The four major political institutions of the US are the Congress, the President, the bureaucracy, and the Supreme Court. Each of them, with different authorities and constituencies, keeps the entire nation function orderly and lawfully through collaboration and mutual oversight. They each have particular strengths that make them irreplaceable.
The major strength of Congress lies in its ability to exercise its three functions – lawmaking, representation, and oversight – on a large scale simultaneously. The two chambers, in total, consists of 100 senators and 435 representatives that specialize in different policy areas and expertise. The fragmentation of both the Senate and the House of representatives into committees and subcommittees allows the handling of scores of small issues at the same time with each group acting independently. Since people with similar and in-demand expertise are assigned to tasks that are relevant to their knowledge, they can administrate policies most effectively. Lastly, the different departments of Congress oversee the corresponding departments of the executive branch to keep them accountable. Without the enormous body of officials and organizations, such tasks would be impossible.
The major strength of the President is its vaguely defined constitutional role as the chief executive, which means the president is responsible for executing the laws faithfully and appointing major administrators. When the final authority of execution rests with a single individual, the president can direct the actions of others and undertake large-scale planning promptly at the time of emergency. Despite the Congress has the power to check the legislations and commands proposed and carried out by the president, it is not designed to work as efficiently as an individual can. No single person can do things on behalf of the entire Senate nor the House of Representatives. Any laws require the approval of the majority in both chambers, requiring a time-consuming process of negotiation and revision. When facing a crisis such as a terrorist attack or international military invasion, Congress does not possess the ability to make the prompt and needed response, which the president can. As a result, as an individual with the final authority, the President can often make big decisions without the approval of Congress in certain circumstances, such as international negotiation and crisis.
The bureaucracy’s strength comes from the expertise owned by a large body of officials. Congress cannot deal with the administration of policies due to its limited capacity and expertise in specific areas when comes to the detailed implementation of the policies. Thus, the bureaucrats, who have abundant experiences in working in particular areas and garnered expertise through committee work become the main executor of the policies ratified by Congress. The Congress seldomly goes to the nitty-gritty details of how a policy is being played out in certain areas, therefore, bureaucrats are given the power to “make laws”, which influence people and the country from the bottom up. Lastly, due to the immense number of bureaucrats and the programs they run, Congress cannot oversee every aspect and every program regularly. This leaves the bureaucrats a huge space to profit and expand their power.
Lastly, the Supreme Court, also called the “World’s most powerful court”, has its main strength in resolving and having the final say of the countless political disputes in the US government system. The division and limitation of powers in the form of three branches, national and state levels, government, and individuals all create disputes that must be resolved by an authority to maintain the order of the country. Supreme Court decides whether an action or legislation violates the Constitution, federal law, or treaties. As a result, it influences all people. institutions, government, and state in terms of granting or bereaving them protection and justification of law.
When examining the strength of the four institutions of the US government, we must consider the defects of the current system that undermine American democracy. US politics and government is built upon the fundamental principle of checks and balances that is achieved through the limiting and dividing of powers. Too much strength can become detrimental if grows unboundedly. There are a number of them that we can see in the 21st century. For example, the increasing power of the president, the polarization of the Congress and the Supreme Court, and the corruption of bureaucrats and Congressmen can potentially be harmful to democracy.