In order to speak about the political system of the United States of America it is necessary to identify what type of the country and government it is. According to the Constitution, the USA is a constitutional republic. It has three levels of government including the federal, the state and the local government. Government officials that work at each type of government are elected by the population with the help of a secret ballot. They can also be elected and appointed by other governmental officials who have higher positions. The national government in the USA is represented by the federal government, which consists of the Legislative Power, Executive Power, and the Judicial Power. The Constitution of the USA gives explanation to the major functions of all three branches of power. According to it the main functions of government and its branches are defense of the country and its population, management of trade relations with other countries (foreign affairs) and trade relations between the states, protection of essential human rights (for example the right to live, to chose the place of dwelling and other), issuing of national currency and etc. The supreme law of the United States, which defines the main principles of managing the country, is the Constitution of the United States of America. It was finished and proclaimed in the 1787 on the 17th of September. But it only took effect in 1789. From the time when the Constitution was finished and till now it has been a good example of the constitution to be used in some other countries. The first ten amendments of the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. This document was written in Philadelphia, and gave the American citizens the most essential rights: the free choice of religion, the right to speak and the right to have the truth with the help of media. It also emphasized the right of Americans to protest some of the decisions made by the government by arranging meetings in public places. In this case the government should listen to the people and to apply certain changes to its actions. The Bill of Rights forbids the policemen to place under arrest people without a good reason to do so.
There are some other important articles of the Constitution among which are the Thirteen and the Fourteen Amendments which abolish slavery and gives all citizens of the USA equal rights and equal protection of the state laws. From my point of view the Nineteen Amendment is also important because it sort of equalizes the rights of men and women by giving the latter the right to take part in the elections.
Of course there are a lot more peculiarities about American political system, but it is necessary to speak about them in detail.
Peculiarities of American political system
Before speaking about the political ideology in the USA it is necessary to identify the meaning of ideology in general. Ideology is the body of ideas and beliefs of a person, group, or nation about the policy and the economy in the country. Usually these ideas put a great influence on the life of people in the society. It defines their attitude towards the rights and responsibilities they have, their attitude to their place of living and work, and almost every other aspect of life in the country. Different political parties also have ideologies that are a wide range of ideas that touch the ways in which political and economic systems of countries are managed. If a country is a democratic one, then it should have a great variety of political parties that of course have their own ideologies and beliefs. Political ideology is usually represented in three ways: progressivism, liberalism, and conservatism. Progressivism is an ideology that uses scientific development, progress in technology and engineering to operate the life in society. The usual example of the progressivism is Socialism and Communism. The main concern of the ideology of progressivism is the future life of the society. Generally speaking, the population of America is not very interested in such an ideology, and especially in communism. The scientific researches have shown that Americans are more interested in the ideology of liberals and conservatives. The basic idea of the ideology of Liberalism is the laisser-faire principle, that gives people the opportunity to do whatever they wish. Liberalism is not concerned with the past or future, because its main concern is the present life.
Followers of this ideology prefer to call themselves “free”, “democrats”, and of course “liberal”. Another ideology is conservatism, which is concerned with preservation of the old traditions. The followers of this ideology try to keep the good things we have.
So, as the majority of Americans consider themselves rather moderate in outlook, meanwhile political leaders are trying to think and act in line with liberal and conservative ideologies of people.
As I have said above the USA is a federal republic that has a strong and specific democratic tradition. There are three levels of government in the USA: federal, state and local. Federal government is represented by three branches of power: legislative, executive and judicial, functions of which we will discuss a bit later. As for state government, it is busy with managing the territory of the country the lies within the state borders. The main functions of it include internal communications; regulations property rights, business activities, industry, and public utilities; the state criminal code; and working conditions within the state. Like the national government, state governments have three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial; these are branches of power are very much similar to those of federal government. The main governmental official of the state is the governor, who elected by the citizens of the state for a four-year term. All states have a bicameral legislature, with the upper house usually called the Senate and the lower house called the House of Representatives.
All states have a bicameral legislature, with the upper house usually called the Senate and the lower house called the House of Representatives.
