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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.

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  1. Compare and contrast the extent to which the Cabinet has an important part to play in the respective Executives of the UK and USA.

    The fact that the Cabinet in the UK is drawn from the legislature means that it has a major role to play in the legislature, not least in the organisation of legislation. The PM however some would claim has been seen to override the rights of the Cabinet and thus lower the importance of the Cabinet while making decisions on legislation and policy in recent years. This was seen in the Thatcherite era when on average she only held 35 Cabinet meetings per annum and carried out 'Kitchen Cabinet' meetings in which she pre-cooked ideas with individual ministers before the

    • Word count: 1152
  2. Free essay

    Should the primary system be reformed?

    As a consequence, unqualified candidates can be eliminated at an early stage. But the system can be seen to somewhat undermine the federalist nature of American government. It is widely acknowledged that there is vast inequality between states in terms of the influence they have over the process. States that conduct their primaries early in the schedule have extra weight in the decision making process for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is often only financially viable for candidates to continue campaigning if they attract donations with a strong-showing in the early states.

    • Word count: 1471
  3. Free essay

    Why has reforming campaign finance been difficult?

    For example, in the most recent 2008 Presidential Election the Democrat nominee, Barack Obama, spent nearly $650 million on his campaign, opting out of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) public funding system. Obama's electoral rival, Republican nominee John McCain managed to raise $360 million, just over half of what Obama used. I think that McCain's loss demonstrates how a vast difference in funding leads to a decrease in political competition, and so Congressmen belonging to either of these main two parties would be reluctant to pass a reform that limited the funds they could employ in a campaign, thus allowing other, smaller parties to contest the Presidential race.

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  4. Has the US Constituion Protected Individual Liberties?

    As they are included in the Constitution, they are given a higher status than ordinary laws and thus are much more permanent. The difficulty involved in formally amending the constitution is evidence of their importance. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible for governments to pass any legislation that would contravene these rights, and if they do so, the US Supreme Court has the power to intervene and strike them down. This is all due to their constitutional status. The first amendment guarantees US citizens' rights to freedom of religion, speech, press, and the right to peaceably assemble.

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  5. Politics In The Classroom

    Only two things can happen: students can agree with the professor and change their formal views because of argument from authority or students can find flaws in the professor's argument and reinforce their preconceived notions. Either way is helping students become independent critical thinkers. Often students come into college with a black or white perspective. Student come across people, beliefs and ideas that oppose their own beliefs. However, this collision of opposing ideas that professors bring into the classroom is an incentive for students to become relativists and acquire the learning they need to contribute to their society.

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  6. Sexual Abuse in U.S. Military

    timely response to their reports, checklists to balance victim's rights versus offender's rights, removal of victim's fear of reporting due to possible punishment, and administrative separation to ensure consistent investigations were all goals of the policy.6 The Policy also included the use of the Defense Incident Based Reporting System (DIBRS), to track sexual assault.7 The 2004 DIBRS survey reported that there were 1,7000 reported sexual assaults.8 The alleged sexual assaults included 880 service members on service member.9 Nearly one-third of the total investigations were incomplete.10 Punitive action was taken in only 342 of 1,362 completed investigations.11 Punitive action included court martial's, nonjudicial punishment and administrative actions or discharges.12 There were more cases (351)

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  7. Where Power Lies in Congress

    reasons above, but also how each Senator is '1%' of the Senate, compared to less than a quarter of that for each House member - '1/435th'. Indeed, very rarely (if ever) do Senators later become members of the House, it is usually the other way around - for example Bernie Sanders. However in Homeland policy, the House has traditionally been the chamber to spend most time reviewing and drafting legislation. Also the House has the ability to choose the President (vs.

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  8. The Religious Right

    But by 1996 the influence was in decline when Reed supported unsuccessful Republican nominee Bob Dole. Reed resigned in 1997, the year that the Coalition lost its tax-exempt status and divided into two parts: the Christian Coalition International, its taxable political arm, and the Christian Coalition of America, which was tax-exempt. Robertson resigned as the group's president in 2001. Today the organisation is over two million dollars in debt, and its budget has been severely reduced from a peak of over $26 million, to $1 million as of 2006.

