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American Government

Chapter 1 – The Study of American Government

Power – the ability of one person to get another person to act in accordance with the first
person’s intentions. People who exercise political power may or may not have the authority
to do so.
Authority – the right to use power
Direct democracy – all, or most, citizens participate directly in either holding office or
making policy
Representative democracy – people elect leaders to represent them. For representative
democracy 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 be
free, and that voters perceive that a meaningful difference exists.
Majoritarian politics – when the actions of officeholders follow the preferences of the
people very closely. In this case elected officials are the delegates of the people, acting as
the people would act were the matter put to a popular vote. The issues handled in a
majoritarian fashion can only be those that are sufficiently important to command the
attention of most citizens, sufficiently clear to elicit an informed opinion from citizens, and
sufficiently feasible to address so that what citizens want can actually be done.
Elite – identifiable group of persons who possess a disproportionate share of some valued
Marxism – government is a reflection of underlying economic forces, primarily the pattern
of ownership and the means of production. All societies are divided into classes on the basis
of the relationships of people to the economy. In modern society two major classes contend
for power—capitalists and workers. Whichever class dominates the economy also controls
the government, which is nothing more than a piece of machinery designed to express and
give legal effect to underlying class interests.
Power elite theory – a nongovernmental elite makes most of the major decisions, but this
elite is not composed exclusively of corporate leaders. The important policies are set by a
loose coalition of three groups—corporate leaders, top military officers, and key political
leaders. Government is dominated by a few top leaders, most of whom are outside the
government and enjoy great advantages in wealth, status, or organizational position. They
act in concert, and the policies they make serve the interests of the elite.
Bureaucratic theory – all institutions fall under the control of large bureaucracies whose
expertise and specialized competence are essential to the management of contemporary
affairs. 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 has
anything like a monopoly over them. There are so many governmental institutions in which
power 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, and
shifting 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 could
not 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. Congress
had the power to make peace, coin money, appoint the key army officers—but the army was
small and dependent for support on independent state militias—and allowed to run the post
office. There was no national judicial system to settle land claims among states. To amend
the Articles, all 13 states had to agree. Many leaders of the Revolution, such as Washington
and Hamilton, believed that a stronger national government was essential.
Shay’s Rebellion – in 1787 a group of ex-Revolutionary War soldiers, plagued by debts and
high taxes and fearful of losing their property, forcibly prevented the courts in western
Massachusetts from sitting. The governor of Massachusetts asked the Continental Congress
to send troops to suppress the rebellion, but it could not raise the money or manpower. In
desperation private funds were collected to hire a volunteer army, which dispersed the
rebels. State delegates were galvanized by the fear that state governments were about to
collapse 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 among
the people nominated by state legislatures. The executive was to be chosen by the national
legislature, 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 have
supreme powers on all matters on which the separate states were not competent to act, as
well as the power to veto any and all state laws. At least one house of the legislature would
be elected directly by the people.
New Jersey Plan – enhanced the powers of the national government, but did so in a way
that left states’ representation in Congress unchanged from the Articles—each state would
have one vote. Thus not only would the interests of small states be protected, but Congress
itself would remain to a substantial degree the creature of state governments.
Great Compromise – contained a House of Representatives consisting initially of 65
members apportioned among the states roughly on the basis of population and elected by
the people and a Senate consisting of two senators from each state to be chosen by the
state legislatures. It reconciled the interests of small and large states by allowing the former
to predominate in the Senate and the latter in the House. This reconciliation was necessary
to ensure that there would be support for a strong national government from small and large
Judicial review – the power of the Supreme Court to declare an act of Congress
unconstitutional. It is a way of limiting the power of popular majorities by safeguarding the
Constitution against popular passions.
How to propose/pass an amendment – can be proposed either by a 2/3 vote of both
houses 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, either
through 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 the
federal courts by nominating judges.
The Courts can check Congress by declaring a war unconstitutional and can check the
president by declaring actions by him or his subordinates to be unconstitutional or not
authorized by law.
Federalism – the division of political power between a national government and several
state governments. By dividing power between the states and the national government, one
level of government can serve as a check on the other.
Faction – political division created by the diverse interests in America. Madison believed
that factions could help protect democracy. One faction might come to dominate
government, or a part of government, in one place, and a rival faction might dominate it in
another. The pulling and hauling between these factions would prevent any single
government from dominating all government.
Antifederalists – believed that a strong national government would be distant from the
people and would use its powers to annihilate or absorb the functions that belonged to the
states. Congress would tax heavily, the Supreme Court would overrule state courts, and the
president would come to head a large standing army. The nation needed a loose
confederation of states, with most of the powers of government kept in the hands of state
legislatures and state courts. If a national government existed, it should be heavily
restricted. They proposed limiting the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, checking the
president’s power by creating a council that would review his actions, leaving military affairs
in the hands of state militias, increasing the size of the House of Representatives, and
reducing the power of Congress to levy taxes. They wanted a bill of rights to be added to the
Madison – argued that liberty is safest in large republics. In a small community, there will
be relatively few differences in opinion or interest; people will tend to see the world in much
the same way. If anyone dissents or pursues an alternative interest, he will be confronted by
a massive majority and will have few allies. But in a large republic there will be many
opinions 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 the
national government should be at some distance from the people and insulated from their
momentary passions. Liberty is threatened as much by public passions and popularly based
factions 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 Federalist
10 Madison argues for the benefits of political factions, or special interests. He recommends
regulating factions, not eliminating them. In No. 51 he argues that coalitions formed in a
large republic would be more moderate than those formed in a small one because the bigger
the republic, the greater the variety of interests, and thus the more a coalition of the
majority would have to accommodate a diversity of interests and opinions if it hoped to
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
-no ex post facto law may be passed by Congress or the states
-right of trial by jury in criminal cases is guaranteed
-the citizens of each state are entitled to the privileges and immunities of the citizens of
every other state
-no religious test or qualification for holding federal office is imposed
-no law impairing the obligation of contracts may be passed by the states
The Bill of Rights
Amendment 1: freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly, the right to petition the
Amendment 2: Right to bear arms
Amendment 3: troops may not be quartered in homes in peacetime
Amendment 4: no unreasonable searches or seizures
Amendment 5: grand jury indictment required to prosecute a person for a serious crime. No
“double jeopardy.” Forcing a person to testify against himself is prohibited. No loss of life,
liberty, or property without due process.
Amendment 6: right to speedy, public, impartial trial with defense counsel and right to cross-
examine witnesses
Amendment 7: jury trials in civil suits where value exceed $20
Amendment 8: no excessive bail or fines, no cruel and unusual punishments
Amendment 9: unlisted rights are not necessarily denied
Amendment 10: powers not delegated to the US or denied to states are reserved to the
Slavery in the Constitution – it is never mentioned explicitly. In determining the
representation of the House, 3/5 of all “other persons” are included in the state’s population.
The convention agreed not to allow the new government by law or constitutional
amendment to prohibit the importation of slaves until 1808. The Constitution guaranteed
that if a slave were to escape and flee to a nonslave state, the slave would be returned.
Economic interests at the Convention – the Framers tended to represent their states’
interests on important matters. Except with respect to slavery, they usually did not vote
their own economic interests.
Economic interests and ratification – delegates who were merchants, who lived in cities,
who owned large amounts of western land, who held government IOUs, and who did not own
slaves were more likely to vote to ratify the new Constitution than were delegates who were
farmers, who did not own public debt, and who did own slaves.
Ways of Amending the Constitution
To propose an amendment
-2/3 of both houses of Congress vote to propose an amendment or 2/3 of the state
legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments
To ratify an Amendment
-3/4 of the state legislatures approve it or ratifying conventions in ¾ of the states approve it
Key facts
-only the first method of proposing an amendment has been used
-the second method of ratification has been used only once, to ratify the 21st Amendment
-congress may limit the time within which a proposed amendment must be ratified. The
usual limitation has been 7 years
-thousands of proposals have been made, but only 33 have obtained the necessary 2/3 vote
in Congress
-27 amendments have been ratified
Complaints about separation of powers – by making every decision the uncertain
outcome of the pulling and hauling between the president and Congress, the Constitution
precludes the emergence of the kind of effective national leadership the country needs. An
increase in presidential power would help the voters hold the president and his party
accountable for their actions. Typically the president cannot get his policies adopted by
Congress without long delays and much bargaining. Government agencies responsible for
implementing a program are exposed to undue interference from legislators ad special
Line Item Veto Act – passed by president Clinton in 1996. It gave the president the power
to selectively eliminate individual items in large appropriations bills, expansions in certain
income-transfer programs, and tax breaks. But it also left Congress free to craft bills in ways
that would give the president few opportunities to veto favored items. It was struck down in
Clinton v. New York, holding that the Constitution does not allow the president to cancel
specific items in tax and spending legislation.
Line-item veto – allows the chief executive to approve some provisions of a bill and
disapprove others