The constitutions of different states differ in some details but generally are similar to the federal Constitution, including a statement of the rights of the people and a plan for organizing the government. As for the operation of businesses, banks, industries, public utilities, and other state institutions state, the constitutions of each state are often more specified than the Constitution of the USA. However, that main principle of the constitution of each state is that power belongs to the people.
Speaking about the local government it is represented by city government, county government and town and village government.
Political culture of the USA is as varied as the nationalities of people inhabiting the country. As they come to the USA they are eager to try some of the American political culture represented by its democracy in the country, which was established with the adoption of the Constitution. Political culture of the USA is naturally shown by the political freedom of choice given to all citizens of the USA. The national presidential elections in the United States play a significant role in the citizens’ lives. Every American citizen, who is at least 18 years of age, and is registered to vote may vote, and give his/her vote to support any candidate. The national presidential elections consist of two separate campaigns: one is for the nomination of candidates at national party conventions. The other is to win the elections. If the majority of the popular votes go to the Presidential candidate of one party, then that person is supposed to get all of the state’s “electoral votes”. The candidate with the largest number of these electoral votes wins the elections.
There are two leading parties in the USA, represented by the Democrats and the Republicans. There other parties of the USA are the Communist party and several Socialist parties, but they do not play any important role in national politics. The Democratic Party was founded in 1792. It is considered to be the longest-standing political party in the world. Currently it is the minority party in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats control 20 state legislatures, as do the Republicans. In 2005, the Democrats regained a majority of legislative seats nationwide. Of the two major U.S. parties, the Democratic Party is to the left of the Republican Party, though its politics are not as consistently leftist as the traditional social democratic and labor parties in much of the world.
The Democratic Party is more factional than many major parties in the world, maybe because American political parties in general do not have as much authority to control society and members of the parties as political parties in some other countries. Among the factions of the USA Democratic parties are Centrists, Progressives, Labor, Liberals and Conservatives. The official symbol of the party is donkey, which is widely used since the appearance of a political cartoon by Thomas Nast in 1870.
As for the second main party in the USA – the Republican Party, it was first established in 1854 by the Northerners who were opposed to the spread of slavery. In the modern political era, the Republican party (also known as GOP – «Grand Old Party»), is usually considered to be the more socially conservative and economically neoliberal of the two major parties. It is favorable to free trade and gave strong support (along with many Democrats) to invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). Since 2002 the Republican Party has held a narrow majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The official symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant. The party tends to hold both conservative and libertarian ideology on social and economic issues. Major policies that the party has recently supported include the 2003 Iraq War and across-the-board tax cuts.
The general functions of political parties in the USA are:
- Objective-finding function: Parties have ideologies and political programs. They try their hand at developing new strategies and show to the population that there are some alternative ways in development.
- The function of defining and aggregating the interests of society: They present interests, but, however not like interest groups do. They present then in such a way in order to have a direct influence on how the political ideas are formed and fulfilled with the help government.
- The function of mobilizing and socializing citizens: They encourage the population to participate in political life and to become politically active.
- Function of candidate recruitment and forming a government: They make political leadership, government and administrative potential available.
Speaking about interest groups in the USA, at first it is necessary to give a definition what an interest group is. An interest group is an organized group of people whose the main goal is to effect government at the local, state or federal level, or all three. There are really a lot of interest groups in the USA (tens of thousands), which are known by many names – special interests, lobbies, etc. They can be There are really a lot of interest groups in the USA (tens of thousands), which are known by many names – special interests, lobbies, etc. They can be of a different size and comprise different quantity of people, but it does not really matter, because there is an interest group for any aspect of social life (labor, farm and environmental groups, business and public interest etc). Interest groups may employ lawyers or other professional agents to address any governmental official in order to influence him. Such acts of exercising influence are often called “lobbying”. Also interest groups may help candidates to win the elections by providing volunteers to work on a candidate’s campaign, by speaking at fundraisers, social gatherings and assemblies, and of course, by contributing money to a candidate’s campaign. Once their candidate is elected interest group will try to affect his actions in the office.
