American Political System

The American political system is presidential type of system where the president is the head of state and head of government. There is the state government and the federal government; these two shares the sovereignty with the Supreme Court balancing their powers. The American system also has the two-party legislative and electoral system. The American political system is made up of three main branches which are the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive branch is headed by the president and is independent of the legislature.

The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and exercise overall authority in the management of national affairs of the United States. The ideology of the incumbent President and the President’s advisers largely determines the government’s attitude in foreign affairs. The legislative power is vested in the two chambers of congress which is the senate and the House of Representatives while the judiciary comprises of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. The function of the judiciary is to interpret the United States Constitution and the federal laws and regulations.

These include resolving disputes between the executive branch and the legislative branch. The American political system has always been dominated by two political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party since the time of the American civil war. Other parties have existed but they have not been as dominant as these two. It is a usual view that the American political system is weak and disjointed. It is also a usual opinion that this was by deliberate design for the American founding fathers believed in limited government, and designed a system to ensure it.
In a number of ways, it is certainly true that the American system is fragmented, if not necessarily weak. Many governmental functions that are performed by the national government as a matter of course in most countries are in the United States relegated to the states. In turn the states pass many of these functions on to local government. The standard form of identification carried by most people is a state driver’s license, not a national identification card. Local police perform most law enforcement. They are not directly answerable, in a day-to-day administrative sense, to the national government or even the state government.
Local government officials register marriages, property transactions, and much of the other fundamental administration of society. Basically the political system is made up of the federal government the state government and the local government; these include the state, the local, the county, and the town and village governments. (Bruce, 1997) Federal, state and local governments The federal entity created by the Constitution is the dominant feature of the American governmental system. Every person outside the capital is subject to at least three governing bodies: the federal government, a state and units of local government.
The local government includes counties, municipalities, and special districts. The federal government was created by the states, which as colonies were established separately and governed themselves independently of the others. Units of local government were created by the colonies to efficiently carry out various state functions. As the country expanded, it admitted new states modeled on the existing ones. State government States governments have the power to make law on all subjects that are not granted to the national government or denied to the states in the U.
S. Constitution. These include education, family law, contract law, and most crimes. Unlike the national government, which only has those powers granted to it in the Constitution, a state government has intrinsic powers allowing it to act unless limited by a provision of the state or national constitution. Like the national government, state governments have three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. The chief executive of a state is its popularly elected governor, who holds office for a four-year term (although in a few states the term is two years).
Apart from for Nebraska, which has one-chamber legislature (known as a unicameral legislature), all states have a bicameral legislature, with the upper house usually called the Senate and the lower house called the House of Representatives, the House of Delegates or Assembly. In most states, senators serve four-year terms, and members of the lower house serve two-year terms. The constitutions of the various states differ in some details but generally follow a pattern similar to that of the federal Constitution, including a statement of the rights of the people and a plan for organizing the government.
State constitutions are generally more detailed. (Bruce, 1997) Local government There are 87,000 local governments, including 3,034 counties, 19,498 municipalities, 16,500 townships, 13,500 school districts, and 35,000 other special districts which deal with issues like fire protection. To a greater extent than on the federal or state level, the local governments directly serve the needs of the people, providing everything from police and fire protection to sanitary codes, health regulations, education, public transportation, and housing. Nearly 30% of the people live in cities of 100,000 or more population.
City governments are chartered by states, and their charters feature the objectives and powers of the municipal government. For most big cities, cooperation with both state and federal organizations is essential to meeting the needs of their residents. Types of city governments vary widely across the nation. However, almost all have some kind of central council, elected by the voters, and an executive officer, assisted by various departmental heads, to manage the city’s affairs. There are three general types of city government: the mayor-council, the commission, and the council-manager.
These are the pure forms; most cities have developed a combination of two or three of them. (Bruce, 1997) Mayor- Council. This is the oldest form of city government in the United States and, until the beginning of the 20th century, was used by nearly all American cities. Its structure is similar to that of the state and national governments, with an elected mayor as chief of the executive branch and an elected council that represents the various neighborhoods forming the legislative branch. The mayor appoints heads of city departments and other officials with the approval of the council.
He or she has the power of veto over the laws of the city and regularly is in charge of preparing the city’s budget. The council passes city by laws that sets the tax rate on property, and apportions money among the various city departments for various developments that have been ratified by the council. Cities have grown and council seats have more often than not come to represent more than a single neighborhood. The Commission: This combines both the legislative and executive functions in one group of officials, usually three and more in number, elected all around the city. Each official supervises the work of one or more city departments.
One of the officials is named chairperson of the body and is often called the mayor, although his or her power is equivalent to that of the other commissioners. Council- Manager: The city manager is an answer to the increasing difficulty of metropolitan problems, which require management expertise not often possessed by elected public officials. The answer has been to entrust most of the executive powers, including law enforcement and provision of services, to a highly trained and experienced professional city manager. The person usually holding this office is a government employee sent to the council or city by the federal government.
