American Government Stories Of A Nation For the AP Course Unit 1
Unit 1: Democracy and the Constitution
- The Constitution was written based on the idea that sovereignty comes from the people. It also believes the government should be limited. The US Constitution balances freedom with order and equal opportunity for all.
- The Articles of Confederation were the United States first form of government. However, it failed to create a stable nation. This caused the founding fathers to create a new document that would give more power to the national government. It would separate the government into three branches, as well as give states some power. This new document would go on to be the Constitution. Ratifying it, however, did not stop the controversy of how power should be shared. Even today, the debate over how to protect life, property, order, and equality rages on
Chapter 1: American Government and Politics
- Politics are the process of influencing the actions and policies of government. Although politics and government are connected, they are not the same. Politics describe processes whereas government describes rules and institutions that make up systems of policymaking.
1.1 The Fight for Student's Rights
- Bridget Mergens wanted to start a Christian Bible study club at her high school in Omaha, Nebraska. However, both the principal and school board denied her request because of the religious aspect of the club. Mergens turned to the National Legal Foundation to help her with her case. They cited the Equal Access Act (EAA) which restricted a schools ability to exclude religious extracurricular clubs. Mergens case went all the way to the Supreme Court where they ruled in her favor. They believed high school students were mature enough to understand their school does not endorse or support a certain religion, but allows its presence.
- In Boyd County, Kentucky, high school students tried to start the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), but were shut down. They contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to help them with their case. Again, they cited the EAA and the school allowed the club. However, members were constantly harassed by other students and teachers, causing the ACLU to get involved again.
- Both of these stories show how individuals are able to access political tools to help them in their lives. These tools allowed them to protect their rights.
1.2 American Political Culture
- When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he looked back on governmental ideas from Great Britain and ancient cities. From the Greeks and Romans he took the idea of democracy. Democracy is when the power is held by the people. Jefferson also looked at the works of John Locke. Locke was against a divine ruler and promoted the natural rights of life, liberty, and property. He also believed in a government based on a social contract. The people would allow government to rule over them so the society could function. But if the government broke natural rights, the people had the right to replace said government. Jefferson also used Baron de Montesquieu's idea of dividing the government into separate branches.
- Today, the idea of natural rights shape Americans shared beliefs. These shared beliefs are called American political culture.
- The Declaration of Independence contains five parts. The preamble which set the argument that the colonies did not believe British rule to be legitimate. Next were listing citizen's rights. This was then followed by grievances against the King as well as other complaints. The document ends with a statement that says the colonies are not longer a part of Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776
- Sovereignty is the right of a government to rule. American political culture is based on popular sovereignty which is the idea that the power to rule comes from the people. When the people are unhappy, they can change the government through regular, fair, and free elections. American political culture is also based on republicanism. Republicanism is similar to popular sovereignty, but states that the authority of the government comes from the people. They key difference is the word "right" versus the word "authority."
- The US also uses a representative government rather than a direct democracy. A representative government has representatives voting on certain issues rather than each individual. These representatives are voted on through elections. Senate members have elections every 6 years, House members every 2 years, and the President every 4 years.
- The Declaration of Independence lists inalienable rights. These are rights the government cannot take away. Some of these rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Political rule helps protect these rights and the ways they are expressed.
- Liberty can mean freedom from government interference, but it can also mean the freedom to pursue one's dreams. However, tension can arise between these two clashing definitions.
- A core political value that Americans have is that individuals can achieve their goals through hard work, sacrifice, and talent.
- Religion has also partly shaped political culture
1.3 Competing Theories of Democracy
- Participatory democracy requires participation in politics. Joining civil society groups is one way to participate. When people join groups, they are able to meet members of their community and develop new perspectives.
- One of the best ways to influence politics is to join a group of people who have the same political ideas as you. The pluralist theory shows the importance of having these groups in policy making. Some groups include the National Legal Foundation, ACLU, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Even if a group does not have a lot of money, they still have other resources they can use to help people. Pluralists believe policymaking comes from bargaining and compromise.
