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American Government Final Review

American Government Final Review

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Published by irregularflowers
A glossary of important terms and concepts for AP American Government
A glossary of important terms and concepts for AP American Government

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Published by: irregularflowers on Jul 16, 2010
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American GovernmentChapter 1 – The Study of American Government
– the ability of one person to get another person to act in accordance with the firstperson’s intentions. People who exercise political power may or may not have the authorityto do so.
– the right to use power
Direct democracy
– all, or most, citizens participate directly in either holding office ormaking policy
Representative democracy
– people elect leaders to represent them. For representativedemocracy to work, there must be an opportunity for genuine competition of leadership. This requires that individuals and parties be able to run for office, that communication befree, and that voters perceive that a meaningful difference exists.
Majoritarian politics
– when the actions of officeholders follow the preferences of thepeople very closely. In this case elected officials are the delegates of the people, acting asthe people would act were the matter put to a popular vote. The issues handled in amajoritarian fashion can only be those that are sufficiently important to command theattention of most citizens, sufficiently clear to elicit an informed opinion from citizens, andsufficiently feasible to address so that what citizens want can actually be done.
– identifiable group of persons who possess a disproportionate share of some valuedresource
– government is a reflection of underlying economic forces, primarily the patternof ownership and the means of production. All societies are divided into classes on the basisof the relationships of people to the economy. In modern society two major classes contendfor power—capitalists and workers. Whichever class dominates the economy also controlsthe government, which is nothing more than a piece of machinery designed to express andgive legal effect to underlying class interests.
Power elite theory
– a nongovernmental elite makes most of the major decisions, but thiselite is not composed exclusively of corporate leaders. The important policies are set by aloose coalition of three groups—corporate leaders, top military officers, and key politicalleaders. Government is dominated by a few top leaders, most of whom are outside thegovernment and enjoy great advantages in wealth, status, or organizational position. Theyact in concert, and the policies they make serve the interests of the elite.
Bureaucratic theory
– all institutions fall under the control of large bureaucracies whoseexpertise and specialized competence are essential to the management of contemporaryaffairs. Government agencies are dominated by those who operate them on a daily basis.
Pluralist theory
– political resources are so widely scattered that no single elite hasanything like a monopoly over them. There are so many governmental institutions in whichpower may be exercised that no single group can dominate most of the political process.Policies are the outcome of a complex pattern of political haggling, compromises, andshifting alliances. Almost all relevant interests have a chance to affect the outcome of decisions. Not only are the elites divided, they are responsive to their followers’ interests,and thus they provide representation to almost all citizens affected by a policy.Chapter 2: The Constitution
Articles of Confederation
– created a “league of friendship” among the states that couldnot levy taxes or regulate commerce. Each state retained its sovereignty and independence,each state had one vote in Congress, 9/13 states were required to pass any measure, and
the delegates who cast these votes were picked and paid for by state legislatures. Congresshad the power to make peace, coin money, appoint the key army officers—but the army wassmall and dependent for support on independent state militias—and allowed to run the postoffice. There was no national judicial system to settle land claims among states. To amendthe Articles, all 13 states had to agree. Many leaders of the Revolution, such as Washingtonand Hamilton, believed that a stronger national government was essential.
Shay’s Rebellion
– in 1787 a group of ex-Revolutionary War soldiers, plagued by debts andhigh taxes and fearful of losing their property, forcibly prevented the courts in westernMassachusetts from sitting. The governor of Massachusetts asked the Continental Congressto send troops to suppress the rebellion, but it could not raise the money or manpower. Indesperation private funds were collected to hire a volunteer army, which dispersed therebels. State delegates were galvanized by the fear that state governments were about tocollapse from internal dissension.
Virginia Plan
– called for a strong national union organized into 3 governmental branches—the legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislature was to be composed of two houses,the first elected directly by the people and the second chosen by the first house from amongthe people nominated by state legislatures. The executive was to be chosen by the nationallegislature, as were members of a national judiciary. The executive and some members of the judiciary were to constitute a “council of revision” that could veto acts of the legislature;that veto, in turn, could be overridden by the legislature. A national legislature would havesupreme powers on all matters on which the separate states were not competent to act, aswell as the power to veto any and all state laws. At least one house of the legislature wouldbe elected directly by the people.