Chapter 3: Federalism
Devolution – the effort to devolve onto the states the national government’s functions in
areas such as welfare, health care, and job training. Between 1994-1996, Republican
majorities in the House and Senate made proposals to accelerate the devolution of national
power. There are three main factors driving devolution: the beliefs of devolution’s
proponents, the realities of deficit politics, and the views of most citizens. By 1994 many
governors of both parties were convinced that the time had come to let state capitals take
the lead in figuring out how best to address social problems and administer public health
and welfare programs. Congressional Republicans sought not only to fund entitlement
programs with block grants instead of categorical grants but also to make major cuts in
entitlement spending.
Block grants – money from the national government for programs in certain general areas
that the states can use at their discretion within broad guidelines set by Congress
Federalism – a political system in which there are local units of government, as well as a
national government, that can make final decisions with respect to at least some
governmental activities and whose existence is specially protected. Local units exist
independently of the preferences of national government and can make decisions on a least
some matters without regard to those preferences. Political power is locally acquired by
people whose careers depend for the most part on satisfying local interests. As a result,
though the national government may have vast powers, it exercises many of these powers
through state governments. Federalism has many effects, but its most obvious effect has
been to facilitate the mobilization of political activity. A federal system, by virtue of the
decentralization of authority, lowers the cost of organized political activity. Federalism was
one device whereby personal liberty was to be protected.
Sovereignty – supreme or ultimate political authority. A sovereign government is one that
is legally and politically independent of any other government
Unitary system – one in which sovereignty is wholly in the hands of the national
government, so that the states and localities are dependent on its will
Confederation – a system in which the states are sovereign and the national government is
allowed to do only that which the states permit
Federal regime – one in which local units of government have a specially protected
existence and can make some final decisions over some governmental activities
Hamilton’s view of federalism – since the people had created the national government,
since the law and treaties made pursuant to the Constitution were the “supreme law of the
land,” and since the most pressing needs were the development of a national economy and
the conduct of foreign affairs, the national government was the superior and leading force in
political affairs and its powers ought to be broadly defined and liberally constructed.
Jefferson’s view of federalism – the federal government was the product of an
agreement among the states; and though the “the people” were the ultimate sovereigns,
the principal threat to their liberties was likely to come from the national government. Thus
the powers of the national government should be narrowly constructed and strictly limited.
McCulloch v. Maryland – James McCulloch, the cashier of the Baltimore branch of the Bank
of the US, which had been created by Congress, refused to pay a tax levied on that bank by
the state of Maryland. He was convicted for failing to pay the tax. The Court decided that,
although the federal government possessed only those powers enumerated in the
Constitution, the “extent” of those powers required interpretation. To carry out these powers
Congress may reasonably decide that chartering a national bank is “necessary and
proper” to fulfilling its power to manage money. Chief Justice John Marshall decided that the
government of the US was not established by the states, but by the people, and thus the
federal government was supreme in the exercise of those powers conferred upon it. having
already concluded that chartering a bank was within the powers of Congress, Marshall then
argued that the only way for such powers to be supreme was for their use to be immune
from state challenge and for the products of their use to be protected against state
destruction. The states may not tax any federal instrument.
Nullification – the right of the states to nullify a federal law that, in the states’ opinion,
violated the Constitution
Special-act charter – applies to a certain city and lists what that city can and cannot do
General-act charter – applies to a number of cities that fall within a certain classification,
usually based on population
Dillon’s rule – authorizes a municipality to exercise only those powers expressly given,
implied by, or essential to the accomplishment of its enumerated powers
Home-rule charter - reverses Dillon’s rule and allows a city government to do anything
that is not prohibited by the charter or state law. City laws cannot be in conflict with state
laws, and the states can pass laws that preempt or interfere with what home-rule cities want
to do
Dual federalism – holds that that though the national government is supreme in its sphere,
the states are equally supreme in theirs, and these two spheres of action should be
separate. Applied to commerce, this implies that there are such things as interstate
commerce, which Congress can regulate, and intrastate commerce, which only the states
can regulate, and the Court can tell which is which.
United States v. Lopez – the Court held that Congress had exceeded its commerce clause
power by prohibiting guns in schools
United States v. Morrison – the Court said that attacks against women are not, and do
not substantially affect, interstate commerce, and hence Congress cannot constitutionally
pass the Violence Against Women Act
Printz v. United States – the Court invalided a federal law that required local police to
conduct background checks on all gun purchasers. The Court ruled that the law violated the
10th Amendment by commandeering state governments to carry out a federal regulatory
Alden v. Maine – the Court held that state employees could not sue to force state
compliance with federal fair-labor laws
Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina Ports Authority – the Court
expanded states’ sovereign immunity from private lawsuits
Police power – a generally recognized state power. It refers to those laws and regulations,
not otherwise unconstitutional, that promote health, safety, and morals. Thus the states can
enact and enforce criminal codes, require children to attend school and citizens to be
vaccinated, and restrict the availability of pornographic materials.
Initiative – allows voters to place legislative measures directly on the ballot by getting
enough signatures on a petition
Referendum – enables voters to reject a measure adopted by the legislature. Sometimes
the state constitution specifies that certain kinds of legislation must be subject to a
referendum whether the legislature wishes it or not
Recall – a procedure whereby voters can remove an elected official from office. If enough
signatures are gathered on a petition, the official must go before voters, who can vote to
leave the person in office, remove the person from office, or remove the person and replace
him with someone else.
Grants-in-aid – money that Congress gives the states. The greatest growth of these
programs began in the 1960s and has continued steadily ever since. They provide state and
local governments with roughly 1/5 of their annual budgets. The system grew so rapidly
because it helped state and local officials resolve a dilemma: on one hand they wanted
access to the superior taxing power of the federal government; on the other hand, prevailing
constitutional interpretation—at least until the 1930s—held that the federal government
could not spend money for purposes not authorized by the Constitution. The solution was to
have federal money put into state hands. Until the 1960s most federal grants-in-aid were
conceived by or in cooperation with the states and were designed to serve essentially state
purposes. However, in the 1960s the federal government began devising grant programs
based less on what states were demanding and more on what federal officials perceived to
be important national needs. Federal officials were the principal proponents of grant
programs to aid the urban poor, combat crime, reduce pollution, and deal with drug abuse.
Some of these programs even attempted to bypass the states, providing money directly to
cities or even to local citizens groups.
Why federal money is so attractive to state officials – the money is already there.
During most of the 19th century, the federal government was taking in more money than it
was spending. The high-tariff policies of the Republicans produced a large budget surplus.
By the mid-20th century, the federal income tax proved to be a flexible tool of public finance,
for it automatically brought in more money as economic activity grew. Third, the federal
government, unlike the states, managed the currency and thus could print more money
whenever it needed it. Federal money to states seems like “free” money. That every state
has an incentive to ask for federal money to pay for local programs means that it is difficult
for one state to get money for a given program without every state’s getting it.
Intergovernmental lobby – made up of mayors, governors, superintendants of schools,
state directors, county highway commissioners, local police chiefs, and others who had
come to count on federal funds. The purpose of this lobby is to obtain more federal money
with fewer strings attached.
Categorical grants – a grant for a specific purpose defined by federal law. Such grants
usually require that the state or locality put up money to “match” some part of the federal
grant, though that amount can be quite small. Governors and mayors often complain about
categorical grants because their purposes are too narrow to meet local needs. One response
to this problem was to consolidate several categorical or project grant programs into a
single block grant devoted to some general purpose and with fewer restrictions on its use.
They are supervised by special committees of Congress.
Block grants – began in the mid-1960s to consolidate various categorical grant programs.
They grew more slowly than categorical grants because of the different kinds of political
coalitions supporting each; the federal government likes the control it has over categorical
grants. Also, because this program and revenue sharing cover such a broad range of
activities, no single interest group has a vital stake in pressing for their enlargement.
Revenue sharing – adopted in 1972 with the passage of the State and Local Fiscal
Assistance Act. It distributes about $6 billion/year in federal funds to states and localities,
with no requirement as to matching funds and freedom to spend the money on almost any
governmental purpose. The goal of this and the block grant program was to give the states
and cities considerable freedom in deciding how to spend money while helping to relieve
their tax burdens. However, the money available from block grants and revenue sharing did
not grow as fast as the states had hoped nor as quickly as did the money available through
categorical grants. The federal government also steadily increased the number of strings
attached to the spending of this money.
Conditions of aid – when the federal government tells the state government what it must
do if it wants some grant money. Some conditions are specific to particular programs, but
most are not.
Mandates –when the federal government tells the states what they must do. Sometimes
the mandates must be observed only if the states take federal grants, but sometimes they
have nothing to do with federal aid. Most mandates concern civil rights and environmental
protection. Some mandates create administrative and financial problems, especially when
they are written in vague language. Some mandates take the form of regulatory statutes
and amendments that expand on previous legislation. Others represent new areas of federal
involvement. The federal courts have helped fuel the growth of mandates based on their
current interpretation of the 10th Amendment.
Operational grants – for purposes such as running state child-care programs
Capital grants – for building local wastewater treatment plants
Entitlement grants – for transferring income to families and individuals. Includes AFDC
and Medicaid.
Second-order devolution – a flow of power and responsibility from the states to local
Third-order devolution – the increased role of nonprofit organizations and private groups
in policy implementation
Welfare surpluses – the billions of dollars in unspent welfare funds that the states
amassed in the late 1990s after cutting welfare programs, permitting states to increase their

Chapter 4: American Political Culture

Political culture – a distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how political and
economic life ought to be carried out. Americans do not judge their political and economic
systems in the same way. It consists of a people’s fundamental assumptions about how the
political process should operate
Five important elements in the American view of the political system – liberty,
equality, democracy, civic duty, and individual responsibility
Political ideology – refers to more or less consistent sets of views concerning the policies
government ought to pursue. Up to a point people can disagree on ideology but still share a
common political culture. Some ideologies, however, are so critical of existing government
policies and practices that they require a fundamental change in the way politics is carried
out and thus embody a different political culture as well.
Civic duty – a sense that one has an obligation to participate in civic and political affairs
Civic competence - belief that one can affect government policies. Both of these principles
are important to American political culture
American views of economic equality – Americans are more likely to think that freedom
is more important than equality and less likely to think that hard work goes unrewarded or
that the government should guarantee citizens a basic standard of living
Civic role of religion – religious institutions are the country’s major source of volunteer
and community services. In many urban communities, religious organizations are major
providers of many social and health care services. Since there is no orthodox or official
religion, it is difficult for a corresponding political orthodoxy to emerge. Churches offer ready
opportunities for developing and practicing civic and political skills, creating miniature
political systems. Developing a participatory political culture was undoubtedly made easier
by the existence of a participatory religious culture.
Adversarial spirit – created by the American preoccupation with the assertion and
maintenance of rights. It reflects our long-standing distrust of authority and of people
wielding power, both through political and religious traditions.
Class consciousness – thinking of oneself as a worker whose interests are in opposition to
those of management, or vice versa. There is not a high degree of class consciousness in
America due to the combined effects of religious and ethnic diversity, an individualistic
philosophy, fragmented political authority, and a relatively egalitarian family structure.
Americans believe that the opportunity for success is available to people who work hard.
Culture war – ideological disagreement between orthodox and progressive camps. It has
been made more widespread by the increase in the proportion of people who consider
themselves progressive and the rise of the media. The tensions generated by the culture
war affect our views as to how well our government works, how much influence ordinary
people can have over it, and how large a measure of freedom we ought to grant our
Distrust in government – since the 1950s, there has been a more or less steady decline in
the proportion of Americans who say they trust the government in Washington to do the
right thing. Americans are much more supportive of the country and its institutions than
Europeans are of theirs.
Political efficacy – a citizen’s capacity to understand and influence political events. This
sense of efficacy has two parts—internal efficacy (the ability to understand and take part in
political affairs) and external efficacy (the ability to make the system respond to the
citizenry). Since the mid-1960s there has been a fairly sharp drop in the sense of external
efficacy, but not much change in the sense of internal efficacy.

Chapter 5: Public Opinion

John Q. Public – the average person on the street
Middle America - refers to Americans who have moved out poverty but are not yet affluent
and who cherish the traditional middle-class values
Silent majority – consists of people who uphold traditional values, especially against the
counterculture of the 1960s
Problems with public opinion – it suffers from ignorance, instability, and sensitivity to the
way questions are worded in polls
Role of family – the majority of young people identify with their parent’s political party.
This process begins early in life. As people grow older, they become more independent, but
a great deal of continuity remains. The ability of the family to inculcate a strong sense of
party identification has declined in recent years. The proportion of citizens who say they
consider themselves to be Democrats or Republicans has become steadily smaller since the
1950s. This drop has been greatest among those who strongly identify with one party or
another. Weaker voters have always had a weaker sense of partisanship than older ones.
Children are more independent from their parents in policy preferences than in party
Religion – Catholic families are somewhat more liberal on economic issues than white
Protestant ones, while Jewish families are much more liberal on both economic and social
issues than either Catholic or Protestant families. One theory behind this phenomenon is
that of social status, which predicts that people for traditionally poorer backgrounds are
more likely to vote Democratic. A second theory emphasizes the content of the religious
tradition. Fundamentalists are more likely than some other groups to oppose cuts in defense
spending, abortions, and to favor prayer in schools. Fundamentalists and
nonfundamentalists have about the same opinion on economic issues. Evangelical Christians
have become increasingly attracted to Republican presidential candidates, while Jews and
those without a religious orientation have been consistently supportive of the Democratic
Christian Coalition – a political movement representing the views of conservative
evangelical Christians. It was founded by Pat Robertson and led by Ralph Reed. People allied
with the coalition quickly won power in many local Republican Party organizations. It was
strongest in the South, Midwest, and West, but was a strong force across the nation in the
1994 elections. It disbanded after 2000.
Gender gap – the difference in political views between men and women. Men have become
increasingly republican since the 1960s, while voting behavior of women has remained
unchanged. The biggest reason for this gap seems to involve attitudes about the size of
government, gun control, spending programs aimed at the poor, and gay rights.
Schooling – college students are more liberal than the population generally. The longer
students stay in college, the more liberal they are. Students studying the social sciences
tend to be more liberal than those studying engineering or the physical sciences. Going to
college also increases the rate at which people participate in politics.
Social Class – the voting patterns of different social classes have become somewhat more
similar since the 1950s. Class voting has declined sharply since the 1940s. Unskilled workers
are still more likely than white-collar workers to vote Democratic. The divisions among social
class are not as strong as they once were mainly because of the increased importance of
extensive schooling, which brings better-educated people to the higher ranks of society.
Race – African Americans are usually Democrats. The differences between white and black
Americans may be narrowing. Latinos also tend to identify themselves as Democrats, but
not as heavily. Asians tend to identify with the Republican Party. Japanese Americans are
some of the most conservative, whereas Korean Americans are more liberal. Mexican
Americans are more Democratic than Cuban Americans and Puerto Ricans.
Region – the South is more accommodating to business and less so to organized labor than
the Northeast. White southerners have become more conservative since the 1960s and less
Political ideology – a coherent and consistent set of beliefs about who ought to rule, what
principles rulers ought to obey, and what policies rulers ought to pursue.
Pure liberals – liberal on both economic policy and personal conduct. They want the
government to reduce economic inequality, regulate business, tax the rich, allow abortions,
protect the rights of the accused, and guarantee freedom of speech and the press. They are
more likely than average to be young, college-educated, and either Jewish or nonreligious
Pure conservatives – conservative on both economic and conduct issues. They want the
government to cut back on the welfare state, allow the market to allocate goods and
services, keep taxes low, and curb forms of conduct that they regard as antisocial. They are
more likely to be older, to have higher incomes, to be white, and to live in the Midwest.
Libertarians – conservative on economic matters and liberal on social ones. They want
small, weak government—one that has little control over either the economy or the personal
lives of citizens. They are more likely to be young, college-educated, and white, to have
higher incomes and religion, and to live in the West.
Populists – liberal on economic matters and conservative on social ones. They want a
government that will reduce economic inequality and control business, but they also want it
to regulate personal conduct. They are more likely to be older, poorly educated, low-income,
religious, and female and to live in the South or Midwest.
Political elite – people who hold office, run for office, work on campaigns, lead interest
groups and social movements, and speak out on political issues. The more a person is an
activist, the more likely it is that he will display ideological consistency on the conventional
liberal-conservative spectrum. The reasons for this greater consistency seem to be
information and peers. This group includes politicians, bureaucrats, members of the media,
and interest group leaders who have a stake in the growth of government. Because of that,
they often have progovernment views even though they have high incomes. Those that
have access to the media raise and frame important political issues. Elite views shape mass
media views by influencing both what issues capture the public’s attention and how those
issues are debated and decided. They also state the norms by which issues should be
settled. By doing this they help determine the range of acceptable and unacceptable policy
options. Elite opinion of foreign affairs is much more influential than that of domestic issues
such as crime and unemployment.

