Our republic’s citizenship is in decline. Not citizenship in terms of population but of interest in democratic participation by our fellow Americans. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania, only a quarter of Americans can name all three branches of government, the poorest showing on that particular question in half a dozen years.
The decline of this basic knowledge is dangerous to the well being of the union. We have taken the responsibility, with the help of experts at Richland College to write a crash course on some essential fundamentals of democracy in the United States.
CHECKS AND BALANCES/ THREE BRANCHES
The system of checks and balances is a paramount factor in the United States government for limiting power in each branch of government. It determines how far each branch can go before being stopped by another.
One of the three branches of government is the executive branch that enforces laws (president), the legislative branch that writes laws (Congress) and the judicial branch (Supreme Court) that interprets if laws are constitutional.
Government professor Kathy Yates mentions that “media should do a better job educating students. I am always shocked that my students know so little, sometimes they are surprised to know we have three branches of government.”
Another issue is the obsession with the president of the United States who is often seen as the almighty and sole savior of the republic every four years. In reality the presidency requires working with Congress to pass legislation and the courts to approve them. The vice presidency is often neglected when in fact they serve as a close adviser to the president as well as conducting nominations in the Senate. They must be prepared to immediately assume the presidency if the president dies while in office.
To date, four presidents have died of natural causes and four have been assassinated on the job. According to the APPC, a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults in August of 2016 found that 87 percent could name the Democratic presidential candidate, 84 percent could name the GOP presidential candidate, 37 percent could name the GOP candidate for vice president, and 22 percent could name the Democratic candidate for vice president.
“The top of the ticket is the presidential candidate, that’s the candidate that gets the most attention from the media. We don’t pay attention to things that we need to pay attention to,” said Yates.
WAR AND PEACE
It is often misinterpreted that the president can declare war for no reason like an emperor.
In fact, the president must ask Congress for a declaration of war, although it may send troops for a limited period of time.
It’s absurd that people seeking U.S. citizenship are tested on basic civic knowledge as opposed to a native-born citizen. We all can do better to fulfill our duties individually.
Democracy is a fancy term for self-government, in which the people work together to improve their own lives. The right to vote alone should be sacred to us because it’s not promised for everyone else in the world. If you don’t like your mayor, senator, or president their days are numbered and the power is
in our hands like a weapon.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “A vote is like a rifle, its usefulness depends on the character of the user.”
- Editorial Board