The U.S. Constitution adheres to a federal design, making it the most impactful document on the nation’s politics. Since the creation of the republic, Americans have debated the advantages and disadvantages of this system of governance. This paper revisits the discourse but revitalizes it by adding a democratic twist. The federal structure has proven beneficial because it has enabled the country to foster national unity, but the current political culture threatens the gains through an ineffective representation of the people in Congress.
One of the greatest strengths of a federal system of governance is its unique ability to accommodate regional preferences and diversity. The principle of decentralization of power undergirding this system permits flexibility, allowing the nation to enjoy a sense of unity by accommodating minimizing the winner-takes-all nuisance that a democratic national governance approach inevitably attracts. For instance, consider a scenario wherein America comprised only Texas and California, with a population of 3 million each. If 40 percent of Texans and 70 percent of Californians wish to outlaw marijuana while the rest disagree, a national democratic settlement would please 3.3 million people 2.7 million disgruntled. In contrast, a separate decision based on majorities in each state would satisfy 3.9 million Americans. State laws in a federation are adaptable to accommodate economic and social preferences, even at experimental levels, thus strengthening national cohesion.
Despite being relatively beneficial, a federal structure has its cons. This system is infamous for impeding national unity while investing in the costly undertaking of fostering it. True harmony remains elusive in the U.S. because the country lacks a standard policy on crucial issues. It is common to encounter 52 regulations regarding a given matter, reflecting the nation’s commitment to appealing to the tenets of autonomy of each state, but this often leads to confusion. For instance, although recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states, pot regulations vary in all of them. The lack of a uniform guideline complicates governance and increases maintenance costs, especially under the historically unbalanced legislature.
Congress is regrettably the most insidious mockery of democracy in contemporary American society. It has held the country’s political culture at ransom by failing to adapt to America’s progressive idea as one of the world’s most culturally and socially diverse nations. It unrelentingly adheres to a binary approach in screening potential lawmakers before elections. For example, the current U.S. Congress comprises 535 voting members, and almost all of them are either Democrats or Republicans. These statistics have remained virtually the same for over a century, suggesting that the country’s political environment is exclusive and hostile to those espousing political ideologies challenging the interests of these dominant parties.
The Congress’s failure to adequately represent Americans is further engraved in its glaring inequalities. It is disheartening that a country whose history is stained with egregious acts of racial injustice would still have whites overrepresented in Congress, whereas blacks and other people of color remain underrepresented. When it is conventionally agreed that systemic racism exists, it is difficult to believe that the situation will improve if the same perpetrators dominate policy-making avenues.
In conclusion, a federal system of governance has benefitted the U.S. in many ways, but its full potential remains untapped. The country could realize many benefits of this governance approach by eliminating rigid political structures that only perpetuate inequality in the legislative arm. Streamlining ways for the most disadvantaged groups, such as women, blacks, and Latinos, to be represented in Congress seems a great starting point.