). The opposition helps check the government’s extremes. A weak opposition promotes dictatorship owing to its reduced ability to criticize the government. In a situation where the president’s party dominates the Congress, government policies will pass unopposed in Congress giving the government the power to introduce dictatorship. For the government to advance democracy in the country, it has to devise ways to deal with bureaucracies emanating from the tyranny of numbers in Congress.

One way of achieving this is to strengthen the opposition by setting a higher threshold for the passage of legislation. The law could be changed to provide for a two-thirds majority when passing major bills, for example, those that revolve around human rights and democracy. As it stands now, policies are passed by a majority vote, which weakens the opposition especially in cases where the government has a majority of members of Congress. The original constitution was meant to empower the citizens to make major decisions regarding the country’s governance. However, the politicians and scholars portray the amendments so far made by the Congress and other policymakers in the country as being divulsive from the original objective.

The other factor that promotes bureaucracy in the US is the executive power to enforce the policies made by Congress. There have been claims that the executive at times uses extreme force during the enforcement of the policies. The use of extreme force in the enforcement of the law is evident among the police. In the recent past, the police have been accused of brutality directed at the citizens. Racial differences play a great role in the advancement of such brutalities. Police also tend to use extreme force when dealing with protesters. According to the American constitution, citizens have the right to hold peaceful demonstrations to protest against certain policies (McClam, 2014). Since the police are the agents of the government, their use of force a threat to the country’s democracy. The government needs to enact laws barring the police officers from using excessive force when dealing with suspects.

Lastly, American democracy has evolved over time since the passage of the constitution in 1972. The changes have marked great changes in the country’s policies. One of the significant amendments made to the original constitution centers on the presidential election. Just like in the current system, the electoral colleges appointed the president. However, the electoral colleges were responsible for the election of many candidates vying for the seat (Monten, 2005). The current system only allows two candidates to vie for the position of the presidency. The lack of independent candidates is viewed as undemocratic since voters cannot choose from a variety.

The current electoral system of electing the president by the electoral colleges as opposed to the electorates denies the people the right to elect their leader thus promoting undemocratic practices. The election of the president involves the casting of ballots by the citizens and the electoral colleges. A presidential candidate who gathers a majority of votes from the electorates may still lose the seat if s/he fails to mobilize enough votes from the electoral colleges. The electoral colleges are therefore the determinants of the winner of the presidency. The election of the president by the electoral colleges, as opposed to the electorates, denies the people their right to exercise direct democracy.

Conclusion

The US is one of the most democratic nations in the world with its democracy being marked by the free media and the right to free speech. The American constitution grants every citizen the right to free speech illustrating the country’s commitment to democracy. The media contributes heavily to the advancement of the country’s democracy as illustrated by this research paper. In the US, all three arms of the government work together in the process of formulating the policies. In that regard, enough checks and balances mitigate the formulation of policies that are not in favor of democracy.

Congress enacts laws that are then forwarded to the President for their approval to be law. The Supreme Court may still reverse the assented Bill in case they conflict with the constitution. Any citizen may move to the court to challenge the adoption of the Bill into law. However, much as the country leads regarding democracy, it faces criticisms in different areas. Firstly, it denies the citizens the right to direct democracy in the presidential election. Secondly, the lack of strong opposition may lead to bureaucracy by the government. The mentioned aspects of ten American democracy have been explored in detail in this paper.

References

Carothers, T. (2007). US Democracy promotion during and after Bush. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Finkel, E., Pérez-Liñán, A., & Seligson, M. (2007). The effects of US foreign assistance on democracy building, 1990–2003. World Politics, 59(03), 404-439.

Goldberg, E., Wibbels, E., & Mvukiyehe, E. (2008). Lessons from strange cases democracy, development, and the resource curse in the US States. Comparative Political Studies, 41(5), 477-514.

Goldman, R. (2012). Obama Wins Re-election With Romney Defeated in the Key States. ABC News. Web.

Gore, D. (2008). President Winning without Popular Vote. Web.

Hazan, Y., & Rahat, G. (2010). Democracy within Parties: candidate selection methods and their political consequences. Oxford, UK: OUP Oxford.

Magen, A., & McFaul, M. (2009). Promoting democracy and the rule of law: American and European strategies. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

McClam, E. (2014). Obama Speaks on Big Republican Wins in Midterm Election. NBC News. Web.

Mitchell, L. (2009). Uncertain democracy: US foreign policy and Georgia’s Rose Revolution. University Park, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Monten, J. (2005). The roots of the Bush doctrine: Power, nationalism, and democracy promotion in US strategy. International Security, 29(4), 112-156.

Newman, K., & Lake, R. (2006). Democracy, bureaucracy, and difference in US community development politics since 1968. Progress in Human Geography, 30(1), 44-61.

O’Donnell, G. A. (2007). The perpetual crises of democracy. Journal of Democracy, 18(1), 5-11.

Wejnert, B. (2010). Democratic paths and trends. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.

Wolf, S. (2014). The generic Congressional ballot, the US House popular vote, and democratic legitimacy. Web.

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