The events of Capitol Hill were an unprecedented event in American history, especially on a legal and institutional level. In this 3-part podcast, we will try to understand what happened and how it all contradicts American constitutional foundations.
To understand the causes of the crisis, let’s start with an understanding of the US Constitution and its birth dilemma: between democracy and governance.
The federal government of the United States was formed from the Federation of Former British Colonies as a result of the War of Independence. In 1789, delegates from 13 independent states elected the first American president, George Washington, to head the new federation.
The presidential elections took place according to the procedure laid down by the founding fathers in the Constitution of 1787. Since then, the US Constitution and the United States’ federal system of government have remained practically intact, although today the 13 states are 50, the population from 4 million at that time to more From 300 million, races, races, cultures and religions doubled. On the other hand, over the past two hundred years in Europe, structural institutional arrangements have constantly changed, moving from liberal states, to authoritarian states, to modern democracies.
The US Constitution was amended, over a period of two centuries, to introduce universal suffrage, the right of women to vote and the so-called bill of rights. Only the American people can change the constitution, not even Congress. Parliamentarians have the right of initiative, but they can only reach a charter amendment by a majority of both houses and 3/4 state parliaments.
The US Constitution, in its first form, consists of 6 articles that regulate the separation of the three powers, legislative, executive, and judicial, and the relations between individual states and the federal state. At the top of the structure is the figure of the president, to whom the constitution entrusts very important sectors, such as foreign policy, defense, monetary policy, and foreign trade.
There was no amendment to the original structure of the constitution, but 27 amendments were added to the first system.
The motto of the US Constitution is Bill of Rights The Bill of Rights consists of 10 amendments that enshrine fundamental rights and freedoms. The introduction to fundamental rights in the Constitutional Charter was the historical fruit of Thomas Jefferson’s intuition regarding European cultural ferment in the preceding years French Revolution. Jefferson, who would later become the third American president, was actually the US ambassador to France from 1785 to 1789. Self-rights that were born from Think European Enlightenment It was first coded in the United States than in Europe. The First Amendment to the US Constitution punishes religious freedom, forbidding the state from formally recognizing the religion and at the same time forbidding it from prohibiting its worship.
The American Constitution, written the day after the action Montesquieu The “spirit of laws”, the federal state structure is based on the most stringent implementation of The principle of separation of powersConsidered by the French philosopher. Legislative power rests with Congress, which is established by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The executive authority is the prerogative of the president. Judicial power is entrusted to the Supreme Court, whose members are appointed by the president but remain in office for life. The president has no legislative initiative, but he has the right to veto laws passed by Congress. The Supreme Court can invalidate a law it considers unconstitutional. It is quite unlikely that a citizen is part of two authorities at the same time, as it happens to us instead of ministers, who are usually also members of parliament. At the time of its codification, the US Constitution was an unprecedented text, which for the first time outlined in detail the functions, nature, and powers of each individual authority.
is being However, it is a mistake to think that US democracy, the motto of the Western world, has been completely handed over to the people. On the contrary, since the birth of the federal state, they were the founding fathers A reconciliation of popular power with the need to secure governance From many different countries, depending on race, culture and social background. During the birth of the United States, Europe was under the domination of the great kingdoms in the eighteenth century. The monarchical form, which seemed more favorable to the founders to ensure the rule of the great nascent state, however contradicted the principle of freedom and equality for all citizens before. The law supports a preamble Declaration of Independence 1776.
So the balance between governance and democracy was the result of a compromise reached by choosing one of the two Presidential democracy He is not a parliamentarian. The authority of the President of the United States is very clear, but it has a fixed and automatic expiration date. Popular power itself is tempered by a series of restrictions. Congress, which expresses the legislative power of the federal state, is elected by the people only to the House of Representatives, while the Senate is voted by the states, in the number of two senators for each state, regardless of large or small size. The President of the United States, at the head of the executive branch, is not elected directly by the people, but by the electoral districts. Its strong power is limited by the term of office, which expires strictly every 4 years. The date of elections, stipulated in the constitution, always falls in November, and unlike what happens in parliamentary democracies, it is immutable with regard to fluctuations in the balance of political power. Suffice it to say that since the establishment of the federal state, elections have not been suspended or postponed, not even during wars. For the sake of this sacredness given at the time of the presidential election, Trump’s proposal to postpone the election after the pandemic, to vote “safely”, caused an uproar in the United States.
>> Read (and listen) Episode 1 as well: Capitol Hill and American Democracy, What Happened?
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