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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. To what extent has the Constitution protected civil liberties in America?

    This protects an American's right to freedom and allows them to express them selves in anyway they want. Another more controversial amendment is 2nd Amendment, where it states ''a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bare arms.'' This amendment protects the right to bare arms and controls the debate on whether guns should be legal or not. This all shows that the constitution at least partially protects civil liberties with a codified constitution. A key aspect of the constitution that at least a partial protection of civil liberties is that it is entrenched.

    • Word count: 1660
  2. Advising a member of the California assembly how to vote on Abortion law. Ms. Hancock should oppose this proposition because the demographics and voting statistics in her district has strongly opposed this issue in the past election.

    Proposition 85 is also formally known as "Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of a Minor's Pregnancy." If passed, it would amend the state's constitution to illegalize any physician to perform an abortion on young girls under the age of eighteen unless the parent of the child has been notified within the next 48 hours. This proposition would not apply to those who are pregnant, married, or serving on active duty in the armed forces. A minor could also avoid parental notification by petitioning for a judicial waiver.

    • Word count: 1107
  3. Using examples, explain the limitations on the Supreme Courts powers.How do Presidents veto legislation, and how significant is the presidential veto?

    Not only does Congress get to decide who sits on the Supreme Court but also how many judges sit on the Court. Thereby giving the President the obligation to make new appointments and potentially altering the philosophical make-up of the Court. The Senate refused President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from 9 to 15 for this very reason- that by agreeing to such a plan, the nature of the Supreme Court would be altered.

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  4. To what extent have amendments to the Constitution made it more democratic?

    The USA constitution is codified; a single entrenched document written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. In the UK, if a constitutional law need changing, Parliament makes a new law to replace the previous, following the basic law making process. In a codified constitution, constitutional law is updated and amended via pieces of legislation called amendments. In total, there are 27 amendments attached the US constitution. The first ten are known as the Bill of Rights, introduced by Madison, they were attached in 1978. When first wrote, the USA constitution was produced with some consideration for the future but, the future could not be predicted.

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  5. Describe the process of impeachment and explain why it is difficult to remove the President through inpeachment.

    The Articles for Clinton's impeachment passed this stage and went onto the Senate, the same happened to Johnson too. When the Senate receives the Articles of Impeachment, they then set out the rules and procedures for a fair trial of the President. At this stage, the President will hire lawyers to defend his case as the trial will begin. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will lead the trial with all 100 members of the Senate acting as the jury. Concluding the trial, the Senate will meet to discuss a verdict. To be convicted, the President must receive two thirds of the Senate to vote for his conviction.

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  6. Was Cheney the most important and powerful vice president in US history?

    The budget therefore passed the Senate. After a general election, the previous Vice President's last task is to ensure electoral college votes are correctly counted. He will then confirm the election of the new US President. This must have been a disappointing function for Al Gore to carry out in 2000, when he was the previous Vice President and the losing candidate in the presidential election. According to the US Constitution, should the President have to leave office for reasons such as resignation and death, the Vice President will take up the empty office of President.

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  7. The Role and Functions of the US President.

    The president must play all these roles simultaneously and they are all interconnected. The manner in which a President play any one roles can have a real effect on his or her ability to play another and even all of them. His role of chief of state is to be the symbol of all the people of the nation which goes along with being a chief citizen. The chief diplomat also goes with that by being the chief spokesman. In all cases, he his expected to be the represent all the people. 3. A) Which to presidential roles do not come from the constitution? The roles of chief of party and chief citizen.

    • Word count: 866
  8. Power and Significance Of Congress

    Arguably Congress's most important function is representation. Both chambers are ultimately elected by the people (Although the Founding Fathers had originally intended the Senate to be unelected by the public in order to prevent mobocracy)( and as such arguably their main duty is to represent those who elect them. When looking at statistics it seems that Congress is unrepresentative. In the 112th Congress there are 44 African Americans (43 are Democrats) all of whom are in the House, meaning that there is not a single African American in the Senate.

