Conservapedia: American Government & Politics 2012: Lecture Twelve

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What does it mean that the U.S. Constitution established a national government of limited, enumerated powers?

It means that the Constitution limited the power of the Federal Government. The Bill of Rights, within the United States Constitution, contains a series of ten Amendments. The first eight Amendments enumerate specific rights retained by the people. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments concisely spell out the principle of limited government.

The U.S. Constitution established a national government that can do some things and not others, and these powers are spelled out. For instance, the Government of China has put a cap on the maximum family size. The American Government gets its power from the U.S. Constitution, and thus does not have the power to do so.

What Articles of the U.S. Constitution establish which branches of government?

Article I - Legislative branch
Article II - Executive branch
Article III - Judiciary branch

What are the most significant Amendments in the Bill of Rights, and what do they mean?

1 - Freedom of speech, press, assembly, etc.
2 - Right to bear arms
3 - Quartering of soldiers
4 - Warrants
5 - Due process
6 - Right to a speedy trial
7 - Right to a trial by a jury
8 - No cruel or unusual punishments
9 - Unenumerated rights
10 - Power to the people and states

The most significant of these are the First, Second, Fourth, (and maybe Fifth) Amendments.

What are the most significant Amendments AFTER the Bill of Rights, and what do they mean?

11 - Immunity of states to foreign suits
12 - Revision of presidential election procedures
13 - Abolition of slavery
14 - Equal Protection Clause, the "incorporation doctrine," and Due Process Clause
15 - Racial suffrage
16 - Federal income tax
17 - Direct election to the United States Senate
18 - Prohibition of alcohol
19 - Women's suffrage
20 - Terms of the presidency
21 - Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
22 - Limits the president to two terms
23 - Electoral College
24 - Prohibition of poll taxes
25 - Presidential disabilities
26 - Voting age lowered to 18
27 - Variance of congressional compensation

The most important of these amendments are the 14th, 15th, 17th, and 22nd Amendments.

When and why was the U.S. Constitution written and ratified?

The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified in 1788 because the government established by the Articles of Confederation was too weak.

What does "federalism" mean?

Tthe combination of many governments in one country (state and national), rather than only one government..

What does "separation of powers" mean?

The division of the government into three different branches.

What do "checks and balances" mean?

"Checks and balances" refers to the way in which the three divisions of government work to limit one another, thereby keeping the federal government under control.

What does "judicial activism" mean?

Judicial activism takes place when the judiciary branch steps out of its power boundaries and creates new laws or rules.

What is incorporation doctrine?

"Incorporation doctrine" is a principle that the U.S. Supreme Court created that, via the 14th Amendment, applies the Bill of Rights against the states. Since federal law supersedes state law, the Supreme Court applied the Bill of Rights to all the states by incorporating it into the 14th Amendment. That way, no matter what the state rules are, the rights of all citizens are protected as explained in the Bill of Rights.

What is the "Elastic Clause"?

The Elastic Clause is a Clause in the Constitution that gives Congress the capacity to expand the powers it possesses for the purpose of upholding the laws. Congress can make new laws that expand its powers, as long as those laws are "necessary and proper" for the execution of former federal laws and as long as the laws expand powers it already possesses.

How is the Constitution amended, and what is an example of a proposed amendment that was never ratified?

In order for an amendment to be ratified, it must pass 2/3 of both Houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures. The ERA or Equal Rights Act wasn't ratified because not enough state legislatures voted for it.

What is a "strict constructionist"?

"Strict constructionists" interpret the laws and the Constitution as they were written, not based on what other people thought about those laws or about the Constitution. Strict constructionists do not rely on legislative history in order to decipher a law—they make decisions based solely on what the law says and on what it meant when the authors wrote it. To a strict constructionist, the meaning of a law cannot change over time.

What are the three major levels of the federal court system?

The first level of the federal court system is the district court. The next level is the court of appeals or appellate court. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest level of the federal courts.

Are federal judges elected? If not, why not? Are state judges elected?

No, federal judges are NOT elected, because they are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate in agreement with Article III of the United States Constitution. Federal judges are appointed for life.

The selection of judges to state courts is a right reserved to the state itself.

Most state judges are NOT elected, although some are.

Explain how Congress can pass a law without the president approving.

Even if the president vetoes a law, Congress can override the veto if the law garners a 2/3 majority vote from both bodies of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate).

What are some of the major powers of Congress?

