The book By the People gives a reflection on American politics and government. The text gives the readers insight into those who govern, what governments do, the US system of government, and an understanding of the US from a broader perspective. Through the text, readers get a glimpse of the congressional productivity, assessment of the presidential performance, and analysis of the capabilities of the office of the president. The book comprises rich US history and issues that spark debate among its readers leading to the development of informed and thoughtful citizens.
There has been a shift in congressional activities in regard to the number of laws passed. The problem emanates from different factors that influence that process. Factors such as the practice of legislative holds are key in curtailing Congress from passing many laws. Holds refer to an informal technique used by the upper house that gives a single or a group of senators the power to halt the process of law-making by placing a legislative hold on a certain bill (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 376). The hold delays floor action on a given matter or issue temporarily or permanently. The relevance of holds is to expedite the process of law-making rather than obstruct the process.
Nonetheless, holds have been informally used to object to a bill getting to the floor, thereby limiting the number of laws Congress can pass. Holds can be informational, which requires the relay of information or consultation with the Senate before a bill is taken to the floor. Rotating or revolving holds entail a situation where the senator, followed by another each, calls for holds. On the other hand, the chokeholds are meant to kill the bill on the floor.
Another cause for low congress productivity regarding the number of laws that the house passes is the application of filibuster. Senate filibuster requires a 60-vote supermajority to pass any legislation in the Senate. Though initially reserved for controversial issues, filibusters have become prominent in the house today. The application happens when a lone senator objects to a certain bill and holds the floor indefinitely until a period when a total of 60 senators votes for cloture (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 376). The use of filibusters has become some superior tactics affecting the number of laws that Congress passes.
Division within the government is another major cause of the low number of laws passed by Congress. The prevalence of polarization within the Congress is fuelled by racial divisions, regional divisions, and party disputes which halt or slow the business of the Congress. Divisions between the Democrats and the Republicans further include ideological differences as the former are liberals while the latter are conservatives (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 404). Factions within the government can lead to a legislative standoff, thereby limiting the legislative achievements of Congress.
A key solution to eradicating the use of legislative holds and filibusters is applying a cloture vote. Cloture was introduced in 1917 during the World War era to tackle the problem of delays in legislation. Cloture grants the senate ability to end a certain debate by ruling it by a vote. If the Senate meets the quorum, a two-thirds vote will end the prevalence of filibusters. Another way to solve the slow congressional productivity is by reducing lobbyists. Lobbyists tend to finance the campaigns for congress members to ensure they influence the house’s decision on certain issues (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 405). They are banning or limiting lobbyists and offer a way of improving congress productivity.
There are different ways of evaluating the performance of a president. One of the methods of determining a president’s performance is by analyzing the approval ratings. Though the figures might be exaggerated, an average on the polls can provide a clue on some of the administration’s ratings. Presidents performing better in polls receives increased press coverage and little opposition from Congress (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 432). The second evaluation method is through analyzing the policy leadership. During the inaugural address, the president presents his domestic and foreign policies. Policies call for the president to mobilize the public as well as the upper hand and Congress. Presidents with exemplary leadership skills tend to find less opposition from Congress. Today, presidents who efficiently implement policies touching on social equality indicate a positive performance.
Another method of evaluating a president includes analyzing how the president handles crisis management. Presidents are mandated to successfully lead the nation during any crisis, be it economic or political. A performing president swiftly develops programs to stimulate the nation in case of any economic crisis. Presidents who fail to deal with problems affecting the citizens lose their popularity and face the loss of voters in the next election. An example of this phenomenon is George Walker Bush and James Earl Carter Jr, who lost their re-election bids due to failure to handle an economic crisis. Crisis management also entails the management of the international crisis. A president’s response to foreign crises like terrorism affects his polls among the public. Abraham Lincoln was ranked as high-performing due to fighting vehemently to keep the union intact. On the other hand, Franklin Roosevelt was highly ranked for leading the US during World War II and making the US a superpower.
Two presidents for consideration for either success or failure in leadership include Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Barack Obama can be considered a successful president due to leading the nation from tough economic times. Obama also introduced significant health reforms amidst strict opposition, ended the US war in Iraq, and signed an agreement to deny Iraq nuclear weapons (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 431). The achievements of Obama through the Obama care and ending the US war in Iraq indicate Obama’s better performance in advancing social equality and public safety. These achievements are key indicators of good presidential performance.
On the other hand, former President Donald Trump, when compared to Barack Obama, he performed poorly. Trump’s stand on immigrants and the Muslim bans that banned Muslim refugees from being resettled in the US are factors that affected his performance. Another reason for the failure of Trump’s presidency is due to poor management of the economy and the decision to end US global alliances. These initiates affected the performance scorecard of the president, thereby finding it difficult to win re-election.
Over time, the United States president’s office has grown more powerful. In his duties, the US president holds a powerful role in defining the nation’s legislation; he is the top US diplomat. The commander in chief of the US forces and the head of state of one of the world’s most influential nations, among other roles (Morone & Kersh, 2018, p. 447). Though presidents have immense power, their duties and ambitions are confined by historical orders and policies. The presidential white house advisors and the executive office helps the president in different ways to manage the government.
Morone, J. A., & Kersh, R. (2018). By the people: Debating American government (3rd Ed.). Oxford University Press.