Liberal Democratic Model – USA
Liberal Democratic Model – USA
Different political ideologies that guide political leaders are important in understanding the politics of a country. These express the visions of the political class for the state. Liberal democracy is a political ideology that comprises two important ideals, which are, democracy and liberalism. Democracy allows participatory power, while liberal concepts which include protection of basic human rights, right to own property, right to vote, right to political and economic competition, as well as constitutionalism; are incorporated. However, there is no one particular version of liberal democracy. There exists pluralistic versions of liberal democracy, and so countries that adopt this kind of rule, will have different components in their political leadership. Using case study, this paper will address the concept of liberal democracy in the United States of America. Freedom of speech, elections, and separation of power, are components of democracy, which will be analyzed using the liberal democratic model to determine how USA embraces liberal democracy.
The concept of democracy has a long history, and dates back to Aristotle’s era. He was the first Greek philosopher to explore this concept. Later, Christian thinkers related democracy with the worship of God, that all human beings are equal before God. The American Revolution was first to introduce components of liberal democracy. Slavery, exclusion of women from voting, and from public sphere, are all discriminatory practices that were done away with, as Americans embraced a more popular rule, as well as value and protection of basic human rights. This marked a new beginning of liberal democracy in America. Today, liberal democracy is associated with the American political philosophy (Vanberg, 2011).
The components of liberal democracy change with time. For instance, in the 18th Century, liberalism protected citizens from the government. This changed in the 20th Century when people started to consider their governments as source of protection from the social crimes. For example, in the USA, the human rights activists rely on the government’s authority to develop policies and programs that enhance the human rights situation in the country. The government is no longer considered a threat to its citizen’s freedom. In liberalism therefore, the government is a positive force (Neal, Douglas, Simon, and Joseph, 2012).
The liberal democratic model encompasses three major views. These are; political pluralism, the elitist theory, and the Marxist view of power. As we shall see, political pluralism is deeply rooted in American politics. Pluralism theory points to the fact that multiple groups, and not the masses, or few individuals, run a country. These groups are; trade unions, environmental groups, civil rights activists, professional bodies, among others, which greatly influence the policy making process and the administration of a country.
In pluralism, political power is distributed differently among the groups. For example, the Congress addresses tax issues, the president of USA sends the USA army on a mission, the Supreme Court passes the death penalty, and a police officer stops a motorist for over speeding. The main trait that characterizes pluralism in the USA is the fact that of all the multiple groups, no single elite group dominates. Some of these groups are well funded, organized, and have more influence, while others are not. The sizes of these groups also vary. These groups also are politically autonomous, and exercise their right to participate in the political sphere.
Freedom of speech is an important element of democracy, which also characterizes a pluralist society. Democratic states consider freedom of speech as a vital liberty, which ranks above all the others. In the US, freedom of speech is provided in the constitution’s First Amendment of the Bills of Rights, and in different state and federal laws. Those who framed the US constitution believed that freedom of expression is prerequisite for political freedom, as well as a liberal and democratic society. Individuals and organized groups, including the media, are free to air their opinions and criticisms on major political decisions in the society. Freedom of speech is hence instrumental in controlling the political leaders in the society. All individuals have the right to gather information, hold meetings, and participate in public opinion. However, in the US, restrictions are put on child pornography, obscenity, and lawless acts, among others.
Separation of power is another element of democracy present in a politically pluralist society. In the US, state power is divided into three parts. These are:
- The legislative power (the Congress)
- The executive power (the president)
- The judiciary power (Courts)
The US constitution places authority on the legislative to makes law, the executive to enforce law, and the judiciary to interpret law. The state, through its constitution determines how separation of power is distributed in various organs. In democratic states, two main government systems exist, the “parliamentary regime” and the “presidential regime.” A state may adopt one system that suits it. In parliamentary regimes, the government mainly comprises the parliament, which has members elected by the public. The parliament is responsible for passing bills. In addition, different political parties exist. The opposition plays the role of controlling the power exercised by government. This parliamentary regime is exercised in Germany and Great Britain.
According to an article in the Economist Intelligence, the United States of America is the best example of the presidential regime form of government. There is separation of legislative power from executive power at different institutional and technical levels. The president represents the executive power, while the congress represents the legislative power. These are appointed to their office through elections. Congress has no power to destitute the president, regardless of being found guilty of an illegal act. On the other hand, the president cannot dissolve the congress neither can he make laws. In this government, political parties play a less significant role. Legislative and executive powers are strictly separated in order to carry out reciprocal control effectively. The main advantage of power separation is that, state power does not lie wholly in the hands of one individual or a specific group of people.
Elections are an important pillar of democracy that exists in politically pluralist states. In democratic states, there are laws governing the process of election. These electoral laws are passive or active. Passive electoral laws apply to individuals contesting for political positions, while the active laws apply to those voting leaders in. in democratic states. In the US, the constitution provides for democratic elections, which give individuals a right to vote for leaders of their own choice. The choice of a voter is confidential, and elections are not discriminatory, in addition to being transparent and public (Hoffman, 2009).
In the process of election, two distinct systems exist. These are the absolute majority votes system and the proportional votes system. In absolute majority system, which is adopted by the US, the polling area comprises different constituencies, depending on the number of seats contested. Political positions are assigned to candidates with majority votes. In the proportional system, political positions in parliament are assigned, based on the percentage of total votes obtained by political parties in different constituencies. Depending on the system a state chooses, each system presents challenges and benefits.
The elements of freedom of speech, separation of power, and election, all point to a political pluralist society. This therefore makes the US an ideal example of a political pluralist country. Political pluralism in the USA is also evident through the case of the B-1 Bomber. This involved policy-making in the USA to design a B-1 Bomber. This was debated on for more than 25 years until the 1980s. Different groups such as environmentalists, the political class, professional bodies (aeronautics, air force), grassroots organizations, as well as financial bodies, participated in making the conclusion. These groups freely expressed their opinions on the issue, and voted for the solution. This took a long time to conclude, meaning that no group was dominant enough to decide on behalf of the others. The public did not directly contribute to this decision-making process, but again, the final decision was not made by a closed group or an individual (Vanberg, 2011). Using the liberal democratic model, it is therefore evident that the elements of freedom of speech, elections, and separation of power in the US, show that it is a politically pluralist nation.
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“USA Politics” 2006. The Economist Intelligence Unit, New York,
Vanberg, V.J 2011, Liberal constitutionalism, constitutional liberalism and
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