Chapter 6: Political Participation

Voting-age population – only 2/3 of the US voting-age population is registered to vote
Registered voters - ~60% of registered voters vote
Motor-voter law – designed to make voter registration easier. Requires states to allow
people to register to vote when applying for a driver’s license and to provide registration
through the mail and at some state offices. It took effect in 1995, and has had mixed results.
It has not changed the two-party balance of registrants.
Fifteenth Amendment – expands voting rights. In the 1870s the Supreme Court held that
it did not necessarily confer the right to vote on anybody; it merely asserted that if someone
was denied the right, it could not be on the grounds of race. This interpretation opened the
door to literacy tests, poll taxes, and the grandfather clause, all designed to keep blacks
from voting.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 – suspended the use of literacy tests and authorized the
appointment of federal examiners who could order the registration of blacks in states and
counties where fewer than 50% of the voting-age population were registered or had voted in
the past presidential election. In also provided criminal penalties for interfering with the
right to vote. It led to an increase in the amount of African Americans who voted.
Nineteenth Amendment – allowed women to vote in 1920.
Voting Rights Act of 1970 – gave 18 year olds the right to vote in federal elections
Twenty-sixth Amendment – lowered the voting age in state elections to 18
Voting eligibility rules – all persons 18 or older can vote, there may be no literacy test or
poll tax, states may not require residency of more than 30 days in the state before a person
may vote, areas with significant numbers of citizens not speaking English must give those
people ballots written in their own language, and federal poll watchers may be sent into
areas where less than 50% of the voting-age population participates in a presidential
Twenty-third Amendment – allowed members of the District of Columbia to vote in
presidential elections
Reasons for decreased voter turnout – the hindrances of registration, a decline in
popular interest in elections and a weakening of the competiveness of the two major parties.
Increasing voter turnout would not have a substantial effect on the outcome of elections.
Rising distrust in politics, increased youth of the population, more minorities. Political parties
are no longer as effective as they once were in mobilizing voters, ensuring that they are
registered, and getting them to polls. People no longer feel that elections matter
Australian ballot – a government-printed ballot of uniform size and shape that is cast in
secret. Its use cut back on vote buying and fraudulent vote counts
Activists – about 1/9 of the population, people who are highly educated, have high
incomes, and tend to be middle-aged. They participate in all forms of politics.
Voting specialists – people who vote but do little else; they tend to not have much
schooling or income and be older than the average person
Campaigners – get involved in campaign activities. They are better educated than the
average voter, have a clear identification with a political party, and take strong positions
Communalists – do not like the social conflict of partisan campaigns. They reserve their
energy for community activities
Parochial participants – do not vote and stay out of election campaigns and civic
associations but are willing to contact local officials about specific problems
Factors that increase political participation – increased age, increased schooling, religious

Chapter 7: Political Parties

Political party – group that seeks to elect candidates to public office by supplying them
with a label by which they are known to the electorate. It exists as a label in the mind of
voters, an organization that recruits and campaigns for candidates, and as a set of leaders
who try to organize and control the legislative and executive branches of government.
Parties have become weaker in all 3 areas. The federal system of government in the US
decentralizes political authority and thus decentralizes political party organizations.
Federalism means that political parties acquire jobs in local offices, meaning that the
national political parties will be coalitions of local parties, and national party officials rarely
have as much power as local ones. Political parties are closely regulated by state and
federal laws, and these regulations have the effect of weakening the power of parties. The
president does not need the organization of a political party to get elected.
Federalists – supporters of Hamilton. Opposed the followers of Jefferson, Republicans. The
first parties were loose caucuses of political notables in various localities, with New England
being strongly Federalist and much of the South being Republican. The republicans were
much more successful
Jacksonians – political participation became a mass phenomenon. The party system was
built from the bottom up. Party conventions were created to replace caucuses.
Mugwumps/ progressives – opposed to the heavy emphasis on patronage, disliked the
party machinery, was fearful of the heavy influx of immigrants into American cities and of
the ability of party regulars to organize them into machines, and wanted to see the party
take unpopular positions on certain issues. Their great skills lay in the areas of advocacy and
articulation. At first they tried to play a balance-of-power role, then later began to espouse
measures to curtail or abolish political parties. They favored primary elections to replace
nominating conventions, nonpartisan elections at the city level, argued against corrupt
alliances between parties and business. They wanted strict voter-registration requirements
that would reduce voting fraud, pressed for civil service reform to eliminate patronage, and
they made heavy use of the mass media as a way of attacking the abuses of partisanship
and of promoting their own ideas.
Initiative & referendum – advocated by the progressive party. The effect of these
changes was to reduce the worst forms of political corruption and to make boss rule of
politics difficult. They also made political parties less able to hold officeholders accountable,
and less able to assemble the power necessary for governing the fragmented political
institutions created by the Constitution
Critical / realigning periods – times when sharp and long-lasting changes occur in the
popular coalition supporting one or both parties. There have been 5 realignments so far:
1800 (when the Jeffersonian Republicans defeated the Federalists), 1828 (when the
Jacksonian Democrats came to power), 1860 (when the Whig party collapsed and the
Republicans under Lincoln came to power), 1896 (when the Republicans defeated William
Jennings Bryan) and 1932 (when the Democrats under Roosevelt came into office). There
are two kinds of realignments—one in which a major party is so badly defeated that is
disappears and a new party emerges to take its place, and another in which the two existing
parties continue but voters shift their support from one to another. A realignment occurs
when a new issues of utmost importance to the voters cuts across existing party lines and
replaces old issues that were formerly the basis of party identification.
Split tickets – creates divided government
Office-bloc ballot – lists candidates by office
Party structure – at each level a separate and almost entirely independent organization
exists that does pretty much what it wants, and in many counties there is virtually no
organization at all. In every state there is a Democratic and a Republican state party
organized under state law. Typically each consists of a state central committee, below which
there are county committees and sometimes city committees.
National convention – a meeting that occurs every 4 years to nominate a presidential
candidate. Over the years the Democratic convention has shifted from the South and toward
the North and West and in the Republican convention away from the east and toward the
South and Southwest. Democrats give extra delegates to large states while the Republicans
give extra ones to loyal states. They are now heavily influenced by ideologically motivated
National committee – delegates from each state and territory that manage party affairs.
Selects the time and place of the next national convention and decides the rules by which
delegates will be selected
Congressional campaign committee – helps members of Congress who are running for
reelection or would-be members running for an open seat or challenging a candidate from
the opposition party.
National chairman – does the day-to-day work of the party, elected by the committee
Soft money – funds to aid parties, not used to back candidates by name
Democratic Delegate selection rules – equal division of delegates between men and
women; establishment of “goals” for the representation of African Americans, Hispanics, and
other groups in proportion to their presence in a state’s Democratic electorate; open
delegate selection procedures, with advance publicity and written rules; selection of the
75% of the delegates at the level of the congressional district or lower; no “unit rule” that
would require all delegates to vote with the majority of their state delegation; restrictions on
the number of party leaders and elected officials who could vote at the convention; a
requirement that all delegates pledged to a candidate vote for that candidate. These rules
were altered by the Hunt Commission in 1981 to increase the influence of elected officials
and to make the convention a somewhat more deliberative body. The commission reserved
about 14% of the delegate seats for party leaders and elected officials, who would not have
to commit themselves in advance to a presidential candidate, and it replaced the rule
requiring the delegates pledged to a candidate vote for that candidate.
Superdelegates – elected officials at party conventions
1992 Democratic delegate requirements – the winner-reward systems of delegate
distribution, which gave the winner of a primary extra delegates, was banned. The
proportional representation system was put into use. This system divides a state’s publicly
elected delegates among candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote. States that
violate the rules are now penalized with the loss of 25% of their national campaign
Political machine – a party organization that recruits its members by the use of tangible
incentives and that is characterized by a high degree of leadership control over member
activity. They provided immigrants with services in exchange for their support. As voters
grew in education, income, and sophistication, they relied less on the advice and leadership
of local party officials. And as the federal government created a bureaucratic welfare
system, the parties’ welfare system declined in value.
Hatch Act – made it illegal for federal civil service employees to take an active part in
political management or political campaigns by serving as party officers, soliciting campaign
funds, running for partisan office, working in a partisan campaign, endorsing partisan
candidates, taking voters to the polls, counting ballots, circulating nominating petitions, or
being delegates to a party convention. These restrictions gradually took federal employees
out of machine politics, but they did not end the machines.
Ideological party – values principle above all else. Usually contentious and factionalized.
The most firmly ideological parties have been independent “third parties.” In the 1950s and
60s these ideological groups were “reform clubs” within local Democratic and Republican
parties. In the 1960s and 70s these “reform” movements were replaced by more focused
social movements. The result is that in many places the party has become a collection of
people drawn from various social movements. Internal factionalism is now more intense, and
the freedom of action of the party leader has been greatly reduced. They profess a
comprehensive view of American society and government that is radically different from
that of the established parties. Usually not interested in immediate electoral success
Solidary incentives – when people get together out of gregarious or game-loving instincts.
Friendship is a bigger driving force than interest in the issues. The advantage of such groups
is that they are neither corrupt nor inflexible; the disadvantage is that they often do not
work very hard. They are a sense of pleasure, status, or companionship that arises out of
meeting together in small groups. National interest groups offering these incentives often
have to organize themselves as coalitions of small local units.
Sponsored party – when a relatively strong party organization is created among
volunteers without heavy reliance on money or ideology and without depending entirely on
people’s finding the work fun. These parties occur when another organization exists in the
community that can create, or sponsor, a local party structure. Not common
Personal following – a group that will work for a politician during a campaign and then
disband until the next election. Sometimes a candidate tries to meld a personal following
with an ideological group, especially during the primary election campaign. Usually occurs
when party structure is weak
Two-party system – our parties are fairly balanced at a national level, but not a local one.
All regions are more competitive today than was once the case.
Plurality system – means that all elections for representative, senator, governor, or
president, the winner is the person who gets the most votes, even if he does get a majority
of votes cast. This method discourages multiple political parties from forming because each
party must be as broadly based as possible.
Winner-take-all system – only one member of Congress is elected from each district.
Includes the electoral college system. Minor parties cannot compete under this system
One-issue parties – parties seeking a single policy, usually revealed by their names, and
avoiding other issues
Economic-protest parties – usually based in a particular region, especially involving
farmers, that protest against depressed economic conditions. These tend to disappear as
soon as conditions improve
Factional parties – parties that are created by a split in a major party, usually over the
identity and philosophy of the major party’s presidential candidate. Usually try to cause
defeat in the party from which they split
Minor parties – have a slim chance of success. The direct primary and national convention
have made it possible for dissident elements of a major party to remain in the party and
influence the choice of candidates and policies. Minor parties develop ideas that the major
parties later come to adopt. The minor parties that have probably had the greatest influence
on public policy have been the factional parties.
Delegates – tend to have more ideological views than ordinary party members. This is in
part because many are chosen in caucuses and primary elections whose participants are
unrepresentative of the population at large.