    • Word count: 1221
  9. To what extent is a president to control the Federal Bureaucracy?

    over this are of us politics, some presidents set up branches in the federal bureaucracy to look after significant aspects, it has grown more and more over the last number of presidents and now gives over 3million people jobs in the US. The president may also have certain problems controlling this aspect of government, as much has he has control over them with the above powers, there are certain problems with the federal bureaucracy such as Clientelism, this is where Agencies the second tier in the federal bureaucracies below departments, tend to serve interests for those who they are supposed

    • Word count: 890
  10. Are gun control laws popular in the United States?

    The partisan divide on this issue is somewhat reflected by public opinion. During the 2000 Presidential campaign, George. W. Bush indicated his support for a trigger lock requirement, raising the age limit, and requiring background checks at gun shows. But no legislation on these issues were initiated by congress. Supporters of gun control measures (usually more liberal) are instead on the defensive as more recent Congressional votes have increased rather than restricted gun rights. When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, he spoke for the Democrats concerning gun control, stating that he believes all citizens have the right to own a gun; however there should be tighter restrictions on gun licensing, to prevent a gun being put into the wrong hands.

    • Word count: 1008
  11. Giving examples explain how superpowers can exert influence.

    Firstly many superpowers exert their influence through military power; today military power means access to nuclear weapons, however the development of different technologies such as satellite technology is becoming an important issue. For example the USA has drastically exerted their military influence. They had the largest nuclear arsenal for some part of the cold war; they have very powerful military personnel in Western Europe and have their own global intelligence network: the CIA. The USA has worldwide spread military bases, although most of these are found in the USA, they do have bases that cover most of Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    • Word count: 752
  12. Consider whether the growth of primary elections in the Presidential nomination process has reduced the role and functions of the national nominating conventions to a mere formality

    Clearly, the NNC was at this stage incredibly important as it effectively announced a party's candidate to the country, for the very first time. Today, the electorate of a state vote for the candidate they would like to see run, thus undermining the status of the National Nominating Convention. Primaries are run under state law and so a great number of variations exist. One such variation is whether they are "open" or "closed". Prior to the official primary season beginning, voters are asked to declare their part.

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  13. How far does the president only have the power to pursuade

    It is easy to see why some view the Presidents only real power as that to persuade. The Separation of Powers in the US of the Executive (President and his staff), the Legislative (Congress) and the Judiciary mean the President actually has very little control over the other quite substantial and important branches of Government. In fact the President is only even aloud into Congress once a year during the State of the Union address. Unlike in the UK the largest party in Congress not only not guaranteed to be loyal to the presidents but can even be a completely different party, as is currently with a democratic President and a Republican dominated House of Representatives.

    • Word count: 1216
  14. US pressures groups are undemocratic, discuss

    Groups such as the National Organisation for Women (NOW) or the National Rifle Associations, despite holding single issue, still provide opportunities for ordinary people to participate in decision making. Without such group's existence, democracy would be out the window as far as some are concerned. They are also an important link between the public and the politician, through pressure groups, citizens can have their views represented and their grievances articulated. As well as offering opportunities for minority views to be represented that would normally be ignored by the major political parties.

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  15. The constitution has failed to provide for the effective government of the USA discuss.

    For instance, in the preamble there is a common defence clause "provide for the common defence", this was interpreted by the congress to claim authority and build a network of roads across America. Although the "great compromise" wasn't always so great. It was the cause for the separation of powers, which in its own way is responsible for a great deal of the ineffective government of today. It divides powers across the three branches of government, causing them to work against each other and to slow down workflow.

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  16. US Constitution. An evaluation on the aftermath of September 11th needs to be under review to establish civil liberties are defended. Since the constitution was adopted it has been central to whether the US constitution meets the terms and defends civi

    An evaluation on the aftermath of September 11th needs to be under review to establish civil liberties are defended. Since the constitution was adopted it has been central to whether the US constitution meets the terms and defends civil liberties and its effectiveness. It appears that the US constitution has been effective during times of heightened concerns about homeland security. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the United States government under George Bush has highlighted homeland security as one of his government's top priorities, and thus new legislation has been implemented to fight terrorism along with the corresponding war in Iraq.

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  17. The power to persuade: a term coined by a man named Neudstadt, is the true measure of Presidential success. If a President is able to use this power effectively, it will help him achieve his agenda.