- The elitist theory believes that a small minority controls the government. This minority are those with the most economic power. They believe government officials are heavily influenced by the wealthy when it comes to decision making. They believe certain groups have too much money. Those against the elitist theory bring up the fact that poorer groups have other resources to make an impact in politics
1.4 Institutions, Systems, and Power
- The Constitution establishes the political institutions of the United States. This includes the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Constitution limits the power of the national government in order to protect individual rights. The US is a constitutional republic. Representatives make laws and policies rather than individuals voting on what they think is best.
- Government and politics are all based on real people and their choices.
Chapter 1 Vocab
Politics- the process of influencing the actions and policies of government
Government- the rules and institutions that make up that system of policy making
Democracy- a system of government where power is held by the people
Natural rights- the right to life, liberty, and property, which government cannot take away
Social contract- people allow their government to rule over them to ensure an orderly and functioning society
American political culture- the set of beliefs, customs, traditions, and values that Americans share
Popular sovereignty- the idea that the government's right to rule comes from the people
Republicanism- a system in which the government's authority comes from the people
Inalienable rights- rights the government cannot take away
Liberty- social, political, and economic freedoms
Participatory democracy- a theory that widespread political participation is essential for democratic government
Civil society groups- independent associations outside the government's control
Pluralist theory- a theory of democracy that emphasizes the role of groups in the policymaking process
Elitist theory- a theory of democracy that the elites have a disproportionate amount of influence in the policymaking process
Political institutions- the structure of government, including the executive, legislature, and judiciary
Constitutional republic- a democratic system with elected representatives in which the Constitution is the supreme law
Chapter 2: The Constitution
- The delegates of the Constitutional Convention did not always see eye to eye. The pushed through their differences and were able to create the Constitution. This document describes the fundamental principles of government as wells as the institutions.
James Madison: Clear Eyed Visionary
- James Madison read about many republics that eventually died. He tried to figure out how to create a republic that would last. This preparation allowed him to take much of the lead at the Constitutional Convention, nicknaming him the Father of the Constitution.
2.1 The Articles of Confederation
- The Articles of Confederation was the United States first form of government. It unified the sovereign states, but gave those states supreme power over the national government.
- When the Articles of Confederation was founded, the citizens of one state did not always trust teh government of another state. They also did not trust a government that was very far away from them.
- The document created a "league of friendship" between the states. Providing protection to the states from invasions, and giving small states equal representation in government.
- Under the Articles of Confederation, each state had one vote in Congress, although, states could send as many representatives as they wanted. Congress was also unicameral.
- The national government was intentionally weak, giving state legislatures the most power. This meant the confederal government could not force states to follow its policies. They could create an army and navy, but there were no funds for those powers.
- The confederal government did not have taxation power, so they asked the states for money. The states would refuse so the country could not pay off its debts. This lead to the printing of worthless money and selling western land. Since each state had different trade restrictions, it was difficult to create a national economy.
- The Articles of Confederation also had no judicial branch. A judiciary was put in place to resolve differences, but there was no way to enforce these decisions.
- In 1786, the Annapolis Convention was called. The main goal was to address trade and navigation arguments between states. Participation in this convention was weak. However, it did increase the changes of reform
- Many Americans did not want to replace the Articles of Confederation because they feared change. Those in the South feared slavery would go away with amending the document. Small states feared losing representation. Many were also in fear of a strong national government
- Shay's Rebellion took place in Massachusetts, but many in other states followed suit. This rebellion added to the sense of urgency to replace America's governmental structure
- Shay's Rebellion was rooted in economic and political disputes. Economically, many Americans could not pay off the debts they had after the war.
- Most of those who took part in the rebellion were veterans of teh Revolutionary War. Without a military, there was no one to fight the rebels. States asked for money, but none was given. Eventually the wealthy people of Boston had to give their own money to fight the rebels.
- Shay's Rebellion caused Washington to return to the public. He was worried about the states turing on one another when the country was already very weak. He was also worried about Great Britain, who began to take over parts of Canada.
2.2 The Constitutional Convention
- The Constitutional Convention was held to fix the Articles of Confederation. Fifty five delegates from every state, except Rhode Island, went to Philadelphia in 1787 for the convention. Washington served as teh president of the proceedings.
