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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. Current Event Report - the future of NATO

    along with Canada, and other 10 countries. It took lead in founding the organization in 1949. At the speech, Gates blamed some NATO allies for willing to let American taxpayers to pay more when the allies were reducing defence budgets. However, Gates appreciated the combat power provided by Denmark and Norway, and he applauded to Canada and Belgium for the effort they put in Libya.

    • Word count: 435
  2. How effectively do the three branches of the federal government check each other?

    Many have argued that the judicial branch has gained too much power, with some stating that the major decisions that the Supreme Court is able to make, places them as the most powerful. One recent example of the impressive power of the Supreme Court is that the decision of this court determined that George Bush would be President in 2000.

    • Word count: 519
  3. The power of the President is limited to the power to persuade. Discuss.

    He will work closely with the party leadership in both houses (this is currently Harry Reid in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives) and the party whips. Similarly, the Cabinet and Office of Legislative Affairs have a large part to play, with the latter in particular ?working the corridors? of Capitol Hill of the President?s behalf. A good choice of Vice President can also bring in other ideological wings or even geographical regions of the party- Joe Biden can be seen to ?balance? Obama, as he represents an older, slightly more traditional wing of the Democratic party.

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  4. Power in America. The idea that the rich run America has been encompassed in the elite theory of society.

    In reality all government is government by elite, or at best one among a number of competing elites. There is undeniable fact that in capitalist society power requires money. Demographic data shows that only a small percentage of people in America control the majority of the nation's wealth. It is this minority of people that holds all the wealth and power of the nation. This elite group is able to use its power to get its own policies implemented and its own legislations passed. These policies and legislations get passed regardless of what the majority opinion is. In 1956 was published The Power Elite by C.

    • Word count: 2070
  5. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of the process of amending the US constitution

    One example of a proposed amendment that was not successful is the Anti Flag Burning amendment, which was strongly considered after the Texas v Johnson case, but failed to be implemented. This is an advantage for the process of amending the constitution, as it shows that the constitution is safeguarded from temporary popular opinion. However a counter argument is that it is too hard to bring the constitution up to modern values because of how difficult it is to pass amendments, amending the constitution require two-thirds majorities in both houses plus the approval of 3 quarters of the state legislatures, these requirements are very demanding.

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  6. Ethnic minorities in the USA

    Even when the President's party has a majority in one or both houses, Senators and Congressmen/women are more independent than British MPs and will not always support the President's plans. When a President is getting near the end of his eighth year in office he is seen as ?lame duck' since everyone knows he will soon be out of power. The Supreme Court is an important feature in American politics and has the power to declare governmental actions unconstitutional. Both houses in Congress have important powers.

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  7. Pol

    The Supreme Court is an important factor of federalism in the US as it rules on what states do and do not have power over. Alongside the powers that the states gain from the 10th amendment there are also some powers that the state legislatures share with the national government, called the concurrent powers, as both forms of government are able to use them. An example of this is the states? ability to tax its own population on top of the tax that the people are already paying to the central government.

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  8. Politics and Satire. In the United States the First Amendment protects satirists. There is a great history of political satirists impacting American politics

    The political candidates will be ?exposed and discredited? from many angles on television shows, such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live, and in political cartoons in newspapers around the country. This practice has a long and storied history that has changed politics significantly. A critic of satire?s affect on politics might state that it is purely for humor and has no influence on political reality; satirical television shows are funny but not credible enough to sway political opinion.

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  9. How far do you agree the USA remains a global hegemony today?

    This moral authority is represented in the founding principles of the United States. Being a power of the people gives the United States the responsibility of insuring the use of the bill of rights, and the principles guiding them, not only in its commitment to its peoples but also as it reflects its position upon the world community. Although policy has not always translated neatly into this view, the nation has continuously searched for the moral path, whether it has been there or not.

    • Word count: 2078
  10. What are Primary elections and why have they been criticised?

    tend to vote in the primary elections. Strategically, it might be better to choose candidate/s who can also appeal to other parties? members or supporters rather than only to the party?s own core members.

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  11. How significant are the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries?

    However there have been times where the results have not mattered so much. One reason why the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries are seen to be so significant is that it can determine the momentum of the candidates. This is true in terms of media and also party backing, if a candidate is seen to do well in the initial primary/caucus there is more of a focus on them, this can mean stronger media focus i.e. editorials written about them or more money made available by the party for the certain candidates election if he is seen to have momentum.

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  12. Ideological Disagreements in US Politics

    Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is an issue that conservatives and liberals alike have been unable to come to an agreement on. Generally speaking, conservatives are against capital punishment and would like for the national government to have absolute power in abolishing the death penalty from each state. Generally speaking, liberals tend to have more of ?an eye for an eye? view of things and endorse the death penalty. Generally, everyone hates taxes. It would be hard to imagine anyone getting pleasure out of paying out thirty cents to every dollar they make.

    • Word count: 546
  13. Why was Bill Clinton able to win the Presidential elections of 1992 and 1996?

    Bush failed to understand the question and was unsuccessful in his attempts to answer the query coherently. Clinton, however, empathized with the woman and directly asked her how the economy had affected her; he then proceeded to talk of the problems he encountered as governor of Arkansas. His public speaking skills and understanding of the average person?s hardships earned him the respect of the people. Clinton?s ability to identify with the mass electorate, in distinction with Bush, made him seem very amiable and convinced the public to see him appealing candidate for presidency.

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  14. The American Revolution saw the birth of a nation dedicated to equality in opportunity, government by popular consent and individual rights. How true is this?

    Benjamin Franklin himself pointed out the hypocrisy in this passage on countless occasions, claiming the Declaration and the consequent system extended to only part of the human race. This was particularly evident in the Southern states of America, for example South Carolina, in which without the flourishing slave trade the economies would collapse and the states would inevitably fail. This, as one of many reasons is evidence for the lack of protected or provided rights of the individual in the new society.

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  15. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both have different viewpoints and proposals when it comes to tax cuts, the reformation of health care, government regulations, and the regulation of Wall Street;

    General tax cuts create 4.6 jobs for every $1 million spent. Romney?s proposals to cut taxes would increase spending, put more money into the consumer?s hands, and boost the economy. However, an extension of unemployment benefits would create 19 jobs, rather than 4.6, for every $1 million dollars spent. Romney?s tax cuts are more likely to increase the national debt by $1 trillion over the next ten years. Barack Obama also had a proposal for the lowering of taxes in his Economic Plan.

    • Word count: 1653

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