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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. Discuss the view that a Bill of rights alone is insufficient to protect rights and liberties.

    Many argue that although the constitution is codified, it still flexible as the content is very vague. Being so, this example highlights that a bill of rights alone is insufficient to protect rights and liberties. History has shown the Bill of rights in the USA to have failed to protect the rights and liberties of all American people. The Bill of Rights arguably allows for the conservative bias of the judiciary allowing for such injustices as continued slavery. Civil rights and liberties at this point in history were defined by the elites in favour of elites who wanted to maintain their stronghold on political and social power.

    • Word count: 1215
  2. Free essay

    Assess the problems in achieving democratic government by the election of representatives

    The original Greek definition of 'the demos' meaning 'the people,' surely refers to all the people, i.e. the entire population of the country. In modern democracies, evidently political participation has been restricted, and some cases severely. History has proven that in the USA and UK especially, election of representatives has been far from democratic. For example, it was only until 1928 when women in the UK were gained full voting rights. It was only until the early 1960s when African Americans in many southern states where granted full voting rights. In addition, in Switzerland it was established in 1971 when women were eventually enfranchised.

    • Word count: 1265
  3. Why Has It proved So Difficult To Reform Campaign Finance

    The CRP essentially allowed the Watergate Scandal to take place, and the Watergate affair led to the resignation of President Nixon's resignation after only 2 years of presidency. The first real success in reforming campaign finance was in 1972, when the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). This act limited individual and corporate contributions to an Electoral campaign to $1,000 and $5,000 respectively, it also limited candidates expenditure in the primaries and in the Federal Election itself, however, it also established the Federal Election Committee to enforce and regulate the new system.

    • Word count: 1108
  4. "Presidents Have Only The Power To Persuade" Discuss

    Firstly, I will look at the Constitutional powers given to the President. The Founding Fathers created the constitution in an attempt to prevent a tyrannical rule, like the British. The Constitution therefore would ensure that no one particular Government Branch could become too powerful, checks and balances were created, to prevent each branch from becoming over powerful. We can see that although the President has the power to initiate bills, and has strong influence and power in the legislative process; the President still has to have approval from Congress.

    • Word count: 945
  5. "Supreme Court Appointments are always controversial" Discuss

    One might say that Supreme Court appointments are controversial because of the amount of power which is vested in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court holds the power of judicial review over both the executive and the legislature. The power of judicial review is the power of the judiciary to declare acts of Congress and the executive unconstitutional and therefore null and void. This therefore means that the Supreme Court can strike down bills. We saw this recently in 1998 with the Clinton v.

    • Word count: 1033
  6. Ethnic Minorities

    Unemployment is a major factor affecting the progress of ethnic minorities in the US. During the Clinton administration all unemployment rates dropped but for Blacks and Hispanics those levels still seemed to be higher than that of White Americans. Another fact would be that ethnic minorities seem to be poorly represented in professions and well paid jobs which could be seen as discrimination. However, contrasting with this, at the very top end of the labour market there is now very little difference between Blacks and Whites and in fact Black female top earners out-earn White female top earners by about 10%.

    • Word count: 597
  7. Presidential Powers

    As well as the President, Congress plays an important role in the decision making. E.g. if the President wanted to introduce a new law, the bill would have to be introduced by a member of congress and work its way through the legislative process. This allows congress to review and scrutinise proposals. However, the President may bypass congress by issuing Executive Orders (an EO means Congressional approval is not needed therefore the President can pass laws without worrying about the opposition or public debate.).

    • Word count: 707
  8. What are the differences between the Judiciary in the UK and the US?

    In the UK there is an argument that judges are meant to be non-political and are neutral which means there is an absence of bias amongst judges, either in favour of or against a political party, providing for independent decision making by the judiciary. Judicial neutrality important in order for justice to be fair and impartial. Having said this, most judges selected are from public schools and Oxbridge backgrounds, leading many to believe that they're conservative in their outlook. Another difference between the courts is that judges are appointed to the Supreme Court through presidential nominees and the senate confirms this decision.

    • Word count: 524
  9. How powerful is Congress?

