In what ways is the Constitution both democratic and undemocratic?In what ways is the Constitution both democratic and undemocratic?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Constitution of the United States is both democratic and non-democratic in that it seeks to represent all the people in the nation but falls short of direct participatory democracy. Instead, it features a form of representative democracy where people elect others to represent large segments of the population.

The word democratic can be explained to mean one person gets one vote -- but the Constitution doesn't follow this basic plan. Instead, it created a representative democracy. People vote for their representatives and those representatives vote as they please -- there is no mechanism that requires them to vote for the will of the people they represent.

Also, not all people are equally represented. The Connecticut Compromise gave each state two senators, no matter how populous it was. This means that in some cases, two senators represent very few people in comparison to senators from larger, more populous states. 

There are also several undemocratic ideas in the original Constitution, some of which have been removed via amendment. They include:

  • slavery
  • lack of voting rights for women and non-white people
  • the appointment of senators

However, the ideals of democracy written into the Constitution have stood through the years, especially as it has been amended to better represent the entire population. Everyone gets to vote for representatives and those representatives have equal power, in theory. That is a very democratic aspect of the Constitution. 

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Constitution certainly created and helps to uphold a democratic nation.  It outlines and sets in place a particular democratic government and set of laws.  It could be argued, however, that the creation of this document was notably undemocratic.  The men who wrote the Constitution were not necessarily elected.  Certainly they were great leaders, but there was no formal election process in place to select them to write this document.  The Constitution was written behind closed doors and signed by the authors.  It was not voted on in the same way that laws and bills are voted on today.  The people of the newly forming American nation didn't have the same ability to offer input and make a selection that we enjoy today.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are other important ways in which the Constitution is not democratic.  For example:

  • It does not give the vote to women.
  • It allows slavery.
  • It has the president being elected by an Electoral College, not by the people.
  • It has (originally) Senators being elected by state legislatures, not by the people.

In these ways, you can say it is undemocratic.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends on whether or not you are referring to the original Constitution if you are looking at post 3.  The main way in which the Constitution is democratic is that it allows people rights of expression in the Bill of Rights, which is a list of amendments.  The Constitution can be amended through a democratic process because the elected representatives of the people are the ones amending it.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is primarily undemocratic in the sense that (as post #4 mentions) it does  not provide for direct voter participation, but for representatives who make decisons and then must stand for re-election. I would imagine that direct democracy could run amuck if it were applied too often.

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