Democracy, or widespread participation in government, is classified into two categories: direct and representative. Direct democracy is one in which the citizens directly influence policy decisions and take part in a direct manner. In a representative democracy, voters elect a group of individuals, such as Senators, to make decisions and policies that represent their best interests. Direct democracy and representative democracy have several similarities and dissimilarities. In a direct democracy, the will of the majority is factored. In contrast, in indirect democracy, there is a threat of majority tyranny. Decision-making is not always rational but is based on thoughts and feelings and what is prevalent in most cases, compared to representative democracy, where decision-making is rational since a select group makes it of respondents (Haskell, 2018). In a representative democracy, parliament is a sovereign authority, whereas, in another democracy, parliament is subordinate and has limited jurisdiction due to power conferred on the citizens. Despite the differences, both forms of democracy exhibit certain similarities. Citizens in both of these forms of democracy have the power to govern themselves by partaking in the establishment and passage of laws. Citizens in direct and representative democracies can vote to pass or repudiate a law through referendums. They can also initiate amendments and unseat public officials. Citizens’ equality and freedom are the driving forces in these democracies.
The United States Constitution, written in 1787 and approved one year later by nine of the existing thirteen states, is considered as the world’s longest-surviving Constitution. Since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791, Congress enacted only 23 constitutional alterations, but only 17 of them have been passed into law. The twelveth amendment, enacted in 1804, required voters to vote independently for the president and vice president. Years later, the seventeenth amendment swayed the voting process for the United States Senate, essentially giving the power to elect legislators to the American public instead of state legislatures. The sixteenth amendment, ratified in 1913, presented the federal government with the power to levy, effectually rescinding the federal ban against a “direct tax” included within Article I of the Constitution. Three “Reconstruction Amendments” were initiated after the civil war to fully realize the founders’ ideal of all people being considered as equal. Whereas the 13th amendment eradicated the slavery system, the fourteenth amendment conferred Black People with citizen status, rebutting the Court’s Decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) (Schofield, 2002). The seventeenth amendment confirmed voting privileges to individuals of African descent. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency characterized a watershed moment in the growth of executive power. Despite the passing of the 22nd amendment, which restricted presidents to two presidential terms, the presidency’s increasing authority was a trend that gave no indication of abating.
The division of power between state and national governments has shifted over the years. The Framers of the Constitution anticipated state governments, instead of the federal government, to be the primary unit of government for citizens regularly. States are responsible for all elections, including presidential elections, and must ratify amendments to the Constitution. State governments can recommend policies on commerce, universal health care, training, and other issues within their state as long as their laws do not contravene the federal Constitution. Particularly, both the states and the federal administration have the authority to levy, make and implement laws, charter banks, and seek loans. Frequently, the Constitution of one state varies from that of another in various facets. Because general authority has already been established, state constitutions restrict rather than giving authority. Another reason why state constitutions vary is because of being open to amendments. Alterations could be proposed by the House of Representatives, a constitutional commission, or a citizen petition, and they can be certified by a referendum. For instance, the Massachusetts constitution was amended a total of 120 times. Georgia’s Constitution was even entirely replaced ten times.
Presently, the constitutional amendments have been done 27 times, considered as formal changes. The formal changes in the Constitution are found in Article V and outlines a two-step process. A constitution amendment could be proposed in Congress, and that proposal must be sanctioned by two-thirds of both houses of Congress or by two-thirds of elected representatives, who could then request that Congress listen to the proposal. Step two is ratification, which occurs after the proposition has been formally approved (Kay, 2018). In general, the formal offer must be endorsed by three-quarters of the state legislatures. In informal methods, one of the methods to amend the Constitution would be judicial interpretation. By judicial interpretation, for instance, In Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supreme Court stated that federal courts had the jurisdiction to invalidate national government decisions found to be in contravention of the Provisions (Kay, 2018). Other methods include Presidential or Congressional action. When Congress approved the War Powers Act in 1973 to restrict the head of state foreign policy vote, it used Congressional approval. As opposed to formal amendments that alter the written word of the Constitution, informal amendments are variations that have no impact on the standard document.
Haskell, J. (2018). Direct democracy or representative government? Dispelling the populist myth. Routledge
Schofield, N. (2002). Evolution of the Constitution. British Journal of Political Science, 32(1), 1-20.
Kay, R. S. (2018). Formal and informal amendment of the United States constitution. The American Journal of Comparative Law, 66(suppl_1), 243-268.