Chapter 8: Elections and Campaigns

Differences between congressional and presidential elections – more people
participate in presidential elections, so presidential candidates must work harder and spend
more. In a typical presidential race the winner gets less than 55% of the vote; in a typical
House race, the incumbent gets over 60% of the vote. Candidates in congressional races
must be appealing to more motivated and partisan voters. Members of congress can do
things for their constituents that a president cannot. They take credit for things that the
federal government provides to their district or state, they send letters to large factions of
their constituents and can visit their districts. Presidents get little direct credit for
improvements and must rely on the mass media to communicate with voters. Presidents are
held responsible for everything that goes wrong, whereas members of Congress can duck
responsibility. Congressional elections are largely independent of presidential ones. The way
people get elected to Congress has two important effects. First, it produces legislators who
are closely tied to local concerns, and second, it ensures that party leaders will have
relatively weak influence over them.
Coattails – when the election of a popular president could help congressional candidates in
the same party. There has been a sharp decline in their value. The weakening of party
loyalty and of party organizations, combined with the enhanced ability of members of
Congress to build secure relationships with their constituents, has tended to insulate
congressional elections from presidential ones.
Monetary restraints – federal law restricts the amount that any single individual can give
a candidate to $2000 in each election. To be eligible for federal matching grants to pay for a
primary campaign, one must first raise at least $5000 in individual contributions of $250 or
less, in each of 20 states. In response to Watergate, a law was passed stating that
individuals cannot contribute more than $1000 to a candidate during a single election. All
federal election contributions and expenditures are reported to a Federal Election
Commission. All contributions over $100 must be disclosed, with name, address, and
occupation of contributor. No cash contributions over $100 or foreign contributions. No
ceiling on how much candidates may spend out of their own money unless they accept
federal funding for a presidential race. An individual may not make federal political gifts
exceeding $95000 every two years, of which only $37500 may to a candidate. No
corporation or union may give money from its own treasury to any national political party
(until recently). Members of minor parties get some support in presidential elections from
the federal government provided they have won at least 5% of the vote in the last election.
Political action committees – a committee set up by and representing a corporation,
labor union, or other special interest group. They can give up to $5000 per election. A PAC
must have at least 50 members, give to at least 5 federal candidates, and cannot give more
than $5000 to any candidate in any election or more than $15000 per year to any political
party. Most give much less per candidate. It must register at least 6 months in advance of
an election. They may fund electioneering communications up to their expenditure limit.
Over half are sponsored by corporations, about 1/10 by labor unions, and the rest by various
groups, including ideological ones. Ideological PACs have increased faster than any other
Malapportionment – results from having districts of unequal size
Gerrymandering – drawing district boundaries in unusual shapes that make it easy for the
candidate of one party to win election in that district
Sophomore surge – when most newly elected members become strong in their districts
very quickly. It is the difference the candidates get the first and second time they run for
election. The main reason for this surge is that members of Congress have figured out how
to use their offices to run personal rather than party campaigns. They also cater to their
constituent’s distrust of federal government by claiming to run against it.
Delegates – congress people who do what their district wants. Tend to value getting
reelected over all other concerns and seek out committee assignments that will produce
benefits for their districts.
Trustees – congress people who use their judgment without regard to the preferences of
their districts. Seek out committee assignments that give them a chance to address large
questions that have no implication for their districts.
Qualifications for the House – must be 25, must have been a US citizen for 7 years, must
be an inhabitant of the state from which they are elected
Qualifications for the Senate – must be 30, must have been a US citizen for 9 years,
must be an inhabitant of the state from which they are elected
Privileges – cannot be sued or persecuted for anything that they say or write in connection
with their legislative duties
Clothespin vote – a vote cast by a person who does not like either candidate and so votes
for the less objectionable of the two
Position issue – one in which the rival candidates have opposing views on a question that
also divides the voters. Since 1860 many of the great party realignments have been based
on differing position issues.
Valence issue – when the question is whether a candidate fully supports the public’s views
on a matter on which everyone agrees. What voters look for on valence issues is which
candidate seems most closely linked to a universally shared view. Have become more
important in recent years.
General election – used to fill an elective office
Primary election – used to select party’s candidate for an elective office
Closed primary – voters must declare in advance that they are a registered member of the
political party in whose primary they wish to vote.
Open primary – you can decide when you enter the voting booth which party’s primary you
wish to participate in
Blanket primary – an open primary that lists the candidates from all parties. Allows for
split-ticket voting
Runoff primary – if no candidate gets a majority of the votes, there is a runoff between the
two with the most votes
Presidential primary – used to pick delegates to the presidential nominating conventions
of the major parties. They can be run in three main ways. When delegate selection only is in
place, only the names of prospective delegates to the convention appear on the ballot.
Delegate selection with advisory presidential preference means that voters pick delegates
and indicate their preferences among presidential candidates. Binding presidential
preference primaries mean that voters indicate their preferred presidential candidates and
delegates must observe these preferences
Democratic Party v. La Follette – the Supreme Court decided that political parties, not
state legislatures, have the right to decide how delegates to national conventions are
Visual – brief filmed episode showing the candidate doing something that a reporter thinks
is newsworthy. These are cheaper than advertising and seem more credible to viewers.
These generally do not provide much information
Sources of campaign money – presidential candidates get part of their money from
private donors and part from the federal government; congressional candidates get all their
money from private sources. In the presidential primaries candidates raise money from
private citizens and interest groups. The federal government will provide matching funds for
all monies raised from individual donors who contribute no more than $250. The
government also gives lump-sum grants to each political party to help pay the costs of its
nominating convention. In the general election the federal government pays all the costs of
each candidate up to a limit set by law. Congressional candidates get no government funds,
most of their money comes from individual donors. Incumbent members of Congress
running for reelection get over a third of their money from PACs, challengers have to put in
much more of their own money.
Independent expenditures – ordinary advertising that is directed at or against
candidates, but not made at the candidate’s wishes.
Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 – banned soft money contributions
to national political parties from corporations and unions. Any money the national parties
get must come from individual donations or PAC contributions as limited by federal law. The
limit on individual contributions was raised from $1000 per candidate per election to $2000.
Independent expenditures by corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and nonprofit
organizations were sharply restricted. None of these organizations can use their own money
to refer to a clearly identified federal candidate in any advertisement during the 60 days
preceding a general election or the 30 days preceding a primary contest. Newspapers,
magazines, and radio and television stations were not affected. The law shifts influence
away from business and unions and toward the media.
Party influence on elections – there are more registered Democrats, but Democrats are
more likely to defect from their party. Republicans do better among independents. More
Republicans than Democrats vote in elections.
Prospective voting – when one examines the views that the rival candidates have on the
issues of the day and then cast their ballot for the person with the best ideas regarding
these matters. Prospective voting requires a lot of information about issues and candidates.
Those who vote prospectively tend to be political junkies. It is more common among people
who are political activists, have a political ideology that governs their voting decision, or are
involved in interest groups with a big stake in the election.
Retrospective voting – involves looking at how things have gone in the recent past and
then voting for the party that controls the White House is one likes what has happened and
voting against that party if one does not. It does not require excessive amounts of
information. Elections are decided by retrospective voters. Some believe that retrospective
voting is based largely on economic conditions.
Importance of campaigns – they awaken the partisan loyalties of voters. They give voters
a chance to see how candidates handle pressure. They give voters an opportunity to judge
the character and core values of the candidates. The desire of voters to discern character,
combined with the mechanics of modern campaigning lend themselves to an emphasis on
themes at the expense of details. This tendency is reinforced by the expectations of
ideological party activists and single-issue groups.
Party loyalty – the loyalty of most identifiable groups of voters to either party is not
overwhelming. Only African Americans, businesspeople, and Jews usually give 2/3 or more of
their votes to one party or the other; other groups display tendencies, but none that cannot
be overcome. The groups that make up the largest part of the Democratic vote—Catholics,
union members, southerners—are also the least dependable parts of the coalition. Each
party is a weak coalition of diverse elements that reflect the many divisions in public

Chapter 9: Interest Groups

Reasons interest groups are so common – the more cleavages there are in a society,
the greater the variety of interests that will exist. The American constitutional system
contributes to the number of interest groups by multiplying the points at which such groups
can gain access to the government. When political authority is shared by the president, the
courts, and Congress, there are plenty of places where one can argue one’s case. The
weakness of political parties in this country may help explain the number and strength of
our interest groups. Where parties are strong, interests work through the parties; where
parties are weak, interests operate directly on the government. Big periods for interest
group formation have been the 1960s and 70s, 1770s, 1830s and 40s, and 1860s.
Lobby – to attempt to influence governmental decisions, especially legislation. A lobby is a
group organized for this purpose
Lobbyist – people who spend at least 20% of their time lobbying, people who are paid at
least $5000 in any 6-month period to lobby, corporations and other groups that spend more
than $20000 in any 6-month period on their own lobbying staffs. Twice a year, they must
report the names of their clients, their income and expenditures, and the issues on which
they worked.
Reasons for the rise in interest groups – broad economic developments create new
interests and redefine old ones. Government policy helped create interest groups, especially
veterans groups. Professional societies became important in part because state
governments gave to such groups the authority to decide who was qualified to become a
professional in that field. Workers had a difficult time organizing so long as the government,
by the use of injunctions, prevented strikes. Unions began to flourish after Congress passed
laws in the 1930s that prohibited the use of injunctions to private labor disputes, that
required employers to bargain with unions, and that allowed a union representing a majority
of the workers in a plant to require all workers to join it. Political organizations do not
emerge automatically, someone has to exercise leadership, often at personal cost. These
organizational entrepreneurs are more abundant at some times than others. They are often
young, caught up in the social movement, drawn by the need for change, and inspired by
some political or religious tradition. The more activities government undertakes, the more
organized interest groups there will be that are interested in those activities.
Interest group – any organization that seeks to influence public policy. Well-off people are
more likely than poor people to join and be active in interest groups. Interest groups
representing business and the professions are much more numerous and better financed
than organizations representing minorities, consumers, or the disadvantaged. The most
important task of interest groups is providing information. Interest group activity is a form of
political speech protected by the First Amendment; it cannot be lawfully abolished or much
curtailed. The most significant legal constraints on interest groups come from tax code and
federal finance laws. If an organization does any serious lobbying, it will lose its tax-exempt
Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act – requires groups and individuals seeking to
influence legislation to register with the secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House
and to file quarterly financial reports. The Supreme Court restricted this law’s application to
lobbying efforts involving direct contacts with members of Congress. This law had little
practical effect.
Institutional interests – individuals or organizations representing other organizations,
such as business firms, governments, foundations, and universities.
Material incentives – money or things and services readily valued in monetary terms
Purposive incentive – the appeal of an interest’s stated goal. If the attainment of those
goals will also benefit people who do not join, individuals who do join will have to be those
who feel passionately about the goal, who have a strong sense of duty, or for whom the cost
of joining is small. Groups that rely on purposive incentives tend to be shaped by the mood
of the times. Thus such organizations have a powerful motive to stay in the public eye.
Ideological interest groups – organizations that attract members by appealing to their
interest in a coherent set of controversial principles. Tend to arise out of social movements
Public-interest lobby – when the purpose of the organization will principally benefit
nonmembers. The most visible of these groups are highly controversial. There are two kinds,
those that engage in research and lobbying and those that bring lawsuits designed to
advance their cause. Many of these groups often do better when the government is in the
hands of an administration that is hostile to their views.
Social movement – a widely shared demand for change in some aspect of the social or
political order. The effect of a social movement is to increase the value some people attach
to purposive incentives. As a result new interest groups are formed that rely on these
Foundation grants – grants from foundations to public-interest lobbying groups
Federal grants – money given to support projects that interest groups have undertaken
Political cue – a signal telling the official what values are at stake in an issue. Cues are
made known by ratings that interest groups make of legislators.
Grassroots lobbying – an effort to generate public pressure directly on government
officials. It is a part of the outsider strategy. Fewer regulations
Revolving door – the practice of former federal government officials taking jobs in private
industry as lobbyists or consultants. Some worry that this may give private interests a way
of improperly influencing government interests