New Jersey Plan
– enhanced the powers of the national government, but did so in a waythat left states’ representation in Congress unchanged from the Articles—each state wouldhave one vote. Thus not only would the interests of small states be protected, but Congressitself would remain to a substantial degree the creature of state governments.
Great Compromise
– contained a House of Representatives consisting initially of 65members apportioned among the states roughly on the basis of population and elected bythe people and a Senate consisting of two senators from each state to be chosen by thestate legislatures. It reconciled the interests of small and large states by allowing the formerto predominate in the Senate and the latter in the House. This reconciliation was necessaryto ensure that there would be support for a strong national government from small and largestates.
 Judicial review
– the power of the Supreme Court to declare an act of Congressunconstitutional. It is a way of limiting the power of popular majorities by safeguarding theConstitution against popular passions.
How to propose/pass an amendment
– can be proposed either by a 2/3 vote of bothhouses of Congress or by a national convention called by Congress at the request of 2/3 of the states. Once proposed, an amendment must be ratified by ¾ of the states, eitherthrough their legislatures or special ratifying conventions in each state.
Checks and Balances
Congress can check the president in these ways:-by refusing to pass a bill the president wants-by passing a law over the president’s veto-by using the impeachment powers to remove the president from office-by refusing to approve a presidential appointment (Senate only)-by refusing to ratify a treaty the president has signed (Senate only)
Congress can check the federal courts in these ways:-by changing the number and jurisdiction of the lower courts-by using the impeachment powers to remove a judge from office-by refusing to approve a person nominated to be a judge (Senate only) The President can check Congress by vetoing a bill that it has passed and can check thefederal courts by nominating judges. The Courts can check Congress by declaring a war unconstitutional and can check thepresident by declaring actions by him or his subordinates to be unconstitutional or notauthorized by law.
– the division of political power between a national government and severalstate governments. By dividing power between the states and the national government, onelevel of government can serve as a check on the other.
– political division created by the diverse interests in America. Madison believedthat factions could help protect democracy. One faction might come to dominategovernment, or a part of government, in one place, and a rival faction might dominate it inanother. The pulling and hauling between these factions would prevent any singlegovernment from dominating all government.
– believed that a strong national government would be distant from thepeople and would use its powers to annihilate or absorb the functions that belonged to thestates. Congress would tax heavily, the Supreme Court would overrule state courts, and thepresident would come to head a large standing army. The nation needed a looseconfederation of states, with most of the powers of government kept in the hands of statelegislatures and state courts. If a national government existed, it should be heavilyrestricted. They proposed limiting the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, checking thepresident’s power by creating a council that would review his actions, leaving military affairsin the hands of state militias, increasing the size of the House of Representatives, andreducing the power of Congress to levy taxes. They wanted a bill of rights to be added to theConstitution.
– argued that liberty is safest in large republics. In a small community, there willbe relatively few differences in opinion or interest; people will tend to see the world in muchthe same way. If anyone dissents or pursues an alternative interest, he will be confronted bya massive majority and will have few allies. But in a large republic there will be manyopinions and interests; as a result it will be hard for a tyrannical majority to form or organize,and anyone with an unpopular view will find it easier to acquire allies. He suggested that thenational government should be at some distance from the people and insulated from theirmomentary passions. Liberty is threatened as much by public passions and popularly basedfactions as by strong governments.
Federalist Papers
– written by Hamilton to promote the Constitution, with help from John Jay and Madison. They probably played only a small role in securing ratification. In Federalist10 Madison argues for the benefits of political factions, or special interests. He recommendsregulating factions, not eliminating them. In No. 51 he argues that coalitions formed in alarge republic would be more moderate than those formed in a small one because the biggerthe republic, the greater the variety of interests, and thus the more a coalition of themajority would have to accommodate a diversity of interests and opinions if it hoped tosucceed.
Liberties guaranteed by the Constitution prior to the Bill of Rights:
-writ of habeas corpus may not be suspended (except during invasion or rebellion)-no bill of attainder may be passed by Congress or the states

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