The American Political System
The American Political System. Background. The Declaration of Independence 1776 The War of Independence 1776-1783 The American Constitution 1789 Federal government and state govmts. Division of power Checks and balances. State and Federal System. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
The American Political SystemBackgroundThe Declaration of Independence 1776The War of Independence 1776-1783The American Constitution 1789Federal government and state govmts.Division of powerChecks and balancesState and Federal SystemHistorically state and local government came first.The states have their own legislative, executive and judicial institutionsState and local government control important areas like: HighwaysState income taxPublic schools and universitiesPolice and fire departmentsRegulate business and supervise commercial affairsThe Federal system of government controls: Foreign policy, defense and monetary policyAreas that cannot be regulated locally and statewise: interstate commerce, interstate crime, interstate environmental problems etc. The Legislative Branch: Congress Passes legislation and appropriates moneyThe House of Representatives435 members according to the size of the state 2-year termThe Senate100 members -two from each state6-year termThe Executive Branch: The Presidency4-year term - max two 4-year termsProtects the ConstitutionProposes legislationEnforces the laws made by CongressCommander in Chief of the armed forcesAppoints judges to Supreme Court (with the consent of the Senate)The Executive Branch: The CabinetNo mention of it in the ConstitutionSubordinate to the PresidentCabinet members recruited broadly, not necessarily party insidersThe Supreme Court9 membersLife term appointmentInterprets and guards the ConstitutionInterprets the lawDecisions of the Supreme Court are finalIn general it plays a conservative role, maintaining legal traditionChecks and BalancesCongress:Power of the purseCan override presidential veto(2/3 majority)Power of impeachmentSenate approves treaties and the presidents appointmentsSupreme Court:Power to declare laws and presidential actionsunconstitutionalThe President:Power to vetoIssues executive ordersCommander-in-chiefAppoints Federal JudgesGrants Pardons for offenses against the USElections and Political PartiesWinner-take-all-election systemThe Electoral CollegeTwo party system- both appealing to the middle of the political spectrumBalancing the ticket (President and Vice president)Voting patterns: splitting the ticketVoting for individuals rather than party slateThe Electoral CollegeRepresentatives of the people in presidential elections534 electors, corresponding to the numbers of Representatives and Senators270 electoral votes guarantee the PresidencyEach state votes as a single block (minus Nebraska and Maine) winner takes allImportance of Swing States and the big statesDemocrats and RepublicansAnd Their VotersDemocrats supported by majority of black voters (Clinton 83%) Urban ethnicsBlue collar workersCatholicsMore women votersNortheast, upper midwest, northwest, HawaiiProtestant votersBusiness communityWhite collar workersReligious fundamentalistsDemocrats and Republicans and Their PoliciesDemocratsSupport welfare programsKeynesian economics and job creating programsSocial security, Medicare and MedicaidCivil Rights legislationWomens right to abortion RebublicansLimiting federal regulation of businessReduction in welfare spendingAnti-abortionThe Founding Fathers were not about to create a strong executive power like the British king whom they had just fought and whom they considered as a dangerous despot. They looked for ways to reduce the power of the executive as much as would be consistent with good government.Notice that unlike in a parliamentarian system the legislative and the executive branches are separated. The president does not automatically command a majority of the votes in Congress. During Clintons presidency there was a majority of Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.Even given a majority in each chamber the president, however, has no assurance of support from fellow party members as they often vote with regional interests in mind.The development of electronic communication, esp. television has improved the presidents possibilities of exerting power. He can communicate directly with the entire electorate and in this way gain popular support for certain vital issues. Cabinet Departments: State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Heallth and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Energy, VeteransSupreme Court may however play a crucil political role as we saw in the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when an activist court made a series of decisions that fundamentally changed America. In 1954 Supreme Court declared segregation in the schools unconstitutional (Brown vs. The Board of Education). In 1962 (Engel vs. Vitale) the court outlawed Bible reading in public schools. In 1973 the Court declared abortion to be a legal right protected under the Bill of Rights.The new president will most likely appoint a number of Supreme Court Judges as the present court is aging. Two of the judges are over 80 and 3 are in their seventies.In the election of 2000 it was the US Supreme Court that paved the road to Bushs presidency when called a halt to the vote counting in Florida and declared Bush the winner.In the election of 2000 Al Gore received 500,000 votes more than Bush, who won the election in the Electoral College. In Florida the vote was so close (a little over 5oo) and there were so many irregularities that a recount could easily have changed the outcome. After one month of legal hassling The Supreme Court determined by a 5 to 4 vote that the recounting the court in Florida had ordered should be halted and Bush won the Forida vote (27 electoral votes) and consequently became president. The system assures that small states will not be overlooked because they have slightly more influence this way than the size of their population warrants. For instance the state of South Dakota has a population of 750.000. The state has 3 electoral votes, which means that each vote costs 250.000 votes. In populous New York each electoral vote represents 500.000 votes.It used to be that the American South was solidly Democratic. This changed, however, in the course of the 1960s where the Democratic party supported civil rights legislation. This also helps explain why blacks today vote for Democrats.For Democrats it is a problem though that the percentage of blacks that actually vote is not very high.