Chapter 10: The Media

Muckraker – a journalist who searches through the activities of public officials and
organizations, especially of business firms, seeking to expose conduct contrary to the public
Sound bite – a video clip of a presidential contender speaking. Their average length has
decreased significantly
Narrowcasting – the proliferation of television and radio stations that target highly
segmented listening and viewing audiences, and the relative decline of electronic and print
media that reach large and heterogeneous populations
Relationship between politics and media – though politicians take advantage as best
they can of the communications media available to them, these media in turn attempt to
use politics and politicians as a way of both entertaining and informing their audiences.
Because we have separate institutions that must share power, each branch of government
competes with the others to get power. One way to compete is to try to use the press to
your advantage and make the other side look bad. Cynicism and distrust of government and
elected officials have led to an era of attack journalism.
Adversarial press – one that is suspicious of officialdom and eager to break an
embarrassing story that will win for its author honor, prestige, and money. One side effect of
the increasingly adversarial press nature of the press is the increased prevalence of
negative campaign advertising
National press – most of the American press is composed of locally owned and managed
enterprises. The existence of a national press is important because government officials pay
great attention to what these media say about them and their programs. Reporters and
editors for the national press tend to differ from those who work for the local press. They are
usually better paid and have more liberal political views.
Gatekeeper – the media influences what subjects become national political issues and for
how long
Scorekeeper – the national media keep track of and help make political reputations, note
who is being “mentioned” as a presidential candidate, and help decide who is winning or
losing in Washington politics. This role often leads the press to cover presidential elections
as if they were horse races rather than choices among policies
Watchdog – close scrutiny of public officials. The media have an instinctive and profitable
desire to investigate personalities and expose scandals. They tend to be tolerant of
underdogs and tough on frontrunners.
Rules governing the media – newspapers and magazines need to license to publish, their
freedom to public may not be restrained in advance, and they are liable for punishment for
what they do publish only under certain highly restricted circumstances. The First
Amendment has been interpreted to mean that the government cannot place “prior
restraints” on the press except under very narrowly defined circumstances. Once
something is published, a newspaper or magazine may be sued or prosecuted if the material
is libelous or obscene or if it incites someone to commit an illegal act. However, this is very
hard to prove. In general, your name and picture can be printed without your consent if they
are part of a news story or some public interest. If a paper attacks you in print, the paper
has no legal obligation to give you space for a reply. Court must decide in individual cases
whether the need of a journalist to protect confidential sources does or does not outweigh
the interest of the government in gathering evidence in a criminal investigation. In general
the Supreme Court has upheld the right of the government to compel reporters to divulge
information as part of a criminal investigation. No one may operate a radio or television
station without a license from the Federal Communications Commission. Radio broadcasting
has been deregulated the most.
Telecommunications Act (1996) – allowed one company to own as many as 8 radio
stations in large markets (5 in smaller ones) and as many as it wished nationally. As a result,
a few large companies now own most of the big-market radio stations.
Equal time rule – if a station sells time to one candidate for office, it must be willing to sell
equal time to opposing candidates
Right-of-reply rule – if a person is attacked on a broadcast, that person has the right to
reply over the same station
Political editorializing rule – if a broadcaster endorses a candidate, the opposing
candidate has a right to reply
Fairness doctrine – required broadcasters to give time to opposing views if they broadcast
a program giving one side of a controversial issue. In 1987 the FCC abolished this rule,
though most follow it voluntarily
Trial balloon – when a source may want to test public reaction to a policy
Loaded language – using words to persuade people of something without actually making a
clear argument for it
Market – any area easily reached by a television signal
Selective attention – when citizens only see and hear what they want
Mental tune-out – when citizens ignore or get irritated by messages that are not in accord
with existing beliefs
Effects of media – probably have much less to do with how people vote in an election and
much more to do with how politics is conducted, how candidates are perceived, and how
policies are formulated. National nominating conventions have been changed to fit the
needs of television broadcasters. Some candidates have found it possible to win their party’s
nomination with expensive advertising campaigns that bypass the parties and weaken them.
Watching the television affects the importance that people attach to certain issues. The
media help set the political agenda on matters with which the citizens have little personal
experience, but they have much influence over how people react to things that touch their
lives directly. The media also affect how we perceive certain issues and candidates. In a
presidential election it is unlikely that newspaper endorsements make a difference
Press secretary – heads a large staff that meets with reporters, briefs the president on
questions he will likely be asked, attempts to control the flow of news from cabinet
departments to the press, and arranges briefings for out-of-town editors
Routine stories – public events regularly covered by reporters and involving relatively
simple, easily described acts or statements. These are covered in almost exactly the same
way by almost all the media. The political opinions of journalists have the least impact on
these types of stories
Feature stories – public events knowable to any reporter who cares to inquire but
involving acts and statements not routinely covered by a group of reporters. Thus a reporter
must take initiative and select a particular event as newsworthy, decide to write about it,
and persuade an editor to run it
Insider stories – information not usually made public becomes public because someone
with inside knowledge tells a reporter
Background story – one that explains current policy and is given on the condition that the
source not be identified by name

Chapter 11: Congress

Independence of Congress – representatives and senators can vote on proposed laws
without worrying that their votes will cause the government to collapse and without fearing
that a failure to support their party leadership. Because Congress is constitutionally
independent of the president, and because its members are not tightly disciplined by a party
leadership, individual members of Congress are free to express their views and vote as they
wish. They are also free to become involved in the details of lawmaking, budget making, and
supervision and administration of laws. They are voted for as individuals rather than
members of their parties. Members of Congress are more concerned with their own
constituencies and careers than with the interests of their party. And since Congress does
not choose the president, members of Congress know that worrying about the voters they
represent is much more important than worrying about whether or not the president
succeeds with his programs. Congress tends to be a decentralized institution, with each
member more interested in his own views and those of his voters than with the programs
proposed by the president.
Powers of Congress
-to lay and collect taxes, imposts, and excises
-to borrow money
-to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the states
-to establish rules for naturalization and bankruptcy
-to coin money, set its value, and punish counterfeiting
-to fix the standard of weights and measures
-to establish post offices and post roads
-to issue patents and copyrights by inventors and authors
-to create courts inferior to the Supreme Court
-to define and punish piracies, felonies on the high seas, and crimes against the law of
-to declare war
-to raise and support an army and navy and make rules for their governance
-to provide for a militia
-to exercise exclusive legislative powers over the seat of government and other places
purchased to be federal facilities
-to make laws
Seventeenth Amendment – provided for the popular election of Senators
Filibuster – a prolonged speech made to delay action in a legislative assembly, only takes
place in the Senate
Rule 22 – provides that debate can be cut off if 60 members of the Senate present and
voting agree to a cloture motion
Marginal districts – districts where the winner gets less than 55% of the vote
Safe districts – where the winner wins by 55% or more. Congressional seats have generally
become safer
Reasons for Democratic dominance of Congress – Democratic-controlled state
legislatures have redrawn congressional maps to give Democrats and advantage. Democrats
do well in low-turnout districts such as minority-dominated inner cities, while Republicans do
well in high-turnout districts such as affluent white suburbs. Congressional incumbents also
enjoy certain built-in electoral advantages over challengers, and the Democrats were in the
majority when these advantages grew. Democrats have more experienced congressional
candidates, have more closely reflected district-level voters’ policy preferences, and have
been able to fashion winning, district level coalitions from among national Democratic
constituencies such as organized labor, civil rights activists, feminists, and
environmentalists. The democrats were also in the majority when the mood turned anti-
incumbent. This mood, coupled with the effects of redistricting after the 1990 census and
the shift of the South to the Republican party brought the Republicans to power in the House
and Senate in the 1994 elections.
Conservative coalition – a coalition between southern Democrats and Republicans. During
the 1960s and 70s this coalition came together about 1/5 of the time and usually won when
it did. However, many southern Democrats in Congress were replaced by southern
republicans. This has made Congress, especially the House, more ideologically partisan
Ways to influence legislation – conducting hearings, marking up bills in committee
meetings, and offering amendments
Representational – based on the assumption that members want to get reelected, and
therefore they vote to please their constituents. Occurs most often when constituents have
a clear view on some issue and a legislator’s vote on that issue is likely to attract their
attention, such as civil rights bills. The problem with the representational explanation is that
public opinion is not strong and clear on most measures on which Congress must vote. On
many issues the average member of the House has opinions close to those of the average
voter. Senators, by contrast, are often less in tune with public opinion.
Organizational – based on the assumption that since most constituents do not know how
their legislator has voted, it is not essential to please them. But it is important to please
fellow members of Congress, whose goodwill is valuable in getting things done and in
acquiring status and power. When voting on matters where constituency interests or
opinions are not vitally as stake, members of Congress respond primarily to cues provided
by their colleagues. The principal cue is party. Additional organizational cues come from the
opinions of colleagues with whom the member of Congress feels a close ideological affinity.
Attitudinal – based on the assumption that there are so many conflicting pressures on
members of Congress that they cancel each other out, leaving them to vote on the basis of
their own beliefs. This view becomes more important as Congress becomes more
ideological. As this polarization increases, members of opposing parties are more likely to
challenge, investigate, and denounce each other
Party organization in the Senate – the majority party chooses one of its members to be
president pro tempore of the Senate, whose job it is to preside over the Senate. Having a
tiny majority in the Senate does not affect most important votes since the other side can
filibuster, but having your own party control the chairmanships is very important because it
helps determine what issues will go to the floor to vote. The key aspect of selecting party
leaders, of making up the important party committees, and of assigning freshman senators
to Senate committees is achieving ideological and regional balance. Compared to the
Senate of the 1950s and 60s, today’s Senate is less party-centered, less leader-oriented,
and hospitable to freshmen, more heavily staffed, and more subcommittee-oriented
Majority leader – chosen by the senators of the majority party. Schedules the business of
the senate, usually with the minority leader. Has the right to be recognized first in any floor
Minority leader – chosen by the senators of the minority party
Whip – helps the party leader stay informed about what party members are thinking, rounds
up members when important votes are to be taken, and attempts to keep a count on how
the voting on a controversial issue is likely to go.
Steering committee – the democratic committee in the Senate that assigns senators to
the standing committees
Committee on committees – the Republican equivalent of the Steering committee
Party structure in the House – leadership carries more power in the House than in the
Senate because of the House rules. Being so large, the House must restrict debate and
schedule its business with great care; thus leaders who do the scheduling and who
determine how the rules shall be applied usually have substantial influence. Committee
assignments are made and the scheduling of legislation is discussed, by the Democrats, in
the Steering and Policy committee, chaired by the Speaker. The Republicans have divided
committee assignments and policy discussions, with the former assigned to the Committee
on Committees and the latter to a Policy Committee. Each party also has a congressional
committee to provide funds and other assistance to party members running for election and
reelection in the House.
House Speaker – most important person in the House. Elected by whichever party has a
majority, and presides over all House meetings. He is the principal leader of the majority
party as well as the presiding officer of the entire House. They are expected to use their
powers to help pass legislation favored by their party. He decides who shall be recognized to
speak on the floor of the House; he rules whether a motion is relevant to the business at
hand, and he decides the committees to which new bills are brought up for a vote and
appoints the members of special and select committees. Since 1975 he has been able to
nominate the majority-party members of the Rules Committee. He controls the patronage
jobs in the Capitol building and the assignments of extra office space.
Party polarization – a vote in which a majority of voting Democrats oppose a majority
voting Republicans. By the 1990s party unity voting was the norm in both the House and
Party Leadership Structure
President Pro Tempore – selected by majority party
Majority leader – leads the party
Majority whip – assists the leader, rounds up votes, heads groups of deputy whips
Chairman of the Conference – presides over meetings of all Senate Democrats
Policy Committee - schedules legislation
Steering Committee – assigns Democratic senators to committees
Democratic Senatorial / Campaign Committee – provides funds, assistance to Democratic
candidates for the Senate
Minority leader – leads the party
Assistant Minority Leader – assists the leader, rounds up votes
Chairman of the Conference – presides over meetings of all Senate Republicans
Policy Committee – makes recommendations on party policy
Committee on Committees – assigns Republican senators to committees
Republican Senatorial Committee – provides funds, advice to Republican candidates for the
Speaker of the House – selected by majority party
Majority Leader – leads the party
Majority Whip – assists the leader, rounds up votes, heads group of deputy and assistant
Chairman of the Caucus – presides over meetings of all House Democrats
Steering and Policy Committee – schedules legislation, assigns Democratic representatives
to committees
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – provides funds, advice to Democratic
candidates for the House
Minority Leader – leads the party
Minority Whip – assists the leader, rounds up votes, heads large groups of deputy and
assistant whips
Chairman of the Conference – presides over meetings of all House Republicans
Committee on Committees – assigns Republican representatives to committees
Policy Committee – advises on party policy
National Republican Congressional Committee – provides funds, advice to Republican
candidates for the House
Research Committee – on request, provides information about issues
Increased partisanship – in the last 30 years voters have become more partisan. One
reason this has happened has been the way congressional districts are drawn for House
members. The vast majority are drawn so as to protect one party or the other. In primaries
voter turnout is lower, so that the most motivated voters play a disproportionate role in
choosing candidates. A second possibility is that the voters have become more partisan as a
result of Congress having become more partisan. A third option is the role of seniority. The
chairmen of committees are typically the members who have been on the committees the
longest, and they will be the ones from the safest districts. Since these chairmen have a lot
of influence over how bills are written, their views will be very important.
Caucus – an association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or
a regional or economic interest. They are a growing rival to the parties as a source of policy
leadership. Intraparty caucuses are formed by groups whose members share a similar
ideology. Personal-interest caucuses form around a common interest in an issue.
Constituency caucuses are established to represent certain groups or regions with diffuse
constituents. They thrive because they help members achieve personal goals of policy,
representation, and power.
Committees – where most of the power in Congress is found. The number and jurisdiction
of these committees are of great interest to members of Congress, since decisions on these
subjects determine what group of members, with what political views, will pass on legislative
proposals, oversee the workings of agencies in the executive branch, and conduct
investigations. Each senator may serve on two “major” committees and one “minor”
committee. Members of the House usually serve on two standing committees.
Standing committees – more or less permanent bodies with specified legislative
responsibilities. Standing committees are the important ones because they are the only
ones that propose legislation by reporting a bill out to the full House or Senate.
Select committees – groups appointed for a limited purpose and usually lasting for a few
Joint committees – those on which both representatives and senators serve
Conference committee – a kind of joint committee made up of representatives and
senators appointed to resolve differences in the Senate and House versions of the same
piece of legislation before final passage
Committee Rules
-committee chairmen to be elected by secret ballot in party caucus
-no member to chair more than one committee
-all committees with more than 20 members to have at least 4 subcommittees
-committee meetings to be public unless members vote to close them
-no proxy voting
-committee and subcommittee chairmen’s tenures limited to three terms and the Speaker’s
to four terms