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  9. A Brilliant Solution: From the Founding to the Present

    In elementary school, Americans are taught that intellectuals with the ideal views of morals, equal human rights and justice came together to form the United States. The 'Founding Fathers' are viewed as men that can not be surpassed as long as the government they began stands; they are the human-gods of the American past. In A Brilliant Solution, Berkin paints the fifty-five framers as men, "imperfect, exasperating, but often admirable. . ." (Berkin 49). Many had studied law, were wealthy, educated, and had political experience.

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  10. presidential power how far does it go

    The Case for the Prosecution The rationale for the attacks on the Administration's actions is based on two separate but interlinked aspects; the legal and the ideological. The essence of the American government is dictated by the Constitution of the United States and its Amendments, which must be passed by two thirds of both Houses of Congress and ratified by 75% of the state legislatures. Many of the first Amendments to the Constitution were adapted from the 1791 Bill of Rights Lowi et al segregate the Bill of Rights into Civil Liberties ( I-VI, VIII)

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  11. Free essay

    USA - Unilateralist or Isolationist?

    Generally, there has been an isolationist approach to world affairs before the tragic events of 9/11. However, it would seem that even after this, George Bush has maintained an isolationist approach in recent conflicts such as the Israel - Lebanon war as well as the China - Tibet conflict as well as the Rwandan Genocide where the American government purposely looked away and deliberately refrained from mentioning the "G - Word", genocide. This stance has further reinforced many opinions that America is solely concerned for its own affairs and interests and not maintaining world peace, as it so claims.

    • Word count: 1113
  12. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton are both potential presidential candidates representing the views of the Democratic Party. The diversity of both these candidates combined with the controversial issues encircling the election make this one of the most cruc

    It is clear that racism and prejudice in America have clearly diminished, however this doesn't mean that a black man at the head of the government is so easily comprehensible. As this alone is sad but realistically challenging for many to overlook, the addition of a somewhat novel string of policies may be too much for one election. The fact of the matter is America can only handle so much change at a time. Whether or not Obama's shift in policies is for better or for worse is not the question; it is how the public will react to these prospective changes that will shape the outcome of the election.

    • Word count: 1466
  13. Consider whether the activities of pressure groups help or hinder the operation of a pluralist democracy in the United States

    Pressure groups are greatly important: they are needed to represent the views of their members, of which the NRA has over four million and the AARP over 38 million, and present those views to the government. At both State and Federal level, all branches of government may be targeted by pressure group activities, the executive, judiciary and legislature. Political parties, particularly at federal government level, have difficulty in representing the widely diverse views of the electorate and often policy decisions of the parties are made on the back of a simple majority at their National Conventions.

    • Word count: 883
  14. Why & with What Success has Affirmative Action been used to Promote Equality in the USA?

    Segregation remained rife with blacks continually discriminated against in housing, voting, school and employment. The USA was in a state of de jure segregation; the theory of equality was present but it still needed to be put into practise. A way to do this was by introducing racial advantage through affirmative action. The term was first introduced by President Kennedy but was developed and enforced by President Johnson who vowed "We seek...not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and as a result."

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  15. Why does the President have difficulties coordinating the work of the executive branch?

    You also get Iron Triangles which you get when an interest group makes links with a department and agencies and a congressional committee all come together and these can be very frustrating for the president. The very size off the bureaucracy has a problem, when you look at the numbers employed by them, its nearly 3 million, around 2.3% of the civilian workforce which is w very large number to coordinate, as you can't bring them all together, it's a large number of to get orders down to and them thinking in your political way.

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  16. To what extent could the USA still be described as having an "imperial Presidency"?

    This is how an imperial leader would work, but just doing no matter what. There have been other cases where a president has used forces with out congress agreement. In 1983 when US marines occupied Grenada and removed the left- wing regime from power, rapid military success and widespread public support for the invasion enabled the Reagan administration to keep members of congress relegated to the sidelines. Or then again in 1986 when the Reagan administration order American air attacks on targets in Libya, Congressional members were invited to the White House only as US bombers were approaching Libya, so they could not do anything to stop it.

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  17. Hillary CLinton

    2. In 1965, Rodham enrolled in Wellesley College, where she majored in political science. She served as president of the Wellesley Young Republicans organization during her freshman year. However, due to her evolving views regarding the American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, she stepped down from that position; she characterized her own nature as that of "a mind conservative and a heart liberal." In her junior year, Rodham was affected by the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and became a supporter of the anti-war presidential nomination campaign of Democrat Eugene McCarthy.

