In what ways is the Constitution democratic? In what ways is it not?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Constitution is generally regarded as a plan of government that has many democratic features. However, there are some parts that may not be viewed as democratic. The democratic philosophy can be seen in how we elect our leaders. We choose the members of Congress by voting for them. They are supposed to represent the wishes of the majority of the people they represent. This is how a democracy, or more specifically, a democratic republic is supposed to work. We also vote for our President and Vice President. Here is where it gets a little tricky.

In the original document, we only elected the members of the House of Representatives. The state legislature chose the two United States Senators. This was changed during the Progressive Era with the 17th amendment. However, for well over 100 years, we didn’t elect the United States Senators. We also don’t directly elect the President and Vice President. Members of the Electoral College do this. The writers of the Constitution believed the average person was not capable of electing these people, so they put in what they thought was a safeguard, and had special electors choose these people. There have been a few times where the candidates who received more of the people’s vote didn’t become President and Vice President. Finally, there are some judges that aren’t elected. They are appointed, and in some cases, may serve for life. Thus, the Constitution, while generally viewed as a document promoting democracy, has a few situations where that isn’t exactly the case.

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