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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.

  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

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