US Gov More Democratic
AP US Gov Essay
US Government More Democratic Than Ever
American politics have become more democratic in the last 200 years. When people are confronted with an issue that interests them, they will bring their voices to the table. Our history is filled with examples of people raising their voices for change. In addition, move people can vote today than ever before. Plus, people can make their voices heard in ways other than directly voting. People will join interest groups to concentrate their voices. The government has also expanded so much over the last 200 years that there is much more for people to have an input in.
Government does so much today, that no one observer can begin to cover it all, even if it was their full time job. There are so many opportunities for public comment, that no one can be involved in all of the ones that affect them. People face many demands on their time; an issue must be important enough to them that it merits their attention. An ongoing, local, example is the proposal to install a few billboards in Haverford Township. This proposal is motivating many people to show up to public hearings to voice their opinion against the billboards. The local newspaper’s top story is an article about the meeting being rescheduled. The Haverford Civic Association is informing its members about the proposal. It’s true that large numbers of people do not normally show up for a Board of Commissioners meeting. However, this meeting had to be moved twice to accommodate the expected crowd. This is democracy in action. Interest groups, the news media, and a few interested citizens, filter the process of democracy and mobilize the troops when an issue is important to them.
Our collective memories include successful examples of public protesting at work. The Boston Tea Party was recently echoed in protests on Tax Day. Protestors ultimately succeeded in ending the Vietnam War. The New Deal Coalition brought together many different groups to usher in a new philosophy about government. The Reagan Revolution of “the silent majority” changed the balance of power for a few decades. While these movements may have been planned by some elitist; people ultimately identified with them and joined them. It is false to claim that US politics has grown more elitist. Large changes in politics require a lot of people. Without popular support, a well-planned movement will fail. At the end of the day, everyone gets one vote. Money can be spent to influence, but it must ultimately succeeded in convincing people.
Democracy has also expanded over time. Women were granted the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th Amendment. African Americans were granted the right to vote in 1869 under the 15th Amendment, however it wasn’t until the 1950s that the government became serious about enforcing their rights. With amendment #23, residents of the District of Columbia were allowed to vote. The 24th amendment prohibited poll taxes in 1962. In 1971, the voting age was lowered to 18 under the 26th amendment. The amount of citizens allowed to vote has only expanded over time.
Remember that voting is not the only way that people can bring about change. By protesting, and creating uproar, elected officials do hear our voices and follow through. This is actually much faster than waiting for an election to change things. Officials know to listen to public pressure, or they will be voted out at the next election. The recent AIG bonus scuffle is a good example of this. Many tax payers became extremely angry that AIG, a company that had received “bailout” money, had given bonuses to the executives who ran the company into the ground. Congressmen and women brought AIG executives to Capitol Hill to forward their constituent’s outrage. The people did not directly vote on the AIG bonuses; but their voices were heard loud and clear anyway.
Throughout history, people have joined together with likeminded people to get their views across. Interest groups keep their members informed about what Congress is up to. They urge civic participation by getting their members to call and write their Congressmen and women. Interest groups also do research into their area of specialty. With the research from both sides of an issue, the staff of Congress people has the information they need to make a decision. Interest groups are merely a proxy for the views of their members.
Also, it is hard for anyone to say that democratic participation in the government is decreasing after witnessing the Obama election. Politicio reported that 130 million people turned out for the 2008 election. This is the most ever to vote in a US presidential election and it represents 64% of the electorate. It beat the previous record in 2004 which was 122.3 million voters. Exit polls showed that whites decreased in percentage of the electorate, while minorities and youths gained. This is conclusive proof that American politics are becoming more democratic than ever. Now-President Obama managed to capture the hearts and minds of many people previous apathetic about politics. It also helped that the key issue in the election was something very relevant and important to people, the economy.
People will become involved in politics if it is worth their time. If they feel like the issue is significant enough to them, they will make their voices heard. That is shown with both the Havertown billboard situation and the Obama election. There are just so many opportunities for people to give input to the government, that many are not significantly covered. In addition, people use interest groups as a proxy for their beliefs. Simply, participation is up. More groups are eligible to vote than ever before. Public interest has a strong tradition in this country. The people can express their opinions in ways other than voting. When something interests them, they will do the people will speak.