    For the past two years, before the November 2010 elections, there was a democratic supermajority. This made it very easy for the democratic President Obama to push through legislation. Currently, however, there is a split. Republicans now outnumber democrats, and neither party has enough votes to reach the three fourths majority that would send the piece of legislation on to its next vote. This will surely impede on President Obama's ability to get things done in Washington D.C. A great example of this is tax cuts. President Obama made a campaign promise to let the Bush tax cuts expire for people making above $250,000 a year, and extend the tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year.

    • Word count: 766
  18. Snider vs Phelps

    Phelps' opinions are opinions that do not contain provable facts; Such as "God hates fags" or "You're going to hell". No one will be able to prove such opinions. Therefore, they are protected constitutionally. Snider considers that his right to privacy was violated since he is not a public image.

    • Word count: 403
  19. Explain the advantages and disadvantages of the use of referendums and initiatives in the USA

    One example is that US researchers have shown that US states that use the initiative process are more likely than those that do not, to have introduced governance reform policies. One often cited disadvantage of citizens' initiatives is that they result in badly drafted law, the wording of the measure as initially proposed ends up as statute if the measure is passed. It is argued that the failure to use the expertise provided by government lawyers and officials who are familiar with the drafting process leads to laws that can be meaningless or ineffective, or have to be re-drafted, because the individuals or lawyers who draft the measures are not experienced in legislative drafting.

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  20. We Were All Created Equal

    This statement should apply to every situation, even the debate of same-sex marriage. Homosexuals are ordinary people who deserve the same rights as heterosexual citizens. For society to look beyond their physical appearance and discriminate against them because of who they prefer to marry or fall in love with, is not following the Declaration of Independence or the Bible. The fight for gay marriage is equivalent to the fight for African-American equal rights, in the 1960's. The relationship between such national issues gives America the phrase "gay being the new black" stated on The Tyra Banks Show.

    • Word count: 1215
  21. To what extent is it fair to say America is a land of 100 parties?

    Whilst the Democrats may be seen as more left-wing than the Republicans, this is not a true division and both organisations attempt to win elections by trying to woo people of all backgrounds and beliefs. The USA is by its very nature Conservative where left-wing parties have never succeeded in main stream politics. When Communism tried to spread in the mid-20th Century there was an obsessive backlash where suspected Communists were classed as "aliens" and virtual enemies of the state.

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  22. How well does the US Constitution Work

    The founding fathers may not have had any previous system in which they could have mimicked at the time to create the America they wanted, but they knew exactly what they did not want. A Constitution to provide clear guidelines in order to ensure a union between states, justice, effective defense, and most importantly ensure liberty, was the goal.

    • Word count: 2464
  23. Invisible Primaries, USA.

    Front loading has rendered it very difficult to raise capital once the actual primaries commence. In 1996 and 2000, Pat Buchanan and John McCain couldn't defeat the financial strength of Dole and Bush, despite winning in New Hampshire. Due to the fluctuation in the polls, the media really do play a significant roll in the momentum that the candidates have as they enter the real primaries. The value of polls though, is limited. In September of 2005, pollsters asked both Republicans and Democrats who might seek the presidency in 2008.

    • Word count: 1228
  24. Explain the significance of the New Hampshire Primary and the Iowa Caucus in the presidential nomination process. The national party conventions no longer serve any significant purpose. Discuss.

    The popular vote of the people gives a chance for the lesser known candidates to voice their appeal to the electorate en masse. Another key significance of the New Hampshire Primary is that the voters are not required to join an official party to vote in the party's primary. This is slightly controversial, as voters can change their official status back to 'undeclared' immediately after voting, thus, they only need to be a party member for a matter of minutes, in order to vote.

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  25. Political Socialization

    For example, washing my hands before I eat is a simple task that is done in most societies. If I did not wash my hands, then I would be considered as an "outcast" to the people that accompany me and inconsiderate. Family also helps me understand how to communicate with people respectably. My mother would often say to me, "Treat others, as you would like to be treated." This taught me that if I treated people with respect that I would also receive it. "By the time children reach adulthood, many of the beliefs and values that will stay with them throughout life are firmly in place" (Patterson 203).

    • Word count: 1494

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