US is a Representative, Constitutional, Presidential, Federal, Liberal Democracy

The United States is a Representative, Constitutional,
Presidential, Federal, Liberal Democracy with a Bicameral Legislature

  1. Representative Democracy
  2. Constitutional Democracy
  3. Presidential Democracy
  4. Federal Democracy
  5. Liberal Democracy
  6. Bicameral Legislature
Representative Democracy
  • The US political system is a representative democracy, with government decisions, laws, and policies made by officials who:
    • represent the “people”
    • are accountable to them
    • are elected by them through frequent, free, and fair elections.
  • Versus direct democracy.
    • A direct democracy in the basic sense is a democracy run by an assembly of citizens rather than elected representatives.
    • Direct democracy also refers to elections on referenda and initiatives within a representative democracy, where citizens vote yea or nay on a proposition rather than for a candidate for office.
      • At the state and local levels citizens in the US vote on propositions, state constitutional amendments, and bond issues.
      • Switzerland uses referenda and initiatives at the national level.
        • “One of the unique aspects of Switzerland’s constitution is the number of decisions it requires citizens to make through referenda and initiatives. Sovereign power ultimately rests with the people, who vote on proposed legislation several times a year at the national level and often more frequently in the cantons; indeed, Switzerland has held more than half of the world’s national referenda.” (Britannica)
  • Institutions of Representative Democracy, Robert Dahl, Britannica
    • Representation
      • All major government decisions and policies are made by popularly elected officials, who are accountable to the electorate for their actions.
    • Free, fair, and frequent elections
      • Citizens may participate in such elections both as voters and as candidates
    • Freedom of expression.
      • Citizens may express themselves publicly on a broad range of politically relevant subjects without fear of punishment
    • Independent sources of information.
      • There exist sources of political information that are not under the control of the government or any single group and whose right to publish or otherwise disseminate information is protected by law; moreover, all citizens are entitled to seek out and use such sources of information.
    • Freedom of association. 
      • Citizens have the right to form and to participate in independent political organizations, including parties and interest groups.
Constitutional Democracy
  • A constitution defines the “fundamental norms governing the political community and determining the relations between the rulers and the people and the interaction among the centers of power. ” (Britannica)
  • Like most democracies, and unlike the UK, Israel, and New Zealand, the United States has a written constitution.
Presidential Democracy
  • In a presidential democracy the head of executive branch is elected by the people.
  • In a parliamentary democracy political power is vested in an elected legislature, which elects the chief executive, the prime minister.
Federal Democracy
  • In a federal political system power is shared between a central and regional governments.
  • In a unitary political system governing power is concentrated in a centralized government.
Liberal Democracy
  • An inherent weakness of democracy is the risk of the tyranny of the majority, that an elected majority can pass laws oppressing those in the minority, e.g. by making behavior of which they disapprove a crime, e.g. contraception, abortion, and same-sex sexual relations.
  • In a liberal democracy constitutional rights protect individuals against the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of government.
  • Liberalism is the doctrine that the core responsibility of government is to protect individual freedom.
Bicameral Legislature
  • Congress has two chambers, the House and Senate
  • A unicameral legislature has only one chamber.