Presidential History


Presidential History


In America we live in a Constitutional Republic made up of three branches: executive branch, legislative branch and judicial branch all of which rely on a system of checks and balances in order to prevent one branch from becoming more powerful than the others. While the legislators are the ones with the most power because they write the laws, and the judicial branch is responsible for upholding laws or overturning them, the branch with the most influence both domestically and abroad is the executive branch even though they have the least amount of power. To elect the president, the people elect the members of the electoral college by having 2 senators from each state plus the numbers of each state’s representatives and the representatives are proportioned by the population of each state and the 3 delegates from Washington DC. In order to win, the candidate must earn a total of 270 electoral votes. There are a total of 538 electors. The executive branch is headed by the President of the United States and his main roles include enforcing the laws, veto or sign bills passed by both houses of congress, ask permission from congress to go to war, and in times of national emergency has the ability to issue executive orders without congress’s approval. Though limited in power, a President’s agenda and policies are usually used as a way to set a model for which they hope the nation will follow. Some of the more charismatic presidents within the past 30 years include Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and the current President Barack Obama. Some people remember the names of the 44 presidents but not that many people actually know the order in which they were elected nor do they really understand the significance of each president and what they actually accomplished.

In the early years of this country the two more prominent leaders were General George Washington and Thomas Jefferson who was nicknamed “The Father of The Declaration of Independence”. General Washington, the hero of the Revolutionary War, went on to become the first President and later Thomas Jefferson became the third President. Following the Revolutionary War, the early milestones occurred when in 1803 Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition and was also responsible for paying the french $15 million (over $319 million dollars in 2015) in order to acquire the Louisiana territories comprised of 827,000 square miles which is now the central region of the United States. The United States wasted no time expanding their power and influence

Civil liberties have always been called into question since day one of this great nation. The earliest president to care for the rights of African Americans was John Quincy Adams who only served 4 years in office. John Q. Adams, who is the son of John Adams, was never given a fair shake due to the fact that John Q. Adams and Andrew Jackson stalemated in the electoral college which lead to the House of Representatives to break the deadlock. This was the first and only time in our nation’s history where we had to let the house decide and a ⅔ majority is required to win. Most people at the time believed that the system was rigged and the house and Adams junior created a backroom deal to decide the presidency. So if you add what happened in the election and his anti-slavery and pro-abolition agenda, John Quincy Adams essentially became enemy number one. This was just one early battle in a long fight for equality for all races. After Quincy Adams, it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln became president that we finally had a political leader who deeply cared about abolitioning slavery.

Since the emancipation proclamation signed by Lincoln on January 1, 1863 freed all slaves, every generation since is responsible for advancing civil right for all races. Some of the key steps taken to ensure equality for freed blacks include the 13th amendment with the abolition of voluntary and involuntary slavery and servitude along with the 14th and 15th amendment allowing people of all races to vote and equal protection from the laws. Later, the 24th amendment was passed in 1966 which requires the prohibition of poll taxes at polling stations. These taxes were set up to create barriers for blacks and minorities to suppress their voting rights. Presidents play a key role in passing amendments because an amendment first goes through the House and Senate requiring ⅔ of the vote in each chamber of congress. The president has the ability to sign the amendment before a state convention can be held, and if  ¾ of the states vote to ratify the amendment, that amendment gets added to the United States Constitution which is the law of the land. If, however, the president fails to sign off on the proposed amendment, then no convention of the states can occur and the amendment then fails to be ratified. As you can see, the president of the United States does serve a certain amount of influence on American politics even though they have limited powers.

In addition to civil rights for blacks and other minorities, gender equality has also been an ongoing equal rights movement that continues today. Over the last 240 years this country has had certain presidents that have had an extremely hard time advancing civil rights and the overall well being of it’s citizens. During World War One  (1914 to 1918) President Woodrow Wilson had zero chance to put forth his socially economic policies and subsequently during World War Two (1939 – 1945) President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) had similar problems carrying out his socialistic policies. President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s (LBJ) advancement of Military operations in Vietnam prevented Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement from gaining national attention. These catastrophic wars at the time were merely a distraction from the real American issues like civil liberties. While Woodrow Wilson, FDR and LBJ failed to focus on race equality during their presidencies, a new era of equality movement evolved once the 1970s rolled around. That movement was the women’s rights equality.

Following Roe V. Wade, pro-abortion became the top issue in the women’s rights movement and the second most important issue was income inequality. In the early 1970s when Richard Nixon was president, the pro-women and pro-abortion activist were pushing to get congress and the president to sign off on an Equal Rights Amendment and President Nixon declined to sign such an amendment which became a win for the pro-life activists. Following Nixon’s resignation, President Gerald Ford decided to prevent congress from voting for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment which became another win for Pro-life activist. There were two assassination attempts on Ford’s life over his inaction over women’s rights. Both attempts were carried out by women. One of the women was deemed mentally ill and the other claimed she did it to show her disappointment with Ford’s position on the women’s rights movement.  In spite of all this the feminist movement is alive and well and some women are still fighting for the passage of an Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

In a country where Equality and personal liberties are the highest priorities, it is important to remember that this government is run by the consent of the people not the political elites. The societal behaviors and functions depend on the influence of the president, but ultimately the president does not have any control over creating laws and must decide what is best for the country when a proposed bill awaits his signature even if that means going against public demands. Finally the most important part happens where if you don’t like the current president you have the power to vote he or she out of office.


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