    There both the House of Representatives and senate agree over the difference in bills both houses have passed. If a bill passes through these stages, the President can veto any of Congress's bills if he feels that they're impractical or unconstitutional. However, the power Congress proposes means they can turn over any of the Presidential vetos. Although Bill Clinton used the presidential veto 36 times, Congress overturned this 34 times. This is a huge power of Congress as they can basically make laws which are not approved by the President. This also acts like a constraint on the Presidents power, and thus there is often Gridlock between Congress and President.

    • Word count: 917
  10. US Constitution Definition of Terms

    This created the House of Representatives and the Senate. Elastic Clause 'The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.' The clause allows Congress some degree of flexibility in enacting legislation. It gives the Congress more power than what is stated in the Constitution. Example--the government has the power to collect taxes. But, the Constitution does not say where that money should be held.

    • Word count: 2226
  11. The Galatic Assembly

    Senators will either answer with 'Aye', 'Nai' or 'Abstain', a resolution which has a majority of 'Aye' or for votes will be passed. Thereafter, when the GA will be conviened again, the resolution will be brought up upon. There will only be one for speech, and one aganist speech, after that, it is voted on. If passed it will go on to the Chansellor, who will either veto it, or accept it, on the spot. If vetoed it will go back to the GA and will need a 2/3 vote to be accepted without going back to the Chansellor again.

    • Word count: 4272
  12. The article America and Venezuela: Constitutional Worlds Apart compares and contrasts the similar yet polar opposite differences in the constitutional laws of the United States and Venezuela.

    The United States constitution begins with "We the people" when the people were in no way involved or even consulted in writing the document. The constitution was written by "framers" who were just ordinary people and not special or important people at all. "The people" were not involved on ratifying the constitution it was passed without the public having much of any say at all, which is pretty much the same today. The constitution is made out to seem like the people have somewhat of a say in the governing of the United States laws, yet it is written so

    • Word count: 809
  13. Presidential Elections

    A fourteen year residency qualification and they also must not serve more than two terms in office as president. These are defined as absolute needs and does not include personality traits and experience and such which are highly important but not one hundred percent necessary. 3. How are presidential candidates selected? Presidential candidates are selected by their party's at the National Party Convention. These are held during July or August of the election year and usually last four days. It is also traditional that the challenging party hold their convention first.

    • Word count: 1449
  14. Federalism vs. Devolution

    In the case of the UK, the history of the Unitary State is almost as complicated. The United Kingdom was formed when it invaded Wales and a treaty was created between England and Scotland. The issue over Northern Ireland begun, and parts of the country opted into the UK. The initial idea of the unitary state was to preserve parliamentary sovereignty, whereby the parliament is the highest decision making power in the country and nothing can challenge it or affect it permanently. However, giving power to devolved assemblies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales has undermined this; New Labour pledged to hold referendums on devolved assemblies in Scotland and Wales.

  15. Free essay

    Presidential Candidates

    Another requirement is that they must have lived in America for fourteen years and finally no candidate can serve more than two terms as president. The exception to this rule is if a vice president is promoted to president for less than half a term they can then also serve another two terms. Therefore overall serving two and a half terms. 3. Bennett gives more detail on the extra-constitutional requirements of candidates, what are these? Bennett also notes a number of extra-constitutional requirements of candidates that as mentioned in question one are not required to become president however a candidate

    • Word count: 972
  16. Why is it so difficult to remove a President through impeachment?

    Clinton also managed to use the media to his advantage most obviously with his spin team and a such this good relationship made an attempt at impeachment very hard. Another important factor when examing why it is so hard to remove a president through impeachment is that of public opinion. It is the public after all that elect both their senators representatives and indeed the president.

    • Word count: 525
  17. Why did hillary clinton lose the primaries

    Obama was seen as fresh faced and represented change as he was an outsider. However Hillary did not represent change, she was a Whitehouse insider due to her role in the senate from 2001 and being a first lady for 2 terms. This puts her in with everything the majority of Americans resent, the bush presidency. She voted for the Iraq war, and has been involved with a lot of the decision making whether through Bill or not such as the power of lobbyists issues.

    • Word count: 1031
  18. Why do civil rights continue to provoke controversy?

