The response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, expanded to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The cost of these wars and the domestic homeland security efforts is substantial and has helped along with major tax cuts, to greatly expand the budget deficit and national debt. President Bush made national security a major themed of his 2004 election, while the democrats criticized the president on the lack of planning for the aftermath of the war in Iraq and the inability to eliminate Al-Qaeda as a threat. Other important issues in 2004 included the economy, jobs, and such social issues as gay marriage.
Americans have long been skeptical of politicians and politics. Yet politics is a necessary activity for a democracy. Indeed, politics and politicians are essential indispensable in making our system of separated institutions and checks and balances work.
"Democracy" is an often misused term, and it has many different meanings. We use it here to refer to a system of interacting values, interrelated political processes, and interdependent political structures. The vital principle of democracy is that a just government must derive its powers from the consent of the people, and that this consent must be regularly renewed at free and fair elections.
Stable constitutional democracy is encouraged by various conditions, such as an educated citizenry, a healthy economy, and overlapping associations and groupings within a society in which major institutions interact to create a certain degree of consensus.
There has recently been some concern about a decline in social capital - the experiences people gain in working together in community groups. Lessons about compromise, accommodation, and participation are important building blocks for democracy. Some say we have a decline in civic engagement while others see a healthy level of voluntary and charitable engagement that is making our communities and nation better.
Despite a myriad of social ills, optimism breaks through. Constitutionalism is a general label we apply to arrangements such as checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, due process, and the Bill of Rights that force our leaders and representatives to listen, think, deliberate, bargain, and explain before they act and make laws. A constitutional government enforces recognized and regularly applied limits on the powers of those who govern.
Constitutionalism is a general label we apply to arrangements such as checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, due process, and the Bill of Rights that force our leaders and representatives to listen, think, bargain, and explain before they act and make laws. A constitutional government enforces recognized and regularly applied limits on the powers of those who govern.
Democracy developed gradually. A revolution had to be fought before a system of representative democracy in the United States could be tried and tested. It took several years before a national constitution could be written, and almost another year to be ratified. It took still another two years before a Bill of Rights could be adopted and ratified. It has taken more than two hundred years for democratic institutions to be refined and for systems of competition and choice to be hammered out. Democratic institutions such as free and fair elections and equal protection of the laws in the United States are still a work in progress, still in the process of being refined and improved.
The essential democratic values are a belief in personal liberty, respect for the individual, equality of opportunity, and popular consent. Essential elements of the democratic process are free and fair elections, majority rule, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble and protest.
Government: refers to the procedures and institutions – electons/courts/legistlatures – by which a people govern and rule themselves.
Politics: the process by which people decide, and at least in our government, who shall govern and what policies shall be adopted.
Politicians: the people who fulfill the tasks of an operating government.
Political science: the study of the principles, procedures, and structures of government and the analysis of political ideas, institutions, behaviors, and practices.
Democracy: government by the people, either indirectly, with free and frequent elections. Demos – by the people and kratos – authority or power
Direct democracy: got in which citizens vote on laws and select officials more directly.
Representative democracy: government that derives its powers indirectly from the people who elect those who will govern; also called a republic.
Constitution democracy: a government that enforces recognized limits on those who govern and allows the voice of the people to be heard through free, fair, and relatively frequent elections.
Constitutionalism: the set of arrangements, including checks and balances, federalism, separation of power, rule of laws, due process, and a bill of rights, that requires leaders to listen, think, bargin, and explain before they act or make laws. We then hold them politically and legally accountable for how they exercise their powers.
Statism: the idea that the rights of the nation are supreme over the rights of the individuals residing in that nation.
Popular consent: the idea that a just government must derive its powers from the consent of the people it governs.
Majority rule: government according to the expressed preferences of the majority.
Majority: the candidate or party that wins more than half the votes cast in an election.
Plurality: candidate or party with the most votes cast in an election, not necessarily more than half.
Ideology: a consistent pattern of beliefs about political values and the role of government.
Theocracy: government by religious leaders, who claim divine guidance.
