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The Federal Government Essay

1285 words - 5 pages

In any system which claims to be democratic, a question of its legitimacy remains. A truly democratic political system has certain characteristics which prove its legitimacy with their existence. One essential characteristic of a legitimate democracy is that it allows people to freely make choices without government intervention. Another necessary characteristic which legitimates government is that every vote must count equally: one vote for every person. For this equality to occur, all people must be subject to the same laws, have equal civil rights, and be allowed to freely express their ideas. Minority rights are also crucial in a legitimate democracy. No matter how unpopular their views, all people should enjoy the freedoms of speech, press and assembly. Public policy should be made publicly, not secretly, and regularly scheduled elections should be held. Since "legitimacy" may be defined as "the feeling or opinion the people have that government is based upon morally defensible principles and that they should therefore obey it," then there must necessarily be a connection between what the people want and what the government is doing if legitimacy is to occur.The U.S. government may be considered legitimate in some aspects, and illegitimate in others. Because voting is class-biased, it may not be classified as a completely legitimate process. Although in theory the American system calls for one vote per person, the low rate of turnout results in the upper and middle classes ultimately choosing candidates for the entire nation. Class is determined by income and education, and differing levels of these two factors can help explain why class bias occurs. For example, because educated people tend to underezd politics more, they are more likely to vote. People with high income and education also have more resources, and poor people tend to have low political efficacy (feelings of low self-worth). Turnout, therefore, is low and, since the early 1960s, has been declining overall. The "winner-take-all" system in elections may be criticized for being undemocratic because the proportion of people agreeing with a particular candidate on a certain issue may not be adequately represented under this system. For example, "a candidate who gets 40 percent of the vote, as long as he gets more votes than any other candidate, can be elected--even though sixty percent of the voters voted against him"(Lind, 314).Political parties in America are weak due to the anti-party, anti-organization, and anti-politics cultural prejudices of the Classical Liberals. Because in the U.S. there is no national discipline to force citizens into identifying with a political party, partisan identification tends to be an informal psychological commitment to a party. This informality allows people to be apathetic if they wish, willingly giving up their input into the political process. Though this apathy is the result of greater freedom in America than in other countries, it...

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