What is democracy? And most importantly is the United States and California Democratic? One of the first societies that exercised democracy was Athens. The Athenian people were democratic and valued political affairs. Thought out 594 B. C. E to 338 B. C. E democracy in Athens flourished. To the Greeks, democracy meant that the people ruled (L). Now we define democracy as popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty is when the people are the ultimate source of authority and the government does their bidding. In other words, the majority rules and the policies reflect the peoples desires.
Political equality means each person has to carry the same weight in voting and other political decisions. Political liberty gives the basic freedoms essential to human begins. Political liberty has freedom of speech, conscience, press, and assembly (L). The U. S. constitution and the California constitution have evolved over time to being more democratic, however, we still have a long way to go to reach our goal. Democracy is popular sovereignty, political liberty, and political equality. The U. S. constitution was signed by our founding fathers in 1787.
When our constitution was signed in 1787, only white, wealthy men could vote. Minorities could not vote. This refers to women, Hispanics, African Americans, and lower class people. Slavery was also very popular during that era. Afterward, our U. S. constitution has added seventeen amendments since the constitution was made (G&P, Ch. 2). Most of those changes, made the constitution more democratic. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished the practice of slavery. The Nineteenth Amendment allowed women to vote. There has been an increase in women and minority members in the house and senate.
Congress is unrepresentative toward the general population, this includes race, gender, age, wealth, and religion. Therefore, there should be more diversity in the legislative body to increase representation of minorities. Similarly, the TwentySecond Amendment limited the president to only two terms served in the house. The bill of rights is the first ten amendments to the U. S. constitution. The first congress pasted the bill of rights this supports democracy in the concept of political liberty, in the sense of the rights and liberty of the people.
In addition, the framers created separation of powers, whereby, the federal government is divided into three separate branches of power. Our bicameral congress divides its legislative power between the House and the Senate. The two chambers would serve as checks against each other’s authority, theoretically preventing either from ever gaining tyrannical power (G&P, Ch. 11). Therefore, the constitution has remained because the framers separated and balanced the governments powers to protect the interest of both majority and mind rights. People are born with rights that cannot be taken away.
These rights include, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People create government to protect these right. If government fails to protect peoples rights or itself becomes a threat to them, people can withdraw their consent from the government and from a new one (GBP 2). In California people can recall elected officials. The original California constitution was written in 1849 and later finalized in 1879. The California constitution has been amended several times. The progressive era in 1911 led to one 500 changes to the California constitution.
During the progressive era in 1902 to 1919, child labor laws and conservation policies were adopted (Field, Pg. 23). There is open primary which is more democratic because less extremum, anyone has access to vote for who they want as a representative initiative, adopted in 1911, allow people to have direct impact on law making. “progressives were the direct democracy powers that ballot box, as well as to recall elected officials from office through a special election” (Field, Pg. 23).
Therefore, the progressive era made the California constitution more democratic. Both the U. S. constitution and the California constitution are very similar, however the California constitution references property acquisition, safety, and privacy unlike the U. S. constitution. Consequently, the California constitution has changed to be more democratic. For instance, when the constitution was made there were no term limits. California term limit adopted in 1990, has contributed to a rise in minority representation. One example, Latino legislators increased from 6% in 1990 to 23% today (L). After the term limit racial diversity in the state legislator has expanded.
To ensure equal representation in the house there should be equal number of people. The term limit for the State legislators is six years, in the Assembly they serve eight years in the Senate. They can serve a maximum of 14 years in the legislature (L). Therefore, term limits give the voters a real choice of candidates. Non-partisan organization helps people participate more effectively in their communities and government affairs. Non-partisan organization helps implement public policy improve the relationship between the voter and the candidates.
A few years after the U. S. constitution was made they strongly focused on social and economic reform to improve the economy. America has a capitalist economy, therefore, productivity and distributions of goods and services are a priority. The United States has a wealthy economy however, it produces a substantial income and wealth inequality. America is known to be one of the richest developed country that does not redistribute its wealth to its people. A study in 2010 states, that 15% of Americans were officially below the government poverty line (G&P, Ch. 4).
Most of the Americans living in poverty are minorities. “The top 1% of households account for 34% of the total net worth of Americans in 2005” (G&P, Ch. 4). One may think that income inequality is not democratic. It would be more democratic is everyone was equal. However, “Americans believe in that one’s fate is in one’s own hands, end upon the top, equality of opportunity, and that people are natural competitors” (G&P, Ch. 4). This is a share belief in many Americans today which shows popular sovereignty.
The people influences the economy greatly from where they live, work, and spend. The interplay of these factors and the ways in which they are interpreted and played out through government policy and action affects the quality and nature of democracy” (G&P, Ch. 4). The American people are playing a huge role in the process of the United States to be more democratic. Furthermore, the U. S. constitution and the California Constitution have progressively become more democratic. There are now more diverse in age, race, and gender in congress than ever before. The peoples influence in government surpasses the founders desires from keeping the people out of the government decisions.
The people can now recall elected officials. People have a voice in government and opportunities to participate in our democracy. Whether in their community, state, and federal level. Finally, the American people are shaping their own lives with little help from the government. Equality of opportunity, advanced technology, and the internet are making our society a friendlier democracy to all. Our U. S. constitution and the California Constitution is slowly becoming a true democracy that has popular sovereignty, political liberty, and political equality.