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AS and A Level: United States

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Important events in American politics

  1. 1 The Constitution (1787) – The Constitution underpins American Politics. Understanding when and how it came about is essential. You should know the key articles of the Constitution and key amendments in the Bill of Rights.
  2. 2 Civil War (1861-1865) – This is an important time not only in terms of race but also in the development of political parties. Understanding why the War took place and the consequences of it will help to understand some deep rooted feelings in America.
  3. 3 1930s – It is important to understand the impact that FDR’s New Deal had on American society. The New Deal helped to develop the scope and ideas of the Democratic Party, started a shift in voting behaviour and had a significant impact on the concept of Federalism.
  4. 4 1960s –The Civil Rights Movement played an important role in race relations leading to the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. JFK and LBJ are a good example of a balanced ticket. LBJ’s ‘Great Society’ had an impact on federalism, voting behaviour (through the demise of the ‘solid south’) and party strategy. The President’s role of ‘Commander in Chief’ is also evident through America’s continued involvement in Vietnam.
  5. 5 Post 9/11 – An understanding of how the events of 9/11 changed the way America viewed not only itself but also the rest of the world is important. The impact of the event including military conflict with Afghanistan and the subsequent ‘War on Terror’ should be understood along with the impact it had on US citizens ‘rights’.

How to become a successful politics student

  1. 1 Keep up to date – Sign up for updates from The Washington Post or The New York Times. You can even get updates from good news sources on social networking sites.
  2. 2 Read – Race of Lifetime (an account of the 2008 Presidential Election) will provide you with good political information, whilst American Literature will help to embed knowledge of American society.
  3. 3 Watch –The West Wing is an excellent American TV series to watch and whilst the content is fictional, the procedures shown will definitely help you to understand how American Politics works. Recount is a good film depicting the problems in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election.
  4. 4 Make – To keep track of key political vocabulary make your own dictionary. Often it is necessary to define key terms so keeping a dictionary of key words and their definitions can be really helpful.
  5. 5 Enjoy – Talk about what you have learnt. Explain things to friends and family. Discuss ideas with other people in your class.

Essay writing and exam technique

  1. 1 Accurate and appropriate information – The biggest problem for most American politics students is that they often have lots to say but not enough time to say it. It is essential to plan your answer so you only include appropriate information.
  2. 2 Structure – For essay questions you need to define three or four areas to be dealt with systematically. Remember that each point or area of discussion should be easy to identify by the reader and that examples are important to back up your ideas.
  3. 3 Balanced argument – Make sure you have explored different viewpoints, theories and concepts as this will help to make sure that your answer is balanced.
  4. 4 Analysis and evaluation – There are often more marks awarded for analysis and evaluation at A2 than at AS. You need to analyse the points that you are making by commenting on why they are relevant and how they impact the argument.
  5. 5 Synoptic approach – You need to demonstrate that you have developed an understanding of the subject as a whole and not just learnt to recall specific bits of information. Bringing in information learnt in other units is appropriate or make comparisons with the UK political system.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 7
  • Peer Reviewed essays 2
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Outline how and why federalism has changed since the 1960s.

    5 star(s)

    He felt that the federal government should be small to promote self reliance and the American idea of 'rugged individualism'. As a reaction to creative federalism and the great society programme, he severely reduced aid to the states, and instead of issuing categorical grants, he would give states block grants. Uncharacteristically, President Carter, a democrat president carried on Nixon's ideas of New Federalism. From the 60's and before, it was clear that the democrats supported the ideas of a large federal government; however he was a governor, thus he wanted to give the states more freedom to act.

    • Word count: 1289
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Consider the view that the arguments for having an electoral college to elect the President are no longer valid

    5 star(s)

    In theory, this sounds great and not many can argue against this basic reasoning. However, its execution is woefully wrong as it fully underestimates the electorate assuming they cannot be trusted to make informed decisions. However, this is not the only basic flaw with the system: it is also, in theory at least, incredibly undemocratic. Legally (and constitutionally) the electors are only to be "influenced" by their state's results on Election Day and therefore should, in theory, be apolitical beings.

    • Word count: 1797
  3. Marked by a teacher

    The ideology of the Democrats is liberal whilst that of the Republicans is Conservative. Discuss

    4 star(s)

    In this era, the government utilised Keynesian economics and expanded its reach nationally, helping the unemployed by providing jobs. Though these 'tax and spend' have become unfashionable in recent years, most Democrats would identify themselves as liberals. Recent policies would support this argument. In January 2009, a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress passed a 700 billion dollar economic stimulus package. This is clearly a liberal policy, affirming the state's role in the economy. Moreover, it was the same congress who passed the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Obama-care) heavily regulating the health insurance industry. These are clearly liberal policies as they augment the role of the state and extending healthcare to 20 million of the low-income Americans who almost certainly voted Democrat, reinforces their liberal credentials.

