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From the articles I-XXVII of the US Constitution, what are five examples of violations of popular sovereignty, political equality, political liberty, justice, and/or democracy?

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When speaking about the US Constitution (especially in the context of the original Framers of the Constitution), you should recognize that the Founding Fathers actually distrusted direct democracy, fearing its capacity to devolve into mob rule. We should remember that, while the Constitution envisioned a system of checks and balances...

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When speaking about the US Constitution (especially in the context of the original Framers of the Constitution), you should recognize that the Founding Fathers actually distrusted direct democracy, fearing its capacity to devolve into mob rule. We should remember that, while the Constitution envisioned a system of checks and balances to counter potential threats to liberty, popular rule itself was perceived as one of those potential threats, and thus any manifestations of popular sovereignty and the popular will (while it ought to be honored and respected) also needed to be contained, as the turbulent and potentially destructive force that the Founding Fathers perceived it to be.

We see various examples of this in practice (some of which still function today). Consider presidential elections and the Electoral College (which represents a blatant violation of popular sovereignty). Interestingly, the US population does not actually vote directly for a presidential candidate: what they vote for are electors who will then cast a ballot on a candidate's behalf. This allows for a level of disconnect between the population and the electoral process and (by its very design) allows the electors, if necessary, to circumvent the popular will.

For a second example (also electoral), consider how the election of senators originally worked (though this was changed by the Seventeenth Amendment). Originally, as devised by the framers of the Constitution, senators were not chosen by popular election but rather by the state legislatures. Furthermore, it should be noted that the very idea of a powerful federal government (as the Framers envisioned) with such wide-ranging powers was seen by many in the post-Revolutionary generation as an affront to liberty. Remember, we're speaking about the post-colonial era, where communications were slow and identity was primarily local. With that in mind, most Americans associated primarily with the states, and these engines of state and local government would have been the primary apparatuses of government most Americans could, at the time, feasibly access at any meaningful level at all.

Finally, when discussing the Constitution (especially as it was originally devised) we must also grapple with the history of slavery (a political reality which was upheld within the Constitution and would not be abolished until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment). In addition, we can point towards the example of the Nineteenth Amendment, to note that women were only guaranteed the right to vote in 1920.

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There are only seven articles in the United States Constitution. There are twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution. There are several ways in which the United States Constitution violates popular sovereignty, political equality, political liberty, justice, and democracy.

One example of how the United States Constitution violates popular sovereignty is the process of how we elect our President. The Electoral College actually chooses our President. There have been a few instances where a candidate won the popular vote but lost the vote in the Electoral College. This happened in the presidential election of 2016.

An example of how political equality is violated can be seen with the United States Senate. Each state, regardless of its population, has two senators. As a result, senators from states with large populations represent more people than senators from states with smaller populations.

Several examples of the violation of democracy and political liberty are that there are limits on who can run for the Congress and for the presidency. A person must be at 25 years old to run for the House of Representatives. To run for the United States Senate, a person must be at least 30 years. To run for the presidency, a person must be at least 35 years old.

Our Supreme Court justices are appointed and confirmed by the Senate. This violates the idea of popular sovereignty and may violate the concept of justice. When the Senate refused to vote on the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland because he was appointed in the last year of President Obama’s term, many people felt this was a violation of justice.

All of these points are examples of violations of popular sovereignty, political equality, political liberty, justice, and democracy.

Further Reading

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First of all, please note that there are not 27 articles to the Constitution of the United States.  Instead, there are only seven articles.  In addition, there are 27 amendments that have been ratified since the Constitution was created.  It is not clear whether you mean that we should find violations within the Constitution proper or whether you are including all the amendments.  Here are some violations:

  • Article I, Section 2 says that people cannot be elected to the House of Representatives if they are not at least 25 years old.  This violates popular sovereignty because it does not allow people to vote for whomever they want.  It also violates political liberty because it discriminates against people under 25 years of age.
  • Article I, Section 3, gives two senators to each state.  This violates political equality.  It means (today) that all the 38 million people in California are only represented by two senators, just the same as the 580,000 people in Wyoming.  This gives each person in Wyoming much more say over the Senate than each person in California.
  • This same article says a person cannot be a senator unless they are at least 30 years old.  This violates the same things that I mentioned in the first bulleted point.
  • Article I, Section 9 lists all sorts of things that the Congress cannot do.  This violates popular sovereignty.  The government should be able to do whatever the people want.  If the people want the government to make an ex post facto law, the idea of popular sovereignty says they should get their way.  Every amendment to the Constitution that says “Congress shall make no law…” does this as well.
  • Article II, Section 1 creates the Electoral College.  This violates popular sovereignty because it does not allow the people to elect the president directly.

All of these are, arguably, violations of aspects of democracy.

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