-committee meetings to be public unless members vote to close them
-committee chairmen to be selected by secret ballot
-no senator to chair more than one committee
-six-year term limit on all committee chairmen
These rules give greater power to individual members and lessen the power of party leaders
and committee chairmen. The decentralization of the House means that is much harder for
chairmen to block legislation they do not like or discourage junior members from playing a
large role.
Staff responsibilities – to help constituents solve problems. About 1/3 work in the local
office of the member of Congress. As the workload of Congress has increased, the role of
staff members in devising proposals, negotiating agreements, organizing hearings, writing
questions, drafting reports, and meeting with lobbyists and administrators has grown. The
advocacy role of staff members has led them to find and promote legislation for which a
congressman can take credit. Members of Congress are becoming increasingly reliant on
staff members to deal with one another, causing Congress to become less collegial, more
individualistic, and less of a deliberative body.
Congressional Research Service – responds to government requests for information. It
does not recommend policy, but will look up facts and indicate the arguments for and
against a proposed policy. It also keeps track of every major bill before Congress and
produces a summary of each bill introduced.
General Accounting Office – investigates agencies and policies and makes
recommendations on almost every aspect of government. The head of the GAO—the
comptroller general—is appointed by the president (with the consent of the Senate), but
works more for Congress than the president.
Congressional Budget Office – advises Congress on the likely economic effects of
different spending programs and provides information on the costs of proposed policies. It
prepares analyses of the president’s budget and economic projections
How a bill becomes a law – there is ordinarily an advantage to the opposition of a bill
because there are many point at which action can be blocked. This means that to get
something done, a member of Congress must either assemble a majority coalition or take
advantage of temporary enthusiasm for some new cause. Any member of Congress may
introduce a bill. If a bill is not passed by both houses and signed by the president within the
life of one Congress, it is dead and must be reintroduced during the next Congress.
Congress usually initiates legislation, as opposed to the executive branch. Even when the
president is the principal author of a bill, he usually submits it only after careful consultation
with key congressional leaders. The president himself cannot introduce legislation. A bill is
referred to a committee for consideration by either the Speaker of the House or the
presiding officer of the Senate. All bills for raising revenues originate in the House.
Most bills die in committee. Bills of general interest—many of which are drafted in the
executive branch but introduced by a member of Congress—are assigned to a subcommittee
for a hearing, where witnesses appear, evidence is taken, and questions are asked. These
hearings are used to inform members of Congress, to permit interest groups to speak out,
and to build public support for a measure favored by the majority of the committee. Though
committee hearings are necessary and valuable, they also fragment the process of
considering bills dealing with complex matters.
After the hearings the committee or subcommittee will “mark up” the bill. These changes do
not become part of the bill unless they are approved by the house of which the committee is
a part. If a majority of the committee votes to report a bill out to the House or Senate, it
goes forward. For a bill to come before either house, it must be first be placed on a calendar.
There are 5 calendars in the House and 2 in the Senate. Though a bill goes on a calendar, it
is not necessarily considered in chronological order or considered at all. In the Senate, bills
may be considered in any order at any time whenever a majority of the Senate chooses. The
majority leader, in consultation with the minority leader, schedules bills for consideration.
The House usually plows through its legislative schedule, ignoring individual members’
complaints in favor of getting its work done. In contrast, the Senate majority leader must
accommodate the interests of individual senators before proceeding with the Senate’s
Once on the floor, the bills are debated. In the House all revenue and most other bills are
discussed by the entire floor present at the time. The Committee of the Whole discusses and
amends the bill, but technically cannot pass it. to do that the Committee of the Whole
reports it back to the House, which takes final action. During the debate in the Committee of
the Whole, the committee sponsoring the bill guides the discussion, divides the time equally
between proponents and opponents, and decides how long each member will be permitted
to speak. If amendments are allowed under the rule, they must be germane to the purpose
of the bill—riders are not allowed—and no one may speak for more than 5 minutes on an
amendment. The sponsoring committee almost always wins; its bill, as amended by it,
usually is the version that the House passes.
In the Senate, there are no rules limiting debate, and members may speak for as long as
they can stay on their feet. Amendments need not be germane to the purpose of the bill,
and thus the Senate often attaches riders to its bills. The opportunity to offer nongermane
amendments gives a senator a chance to get a bill onto the floor without regard to the
calendar or the schedule of the majority leader. A senator can get a House-passed bill put
directly onto the Senate calendar without committee action. Filibusters are becoming
increasingly common, meaning that a party cannot control the Senate unless it has 60
If a bill passes the House and Senate in different forms, the differences must be reconciled if
the bill is to become law. If they are minor, the last house to act may refer the bill back to
the other house, which then accepts the alterations. If the differences are major, it is often
necessary to appoint a conference committee to iron them out. Only a minority of bills
require a conference. Each house must vote to form such a committee. The members are
picked by the chairmen of the House and Senate standing committees that have been
handling the legislation, with representation given to the minority and majority party. In
most cases the conference reports tend to favor, slightly, the Senate version of the bill.
The bill, now in final form, goes to the president. If a veto is cast, the bill returns to the
house of origin. There an effort can be made to override the veto. This requires that 2/3 of
those present must vote to override.
Public bill – pertains to general public affairs
Private bill – pertaining to a private individual, such as a person pressing a financial claim
against the government or seeking special permission to become a naturalized citizen.
Today many of the matters addressed by private bills have been delegated to administrative
agencies or the courts.
Simple resolution – passed by either the House or Senate, used for matters such as
establishing the rules under which each body will operate
Concurrent resolution – settles housekeeping and procedural matters that affect both
houses. Simple and concurrent resolutions do not need presidential approval and do not
have the force of law
Joint resolution – requires the approval of both houses and the signature of the president;
it is essentially the same as a law. It can be used to propose a constitutional amendment; in
this case it must be approved by a 2/3 vote in both houses, but it does not require the
signature of the president
Ways and Means Committee – committee in the House that handles revenue legislation
Multiple referral – a process whereby a bill may be referred to several committees that
simultaneously consider it. the advantages of this process is that all views have a chance to
be heard; the disadvantage is that it takes a lot of time and gives opponents a greater
chance to kill or modify the bill. And if the different committees disagree about the bill, their
members have to come together in a joint meeting. In these cases the advantages of the
committee system are often lost.
Sequential referral – when the Speaker sends a bill to a second committee after the first is
finished acting.
Discharge position – a procedure whereby the House or Senate can get a bill that is
stalled in committee out and onto the floor. In the House it must be signed by 218 people; if
the petition is approved it comes before the House directly. In the Senate a member can
move to discharge a committee of any bill, and if the motion passes, the bill comes before
the Senate. Discharge is rarely tried in the Senate, in part because Senate rules permit
almost any proposal to get to the floor as an amendment to another bill.
Closed rule – sets a strict time limit on debate and forbids the introduction of any
amendments except those offered by sponsoring committees.
Open rule – permits amendments from the floor
Restrictive rule – permits some amendments but not others
Ways the House has of bypassing the Rules Committee – a member can move that
the rules be suspended, which requires a 2/3 vote; a discharge petition can be filed; the
House can use the “Calendar Wednesday” procedure. In theory few such barriers to floor
consideration exist in the Senate.
Rider – a provision added to a piece of legislation that is not germane to the bill’s purpose.
The goal is usually to achieve one of two outcomes: either to get the president to sign an
otherwise objectionable bill by attaching it, as an amendment, to a provision that he wants
to see enacted, or to get the president to veto a bill that he would otherwise sign by
attaching to it a provision that he does not like.
Quorum – the minimum number of members who must be present for business to be
conducted. Only 100 members for the Committee of the Whole.
Quorum call – occurs when someone wishes to delay action on a House bill. It is a calling of
the roll to find out whether the necessary minimum number of members are present. If a
quorum is not present, the House must either adjourn or dispatch the sergeant at arms to
round up the missing members.
Cloture rule – requires that 16 senators sign a petition to move cloture. The motion is
voted on two days after the petition is introduced; to pass, 3/5 of the entire Senate
membership must vote for it. If it each passes, each senator is thereafter limited to one hour
of debate on the bill under consideration. The total debate cannot exceed 100 hours.
Double-tracking – an attempt to keep the Senate going during a filibuster. Other business
can go on while the stalled bill is temporarily set aside. As a result, the number of filibusters
has skyrocketed.
Voice vote – consists of House members shouting “yea” or “nay”
Division vote – involves House members standing and being counted
Teller vote – the members pass between two tellers. This type of vote is recorded. Teller
votes but not roll call votes can be used in the Committee of the Whole
Roll-call vote – consists of people answering “yea” or “nay” to their names. It can be done
at the request on 1/5 of the representatives present in the House.
House-Senate Differences: A Summary
-435 members serve 2-year terms
-House members have only one major committee assignment, thus tend to be policy
-Speaker’s referral of bills to committee is hard to challenge
-Committees almost always consider legislation first
-Scheduling and rules are controlled by the majority party
-Rules Committee is powerful; controls time of debate, admissibility of amendment
-debate is usually limited to one hour
-nongermane amendments may not be introduced from the floor
-100 members serve rotating 6-year terms
-senators have two or more major committee assignments, thus tend to be policy
-referral decisions are easy to challenge
-committee consideration is easy bypassed
-scheduling and rules are generally agreed to by majority and minority leaders
-Rules Committee is weak; few limits on debate or amendments
-debate is unlimited unless shortened by unanimous consent or by invoking cloture
-nongermane amendments may be introduced
Pork-barrel legislation – bills that give tangible benefits to constituents in the hope of
winning their votes in return. A result of the federalist system
Franking privilege – the ability of members of Congress to send material through the mail
free to keep their constituents informed about the government. Most use it for campaign
literature, thereby helping incumbents
Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 – created the independent Office of
Compliance and an employee grievance procedure to deal with implementation. Mandates
that Congress members too must obey laws such as the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act,
the Age Discrimination Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act
Rules on Congressional Ethics
-no gifts totaling $100 or more from anyone except a spouse or personal friend
-lobbyists may not pay for gifts, official travel, legal defense funds, or charitable
contributions to groups controlled by senators
-no fees for lectures or writing except that fees of up to $2000 may go to a senator-
designated charity
-outside earned income may not exceed 15% of a senator’s salary
-ex-senators may not try to influence members of Congress for one year after leaving the
-no senator may receive more than $50000 from the Senate to send out a mailing to
-no gifts totaling $100 or more from anyone except a spouse or personal friend
-lobbyists may not offer gifts or pay for travel, even if lobbyist is a spouse or personal friend
-house members may travel at the expense of others if travel is for officially connected
-no honoraria for House members
-ex-House members may not lobby Congress for one year after leaving office
How Congress Raises its Pay
-voting for a tax deduction for expenses incurred as a result of living in Washington
-creating a citizens commission that could recommend pay increase that would take effect
automatically provided Congress did not vote against it
-linking increases in pay to decreases in honoraria