- The rule of secrecy was very important at the convention. They knew it would be difficult to get anything done if any bit of information was leaked. The overall goal was to create a strong fiscal and military state. The two biggest issues revolved around representation and teh powers of the national government.
- A limited government was created in order to protect individual freedoms. Power was then distributed into three branches so that one branch never became too powerful.
- The Constitution protects individual rights for those that are accused of crimes. Rights include the writ of habeas corpus, bills of attained, and ex post facto laws.
- Representation was a large argument. Small states were worried their representation would be overpowered by large states. Large states worried that their representation would be underrepresented. The Virginia Plan created a three branch government with a bicameral legislature. It would give more populated states more members in both houses. The three branch government and bicameral legislature were approved, but representation was still a fight. The New Jersey Plan proposed a unicameral legislature were each state would get one vote. The legislature would also get more powers. Although the idea of new powers was approved, large and small states continued to fight over representation. The Great Connecticut Compromise created a bicameral legislature. Members of the House of Representatives would be chosen based on the states population. The Senate would be composed of two senators from each state. This agreement went along well with both large and small states. Small states now did not fear Congress and were more in favor of a strong national government
- Slavery was also a heated issue at the convention. Those from the South so no problem in slavery, while others saw it as a moral issue. The country was promoting freedom for all but still had slaves. Southern states threatened to leave the convention is slavery was gone. Delegates did not want this to occur, so they agreed to keep slavery for now. In the Constitution, the word slavery never appears. Instead, they are referred to as "other persons." Slaves did count toward representation, but only as 3/5 of a person. The Constitution also mentions the Compromise on Importation. This says that Congress cannot restrict slave trade until 1808.
2.3 Branches of Government
- Separation of powers made sure that one branch was not too powerful. Checks and balances allowed branches to prevent another branch from making policy. One check is that Congress can impeach a president. The Constitution also mentions federalism, this shares power between the national and state governments.
- The legislative branch makes laws. The House of Representatives are supposed to be more responsive to the people and directly represent their wants. Snearotrsy represent the states and watch the passions of the people. Under the Constitution, Congress has more power regarding money. Powers that are directly stated are called expressed powers. Congress can borrow money, collect taxes, and regulate commerce. The necessary and proper clause gives Congress the power to make laws that are necessary to fulfill their expressed powers. Implied powers are ones that are not directly stated in the Constitution, but still fall under Congress's power.
- The President is the head of the executive branch. Their job is to carry out the laws passed by Congress. The President can veto laws and is also commander in chief of the army and navy. However, Congress has the power to declare war. The president also has the power to make foreign policy.
- The Constitution does bring up the judicial branch, but it is not very specific. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation. Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases between states and the national government, between two states, and between citizens of different states. The supremacy clause makes the Constitution the supreme law of the land. Congress determines the number of Supreme Court Justices and the Presidents nominates the candidates
- Amendments can make changes to the Constitution. An amendment can be proposed in two ways. The first is by passing a 2/3 vote in the House and the Senate. The other way is through a national convention in which 2/3 of the states free. An amendment can be ratified in two ways. The first is by a majority vote of 3/4 of state legislatures. The other is by a ratifying convention in 3/4 of the states
- Only 27 amendments have been ratified. The first 10 are the Bill of Rights. The 18 and 21 cancel eachother out.
2.4 Ratification Federalists Versus Anti Federalists
- 9/13 states would need to ratify the Constitution for it to become law. Those in favor of ratifying it were the federalists. Likewise, those against it were called the anti federalists. Antifederalists brought up the fear of change and that having a strong national government could be bad for the people. Federalists argued what might happen if the Constitution is not passed. The Federalists also had Washington and Franklin on their side, helping to sway some opinion.
- They mostly argued over the feasibility of a republican government, the powers of states and the national government, and the lack of a bill of rights
- The Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The papers tried to convince Americans why the Constitution should be ratified.
- Federalist No. 10 was written by Madison. It describes the problem of factions, when one group tramples on the rights of others, and how the Constitution would prevent them. He believe a republic, and a large one at that, would limit the factions in a nation.