Articles of confederation: the first governing document of the Confederated States, drafted in 1777, ratified in 1781, and replaced by the present constitution in 1789.
Annapolis convention: a convention held in September 1786 to consider problems of trade and navigation, attended by five states and important because it issued the call to congress and the states for what became the constitutional convention.
Constitutional convention: the convention in Philadelphia, May 25 to September 17, 1787, that framed the constitution of the US.
Shay’s rebellion: rebellion by farmers in western MA in 1786-87, protesting mortgage foreclosures; led by Daniel Shay and important because it highlighted the need for a strong national government just as a call for the constitution convention went out.
Bicameralism: the principle of a two house legislature.
Virginia plan: initial proposal at the constitution convention made by the VA delegation for a strong central government with bicameral legislation, the lower house to be elected by the voters and the upper chosen by the lower.
New Jersey plan: proposal at the constitution convention made by William Paterson of NJ for a central government with a single house legislature in which each state would be represented equally.
Connecticut compromise: compromise agreement by the states a the constitution convention for a bicameral legislature with a lower house in which representation would be based on population and an upper house in which each state would have two senators.
Three-fifths compromise: compromise agreement between northern and southern states at the constitution convention that 3/5 of the slave population would be counted for determining direct taxation and representation in the House of Representatives.
Federalists: mostly city – supporters of ratification of the constitution whose position promoting a strong central government was later voiced in the Federalist Party.
Antifederalists: mostly country – opponents of the ratification of the constitution and of a strong central government generally.
The Federalist: series of essays promoting the ratification of the constitution, published anonymously by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in 1787 and 1788.
Time line: creating the republic page 2
Global perceptions: who likes the US page 7
People and politics: Blades, Boyd, Moveon page 10
California recall page 12 & 13
FYI: weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation page 14
People and politics: Hamilton and Madison page 15
In comparative persepective: new constitution in Afghanistan page 20
FYI: challenges for our constitutional democracy: page 22
Ratification of the US constitution state by state dates: page 22
The US constitution, adopted in 1789, is the world’s oldest. It has lasted because it is adaptable and flexible. It both grants and limits power. The constitution’s separation of powers distributes authority among three branches of government: the legislative, executive, and judicial. Checks and balances limit the power of each branch.
The Constitution of the United States grants and limits powers. The framers established a government by ordinary people. They did not anticipate Americans would be so virtuous and civic-minded that they could be trusted to operate a government without checks and balances. The framers were suspicious of people, especially of those having political power, so they separated and distributed the powers of the newly created national government in a variety of ways.
The framers were also concerned with creating a national government strong enough to solve national problems. Thus, they gave the national government substantial grants of power, but these grants were made with such broad strokes that it has been possible for the constitutional system to remain flexible and adapt to changing conditions.
Political parties my sometimes overcome the separation of powers, especially if the same party controls both houses of Congress and the presidency. Typically, this is not the case, however, and a divided government intensifies checks and balances. Presidential power, which has increased over time, has sometimes been able to overcome some restraints imposed by the constitution.
Judicial review is the power of the courts to strike down acts of Congress, the executive branch, and the states as unconstitutional. It is one of the unique features of the U. S. constitutional system.
Although the American governmental system has its roots in British traditions, our separation of and checks-and-balances systems differ sharply from the British system of concentrated power. It is also different because our courts have this power of judicial review. The Supreme Court’s power of judicial review was established in the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison.
The constitutional system has been modified over time, adapting to new conditions through congressional elaboration, presidential practices, customs and usages, and judicial interpretation.
Although adaptable, the Constitution itself needs to be altered from time to time, and the document provides a procedure for its own amendment. An amendment must be both proposed and ratified: proposed by either a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress or by a national convention called by Congress on petition of the legislatures in two-thirds of the states; ratified either by the legislatures in three-fourths of the states or by specially called ratifying conventions in three-fourths of the states.