    The debate between liberals and conservatives (often seen as between Democrats and Republicans) about civil rights is a constant thing. Democrats see that there should be a large government, and therefore more intervention to provide equality of results, whereas Republicans want a small government with minimalist intervention, to provide individual rights, and to provide equality of opportunity. Democrats generally support altering systems to help discriminated people, such as Justice Stevens' approach. The main argument between Democrats and Republicans is over affirmative action.

    • Word count: 1852
  19. Difference in the Prime Minister and President

    They can dominate the commons through party loyalty, whips, patronage. Halisham has described the UK system of parliamentary government as an 'elective dictatorship'. The parliament due to such a strong link with the Prime Minister and his party means that he experiences loyalty when he proposed legislation. It is easy for the prime minister to get his proposed legislation passed due to the party loyalty, whips, patronage. Whip System-is used by the Prime Minister to maintain a party loyalty. British MP's are faced with the threat of losing career prospect within government, temporary suspension, and hostility from colleagues and even an ultimate sanction of expulsion from the party.

    • Word count: 1114
  20. Consider whether the activities of pressure groups help or hinder the operation of a pluralist democracy in the USA.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was set up to promote civil rights for African-Americans, many of whom were excluded from politics due to the literacy tests required to be able to vote. The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) also lobbies extensively, protecting the rights of Irish-Americans and Irish immigrants with the US, such as the fight against the deportation of Paul Brennan after his escape from H.M.P. Maze during the Troubles. The numerous access points, afforded through the pluralist democracy of the US, also mean that if counsel is refused at one point than a substitute is more than likely available.

    • Word count: 1788
  21. Is The US Constitution Too Rigid To Be Effective?

    These changes were all relatively small, incremental, and evolutionary. In fact, the Constitution has no provision, directly, for full-scale change. There have been many proposals for substantial change to the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson himself was wary of the power of the dead over the living in the form of an unchanging Constitution. To ensure that each generation have a say in the framework of the government, he proposed that the Constitution, and each one following it, expire after 19 or 20 years.

    • Word count: 1058
  22. The U.S system checks and balance is inefficient. disuss

    Vetos are rarely over turned for example Bill Clinton used his veto 37 times while he was in power and it was only overridden twice. When the two houses of Congress cannot agree on a date for adjournment, the President may settle the dispute. The President appoints judges with the Senate's advice and consent. He also has the power to issue pardons and reprieves. Such pardons are not subject to confirmation by either the House of Representatives or the Senate, or even to acceptance by the recipient.

    • Word count: 900
  23. "Imperial in foreign affairs, imperilled in others". How accurate is this view of Presidential power?

    I think this is typified by the discrepancy between the power of JFK and Lyndon Johnson. This was characterised by Kennedy failing to pass a great deal of his proposed civil rights legislation due to opposition from Southern Democrat Congressmen while Johnson became renowned for his ability to persuade congressmen to vote in his favour using 'the Johnson treatment'. I would suggest that the President is indeed dependent on Congress. Following Richard Nixon's involvement in the events of the Watergate scandal and associated 'sleaze' such as the use of slush funds and secretive tapings, the office of the President has become less trusted by the public.

    • Word count: 1203
  24. The US President is more powerful as a world statesman than the UK Prime Minister. Discuss.

    The President's role in foreign affairs however has developed from something not even envisaged by the original doctrines to something which is integral to the executive office. The President must accept the duty to represent the USA in international relations. Often this can be to maintain national unity as in the case of Nixon in Vietnam (1972). The latter example outlining the often bitter controversy which surrounds the President when making international policy decisions, but due to his independent nature he can take an effective stance of foreign issues.

    • Word count: 1081
  25. With reference to items D and E and other information compare and contrast the power of cabinet in the UK and the USA.

    But this led to her downfall when she was removed as PM in 1990. Appointments to cabinet appear to be a guide to how powerful that cabinet can be. The appointment systems in the US and UK are clearly different. In the US appointments are not always from the same party, Albright as Secretary of State and Republican Senator Reno as Attorney General. Leon Panetta was a former senior member of the House Budgetary Committee and he was appointed by Clinton "Its the economy stupid" This man would seem to have been a powerful member of cabinet and could he have made the decisions for Clinton?

    • Word count: 833

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