    • Word count: 829
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Why are US presidential elections so long ?

    4 star(s)

    The job of president can be long, gruelling and both physically and mentally demanding and the campaign trail can act as a final test before people cast their votes. For example in 2008 Barack Obama showed himself to not only be more in touch with the modern electorate but also to have more of a physical resilience for such as job, especially compared to 74 year old John McCain, who many commented looked especially tired and stressed throughout the final weeks of the campaign, not a good sign for a potential president.

    • Word count: 833
  5. Marked by a teacher

    "The Main Difference Between the UK And US Constitution Is That One Is Flexible And The Other Is Not" Discuss.

    4 star(s)

    The US constitution is very concerned with the separation of powers within government and there are many checks and balances in place to help ensure no one section of government obtains too much power. The President has the power of appointment but the Senate must approve these appointments. The President's budget and appropriations for the executive departments have to be approved by Congress. The President has the power to draw up a foreign treaty but it has to be ratified by the Senate.

    • Word count: 1828
  6. Marked by a teacher

    The US system of checks and balances is ineffective, discuss.

    3 star(s)

    They also have the power over the purse strings to actually fund any executive actions and so if they disagree with a government budget, they can interfere with this and stop it from going through. This was done to the Clinton government when he had lost both of his majorities and so had to ask the American people to support his budget. The removal of the president through impeachment is also an option although this is unlikely to be pursued as a 2/3rds majority would again be required as well as the agreement of 3/4 of states.

    • Word count: 903
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Evaluate the claim that the Senate is far more powerful than the House of Representatives within congress

    3 star(s)

    Another argument for the equality of the House of Representatives and The Senate is the parallelism of the powers each house has in the initiation of constitutional amendments. The process and weighting of the decision of each house is the same, meaning that the two Houses are equal with neither the Senate nor House of Representatives being more powerful. The House of Representatives and Senate are also equal in the pay given to the representatives and senators, a fixed rate of $174,000 per annum, a figure which demonstrates how the senate is not more prestigious or seen as a promotion from the House of Representatives.

    • Word count: 816
  8. Peer reviewed

    Are supreme court justices politicians in disguise?

    4 star(s)

    Therefore it can strike down laws made by congress and also executive actions if it so chooses. The Supreme Court is the guardian of the constitution and, as such if it decides which laws are constitutional or not. This means it must have some political element since it is so to speak making law rather than just ruling on it (such as in Roe Vs Wade 1973). This however is not necessarily a negative thing. Because the Supreme Court is a form of "Higher law" then it must have someone to rule on whether or not congressional law breaks the constitutional law.

    • Word count: 1536
  9. Peer reviewed

    Money and Media dominate modern day politics " how far do you agree?

    4 star(s)

    Though these theories have different ideas on the motives of the media, they all essentially say the same thing, the hard truth that the media is biased, and that its opinions are carried by its consumers. Another undeniable fact is that the political groups with the most money have the greatest chance of gaining the favourability of the media. Television has led the nature of elections, but more so in America than Britain due to the differing regulations relating to media, and the different motives that broadcasters have across the Atlantic.

    • Word count: 1157
  10. Richard Daley and other Mayors of Chicago.

    A political machine, or machine politics, refers to the unofficial system of organization based on patronage and a control over the party policy within the structure of a representative democracy within the city of Chicago. Chicago has seen both good and bad things of political machines. Some say that Political machines can foster corruption and change the very fabric of politics by misrepresentation of ideas and goals. Others claim that the machines are highly efficient and the rule of a boss can accomplish much more than a party system without a boss, the head of a political machine just like

    • Word count: 1854
  11. Fareed Zakarias Restoring the American Dream examines where America stands to today in the world, and how the country slipped from its number one ranking in all things

    America's 15-year-olds are ranked 19th in science and 24th in math; and how U.S. infrastructure ranks 23rd, and 41st in the world on infant mortality, 49th on life expectancy. The United States come in behind countries Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, and Canada. In the U.S. over the last 25 years, the growth rate per person has not been the strongest. Although there are still places where the America is still number one. America is still number one in the number of guns the country own far exceeds any other country.

