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Describe the strengths and weakness of the presidential system of government in the United States when compared to the parliamentary system used in countries like the United Kingdom.

Describe the strengths and weakness of the presidential system of the government in the United States when compared to the parliamentary system used in countries like the United Kingdom. Do you believe the presidential system in the United States ultimately helps or hinders how political ideologies achieve their stated goals?

 

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The United States is a constitutional republic with all of the executive power vested in the executive branch, which is headed by the President. The President and Vice President are chosen by the citizen voters—although technically electors cast the actual votes.

In a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is the...

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The United States is a constitutional republic with all of the executive power vested in the executive branch, which is headed by the President. The President and Vice President are chosen by the citizen voters—although technically electors cast the actual votes.

In a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons and is appointed by the monarch. So the voters in the UK only vote for the Members of Parliament (MP), not the Prime Minister. Therefore, the voters in the US have more say-so over their head of government. This underscores the fact that in the UK the monarch is the sovereign while in the US the People are the sovereign.

While the election and duties of the President are spelled out in the Constitution, the duties of the Prime Minister are conventions that have evolved over time and are not spelled out in black and white. Presumably those duties could be altered, absent the will of the electorate. The US President is also the Commander-in-Chief. In the UK the Commander-in-Chief is the monarch.

While the President has authority to execute the laws, their party platform can be helped or hindered by Congress, which makes the laws. The President does have limited executive authority that can modify existing laws or create new regulations that often act like laws.

The Prime Minister, on the other hand, plays a stronger guiding role in lawmaking, and powers are not separated in this parliamentary system. While in the United States different factions at different times can stymie a legislative agenda, what results is that laws that do pass in the US usually have some measure of bipartisan consensus.

It seems that in the parliamentary system one side a has significant advantage over the other, but this advantage can change very quickly if the Prime Minister loses support or if the opposition calls for a vote of no confidence or a general election. The notion of an entire government changing very quickly is foreign to the US voter, because even if a President is removed from office, the Vice President will take their place and maintain some continuity.

While this one-sided advantage may be preferable for an idealogue, in general the slow evolution of laws and societal changes provides more stability.

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The main strength of the President relative to the Prime Minister in a parliamentary system is that he or she is independent of the legislature. In Great Britain and other parliamentary systems, the Prime Minister is essentially chosen from the party that holds a majority in Parliament (or at least is able to marshal a coalition of parties). This means that if the party loses their majority, the Prime Minister is out of office. It also means that they have to accede to the will of the majority more than the President, who serves four-year terms regardless of the results of midterm elections.

On the other hand, the fact that the President is independent of the legislature can be a weakness when viewed from another angle. If the President's party does not control both houses of Congress, it can be very difficult to enact their agenda. If the President is a Democrat, for instance, a Republican Senate can either vote down legislation the President supports or refuse to bring it to a vote in the first place. Even if the President's party is in the majority, the minority in the Senate can still filibuster legislation they do not wish to pass.

So, in short, the fact that the President is independent from the legislature means that the office is not, like that of a Prime Minister, subject to the immediate will of the body. It also means, however, that the chief executive may struggle to enforce his or her agenda.

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In America, the president is blamed for every little thing.  Yet it is still more likely that an incumbent will be re-elected.  The president is also beholden to campaign contributors who helped get him elected.  The other problem with our presidency is that second term presidents are soon considered worthless lame ducks, with everyone just waiting for the next president, while first term presidents have to spend vital time and energy on re-election campaigns while in office.

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Regarding post #2 above, I agree with you to an extent.  With that being said, some would argue that what you consider a weakness was an inherent strength designed by the framers of the Constitution.  The "gridlock" you speak of, while often times inconvenient, prevents sudden, wide sweeping changes that can take away the rights of citizens in the blink of an eye.

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The main weakness of the presidential system is that the president does not necessarily have control of Congress.  For that matter, neither party necessarily controls Congress.  That can lead to the sort of gridlock that we have now where the President and the Senate are "controlled" by the Democrats and the Republicans have the House.  That could never happen in the British system.

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