The next point that I would like to pay attention to is media. The main function of it is to provide US citizens with reliable and true information concerning all aspects of life, including policy, economy and social life. As the USA is a democratic state everyone has the right to speak and the right to get the truth. Unfortunately in March 2005, the New York Times revealed that there has been a large amount of fake news created by US government departments, such as the Pentagon, the State Department and others, and distributed through the mainstream media. I must say that this is not a good example of democracy in the state. Hopefully there will be found an explanation to this fact and everything will sort itself out.
Now I would like to speak about the three branches of power in the USA and their institution. At first let us speak about Legislative power, which is represented by the Congress. The Congress of the United States is the legislative branch of the federal government of the United States. It is bicameral, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives consists of 435 members, elected by the population for a two-year term. The Senate consists of 100 members, which serve for six-year term. In the Senate, each state is equally represented by two members, regardless of population. The Vice President of the United States is the presiding officer of the Senate but is not a senator. If to compare the House of Representatives and the Senate, we may say that the Senate is a more deliberative body than the House of Representatives.
According to the Constitution the Congress performs the following functions: regulation of interstate and foreign commerce, to levy of taxes, to establishing federal courts submitted to the Supreme Court, maintenance of the armed forces, and declaration of war. The Constitution also includes the necessary-and-proper clause, which grants Congress the power to «make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.» To become a law, a bill must pass both the House and the Senate. At first the bill is introduced in both chambers, then it should be studied by one or more committees, amended, voted, and discussed the House of Representatives or the Senate. If passed by one body, it goes to the other for consideration. After the bill is discussed the members of both chambers meet to do the last discussion of the bill. Both chambers meet in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
As for the executive branch of the USA, it is headed by the President, who together with the Vice-president is elected to a four-year term. The president’s powers are enormous but it is not unlimited. The President proposes laws to Congress, he may also put veto on any bill passed by the Congress. The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President has the authority to appoint federal judges as vacancies occur, including justices of the Supreme Court. The Constitution allows electing the same president only for two terms. The executive power also includes the Cabinet, which is a group of advisors to the President in key areas such as defense, commerce, education, etc. The 43rd and current President of the United States is George W. Bush. He first became the President in 2001, and now he is re-elected for the second term. To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes. The President and Vice President are chosen by the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively.
Speaking about the Judicial Branch, it is headed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is the only court which was especially created by the Constitution. Also there are other 13 federal courts of appeals established by the Congress, and below them there are about 95 federal district courts. The Supreme Court comprises the Chief Justice of the United States and eight Associate Justices. They are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
The judges are appointed to serve for life, but they can only be removed by Congress through the impeachment process, although they may resign. However, no justice has ever been removed from office, though many have retired or resigned. The Court holds both original and appellate jurisdiction, while the appellate jurisdiction is used a bit more often. Although the three branches are considered to be equal, often the Supreme Court has the last word on an issue. The courts can rule a law unconstitutional, which makes it void. Such cases are appealed to the Supreme Court, which is thus the final arbiter of what the Constitution means. Newspapers and magazines very often print excerpts from the justices’ opinions in important cases, and the Court’s decisions are often the subject of public debate.
There are various types of administrative institutions in the USA, such as Administration of Justice, Civil Aeronautic Administration, Defence Transportation Administration, Domestic and International Business Administration, Economic Cooperation Administration, Economic Development Administration, Employment Standards Administration, Energy Research and Development Administration, Environmental Science Services Administration, Federal Energy Administration, Federal Highway Administration, International Cooperation Administration, National Aeronautics and Space and others, every of which performs certain functions and rules the relations in a certain aspect of people’s life.
The next thing that I would like to discuss is the interaction of the components of America’s political system with one another. Of course all three branches of power are connected with each other during the process of making laws. As mentioned above the laws are made by the Congress, while the President may veto it, or propose another project to the Congress. The Supreme Court controls the observance of the Constitution while making laws and regulating the country in general.
Speaking about the economy of the USA it is necessary to state that the United States of America has the largest and one of the most technologically advanced national economies in the world. The GDP of the USA is 11.75 trillion dollars. Government takes a minimal role in the economy, while individuals, corporations and other private firms make most of the decisions.