    • Word count: 786
  12. Checks and Balances in the US system

    These checks serve to limit executive overstep into legislative territory and protect the government from a tyrannical president which the Framers included in the Constitution to give the most democratic branch the ability to evaluate executive positions so that the people, in theory, have some voice in presidential appointments. Congress also checks the judicial branch through its constitutional powers to confirm as well as impeach federal judges, amend the Constitution, create federal law, and alter the size of the Supreme Court.

    • Word count: 1102
  13. There is no longer any significant barriers to opporunity for African Americans ~ Discuss

    In modern day America there is indeed an argument for the 'recovery' of previously racially abused minorities. People such as President Barack Obama and Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas are examples of high-ranking government officials who defy the argument that African Americans lack opportunity in politics, especially when having a black president would have seemed to be nothing more than a crazy pipe dream a century ago. Affirmative action has also arguably increased the representation of minority groups in areas of commerce; in 1973 President Nixon signed Executive 11625 into law, which allowed the state to take affirmative action when considering supporting startup enterprises.

    • Word count: 1303
  14. A Foreign Policy of Freedom. A United States foreign policy of intervention, through military and a foreign aid, is dangerous to its future, and following the advice of the founding fathers by ending these interventionist policies would be the be

    Thomas Jefferson said, "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations - entangling alliances with none" (Vance, Laurence M). In his famous farewell address, George Washington said, "Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances, with any portion of the foreign world" (George Washington Quotes). These beliefs were held by others such as James Monroe and John Quincy Adams. John Quincy Adams put it the best when he said, "America goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all...She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own...she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and

    • Word count: 1435
  15. Do the strengths of the US constitution outweigh its weaknesses?

    In order for an alteration or amendment to take place a super majority needs to be acquired, this is done when 2/3rd's of both houses and 3/4 of the states agree that the amendment should happen. To give you a rough idea as to how likely this is to happen, hundreds of proposed amendments have been submitted yet only 33 have been successful at gaining 2/3rd's of the houses support, and even fewer in the total of 27 have been ratified after gaining the full super majority.

    • Word count: 1723
  16. To what extent have Cheney and Biden transformed the role of the Vice President?

    Secondly the Vice President has the role of becoming President of the U.S.A (at least until the next election) in the event of a Presidents death, retirement or removal from office. This is without doubt the most important role and is a power that the public take into consideration when a Presidential candidate announces their running mate. This is perhaps one of a number of contributing factors as to why John McCain lost the 2008 Presidential Election as since he was fairly old and the job as President can be quite taxing, his running mate - Sarah Pailin - was not what the public would consider 'Presidential material' if the worst happened to McCain.

    • Word count: 725
  17. What is the role of the committee chairmen in Congress and why has it been criticised?

    The position has been criticised due to the fact it has been thought that congressmen have been unjustly appointed to the position, due to the length of time they have been in congress for rather than by merit. It is echoed all around American politics that committee chairman is a powerful position and has a number of roles. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the symbol of the power and authority of the House. The Speaker's most prominent role is that of presiding officer of the House.

    • Word count: 679
  18. Securing America and Protecting Civil Liberties. I believe that many aspects of the Patriot Act violate American civil liberties. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Under the Patriot Act the FBI is granted access to med

    Throughout this paper I will discuss my position on the current debate since 9/11/2001 regarding the restriction of civil liberties as stated in the Bill of Rights in order to protect American citizens from terrorist organizations. I will interpret how the First and Fourth Amendments have been changed since the implementation of the USA Patriot Act and I will also discuss my belief on whether the restrictions in civil liberties violate the underlying principles of American democracy. The September 11th attacks are the deadliest terrorist attacks in history.

    • Word count: 1188
  19. Was Bush an imperial President ?

    Therefore, this exemplifies his power as an imperial president. Besides that, the terrorist attacks gave Bush the opportunity to set a foreign policy agenda reflective of his administration's aims and aspirations. In his 2002 State of the Union address, he declared his opposition to the governments of Iraq, Iran and North Korea and suggested that he would seek to take action against them as part of his war on terrorism. This demonstrated that American's foreign agenda would be set by a Bush, and that the presidency was the dominant political driving force in this area.

    • Word count: 975
  20. To what extend are rights and liberties better protected in theory than in practice in the United States?

    However, the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka overturned the 'separate but equal' doctrine' with the conclusion that 'separate educational facilities are inherently unequal' and that this would also be true in school, parks, lunch counters and buses. This is because; it transgressed the 'equal protection' clause of the 14th Amendment. The civil rights movement had also protest against much government-sponsored segregation such as the bus boycotts and freedom riders in the South following the arrest of Rosa Parks (1955), the March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington DC, including Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech (1963)

    • Word count: 1353
  21. In the Post-Cold War, is USA the only Superpower?

    led and demonstrated how much Europe depended on U.S.A. military capability and how without U.S.A. intervention a major military objective is practically unachievable. Therefore, in the early post cold era the concept of unipolarity seemed to be a matter of consensus in international relations linked to U.S.A. economic and military status. However, since 1989 there are counter arguments against unipolarity linked to the existence of other developing great powers in terms of nuclear proliferation and rapidly emerging competitor economies, primarily China and India.