    • Word count: 1560
  18. Cabinet Positions of the US Government

    This department was originally name the department of war, back when it was created in the 1700's, but was renamed to a more politically correct name of Department of Defense instead of war. This department coordinates and supervises everything within the government that deals with national security and the military, including the navy, army, air force, etc. The department is based in the pentagon, and is made up of three main branches which happen to be the aforementioned branches of the military -United States Department of Education The department of Education was created in the 1980's when the original Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was split into different departments.

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  19. Overpaid and Underworked: Plight of the Canadian Senate

    Effective When the Canadian founding fathers structured the design of Canada's national institution, they could not foresee the current lack of power held by the Senate. By principal and on paper, the US and Canadian Senate are almost identical in their role within the legislative procedure, but practically the two Senates are as polar as north and south. One of the fundamental roles mandated by the American Senate is to initiate and incorporating legislations. A common analogy notes, when a US Senator looks at the mirror in the morning, they could see the reflection of the next President.

    • Word count: 2478
  20. Identify and explain all the factors which encouraged and discouraged change during 1863-77

    This was supported when he appointed advisors who were unsympathetic to the concept of black civil rights. In practice, Johnson pardoned the southern states, abandoned the idea of charging with treason and punishing southern politicians and allowed the to resume their state offices, failed to implement the policy of excluding rich planters from office in order to reduce their influence and failed to enforce the requirement of newly elected state assemblies to ratify the thirteenth amendment. This in itself was supposed to encourage change yet due to lack of implementation it discouraged change.

    • Word count: 1276
  21. The Congress of Vienna

    All of these congresses were used to suppress revolts and revolutionary acts upon the liberals of Europe. Apart from suppressing, the Congress System had many goals, like the preservation of conservatism across Europe. Fallowing the Napoleonic Era, the containment of France was crucial. France was to be contained to avoid another revolution and most importantly another Napoleon. The powers did not want to fight any more wars within their own continent. Another large goal of the Congress System was to create a balance of power between Europe's strong leaders so that no one country could become too strong and too powerful to override any other countries.

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  22. US constitution and reform

    The founders set out to create a government that would be effective but limited. It would be efficient in undertaking its responsibilities, but would at the same time respect and protect both the citizen and the states. Subsequent debates around the Constitution have examined the extent to which these goals have been achieved. Whereas some assert that the federal government is relatively powerless, others claim that it has become overbearing. Some argue that the government lacks effective power; critics argue that the checks and balances in practice have created gridlock. Decision making requires such widely shared consensus and there is insufficient agreement between institutions.

    • Word count: 777
  23. US constitition and amendments

    Having passed both Houses of Congress successfully, its ratification journey was halted in 1982 after 35 states had given their approval. Thus, it fell just three states short of enactment. The amendment procedure was deliberately made difficult by the Founding Fathers in an effort to preserve political stability. Despite this, however, over the years a number of procedures for informally amending the Constitution have evolved. The first informal procedure involves the Constitution being kept up to date by judicial interpretation.

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  24. How effective are the checks and balances of the Constitution today?

    a 'Presidential veto', although there is a system put in place to stop the executive overusing this power (kind of like a check and balance of a check and balance) which is that if the President does veto a bill, that bill, with the Presidents suggestions, gets passed back to Congress where a two thirds vote is needed to override the Presidents veto. This check can cause dispute between the two branches, but the President has an informal power known as a 'pocket veto', this comes about because a bill has ten days to be approved or vetoed by the

    • Word count: 1259
  25. Legalization of Marijuana

    In time, it evolved to medical use by these ancient peoples to help alleviate such medical ailments as constipation, asthma, loss of appetite, inflammation, coughs, urinary tract infections, and hemorrhoid. Recent research has even supported most of these uses as accurate and efficient. In addition, more extensive research has confirmed that marijuana reduces the stress behind the eyes cause by glaucoma, and more impressively is its ability to eliminate nausea from chemotherapy for cancer patients. Even though most chemotherapy has about an 80% remission rate, most patients turn it down due to its nauseating side-effects.

    • Word count: 1452

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