UCI Separation of Powers Paper

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Place yourself in the role of assistant to the op-ed editor for the Orange County Register newspaper.  A staff writer submits an op-ed about the current state of democracy in the USA.  Your boss asks you to evaluate all the statements in the article based on the knowledge you obtained from your introduction to the American government course at UCI.  The piece reads as follows:

American democracy is clearly failing.  The 18th-century horse and buggy constitution that the USA is stuck with was not designed to deliver the efficient response to problems that are required in the 21st century for good governance.  The system of separate institutions sharing powers repeatedly leads to frustrating gridlock that accomplishes nothing for the American people.  The people themselves have proved the doubters of democracy prescient concerning the inability of typical citizens to participate meaningfully in self-government.  The lack of public information about political matters in the USA is stunning and disheartening.  Of course, this state of affairs can be partially blamed on the American mass media’s regular focus on sensational stories that will earn them the most profit.  And to make matters worse, the fragmentation of the media environment has led to a situation where most voters only hear from the side of the political spectrum that they agree with.  This situation could be ameliorated by the political parties taking clear opposing stances that could get through to voters, but all too often the Democrats and Republicans obscure their issue stands with vague rhetoric. Furthermore, when it comes to governing the parties all too often lack coherence in action, as they cannot compel their members to vote the party line.  Finally, American elections are full of biases, such as 1) the outsized importance of unrepresentative early states in the presidential nomination process; 2) the travesty of the Electoral College allowing a candidate to win the presidency without the most popular votes; and 3) the low turnout among certain demographic groups and in comparison to most other established democracies.  In sum, the United States should NOT be held up as a model democracy.       


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