The city manager plan has been adopted by a large number of cities. Under this plan, a small, elected council makes the city laws and regulations and sets policy, but hires a paid administrator, also called a city manager, to carry out its decisions. The manager draws up the city budget and supervises most of the departments. Usually, there is no set term; the manager serves as long as the council is satisfied with his or her work(Bruce, 1997) County government The county is a subdivision of the state, sometimes containing two or more townships and several villages.
New York City is so large that it is divided into five separate sections, each a county in its own right In most U. S. counties, one town or city is designated as the county seat, and this is where the government offices are situated and where the board of commissioners or supervisors meets. The board collects taxes for state and local governments; borrows and appropriates money; fixes the salaries of county employees; supervises elections; builds and maintains highways and bridges; and administers national, state, and county welfare programs Town and village government
Thousands of municipal jurisdictions are too small to qualify as city governments. These are chartered as towns and villages and deal with such strictly local needs as paving and lighting the streets; ensuring a water supply; providing police and fire protection; waste management; and, in cooperation with the state and county, directly administering the local school system. The government is usually entrusted to an elected board or council, which may be known by a variety of names: town or village council, board of supervisors, board of commissioners.
The board may have a chairperson or president who functions as chief executive officer, or there may be an elected mayor. Governmental employees may include a clerk, treasurer, police and fire officers, and health and welfare officers. One distinctive characteristic of local government is the town meeting. Once a year the registered voters of a town meet in open session to elect officers, debate local issues, and pass laws for operating the government. As a body, they decide on road construction and repair, construction of public buildings and facilities, tax rates, and the town budget.
The town meeting, which has existed for more than three centuries in some places, is often cited as the purest form of direct democracy. (Bruce, 1997) Voting in America is by adult Suffrage which is nearly universal for citizens who are18 years of age and older. All 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, contribute to the electoral vote for President. However, the District, and other U. S. holdings like Guam do not have states’ representation in Congress. They do not have the right to choose any political representative outside their respective areas.
Each commonwealth, territory, or district can only elect a non-voting delegate to serve in the House of Representatives. Voting rights are sometimes restricted as a result of felony conviction, but such laws vary widely by state. Election of the president is an indirect suffrage: Voters vote for electors to vote for President. The voters who elect a president are usually called the Electoral College. A candidate may have the majority of votes but looses in the Electoral College, this candidate is deemed to have lost the elections to the candidate who wins more votes in the Electoral College.
Finance In order to participate in winning elections, especially in Federal elections it requires large amounts of money. The money is usually used for television advertising. This money is always very hard to raise. Candidates raise their money by appealing to a mass base. Both the two major parties normally depend on wealthy donors and organizations. Traditionally the Democrats depend on contributions from organized labor while the Republicans rely on business donations. Democrats’ business donations have surpassed those from labor organizations.
This dependency on donors is contentious, and has led to laws limiting spending on political campaigns being enacted. Opponents of campaign finance laws challenge campaign finance laws on the grounds that they attempt to evade the people’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights. Even when laws are upheld, the complication of compliance with these laws requires careful and cautious drafting of legislation, leading to laws that are still fairly limited in scope. (Bruce, 1997) Voting There is the primary election.
This is an election in which voters in a jurisdiction select candidates for an ensuing election. Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the following general election. “Primaries” are widespread in the United States where their beginning is traced to the progressive movement. The primary elections are conducted by the government on behalf of the parties. Elsewhere in the world, the nomination of candidates is usually the responsibility of the political party organizations themselves and does not involve the general public.
Besides primaries, other ways that parties may choose candidates include caucuses; conventions and nomination meetings. There are several types of primaries. These include the open, semi open, closed semi closed. There is also the blanket type. In the closed type voters vote in a party’s primary only if they are registered members of that party. Independents cannot participate. In Semi-closed, as in closed primaries, registered party members can vote only in their own party’s primary. Semi-closed systems, however, allow unaffiliated voters to participate as well.
Depending on the state, independents either make their choice of party primary privately, inside the voting booth, or publicly, by registering with any party on Election Day. In an open style a registered voter may vote in any party primary regardless of his own party affiliation. When voters do not register with a party before the primary, it is called a pick-a-party primary because the voter can select which party’s primary he or she wishes to vote in on Election Day. Because of the open nature of this system, a practice known as “raiding” may occur.
“Raiding” consists of voters of one party crossing over and voting in the primary of another party, effectively allowing a party to help choose its opposition’s candidate. The theory is that opposing party members vote for the weakest candidate of the opposite party in order to give their own party the advantage in the general election. In a Semi-open style each voter may vote in any single primary, but must publicly declare which primary she will vote in before entering the voting booth. Typically this declaration is accomplished by requesting a ballot.
In many states with semi-open primaries, election officials record each voter’s choice of party and provide the parties access to this information. In the blanket type the voters are allowed to vote for one candidate per office, regardless of party affiliation. The current Presidential primary election schedule is that it gives undue weight to the few states with early primaries, as those states often build momentum for leading candidates and rule out trailing candidates long before the rest of the country has even had a chance to weigh in, leaving the last states with virtually no actual input on the process.
The counterargument to this criticism, however, is that, by subjecting candidates to the scrutiny of a few early states, the parties can “weed out” candidates who are unfit for office. (Bruce, 1997) Reference Bruce, E. J. (1997): Native American Political Systems and the Evolution of Democracy: Greenwood Press; Westport,

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