The constitution of the United States is the supreme law that guides the political, social and even economic undertaking of the people of the United States of America (George, 2009). It provides a guideline of duties and responsibilities among Americans, as well as the government operations. It was adopted on 17 September 1787. As the society experienced revolutions in all spheres, the constitution was amended accordingly to accommodate the new developments. To date, twenty-seven amendments have been made on the constitution. Nineteen of these were made before 1920. Of the nineteen, four specifically focused on the political environment of the United States. This indicates that the political environment during each of the amendments demanded a change on the constitution. This paper will look into each of the four amendments, dates of ratification and the political environment that necessitated them.
Twelfth Amendment (15 June, 1804)
This amendment sought to provide guidelines for electing a president and a vice president in different elections. Prior to its ratification, a presidential election was guided by article II, Sect. 1, Clause 3 where Electors voted two people, of which one must have come from a different state than the Elector. The person who received the highest number of votes became president as long as that number represented a majority of the Electors. The person who received second largest number of votes became a vice president. The House of Representatives decided ties (George, 2009).
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The ratification was necessitated by the 1796 election when Federalist Electors elected a president from their own party, but failed to marshal enough votes to elect a vice president of their own party. This raised a revelation that such occurrences could fuel poor working relations between the president and his vice, which could result into coups, since all the candidates initially worked for the same goal: the presidency. Under the twelfth amendment, Electors are required to distinctively vote a president and a vice president, unlike the previous order where electors cast two presidential votes. By this time, the political environment had changed to become hostile amongst parties (George, 2009). Members of a particular party could go to high heights to oust the sitting president in order to raise their vice president.
Fifteenth Amendment (3 February, 1870)
This was the third and final of the reconstruction amendments. It was passed to ensure that all people, irregardless of their race and past slavery records were able to vote in political elections. It prohibited the government at both state and federal levels from denying its people a chance to vote in leaders. This was fueled by the presence of millions of Black Americans who had been slaves and the congress was not sure whether to allow them to participate in elections or not. With slavery abolished by then through the thirteenth amendment, it was important to determine the fate of the former slaves - whether to give them full voting rights or otherwise. Republicans fought for the black Americans as they saw them as an opportunity of strengthening their numerical strengths. It was the Democrats, especially in the South that opposed the move, who politically divided the nation into two. The north where Republican Party was stronger supported voting, while the democrats dominated south were against the Black Americans voting. The political environment demanded that this move be ratified because millions of repatriated slaves became significant. Their release and emergence of their leaders put in pressure to the government, demanding that if the black people participated in paying taxes and other nation building activities, they were equally supposed to be accorded a right to elect their desired government.
Seventeenth Amendment (8 April, 1913)
The amendment saw the process to elect senators changed to popular vote from the earlier choosing by the state legislatures. The initial idea was supposed to ensure that there was no interference of senate voting by the federal government. It was a measure to reduce corruption and electoral deadlocks (George, 2009). It also provided new guidelines for replacing a senatorial seat if it became vacant for whatever reasons. The ratification of this amendment showed a significant increase in reforms and a better way of ensuring that the federal government did not micromanage states. It was an indication of political maturity where institutions were guided by the existing policies and institutions rather than mere suspicion and mistrust.
Nineteenth Amendment (18 August, 1920)
This amendment allowed women to vote in elections. It states that no citizen of the United States should be denied the right to vote in leaders because of their gender. Prior to this amendment, only men were allowed to vote. States were however tasked with providing a legislation outlining the requirements for such citizen to vote.
By this time, the US political leaders had appreciated the need to honor rights for everyone. First, they had been reluctant to accord the freed black slaves the right to vote but they eventually bowed to pressure and allowed them. The push by women showed that the democratic space had improved and this offered a platform for women to raise their issues. The freedom of association and general political environment was calm and could accommodate dialogue. Social groups were growing stronger and taking advantage of their right for association. The numbers provided these groups stronger while presenting their cases. Though the women leaders suffered immense rebellion from many quotas, the political environment coerced the state to consider proposals from the different groups, which were never admitted in the senate in the earlier years.