Chapter 12: The Presidency

Presidents – presidents are often outsiders. Under the Constitution, no sitting member of
Congress can hold office in the executive branch. most cabinet members are close personal
friends of the president or campaign aides, representatives of important constituencies,
experts on various policy issues, or some combination. Presidents have no guaranteed
majority in the legislature. Divided government means that cooperation between the two
branches is often reduced by partisan bickering. Even when one party controls both the
White House and Congress, the two branches often work at cross-purposes.
Divided government – a government in which one party controls the White House and a
different party controls one or both houses of Congress. Divided governments do about as
well as unified ones in passing important laws, conducting investigations, and ratifying
Unified government – the only time there really is a unified government is when not just
the same party but the same ideological wing of that party is in effective control of both
branches of government. These are periods when major policy initiatives become law, but
they are very rare.
Twenty-second Amendment – limits the president to two terms
Electoral College – each state gets electoral votes equal to the number of senators and
representatives. In all but two states, the candidate who wins the most popular votes wins
all of the state’s electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska have a different system. They allow
electoral votes to be split by awarding some votes on the basis of a candidate’s statewide
total and some on the basis of how the candidate did in each congressional district. The
winning slates of electors assemble in their state capitals about 6 weeks after the election to
cast their ballots. The state electoral ballots are opened and counted before a joint session
of Congress during the first week of January. If no candidate wins a majority, the House of
Representatives chooses the president from among the three leading candidates, with each
state casting one vote. By House rules, each state’s vote is allotted to the candidate
preferred by a majority of the state’s delegation. If there is a tie within a delegation, that
state’s votes are not counted. Today, the winner-take-all system in effect in 48 states makes
it possible for a candidate to win at least 270 electoral votes without winning a majority of
the popular vote. This means that candidates have a strong incentive to campaign in big
states they have a chance of winning. The electoral college can also help small states by
over representing them. It heightens the importance of states in national politics.
Powers of the President
-Serve as commander in chief of the armed forces
-Commission officers of the armed forces
-Grant reprieves and pardons for federal offenses
-Convene Congress in special sessions
-Receive ambassadors
-Take care that the laws be carefully executed
-Wield the “executive power”
-Appoint officials to lesser offices
-Make treaties
-Appoint ambassadors, judges, and high officials
-Approve legislation
The President: Qualifications and Benefits
-A natural-born citizen
-35 years of age
-resident of the US for at least 14 years
-salary of $400,000 per year (taxable)
-expense account of $50000 per year (tax-free)
-travel expenses of $100000 per year (tax-free)
-pension, on retirement, equal to the pay of a cabinet member (taxable)
-staff support and Secret Service protection on leaving the presidency
-a White House staff of 400-500 people
-Camp David
-use of Air Force One
Budget and Accounting Act – allowed the president to submit a single budget and
created the Office of Management and Budget
Rule of propinquity – in general power is wielded by people who are in the room when a
decision is made
Pyramid structure – most assistants report through a hierarchy to the chief of staff, who
deals directly with the president. Provides an orderly flow of information and decisions but
does so at the risk of isolating or misinforming the president
Circular structure – cabinet secretaries and assistants report directly to president. Gives
the president a great deal of information, but at the price of confusion and conflict among
cabinet secretaries and assistants.
Ad hoc structure – task forces, committees, and informal groups of friends and advisers
deal directly with the president. Allows great flexibility, minimizes bureaucratic inertia, and
generates ideas and information from disparate channels, but risks cutting the president off
from the government officials who are ultimately responsible for translating presidential
decisions into policy proposals and administrative action.
Executive Offices/Agencies – agencies in the Executive Office report directly to the
president and perform staff service for him but are not located in the White House itself. The
top positions in these organizations are filled by presidential appointment, but must be
confirmed by the Senate. The heads of these agencies serve at the pleasure of the president
and can be removed at his discretion
Office of Management and Budget – most important executive agency, assembles and
analyzes the figures that go each year into the national budget, studies the organizations
and operations of the executive branch, devises plans for reorganizing various departments
and agencies, develops ways of getting better information about government programs, and
reviews proposals that cabinet departments want included in the president’s legislative
program. It has traditionally been a nonpartisan agency, though it has played a major role in
advocating policies
Cabinet – cabinet officers are heads of the 14 major executive departments. The president
appoints or directly controls most of the cabinet members. The president’s cabinet officers
usually have not served with the chief executive in the legislature. Instead they come from
private businesses, universities, think tanks, foundations, law firms, labor unions, and other
government posts. A tendency has developed for presidents to place in their cabinets people
known for their expertise or administrative experience rather than for their political
following. This is in part because political parties are now so weak that party leaders can no
longer demand a place in the cabinet and in part because president want “experts.” He also
needs to recognize various politically important groups, regions, and organizations.
Independent agencies – not considered part of the cabinet and have quasi-independent
status. The heads of these agencies serve for fixed terms of office and can be removed only
“for cause”
Acting appointee – holds office until the Senate acts on his or her nomination. Many
senators feel this violates their right to consent to appointments. Administration officials
defend the practice as necessary given the slow pace of confirmations.
Vacancies Act – limits acting appointees to 120 days in office. If the Senate takes no action
during those 120 days, the acting official may stay in office until he, or someone else, is
confirmed to the post.
Three audiences – the president’s persuasive powers are aimed at 3 audiences. The first is
his Washington DC audience of fellow politicians and leaders. A president’s reputation
among his Washington colleagues is of great importance in affecting how much power he
can wield. A second audience is composed of party activists and officeholders outside
Washington. The persons want the president to exemplify their principles, appeal to their
fears and hopes, and get them reelected. The third audience is the public. Presidents have
become increasingly reliant on premade speeches.
Popularity – a president’s popularity may have a significant effect on how much of his
program Congress passes, even if it does not affect the reelection chances of those
members of Congress. A president’s popularity is associated with the proportion of his
legislative proposals that are approved by Congress. Most presidents loose popularity during
their terms, except when reelections give them a brief burst of renewed popularity. In every
off-year election but one, the president’s party has lost seats in one or both houses of
Executive privilege – the right to withhold information that Congress may want to obtain
from the president or his subordinates. The doctrine of separation of powers means that one
branch of government does not have the right to inquire into the internal workings of
another branch headed by constitutionally named officers. The principles of statecraft and of
prudent administration require that the president have the right to obtain confidential and
candid advice from subordinates.
United States v. Nixon – held that while there may be a sound basis for the claim of
executive privilege, especially where sensitive military or diplomatic materials are involved,
there is no absolute unqualified presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process
under all circumstances.
Veto message – a statement that the president sends to Congress accompanying the bill,
within 10 days after the bill has been passed. In it he sets forth his reasons for not signing
the bill. A bill that has been returned to Congress with a veto message can be passed over
the president’s objections if at least 2/3 of each house votes to override the veto.
Pocket veto – if the president does not sign the bill within 10 days and Congress has
adjourned within that time, then the bill will not become law. A bill that is not signed or
vetoed within 10 days while Congress is still in session becomes a law automatically, without
the president’s approval. A bill that has received a pocket veto cannot be brought back to
life by Congress, nor does it carry over to the next session of Congress.
Impoundment of funds – when presidents refuse to money appropriated by Congress. The
Constitution is silent on whether the president must spend the money that Congress
appropriates; all it says is that the president cannot spend money that Congress has not
Budget Reform Act of 1974 – requires the president to spend all the appropriated funds
unless he first tells Congress what funds he wishes not to spend and Congress, within 45
days, agrees to delete the items. If he wishes simply delay spending the money, he need
only inform congress, but Congress then can refuse the delay by passing a resolution
requiring the immediate release of the money
Putting together a program
Strength: will have specific plans and ideas
Weakness: will have narrow view on public interest
Strength: will test new ideas for their political soundness
Weakness: will not have many ideas to test, being inexperienced in government
Strength: will know what is feasible in term of governmental realities
Weakness: will propose plans that promote own agencies and will not have good information
on whether plans will work
Strength: will have many general ideas and criticisms of existing programs
Weakness: will not know the details of policy or have good judgment as to what is feasible
Constraints on ability to plan a program – there is a limit on the president’s time and
attention span. There can also be an unexpected crisis. The federal government and most
federal programs, as well as the federal budget, can only be changed marginally, except in
special circumstances. The vast bulk of federal expenditures are beyond control in any given
year. The result of these constraints is that the president has to be selective about what he
wants. He must identify a few specific proposals on which he wishes to bet his resources
Reorganization - almost every president has tried to change the structure of the staff,
departments, and agencies that are theoretically subordinate to him. If a president want to
get something done, put new people in charge of a program, or recapture political support
for a policy, it is often easier to do so by creating a new agency or reorganizing an old one
than by abolishing a program, firing a subordinate, or passing a new law. Legally the
president can reorganize his personal White House staff anytime he wishes.
Legislative veto – a concurrent resolution passed by the House or Senate to disprove a
presidential reorganization plan. These vetoes are now unconstitutional, and so today any
presidential reorganization plan would have to take the form of a regular law, passed by
Congress and signed by the president. A requirement that an executive decisions must lie
before Congress for a specified period before it takes effect. Congress could then veto the
decision if a resolution of disapproval was passed by either house or both houses. Congress
cannot take any action that has the force of law unless the president concurs in that action.
Vice president – presides over the Senate and votes in the case of a tie. His leadership
powers in the Senate are weak, especially when he is of a different party than the majority
of the senators.
Succession Act of 1886 – designated the secretary of state as next in line for the
presidency should the vice president die, followed by the other cabinet officers in order of
seniority. In 1947 the law was changed to make the Speaker of the House and then the
president pro tempore of the Senate next in line for the presidency.
Twenty-fifth Amendment – allows the vice president to serve as “acting president”
whenever the president declares that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of
office or whenever the vice president and a majority of the cabinet declare that the
president is incapacitated. If the president disagrees with the opinion of his vice president
and a majority of the cabinet, then Congress decides the issue. A 2/3 majority is necessary
to confirm that the president is unable to serve. It requires a vice president who has
assumed the presidency to nominate a new vice president, who must be confirmed by a
majority of both houses of Congress.
Impeachment – a set of charges against somebody, voted by the House of
Representatives. To be removed from office, the impeached officer, the impeached officer
must be convicted by a 2/3 vote of the Senate, which sits as a court, hears evidence, and
makes its decision under whatever rules it wishes to adopt.
Lame duck – a politician whose power has diminished because he is about to leave office as
a result of electoral defeat or statutory limitation

