THE USA – DOWNGRADED TO A FLAWED DEMOCRACY
We have all watched or read about the history of the United States, at least throughout the past 100 years. From FDR’s The New Deal, to WWII, Vietnam War, The Recession, and so on. As the branches of government are not only federal, but local to our states, the line can seem blurred as to who is responsible for every action that has been taken. At the time the framers could not anticipate the events that would unfold as history went forward and thus, may have been a little loose on the powers given. The framers did, in literal terms create a three-branch system, but within those branches are other agencies that were not part of the Constitution even though they fall into one of the three branches. The CIA, EPA, FTC, and others are considered independent agencies.
While the intent to create three branches that could keep each other in check, that has not become the reality. Without needing cites, we have all seen presidential nominees tell the public, they will do this and do that. They will put an end to this and stop that. If the president is part of the executive branch which is the branch that enforces the laws or acts of Congress, then it would be Congress spewing out those promises and the president either opposing or endorsing. With the Supreme Court, it is not a nomination based on judgment ability or merit. “Senate announce their support or opposition at the instant of the nomination’s announcement—often even before a specific nominee is chosen—in anticipation of how the nominee will vote on questions of abortion, immigration, regulations, firearm ownership, and so on. The question is not whether the nominee is qualified to function judicially, but whether he or she is “one of us”—that is, a fellow liberal or conservative. Each Supreme Court nominee is viewed as if he or she were to be a 101st vote in the Senate.” (Edwards)
The truth is, the president is no longer held as a speaker of our nation, but as the ruler. Congress has cut back on its duties and no longer flexes its muscles. We can look at the actions of the president and the executive branch regarding foreign affairs and War Powers Acts. Congress did vote to go to war in WWII, but after that, presidents simply went to war without much of any Congressional approval. “No president since Wilson has had Congress reject a war power request. But with modern presidents far less willing to ask for permission and with Congress far less willing to defend its prerogatives, there haven’t been many opportunities.” (CFR). The framers did not have this in mind. Congress has the constitutional authority to intervene, but they do not. In our current times, we watch Trump speak and basically tell us what he and his administration are going to do about issues. Most issues revolve around foreign affairs. When was the last time Congress asked you to vote on anything other than who to nominate? When have we voted on going to war or what trade agreements we want? Another factor that would be a separate topic all together, is the control of big business over the government. That’s for another time.
In a recent list of countries listed by the success of maintaining a true democracy, the United States has been downgraded to “flawed democracy”. (Economist) Given a score of 7.96, which in collegiate scores would not even be a “B” grade. Checks and balances are at the top of the list for reasons listed as a declining factor. That shows terribly accurate, the fragile and submissive Congress. “even after the new Congress was sworn in, congressional leaders waited eagerly to receive direction from the incoming president on budgetary, and even legislative, priorities”. (Edwards)
It all comes down to one basic and obvious fact – the government’s power or lack thereof in its branches, is due to it not being three entities checking each other, but one or two. As recently as Trump, we have seen the battle between republican and democrat be the focus of everything and anything that relates to policy, foreign and domestic. It is more about loyalty than good policy. “Today’s “separation of powers” is no longer between the three original, constitutionally created, branches of government, but between, on the one hand, a branch consisting of the president, his supporters in Congress and their mutual supporters on the federal bench; and on the other hand, a branch made up of the party in opposition to the president, his opponents in Congress and their co-partisans on the bench.” (Edwards) This is not anything new to us, “The People”, as we watch in anger most of the time as the heads in Congress argue and push blame on why a bill has not passed. If the truth remains that Congress is simply waiting for the president to tell them which way to move or which direction to go, it is sadly, the failure and demise of the Legislative Branch of the US government.
The balance of power does shift, based on the issue but not only the issue. Based on what party is controlling a majority of the branches. For example, Trump elects the final member of the Supreme Court and it is a person whom he believes is loyal to him and his beliefs. Trump then puts a law into place banning people of certain countries from entering the USA even though some of those people may live in the USA as legal residents. This is then taken to court as many living in the USA protest this rash decision and the court rules against Trump. Trump then sends this to the Supreme Court where a majority of judges are republican. Now, this becomes not a matter of what is right, but who’s side they are on – republican or democrat. Congress has complete jurisdiction under the constitution to control this situation, but they as well are having to choose what side of the line they are on.
In the end the three branches have lost the unity and lost site of the basic fundamentals they were created by. Checks and balances is what keeps them all in line. This is why we are now a flawed democracy.
“I taught my students a system of government based on the Constitution. I thought I was teaching about current events. Instead, I now realize, I was teaching ancient history.”
- Mickey Edwards
Edwards, Mickey. We No Longer Have Three Branches of Government. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/02/three-branches-government-separation-powers-executive-legislative-judicial-214812 Politico.com
Council on Foreign Relations. Has Congress Ever Denied a President’s Request to Authorize Military Force? https://www.cfr.org/blog/has-congress-ever-denied-presidents-request-authorize-military-force
Economist. Democracy Index 2019. http://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index