The Presidency and Democracy
To evaluate the position of the president, the concept of democracy must first be
considered. Most Americans simply assume that the United States is a democracy.
However, before such an assumption is made it is wise to understand the common
definition of the word democracy. The Random House College Dictionary defines
democracy as, “Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme
power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents
under a free electoral system.” Does the United States fit this definition? Moreover,
how does the role of the president affect the United States’ claim to democracy?
From a broad perspective the United States does indeed fit the definition of a
democracy. The citizens of the United States continuously chose agents to represent
them in government. Of the three branches of government that the United States has all
the members of two are chosen this way. However once a individual is elected to office
the general public looses a good deal of its authority over that person’s actions. This
abuse of the democratic system reaches as far up as the presidency. The president is
supposed to be a servant to the people, exercising their wishes and fulfilling their goals.
This is not always the case. After examining the actions of some of the modern
presidents it is evident that the president can be a hindrance to democracy as well as a
One of the most blatant, yet rarely noticed by the public, abuses of the democratic
system occurs during presidential campaigns. This is when presidential candidates make
promises in their campaign, that when elected to office that abandon. The reason this is
so important is because campaign promises are all the public has evaluate as to that
person’s intentions. Presidential candidates are elected because of issues, so if they
abandon these issues they were elected under false pretenses. There are two very clear
examples of this from modern elections. The first example is from the presidential
election of 1964, in which the incumbent was Lydon B. Johnson. In his campaign
Johnson promised American voters “that American boys would not fight Asian boys in
Vietnam.” (Hargrove 116) However, once elected Johnson escalated the war with
Vietnam even though public sentiment was against such action (Hargrove 123).
The second example of unfulfilled campaign promises occurred in a more recent
presidential campaign, the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. One of Clinton’s
primary issues in this election was economic relief for the struggling middle class.
Clinton proposed this relief come from a cut on the income tax rates on the middle class
(Woodward 17). Another important issue during Clinton’s campaign was increasing
investments, like education and infrastructure. Once elected this issue became an after
thought for the Clinton...