Taxing Power
Spending Power
Commerce Power
War Powers
Property Power
Intellectual Property Power
Bankruptcy Power
Postal Power
Money Power
Citizenship Power
Admiralty Power

Out of these, some of the most important are Taxing, Spending, Commerce, Postal, and Citizenship Powers.

What powers does a president have?

The president has power over the military; he's the "Commander-in-Chief." He also has power over most of the goings-on of the Executive branch, since he can nominate the leaders of the Executive agencies (the Senate approves the higher positions) and nominate the commisioners of federal agencies. He also nominates the federal justices and judges. Algthough they are really not constitutionally allowed to, many presidents issue Executive Orders so that they can pass laws more quickly, without the Senate's approval. The president also deals with foreign nations with the help of the Secretary of State. In any matter over which an agency of the Executive branch resides, the president is very influential.

What is a filibuster, and a "senatorial prerogative?"

A "filibuster" is the way that a Senator can block a vote on a bill from continuing. If he invokes a filibuster, then the vote will not continue unless 60 Senators vote for "cloture" and close the filibuster. Thus, if only 41 Senators want the bill blocked, the filibuster will remain (59 votes won't close the filibuster). Senatorial prerogative is the power of each individual senator to prevent a judicial nominee from being appointed to a federal court in his State.

What happens when the House of Representatives passes a bill, and the Senate passes a modified version of the same bill?

In this situation, a committee is formed with members of both Houses to resolve the differences. The modified bill will then be up for approval by both Houses.

Which decision(s) established "one man, one vote," and which decision prohibited classroom prayer in public schools?

The decision that established "One man, one vote," was Reynolds v. Sims (1964).
The decision that prohibited classroom prayer in public schools was Engel v. Vitale (1962).

What decision caused more than a million abortions per year to occur in America?

Roe v. Wade (1973) caused this.

Which branch of government handles foreign policy issues the most?

The executive branch deals with matters of foreign nature the most.

What is a "lame duck"?

A "lame duck" is a session in Congress after the elections but before the new members come in/old members leave. This type of Congress is dangerous since old members who weren't reelected are more likely to make decisions that they wouldn't if they were worrying about making or keeping a good impression.

What is the difference between a "direct tax" and an "indirect tax"?

A "direct tax" is a "head tax." If you are an adult under a direct tax you have to pay the tax whether or not you are employed. It has nothing to do with your income or status. It is purely because you exist.
An "indirect tax" is a tax on activity rather than on a person or on property itself. Examples would include a sales tax or a tax on gasoline.

How often are members of the House of Representatives elected, how often are senators elected, and how often is a president elected?

All the seats in the House of Representatives are up for election every two years, as are 1/3 of the Senate seats. Every four years, the presidential elections take place - a president can be re-elected once, serving for two terms (eight years).

What is gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the redrawing of district lines for the purpose of obtaining a certain result in elections. Based on local patterns of the way that people vote, the district lines can be drawn so that a given district will vote Democrat or Republican. A district can be drawn that is predominated by one political party or the other, and in this way, a state can control whether the delegates it sends to Congress are mostly Democrats or Republicans.

What are the two major political parties, and what entities run them?

The Democratic Party (The Democratic National Committee (DNC) runs it) and the Republican Party. The Republican National Committee (RNC) runs it.

The Republican Party -
• Chairman: Reince Priebus
• Senate Leader: Mitch McConnel (Minority Leader) and Jon Kyle (Minority Whip)
• House Leader: John Boehner (Speaker), Eric Cantor (Majority Leader), and Kevin McCarthy (Majority Whip)
• Chair of Governor's Association: Bob McDonnell


The Democratic Party -
• Chairman: Debbie Wasserman Schultz
• President of the United States: Barack Obama
• Senate Leader: Joe Biden (President), Patrick Leahy (President pro tempore), Harry Reid (Majority Leader), Dick Durbin (Majority Whip)
• House Leader: Nanci Pelosi (Minority Leader), Steny Hoyer (Minority Whip)
• Chair of Governor's Association: Martin O'Malley

What is "lobbying"?

Lobbying is when a business seeks to influence a politician or public official on an issue that is of importance to that company. They then send a representative of the business, a "lobbyist," to try to persuade the politician to make decisions that benefit the company.

What is a "Super PAC"?

A "Politcal Action Committee" is an organization that, because of the Citizens United decision of January 2010, can spend unlimited amounts of money on presidential campaigns.

What is "early voting"?

"Early voting" occurs when citizens vote before election day. Unfortunately, this can lead to voter fraud. The Democratic Party, which has a very strong ground game, utilizes early voting to garner more votes.