- Tyranny can take place in two forms. A tyranny of the majority would suppress the rights of a smaller group. While a tyranny of a minority steps on the rights of most of the population. Antifederalists focused on the tyranny of the minority. Federalists focused on the dangers of majority rule
- Brutus No. 1 argues that the United States was to large to be governed as a republic. It fears the economic power of the national government as well as the control over the military and navy.
- Federalist No. 51 argues that preventing tyranny is possible with the separation of powers. Madison states that a federal system would also prevent tyranny
- The Bill of Rights would be a list of rights and liberties that the government cannot take away. Agreeing to a Bill of Rights helped the Federalists win in ratifying the Constitution. In 1791, the amendments were added to the Constitution
Chapter 2 Vocab
Constitution- a document that sets out the fundamental principles of governance and establishes the institutions of government
Republic- a government ruled by representatives of the people
Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union- a governing document that created a union of thirteen sovereign states in which the states, not the national government, were supreme
Unicameral- a one house legislature
Shays's Rebellion- a popular uprising against the government of Massachusetts
Constitutional Convention- a meeting attended by state delegates in 1787 to fix the Articles of Confederation
Writ of habeas corpus- the right of people detained by the government to know the charges against them
Bills of attainder- when the legislature declares someone guilty without a trial
Ex post facto laws- laws punishing people for acts that were not crimes at the time they were committed
Virginia Plan- a plan of government calling for a three branch government with a bicameral legislature, where more populous states would have more representation in Congress
New Jersey Plan- a plan of government that provided for a unicameral legislature with equal votes for each states
Grand Committee- a committee at the Constitutional Convention that worked out the compromise on representation
Great (Connecticut) Compromise- an agreement for a plan of government that drew upon both the Virginia and New Jersey Plans; it settled issues of state representation by calling for a bicameral legislature with a House of Representatives apportioned proportionately and a Senate apportioned equally
Bicameral- a two house legislature
Three Fifths Compromise- an agreement reached by delegates at the Constitutional Convention that a slave would count as three fifths of a person in calculating a state's representation
Compromise on Importation- Congress could not restrict the slave trade until 1808
Separation of powers- a design of government that distributes powers across institutions in order to avoid making one branch too powerful on its own
Checks and balances- a design of government in which each branch has powers that can prevent the other branches from making policy
Federalism- the sharing of power between national government and the states
Legislative branch- the institution responsible for making laws
Expressed or enumerated powers- authority specifically granted to a branch of the government in the Constitution
Necessary and proper or elastic clause- language in Article I, section 8, granting Congress the powers necessary to carry out its enumerated powers
Implied powers- authority of the federal government that goes beyond its expressed powers
Executive branch- the institution responsible for carrying out laws passed by the legislative branch
Judicial branch- the institution responsible for hearing and deciding cases through the federal courts
Supremacy clause- constitutional provision declaring that the Constitution and all national laws and treaties are the supreme law of the land
Amendment- the process by which changes may be made to the Constitution
Federalists- supporters of the proposed Constitution, who called for a strong national government
Antifederalists- those opposed to the proposed Constitution, who favored stronger state governments
Federalists Papers, a series of eighty five essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John jay and published between 1787 and 1788 that lay out the theory behind the Constitution
Federalist No. 51- an essay in which Madison argues that separation of powers and federalism will prevent tyranny
Faction- a group of self interested people who use the government to get what they want, trampling the rights of others in the process
Federalist No. 10- an essay in which Madison argues that the dangers of faction can be mitigated by a large republic and republican government
Brutus No. 1- an Antifederalist Paper arguing that the country was too large to be governed as a republic and that the Constitution gave too much power to the national government
Chapter 3: Federalism
- The Articles of Confederation gave most of the power to the state governments. This meant Congress had to constantly fight for cooperation. The Constitution divided power between the national and state governments. Defense, national security, and the economy are powers given to the federal government. Police powers are given to the states. Taxation is a power shared. Powers that take away the rights of citizens are denied to both levels of government.