The Constitution has been formally amended 27 times. The usual method has been proposal by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and ratification by the legislatures in three-fourths of the states.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced in 1923 but did not garner significant support until the 1960s. The National Organization for Women, founded in 1966, focused on passage of the ERA, securing the submission of the amendment to the states by Congress in 1972. However, early overwhelming bipartisan support for the ERA ebbed in the 1970s, and in 1980 the Republican Party adopted a stance of neutrality. Ratification by state legislatures slowed to a trickle as the 1979 time limit on the amendment ran out. Although the deadline was extended to 1982, it was still three state legislatures short of ratification when it expired.
Natural law: God’s or nature’s law that defines right from wrong and is higher than human law.
Separation of power: constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making the law, the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judicial interpreting the law.
Checks and balances: constitutional grant of powers that enables each of the 3 branches of government to check some acts of the others and therefore ensure that no branch can dominate.
Divided government: governance divided between the parties, especially when one holds the presidency and the other controls one of both houses of Congress.
Direct primary: election in which voters chose party nominees.
Initiative: procedure whereby a certain number of voters may, by petition, propose a law or constitutional amendment and have it submitted to the voters.
Referendum: procedure for submitting to popular vote measures passed by the legislature or proposed amendments to a state constitution.
Recall: procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term.
Judicial review: the power of a court to refuse to enforce a law or a government regulation that in the opinion of the judges conflicts with the US constitution or, in a state court, the state constitution.
Writ of mandamus: court order direction an official to perform an official duty.
Impeachment: formal accusation against a public official, the firs step in removal from office.
Executive order: directive issued by a president of governor that has the force of law.
Executive privilege: the power to keep executive communications confidential, especially if they relate to national security.
Impoundment: presidential refusal to allow an agency to spend funds authorized and appropriated by Congress.
Timeline: the living constitution page 28
FYI: the exercises of checks and balances 1789-2003 page 29
Picture of separation of checks and balances: page 30
The European Union: page32
Changing face of US politics: Thurgood Marshall page 34
Marbury versus Madison: page 35
British and American systems a study in contrasts page 37
How should the constitution be interpreted? Page 38
Thinking it through: justice Scalia and justice Brennan on the constitution page 39
FYI: amending power and how it has been used: the different methods for amendments page 40 and 41
Time taken to ratify different amendments page 41 bottom
People and politics: Gregory Watson page 43
A federal system is one in which the constitution divides powers between the central government and the sub divisional governments – states or provinces. Alternatives to federalism are unitary systems.
A federal system checks the growth of tyranny, allows unity without uniformity, encourages experimentation, permits power sharing between the national government and the states, and keeps government closer to the people.
Alternatives to federal systems are unitary systems in which all constitutional power is vested in the central government and loose compacts among sovereign states.
In the twenty-first century, nations are experimenting with forms of federalism because of the demand for greater autonomy by ethnic groups and others such as the countries of Western Europe have formed a European Union.
In the United States, the national government has the constitutional authority, stemming primarily from the national supremacy article (clause), from its powers to tax and spend and to regulate commerce among the states to tax and spend, and from its war powers, to do what Congress thinks is necessary and proper to promote the general welfare and to provide for the common defense. These constitutional pillars have permitted tremendous expansion of the functions of the federal government.
Congressional authority extends to all commerce that affects more than one state. Commerce includes the production, buying, selling, renting, and transporting of goods, services, and properties. The "Commerce Clause" is Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. It gives Congress the power "to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." These few words confer on the federal government a constitutional justification for regulating a very wide range of human activity since few, if any, aspects of today’s economy affect commerce only in one state.
States must give full faith and credit to each other’s public acts, records, and judicial proceedings; extend to each other’s citizens the privileges and immunities it gives its own; and return fugitives from justice.
The "Full Faith and Credit Clause" is Article VI, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution. This article maintains that state courts must enforce the judgments of courts in other states and accept their public records and acts as valid. This clause became controversial in 1998 when courts in Hawaii permitted same-sex marriages. With presidential support, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which relieved other states from any obligation to honor Hawaiian gay marriages.
