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American One, Few, and the Many

The constitution of the United States outlines the structure of government and also the relationship between the government and its citizens. This structuring creates checks and balances between the government and the people to ensure that there is limited tyranny from the many and from the few. Articles one through three enumerate certain powers granted to legislative, executive, and judicial branches that also intend to create a system of checks and balances through a division of power. Even within article one, the legislative branch is divided into two houses, a bicameral legislature, the house of representatives, and the house of the senate. For each of these two houses, the politicians themselves are elected differently and have different responsibilities and powers. The house of representatives is filled with members who are elected for only two-year terms and are chosen by the general population, at the beginning mostly wealthy men but we have extended suffrage to the real general population, within congressional districts. The senators were elected by the state legislatures, the 17th amendment changes this to the general population of a state, and serves 6-year terms with one-third of all senators being up for reelection every two years. The number of senators for each state was equal at two regardless of the population of the states. This bicameral system shows the concern that the framers had on the division of power where the house was elected by the general population and varies from state to state based on the total population of that state and the senate being few and equal for all states. This way the many did not have complete legislative authority over the few and the few did not have complete legislative authority over the many. This system has worked well for the past couple hundred years with some bumps in the road but systems such as the amending process, the constitution and the division of powers have made our union more perfect over time.

Outside of the legislative branch included the executive branch which is run by a unitary executive leader called the president. The president had nearly unanimous control over his branch with a few exceptions with appointments to cabinet positions that need to be approved by the senate along with treaties of peace and war and embassies. The president was elected by the states through an electoral college and served four-year terms. The twenty-second amendment limits presidential terms to two. The office of the president is an example of the power of one but that office also had checks and balances to deal with and is responsible for. The president can veto any bill that is passed by congress but can be overridden by ⅔ vote from both houses. The president can also be impeached starting with the house issuing the impeachment and the senate as jury and judge to convict. This way the one (president) had power over the few (senate) and the many (house) but that the few and many could remove the one as they see fit.

The third branch, the judicial branch, is the smallest and resides in the supreme court. Currently, there are nine members although there is no limit to how many there can be. These justices are not elected but nominated by the president and approved by the senate. The supreme court can be seen as the second group of the few, other than senators, given their impartiality to politics and focus on judicial issues that ought to remain out of party drama.

Outside of these branches are the powers of the amending process which is necessary in order to form a more perfect union since we did and still don’t have a perfect union so the only way to become more perfect is to be able to fix or amend the constitution whenever necessary. The amendments themselves have to be approved by the congress and president but also ¾ of the state legislatures as well. Here we see another instance of the one and few (the federal government) and the many (state governments). The amendments could be ordered into two classifications, this is something that I made myself, the first being administrative amendments and individual-rights amendments. The administrative amendments consist of those amendments that change the structure of government such as changing how senators are elected or putting term limits on the office of the president or changing how the vice president assumes power or creating income tax. The individual rights amendments include the first ten amendments, the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, nineteenth, twenty-fourth, and twenty-sixth amendments. The first ten amendments are historically called the Bill of Rights but I believe that we should change the term’s meaning to include any amendment that deals with the issue of rights like the six other amendments I included. This Bill of Rights that I describe can be seen as the eighth article of the Constitution since these amendments do not amend any other part of the constitution itself but do amend the relationship between the people and the government. The Bill of Rights as I understand them to be, is yet another example of the framers separating power between the few (including the one) and the many since the many citizens do not get to amend the constitution themselves, but the amendments do restrict government behavior to prevent tyranny against the people.

Overall the constitution does a decent job at resolving the issues between the one, the few, and the many. There are still issues that need to be addressed such as gerrymandering which is an overstep of the few to control the many; since it should be the people who choose the representatives, not the representatives who choose the people. There are issues with plurality voting and winner takes all for state and federal elections because that often means that less than a majority chooses the representatives and this system can be compared to gerrymandering on the state and federal level. Other than those few issues, the amount of peace and general prosperity of the union, compared to other nations, shows the success of the constitution in separating power, creating a system of checks and balances between many groups, forming a cohesive structure of government, and establishing a healthy relationship between the government and the people.

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