3.1 Conflict over Medical Marijuana
- In 2002, Raich and Monson filed lawsuits in California against the U.S. government. They felt that the use of medical marijuana, which was legal in California but illegal in the US, was protected by state law
- The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 made using marijuana legal for medical purposes if prescribed by a doctor
- The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it so marijuana was illegal in the United States. This law was passed under the idea that Congress was regulating interstate commerce
- The Supreme Court would need to make a decision on if the state or federal law was correct
3.2 Federalism and the Constitution
- In a unitary system, one central government has authority over subnational governments. The national government can give and redact the powers of the subnational. Some examples of this are the United Kingdom, China, and Iran.
- Confederal systems have subnational governments having more power than the national. States are responsible for carrying out and paying for public policies. Switzerland follows a confederal system
- Powers of the national government that are explicitly listed in the Constitution are called expressed powers. The powers are mainly given to Congress.
- The exclusive powers are powers only the national government can use. Exclusive powers include coining money, declaring war, raising and army, making treaties, and regulate commerce. Most of these powers are listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution
- Implied powers are not specifically states. Under the necessary and proper clause, Congress has the powers it needs to carry out expressed powers.
- Certain powers are denied to the national government. Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and the writ of habeas corpus are all denied in order to protect individual rights.
- The commerce, necessary and proper clause, and the Tenth Amendment all shape the authority given to states and the national government.
- The commerce clause grants Congress the power to regulate between foreign Nations, among several states, and with Tribes.
- The necessary and proper clause is also referred to as the elastic clause.
- The supremacy clause means states must abide by any laws passed by Congress, even if state constitutions disagree. States must also follow and treaties and courts must follow the Constitution
- Protection for states comes in during the Tenth Amendment. It gives the states power, as long as that power does not supersede the federal government.
- Reserved powers are not given to the national government so they are instead given to the states.
- Police powers allow state governments to protect citizens and provide for their safety, health, and general welfare
- The Constitution cannot be amended with 3/4 of the states agreeing. Either with their legislatures or by ratification conventions in the states
- Concurrent powers allow national and state governments to overlap. Both can borrow money, pass and enforce laws, create courts, and charter banks
- The Constitution does not describe the powers of local government. The relationship between states and local government is usually unitary.
- Therefore there are three levels of government in the United States, but only two when it comes to the idea of federalism
- States also interact with each other. Article IV outlines the obligations between the states. The full faith and credit clause requires states to recognize public acts, records, and court proceedings from another state
- There are limits to the full faith and credit clause. For example, one state might have different requirements for a driver's license. If you move there you may need to obtain a new one
- Extradition requires officials in one state to return a criminal to the state where the crime was committed.
- The privileges and immunities clause prevents states from discriminating people who are not from their state.
3.3 The Dynamic Nature of Federalism
- The first major case decided by the Marshall Court was in 1819 in the McCulloch v Maryland. It questioned if Congress had the authority to charter a national bank. States then wanted to tax the bank, but bank officials refused to pay that state taxes. In the end the case was ruled in the favor of the national government. Stating Congress could form national bank and states could not tax those branches of the bank. The Supreme Court said some of the people's sovereignty was given to the national government when they ratified the constitution.
- Gibbons v Ogden occurred in 1824. It weighted on the powers of Congress under the commerce clause. At the end of the case, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had power over state government when it came to commerce
- The 13, 14, and 15 amendments all reduced powers of the states.
- The 13 outlawed slavery
- The 14 has several clauses that limit state actions. The first part says that anyone born in the US was a US citizen, therefore Southern states could not deny citizenship to former slaves. The Equal Protection clause says that states cannot deny people certain protections. The Due Process Clause prevents states from denying people due process.
- The 15 gave African American men the right to vote
- The Supreme Court did not strongly support African American civil rights, so it gave that power to the state governments
- Plessy v Ferguson occured in 1896. The Supreme Court allowed racial segregation and allowed states to pass laws enforcing the segregation
- "Separate but equal" did not violate the Constitution
- Dual federalism shows separation between state and national government. But the line between them has never been clear cut
- Selective incorporation applies the rights from the Bill of Rights to states' cases
- Cooperative federalism is when both areas work together in public policy. The national government sets the standards while the state government administers the programs
- The Great Depression increased the powers of national government because states could not take care of their people
- The New Deal expanded national power
- The Social Security act helped vulnerable groups of Americans
- The Works Progress Administration provided jobs
3.4 Modern American Federalism
- The federal government expanded its role in the economy
- Grant-in-aid is money provided to the states by the federal government. It is used to carry out policy that the national government has decided is important.