The federal courts umpire the division of power between the national and state governments. The Marshall Court, in decisions, such as Gibbons v. Ogden and McCulloch v. Maryland, asserted the power of the national government over the states and promoted a national economic common market. These decisions also reinforced the supremacy of the national government over the states.
Today debates about federalism are less often about its constitutional structure than over whether action should come from the national or state and local levels. Recent Supreme Court decisions favor a decentralist position and may presage (signal) a major shift in the court’s interpretation of the constitutional nature of our federal system.
The major instruments of federal intervention in state programs have been various kinds of financial grants-in-aid, of which the most prominent are categorical-formula grants, project grants, and block grants. The national government also imposes federal mandates and controls some activities of state and local governments by direct orders, cross-cutting requirements, cross-over sanctions in the use of federal funds, total preemption, and partial preemption.
Over the past 200 years there has been a drift of power (accrued) to the national government, but recently Congress has been pressured to reduce the size and scope of national programs and to shift some existing programs back to the states. While responsibility for welfare has been turned over to the states, the authority of the national government has increased in many other areas.
Devolution revolution: the effort to slow the growth of the federal government by returning many functions to the states.
Federalism: constitutional arrangement whereby power is distrubited between a central government and subdivisonal govts, called states in the US. The national and subdivisonal governments both exercise direct authority over individuals.
Unitary system: constitutional arrangement in which power is concentrated in a central government.
Confederation: constitutional arrangement in wich sovereign nations or states, by compact, create a central government but carefully limit its power and do not give it direct authority over individuals.
Express powers: powrs specifically granted to one of the branches of the national government by the constitution.
Implied powers: powers inferred from the express powers that allow congress to carry out its functions.
Necessary and proper clause: Clause of the constitution (article I, section 8, clause 18) setting forth the impied powers of congress. It states that congress, in addition to its express powers has the right to make all lawas necessary and proper for carrying out all powers vested by the constitution in the national government.
Inherent powers: the powers of the national government in the field of foreign affairs that the Supreme Court has declelared do not depend on the constitutional grants but rather grow out of the very existence of the national government.
Commerce clause: the clause in the constitution (article I, section 8, clause 3) that gives congress the power to regulate all business activites that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations.
Federal mandate: a requirement imposed by the federal government as a condition for the receipt of federal funds.
Concurrent powers: powers that the constitution gives to both the national and state governments, such as the power to levy taxes.
Full faith and credit clause: clause in the constitution (article IV, section 1) requiring each state to recognize the civil judgements rendered by the courts of the other states and to accpt their public records as valid.
Extradition: legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officals of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.
Interstate compact: an agreement among two or more states. The constitution requires that most such agreements be approved by Congress.
National supremecy: constitutional doctorine that whenever conflict occurs between the constitutionally authorized actions of the national government and those of a state or local government, the actions of the federal government prevail.
Preemption: the right of a federal law or regulation to preclude enforcement of a state or local law or regulation.
Centralists: people who favor national action over action at the state and local levels.
Decentralists: people who favor state or local action rather than national action.
States’ rights: powers expressly or implicitiy reserved to the states and emphasized by decentralists.
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) page 54>
Flexibility Partnership Demonstration Act of 1999 page 56
Timeline: American Federalism page 56
Definitions of Federalism page 58
Global perceptions: the government controls too much of our daily l lives? Page 59
Picture comparison of Federalism and Confederation page 60
Why Federalism? page 60-62
Minorities and women in the workforce page 61
FYI: number of governments in the US page 62
Federal division of powers page 62
4 Constitutional pillars page 63
powers of the National Government page 63
FYI: an expanding nation page 64
Constitutional limiits and obligations of the states page 65
Three different approaches to Federalism page 67
Do we need a more restricted government in Washington? Page 68
McCulloch vs. Maryland page 68
Thinking it through: centralists vs. decetralists page 69
4 purposes of grants page 71
Peple and politics: Rehnquist page 72
Grants page 72 &73
New techniques of Federal Control page 74