Because of this, the U.S has a small social safety net, and business firms in the U.S. have considerably less regulation than firms in many other nations. The US economy consists of several ingredients. The first ingredient of a nation’s economic system is its natural resources. The United States is rich in mineral resources and fertile soil, due to its moderate climate. It also has extensive coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as on the Gulf of Mexico. The second ingredient of US economy is labor, which means a great number of available workers and, more importantly, their productivity help determine the health of an economy. For many years the United States has experienced steady growth in the labor force. The third ingredient is manufacturing and investment. In the United States, the corporation has emerged as an association of owners, known as stockholders, who form a business enterprise governed by a complex set of rules and customs. Brought on by the process of mass production, corporations such as General Electric have been tools in shaping the United States. Through the stock market, American banks and investors have grown their economy by investing and withdrawing capital from profitable corporations. Today in the era of globalization American investors and corporations have influence all over the world. The USA is also actively involved into foreign trade, establishing the free trade. The commitment to free trade has both economic and political roots; the United States increasingly has come to see open trade as a means not only of advancing its own economic interests but also as a key to building peaceful relations among nations. Like many countries in the world, the United States too had been undergoing profound economic changes. A wave of technological innovations in computing, telecommunications, and the biological sciences were profoundly affecting how Americans work and play. The increased global integration of business and finance posed new opportunities as well as risks. All of these changes were leading people in the US to re-examine everything from how they organize their workplaces to the role of government. Perhaps as a result, many workers, while content with their current status, look to the future with uncertainty.
Now I would like to speak about some economical, political and cultural challenges that the USA is facing currently and we will face in future.
Of course lot of Americans have achieved economic security and some have accumulated great wealth, but there is still some layers of population experience poverty and asperity, especially unmarried mothers and their children, who continue to live in poverty.
Environmental pollution still remains a major concern. Great numbers of Americans don not have health insurance. Among other major challenges is technical innovation, represented by modern biotechnology and information technology. Speaking about biotechnologies it is necessary to mention that dramatic advances can be seen in this field of science, driven by recombinant DNA innovations, with profound regulatory and ethical implications. Important increases in food production can be considered as breakthroughs in disease prevention, while genetically modified food has not been properly tested yet, and also can harm people’s life. Speaking about challenges it is impossible to omit the process of globalization, which of course is good, because it unites economies and makes the international financial transactions be concluded easier and quicker. But this process has specific features in the USA, because it produces relative winners and losers within states.
Now, it is time to make a conclusion, where I will try to underline the most important aspects of policy and political system in the USA and mention some things that I have probably missed in the main part. The United States of America is a democratic republic with a three types of government ruling the country (federal, state and local government). All three types of government work in interplay with one another. The main functions of the government are defined by the Constitution of the United States, while each state has its own constitution, State constitutions are more specified and explicit according to the internal state policy. The federal government as well as the state government is divided into three branches of power: the Legislative power represented by the Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Executive power represented by the President, Vice-President and the Cabinet, and the Judicial power represented by the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The two major parties in the USA are the Democrats and the Republicans, while the interests of the population are represented not only by these two political parties and other ones, but also with the help of interest groups.
For many centuries the American political leaders have been driven by several major ideas. The first one is the freedom, which is the general idea that all people are free and do not belong to anyone or anything. This idea is clearly shown in Declaration of Independence (1776), Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863) and Second Inaugural Address (1865) and other important documents. The second idea is that American people have individual rights, which means that government may not interfere with in the individual’s life (freedom of speech, religion etc). The third important idea is equality, which was defined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and means the right to equal treatment. It also has been a powerful American political idea. The next idea is the rule of law which has always been a fundamental principle of American politics; it is also the basis for constitutional government. The rule of law connects with equality, for anyone from the richest to the poorest expects the law to bind or protect him or her equally. The rule of law also is closely linked to individual rights, for rights are to be protected by such institutions as courts, which embody and defend the ideal of rule of law. And, of course, in the Anglo-American common-law tradition, the rule of law is generally regarded as the basic safeguard of the general concepts of liberty and freedom. Of course there are other important political ideas, among which are the democratic republic, federalism, and etc, but the most important of it is the following. The United States of America is a country where the power of people is more important than any other power in the country, so it is possible to call this country a truly democratic one, where the population has the right to have free choice – the most important constituent of democracy.
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