- Categorical grants provide money to states, local, or regional governments for specific policy objectives. Certain conditions are required to receive this money
- Once a state establishes a program funded by grant-in-aids, it must keep getting that money to keep the program alive
- Some believe that this system takes away part of states rights
- Unfunded matters are when the government requires states to pay for programs. The national government gives no money to help with funding
- Block grants provide federal money for public policy in a way to increase state, local, and regional authority in how the money is being spent
- Revenue sharing is when the federal government gives tax money to the states with no strings attached. States can use this money for any governmental purpose they wish. This ended in 1986 and is unlikely to return in the near future
- Devolution gives authority for federal programs to the states by decentralizing control and administration of programs.
- The federal government has often tried to step in when it comes to education. Requiring federal testing to be given to the students. The federal government has also given money to many states to help fund schools. States argue that the federal government has overstepped while others think that the federal government stepping in makes it a more level playing field. This would make sure students in one state are receiving almost the same education as students in another state
3.5 The Supreme Court and Modern Federalism
- In 1992 Alfonso Lopez Jr. brought a gun to school because he was going to sell it to another student. He fought the United States saying that Congress had no authority to regulate what occurred in public schools. The lawyers for the United States argued that the guns increase violence which then increase crime. Crime is expensive so it then falls under commerce. The Supreme Court used this against the United States, saying everything would then be commerce. Leading Lopez to win his case
- In 1967, the Loving v Virginia case allowed interracial marriage. Today, same sex marriage is a topic heavily discussed. Some sections of the Defense of Marriage Act determine marriage as a federal law while other sections declare it a state law.
- In United States v Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage. But the law was determined by states, meaning marriage was legal in some states and illegal in others.
Chapter 3 Vocab
Federalism- a system that divides power between the national and state governments
Unitary system- a system where the central government has all of the power over subnational governments
Confederal system- a system where the subnational governments have most of the power
Federal system- a system where power is divided between the national and state governments
Enumerated or expressed powers- powers explicitly granted to the national government through the Constitution; also called expressed powers
Exclusive powers- powers only the national government may exercise
Implied powers- powers not granted specifically to the national government but considered necessary to carry out the enumerated powers
Commerce clause- grants Congress the authority to regulate interstate business and commercial activity
Necessary and proper clause- grants the federal government the authority to pass laws required to carry out its enumerated powers. Also called the elastic clause
Supremacy clause- establishes the Constitution and the laws of the federal government passed under its authority as the highest laws of the land
Tenth Amendment- reserves powers not delegated to the national government to the states and the people; the basis of federalism
Reserved powers- powers not given to the national government, which are retained by the states and the people
Concurrent powers- powers granted to both states and the federal government in the Constitution
Full faith and credit clause- constitutional clause requiring states to recognize the public acts, records, and civil court proceedings from another state
Extradition- the requirement that officials in one state return a defendant to another state where a crime was committed
Privileges and immunities clause- constitutional clause that prevents states from discriminating against people from out of state
Thirteenth Amendment- constitutional amendment that outlawed slavery
Fourteenth Amendment- constitutional amendment that provides that persons born in the United States are citizens and prohibits states from denying persons due process or equal protection under the law
Fifteenth Amendment- constitutional amendment that gave African American males the right to vote
Dual federalism- a form of American federalism in which the states and the nation operate independently in their own areas of public policy
Selective incorporation- the process through which the Supreme Court applies fundamental rights in the Bill of Rights to the states on a case by case basis
Cooperative federalism- a form of American federalism in which the states and the national government work together to shape public policy
Grants in aid- federal money provided to states to implement public policy objectives
Fiscal federalism- the federal government's use of grants in aid to influence policies in the states
Categorical grants- grants in aid provided to states with specific provisions on their use
Unfunded mandate- federal requirements that states must follow without being provided with funding
Block grant- a type of grant in aid that gives state officials more authority in the disbursement of federal funds
Revenue sharing- when the federal government apportions tax money to the states with no strings attached
Devolution- returning more authority to state or local governments