What are some examples of interest groups, and what is their significance?

Anti-abortion groups or gun rights protection groups are interest groups, as are unions and civil rights groups. Their support or disapproval of a candidate can impact his campaign. (They impact campaigns with donations and "scorecards" on how well candidates are aligned to the group's values.) Candidates care a lot about what these interest groups think of them and their positions/values.

What did the Citizens United decision accomplish?

The Citizens United decision gave organizations permission to use their money to directly assist or work against a candidate's campaign. For instance, they can spend huge amounts of money on advertisements that support a certain candidate or seek to shed a bad light on him. They cannot, however, simply donate money to a political campaign.

How often is the Republican National Convention held, and what does it do?

The Convention is held every four years, before the presidential election. It sets a "platform," a kind of creed that establishes the beliefs and values of the Party. It attempts to boost the candidate's poll numbers as well.

Is there ever a "national referendum"?

No, there is NEVER a national referendum, although sometimes the media will call the presidential elections such.

What are some examples of parts of the media, ranked by their influence?

Newspapers (The Star Ledger, The New York Times, etc.)
Magazines (Better Homes and Gardens, Readers Digest, etc.)
Local News on TV (WABC, News 12, etc.)
Worldwide News on TV (NBC, FOX, etc.)
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)
News via the Radio (FOX News Radio, or local stations like STAR 99.1 that give traffic reports)
Celebrity News (Extra, MTV, etc.)

What does a pollster do, and how can be influence his results?

A pollster conducts polls to predict the outcome of an upcoming election. A pollster can influence his results by phrasing his questions differently, intentionally making the person answer a certain way.

How does public opinion relate to demographic characteristics?

The term "public opinion" can mean two things: 1. All the opinions of the American public on any issue that can be measured through a public opinion poll. 2. It can be meant to be applied restrictively to opinions relating to government and politics.
Public opinion can sway demographic characteristics greatly.

• Religion
• Race/Origin/Language
• Age
• Gender

Many Christians stand against abortion, and thus against President Obama. A black person who is 60+ years old might be more likely to vote for Obama, because he knows what it feels like to be segregated against, and a black President is evidence of America's progress. Young people often tend to vote for the Democratic Party also, because it has a very "open-minded" stance on controversial subjects. As is supported by the popular theme "YOLO," (You Only Live Once) the young population of America are adopting a "Do what makes you happy," "Live life to its fullest" way of life. Suppose you have an area, like New York City, that is highly populated with gay people. They constantly have "gay pride days" and are flamboyantly showing the world who they are. The public opinion is being swayed and is therefore swaying demographic results.

What is a "trial balloon," and how does it relate to the media?

A "trial balloon" is information that a politician intentionally allows to spread without his open support. In this manner, he can see what the public reaction to his plan, decision, or proposal is without actually putting himself at the media's mercy. If the reaction is bad, he can drop the idea, or if public opinion supports him, he will be encouraged to move forward.

How is voter turnout related to age?

In general, the older the people are in a voting age group, the higher the voter turnout is. The age of a person correlates with the percentage of people his age who will vote (for instance, 20% of Americans 20 years of age vote).

How do the media influence politics?

The media influence politics by influencing how people think. When you hear a certain thing several times, you are likely to believe it. The media often will support or disapprove certain people or practices no matter what, and will present those people or things in a certain light. This has the tendency to make people believe the same way, too, even if the stories presented are biased.

The "gender gap" tends to favor which political party?

Democrats are favored by the "gender gap." Women and men vote differently, in many cases, and more women vote than men. Since the Democratic Party favors issues such as abortion and feminism, which many women today support, it is cast many of the largely female ballots.

Who are the "grassroots"?

Grassroots are regular people who participate in the ground game of politics, often in opposition to the media, to support a candidate or influence the way others think and vote.

What is an "initiative", and what is a "referendum"?

An initiative is a law that is put on the ballot after the people collect enough signatures

Direct inititave - directly on the ballot after review by official.
Indirect initiative - legislature has the chance to create the proposed law; if not, the people can put it on the ballot, though the legislature can still put a combating bill on the ballot.

A referendum, on the other hand, occurs when either the legislature creates a law to be voted on by the people at large (legislative referendum) or when the people collect signatures and try to repeal a newly-passed law (popular referendum).

How did young voters influence the outcome of the 2012 presidential election?

Many young people today are very liberal. They were raised in the liberal public schools, are influenced by the liberal content in the television they watch, and are often atheistic. Obama won the young demographic because of his liberal views, and this helped him win the election.

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