    • Word count: 455
  22. Do the strengths of the Constitution outweigh the weaknesses?

    The constitution's strength lies in the fact that the government has no ability to override the rights of its citizens, nor enact great change to the detriment of the country. In addition, the advantage it has over the UK system of government is that it is less likely to be susceptible to large trends in public opinion or emotion. The slower and less drastically motivated process of government ensures that no rash action is taken in accordance with temporary surges in popularity (Although there has been one exception to the rule in the form of prohibition).

    • Word count: 1460
  23. To what extent can Reagan's electoral victory in 1980 be put down to the rise of the new right?

    Reagan executed all his televised appearances like a professional (he was an ex-Hollywood 'star' which definitely helped immensely,) 'he could read an autocue like a professional'. Also his personal traits were key - portraying himself as a 'physically attractive and charming man who was gracious and polite' this again helped him as all those were key and made Reagan a much more likeable person. Furthermore, Reagan also worked with general electric in the 60's where he was in charge of the TV shows; he also gained valuable electioneering skills during the job, as he had to meet thousands of people daily, also giving unrehearsed speeches to hundreds.

    • Word count: 1266
  24. Congressional Election Report. Michigan District 1 is the second-largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River by land area.

    There was no contested primary for the Democrats because the incumbent announced that he will retire at the end of term; the Democrats only had Gary McDowell running for the position. On the other hand, the Republicans had many candidates which included Dan Benishek, State Senator Jason Allen, Patrick Donlon, Linda Goldthorpe, Don Hooper, and Tom Stillings; Dan Benishek won the Republican primary. The race is competitive because it is an "open seat" due to the incumbent's decision to retire.

    • Word count: 1219
  25. JFK was one of the most successful and influential people to ever live. He had strong beliefs and never succumbed to pressure. Kennedys success was shown through his tough foreign and economic policies. JFK kept the USA as a world powerhouse an

    JFK had a very sickly childhood dealing with appendicitis, colitis, and possible symptoms of leukemia. In September 1936 he enrolled as a freshman at Harvard College where he eventually graduated cum laude with a degree in international affairs. Kennedy then spent four years in the US Navy during World War II. Before his political career, JFK originally aspired to become a journalist. However, in 1946, Kennedy ran for a vacated U.S. Representative seat and beat his opponent by a large margin. On January 2, 1960, Kennedy officially declared his intent to run for President of the United States.

    • Word count: 1080

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To what extent has the Constitution protected civil liberties in America?

    "`In conclusion, although in theory the American constitution appears to protect all American civil liberties without fail because it is codified, entrenched and protected, in practise it has only been partially successful in this. It has been interpreted differently to infringe others rights. The three examples of this are the treatment of the African Americans un till the late 1960's, the treatment of the Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbour and the treatment of the suspects in the war on terror. In theory the Supreme Court should have protected them but initially did not."

  • Evaluate the claim that the Senate is far more powerful than the House of Representatives within congress

    "In conclusion, whilst the powers of the Senate and House of Representatives are often equal and were created as equal parts of Congress - in reality the powers of the Senate have increased. This could be due to the increased need for foreign policy, meaning the power of ratifying treaties is more significant than when the Constitution was first written in the 18th century. The benefits enjoyed by Senators and the appearance of it as a promotion from The House, make it appear more important and powerful, however the increase in its importance and the prestigious ness is not in correlation with the increase in power - meaning that whilst the Senate appears a lot more powerful than the House of Representatives, a lot of this is appearance and the actual powers of the Senate haven't changed that much."

  • US pressures groups are undemocratic, discuss

    "Pressure groups are an essential dimension of any democracy, yet they can endanger democracy if interest groups undermine the public interest or if the methods they use are corrupt or intimidating. In a democratic society, different forms of lobbying are essential to protect sections of society. The problem arises where greed and self-interest affects the rights of the public as a whole. To reach a firm conclusion, it is clear that pressure groups are to a degree very undemocratic, namely because of the methods they undertake. Yet, it must be made clear that they do perform key roles that seem to strengthen democracy rather than weaken it, and as long as power is not abused, pressure groups do not undermine the democratic process of the US."

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