Chapter 13: The Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy – a large, complex organization composed of appointed officials. Authority is
divided among several managers; no one person is able to make all the decisions.
American bureaucracy – political authority over the bureaucracy is shared among several
institutions. The Constitution permits both the president and Congress to exercise authority
over the bureaucracy. Every senior appointed official has at least two masters: one in the
executive branch and the other in the legislative. This divided authority encourages
bureaucrats to play one branch of government off against the other and to make heavy use
of the media. Most of the agencies of the federal government share their functions with
related agencies in state and local government. Though some federal agencies deal directly
with American citizens, many agencies work with other organizations at other levels of
government. The institutions and traditions of American life have contributed to the growth
of an “adversary culture,” in which the definition and expansion of personal rights, and the
defense of rights and claims through lawsuits as well as political action, are given central
importance. A government agency in this country operates under closer public scrutiny and
with a great prospect of court challenges to its authority than in almost any other nation.
The initial role of the bureaucracy was to serve, not regulate. The depression of the 1930s
and World War II reshaped the role of the bureaucracy, which was now expected to play an
active role in dealing with economic and social problems.
Appointment of officials – officials that the president selects affect how the laws are
interpreted, what tone the administration will display, how effectively the public business is
discharged, and how strong the political party or faction in power will be.
Patronage – appointments based on political considerations. There was not very much
popular support for patronage when it was used in the 19th and 20th centuries. It gave the
president a way ensure that his subordinates were reasonably supportive of his policies; it
provided a reward that the president could use to induce members of Congress to vote for
his programs; and it enabled party organizations to be built up to perform the necessary
functions of nominating candidates and getting out the vote.
Spoils system – the practice of giving the fruits of a party’s victory, such as jobs and
contracts, to the loyal members of that party
Discretionary authority – the ability to choose courses of action and to make policies that
are not spelled out in advance by laws
Ways Congress has delegated authority to administrative agencies – paying
subsidies to particular groups and organizations in society; transferring money from the
federal government to state and local governments; and devising and enforcing regulations
for various sectors of society and the economy. Some of the administrative functions are
closely monitored by Congress, others usually operate with a greater degree of
Factors that explain the behavior of officials – the manner in which they are recruited
and rewarded; their personal attributes, such as their socioeconomic backgrounds and their
political attitudes; the nature of their jobs; and the constraints that outside forces impose on
their agencies
Competitive service – officials are appointed only after they have passed a written
examination administered by the Office of Personnel Management or met certain selection
criteria devised by the hiring agency and approved by the OPM. In recent years the
competitive service system has become decentralized, so that each agency now hires its
own people without an OPM referral, and examinations have become less common. This
decentralization and the greater use of ways other than exams to hire employees were
caused by three things: first, the old OPM system was cumbersome and often not relevant to
the complex needs of departments. Second, these agencies had a need for more
professionally trained employees who could not be ranked on the basis of some standard
exam. And third, civil rights groups pressed Washington to make the racial composition of
the federal bureaucracy look more like the racial composition of the nation.
Excepted service – employees hired outside the competitive service. They now make up
almost half of all workers. About 3% of the excepted service employees are appointed on
grounds other than or in addition to merit. These legal exceptions exist to permit the
president to select people in agreement with his policy views. Such appointments are
generally of three kinds: presidential appointments authorized by statute (cabinet and
subcabinet officers, judges, US marshal’s and US attorneys, ambassadors, and members of
various boards and commissions); “Schedule C” appointments to jobs that are described as
having a confidential or policy-determining character below the level of cabinet or
subcabinet posts (including executive assistants, special aids, and confidential secretaries;
and noncareer executive assignments given to high-ranking members of the regular
competitive civil service at these high levels. These people are deeply involved in the
advocacy of presidential programs or participate in policy-making. These three groups
constitute the patronage available to a president and his administration.
Pendleton Act – began a slow but steady transfer of federal jobs from the patronage to the
merit system. The passage of this bill was caused by public outrage over the abuses of the
spoils system and the fear that if the Democrats came to power on a wave of antispoils,
existing Republican officeholders would be fired. The merit system spread to encompass
most of the federal bureaucracy
Name-request job – one that is filled by a person whom an agency has already identified.
Occasionally these jobs are offered to a person at the insistence of a member of Congress
who wants a political supporter taken care of.
Firing a bureaucrat – the employee must be given written notice at least 30 days in
advance that he is to be fired or demoted for incompetence or misconduct. The written
statement must contain a statement of reasons, including specific examples of unacceptable
performance. The employee has the right to an attorney and to reply, orally or in writing, to
the charges. The employee has the right to appeal any adverse action to the Merit Systems
Protection Board. The MSPB must grant the employee a hearing, at which the employee has
the right to have an attorney present. The employee has the right to appeal the MSPB
decision to a US court of appeals, which can hold new hearings.
Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 – congress recognized that many high-level positions in
the civil service have important policy-making responsibilities and that the president and his
cabinet officers ought to have flexibility in recruiting, assigning, and paying such people. it
created the Senior Executive Service, about 8000 top federal managers who can in
theory be hired, fired, and transferred more easily than ordinary civil servants. Members of
the SES are eligible for substantial cash bonuses if they perform their duties well. Anyone
who is removed from the SES is guaranteed a job elsewhere in the government.
Whistle Blower Protection Act – created the Office of Special Counsel, charged with
investigation complaints from bureaucrats that they were punished after reporting to
Congress about waste, fraud, or abuse in their agencies
Administrative Procedure Act – before adopting a new rule or policy, an agency must
give notices, solicit comments, and often hold hearings
Freedom of Information Act – citizens have the right to inspect all government records
except those containing military, intelligence, or trade secrets or revealing private personal
National Environmental Policy Act – before undertaking any major action affecting the
environment, an agency must issue an environmental impact statement
Privacy Act – government files about individuals, such as Social Security and tax records,
must be kept confidential
Open Meeting Law – every part of every agency meeting must be open to the public
unless certain matters are being discussed
Constraints on agency behavior – besides the aforementioned laws, one of the biggest
constraints on bureaucratic action is that Congress rarely gives any job to a single agency.
The effects of these constraints on agency behavior are: the government will often act
slowly, the government will sometimes act inconsistently, it will be easier to block action
than to take action, lower-ranking employees will be reluctant to make decisions on their
own, and citizens will complain of red tape. These constraints do not mean that government
bureaucracy is powerless, only that it tends to be clumsy. Government agencies behave as
they do in large part because of the many different goals they must pursue and the complex
rules they must follow.
Iron triangle – the relationship between an agency, a committee, and an interest group.
They are examples of client politics. They are much less common today than was once the
case. The number and variety of interest groups have increased so much that there is
scarcely any agency that is not subject to pressures from several competing interest. The
growth of subcommittees on Congress has meant that most agencies are subject to control
by many different legislative groups, often with different concerns. The courts have made it
much easier for all kinds of individuals and interests to intervene in agency affairs.
Issue network – people in Washington-based interest groups, on congressional staffs, in
universities and think tanks, and in the mass media, who regularly debate government
policy on a certain topic. The networks are split along political, ideological, and economic
Congressional oversight – no agency may exist without congressional approval. Congress
influences agency behavior by the statutes in enacts. No money can be spent unless it has
first been authorized by congress. Even funds that have been authorized by Congress
cannot be spent unless they are also appropriated. An individual member of Congress can
control the call an agency head on behalf of a constituent. Congressional committees may
also obtain the right to pass on certain agency decisions. Congress can also conduct
investigations of the bureaucracy, which has been inferred from the power to legislate.
Appropriation – money set aside for a specific use, originate in the House Appropriations
Committee, which tends to recommend less money than an agency requests.
Authorization legislation – originates in a legislative committee and states the maximum
amount of money than an agency may spend on a given program. This authorization may be
permanent, it may be for a fixed number of years, or it may be annual.
Trust funds – operate outside the regular governmental budget, and the appropriations
committees have no control over these expenditures. They are automatic.
Annual authorizations – means that every year the legislative committees, as part of the
reauthorization process, get to set limits on what these agencies can spend. This limits the
ability of the appropriations committees to determine the spending limits.
Committee clearance – the right of Congress to pass on certain agency decisions. Usually
not legally binding on the agency, but difficult to ignore
Red tape – complex rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done. A
lot of government red tape arises out of the need to satisfy legal and political requirements.
Conflict – exists because some agencies seem to be working at cross-purposes with other
Duplication – occurs when two government agencies seem to be doing the same thing
Imperialism – the tendency of agencies to grow without regard to the benefits that their
programs confer or the costs they entail. It is often the result of government agencies’
seeking goals that are so vague and so difficult to measure that it is hard to tell when they
have been attained.
Waste – spending more than in necessary to buy some product or service. There are only
weak incentives to keep costs down.
National Performance Review – emphasized customer satisfaction in bureaucratic
reform. To the authors of the NPR report, the main problem with the bureaucracy was that it
had become too centralized, too rule-bound, and too little concerned with making programs
work, and too much concerned with avoiding scandal. It called for less management and
more employee initiative, fewer detailed rules and more emphasis on customer satisfaction.
It sought to create a new kind of organizational culture in government agencies. It was
reinforced legislatively by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993,
which required agencies to set goals, measure performance, and report on the results.

Chapter 14: The Judiciary

Judicial review – the right of the federal courts to declare laws of Congress and acts of the
executive branch void and unenforceable if they are judged to be in conflict with the
Constitution. Judicial reviews is the federal courts’ chief weapon in the system of checks and
balances on which the American government is based.
Strict-constructionist approach – holds that judges should only judge—that is, they
should confine themselves to applying those rules that are stated in or clearly implied by the
language of the Constitution.
Activist approach – judges should discover the general principles underlying the
Constitution and its often vague language, amplify those principles on the basis of some
moral or economic philosophy, and apply them to cases.
Federalist 78 – describes the judiciary as the branch “least dangerous” to political rights.
Claims that the Constitution intended to give to the courts the right to decide whether a law
is contrary to the Constitution.
Marbury v. Madison – held that the court could declare an act of Congress
unconstitutional. The power of the Court depends not simply on its constitutional authority
but also on its acting in ways that avoid a clear confrontation with other branches of
government. Justice John Marshall decided that the courts could issue writs to compel public
officials to do their prescribed duty—but that the Supreme Court had no power to issue such
writs in this case because the law (the Judiciary Act of 1789) giving it that power was
McCulloch v. Maryland – held that the Supreme Court could declare an act of Congress
unconstitutional; and that the power granted by the Constitution to the federal government
flows from the people and thus should be generously construed; and the federal law is
supreme over state law, even to the point that a state may not tax an enterprise created by
the federal government
Constitutional court – one exercising the judicial powers found in Article III of the
Constitution, and therefore its judges are given constitutional protection; they may not be
fired, nor may their salaries be reduced while they are in office. All judges are nominated by
the president and confirmed by the Senate
District courts – the most important kinds of constitutional courts
Courts of appeals – located in each of 11 regions
Legislative court – one set up by Congress for some specialized purpose and staffed with
people who have fixed terms of office and can be removed or have their salaries reduced.
These include the Court of Military Appeals and the territorial courts
Senatorial courtesy – gives heavy weight to the preferences of the senators from the state
where a federal district judge is to serve. Ordinarily the Senate will not confirm a district
court judge if the senior senator from the state where the district is located objects. This
means that as a practical matter the president nominates only persons recommended to
him by that key senator
Litmus test – a test of ideological purity for selecting judges. It has grown in importance,
especially in selecting Supreme Court justices.
Federal courts – can hear all cases arising under the Constitution, the laws of the US, and
treaties (federal-question cases), and cases involving citizens of different states
(diversity cases). When a federal criminal law is broken, the case is heard in federal
district court. If you wish to appeal the decision of a federal regulatory agency, you can do
so only before a federal court of appeals. If you wish to declare bankruptcy, you do so in a
federal court. The vast majority of cases heard by federal courts begin in the district courts.
Dual sovereignty doctrine – state and federal authorities can prosecute the same person
for the same conduct. Each level of government has the right to enact laws serving its own
purposes. Neither level of government wants the other to be able to block prosecution of an
accused person who has the sympathy of the authorities at one level. A criminal case in
which the defendant is charged with violating only a state law can be appealed to the US
Supreme Court under certain circumstances. Thus federal judges can overturn state court
rulings even they have no jurisdiction over the original matter.
Writ of certiorari – the Court considers all the petitions it receives to review lower-court
decisions. If all 4 judges agree to hear a case, a cert is issued and the case is scheduled for a
hearing. The deciding whether to grant certiorari, the Court tries to reserve its time for cases
decided by lower federal courts or by the highest state courts in which a significant federal
or constitutional question has been raised. The Court will often grant certiorari when one or
both of the following is true: two or more federal circuit courts of appeals have decided the
same issue in different ways, or the highest court in a state has held a federal or state law to
be in violation of Constitution or has upheld a state law against the claim that it is in
violation of the Constitution. Because the Court reviews only about 1-2% of appeals court
cases, applicable federal law may be different in different parts of the country.
In forma pauperis – one can file as an indigent and be heard as pauper for nothing. If your
case began as a criminal trial in the district courts and you are poor, the government will
supply you with a lawyer at no charge. If the matter is not a criminal case and you cannot
afford to hire a lawyer, interest groups are sometimes willing to take up the case
Fee shifting – enables the plaintiff (the party that initiates the suit) to collect its costs
from the defendant if the defendant loses, at least in certain kinds of cases. The Supreme
Court has restricted its application to cases authorized by statute.
Section 1983 – allows a citizen to sue a state or local government official who has deprived
the citizen of some constitutional right or withheld some benefit to which the citizen is
entitled. If the citizen wins, he can collect money damages and lawyers’ fees from the
Standing – a legal concept that refers to who is entitled to bring a case. It is important in
determining who can challenge the laws or actions of the government itself. There must be
an actual controversy between real adversaries. You must show that you have been harmed
by the law or practice about which you are complaining. Merely being a taxpayer does not
ordinarily entitle you to challenge the constitutionality of a federal governmental action.
Sovereign immunity – the government itself cannot be sued without its consent
Class-action suit – a case brought into court by a person on behalf of all persons in similar
circumstances. The Supreme Court decided in 1974 that it would no longer hear (expect in
certain cases defined by Congress, such as civil rights matters) class-action suits seeking
monetary damages unless each and every ascertainable member of the class was
individually notified of the case.
Brief – document that sets forth the facts of the case, summarizes the lower-court decision,
gives the arguments for the side represented by the lawyer who wrote the brief, and
discusses the other cases that the Court has decided bear on the issue.
Solicitor general – third-ranking officer of the Department of Justice. He decides what
cases the government will appeal from lower courts and personally approves every case the
government presents to the Supreme Court
Amicus curaie – an interested party not directly involved in the suit who submits a brief.
Before such briefs can be filed, both parties must agree and the court must grant permission
Pur curiam opinion – a written opinion explaining the court’s decision
Opinion of the Court – reflects the majority’s view
Concurring opinion – an opinion by one or more justices who agree with the majority’s
conclusion but for different reasons
Dissenting opinion – the opinion of the justices on the losing side
Stare decisis – the principle of precedent
Powers of the court – more than 160 federal laws have been declared unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court often changes its mind. The courts are also willing to handle matters
once left to the legislature.
Political question – a matter that the constitution left entirely to another branch of
government to decide for itself
Remedy – a judicial order setting forth what must be done to correct a situation that a
judge believes to be wrong. The remedies imposed now often apply to large groups and
affect the circumstances under which thousands of people work, study, or live.
Judicial activism – it is now easier to get standing in courts, to pay legal fees, and to bring
class-action suits. Making it easier to get to court increases the number of cases being
heard. The law must also be sufficiently vague to permit judges wide latitude in interpreting
it, and the judges must want to exercise that powerfully. The attitudes of judges powerfully
affect what they will do, especially when the law gives them wide latitude.
Restraints on judicial power – a judge has no police force or army; decisions he makes
can sometimes be ignored if the person or organization resisting is not highly visible.
Congress can gradually alter the composition of the judiciary by the kinds of appointments
that the Senate is willing to confirm, or it can impeach judges that it doesn’t like. Congress
can alter the number of judges. Congress and the states can also undo a Supreme Court
decision interpreting the Constitution by amending that document. Congress can also repass
a law that the Court has declared unconstitutional. Congress can decide what the entire
jurisdiction of the lower courts and the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall be.
In theory Congress could prevent matters on which it did not want federal courts to act from
ever coming before the courts.