American National Government

“A Republic, If You Can Keep It:” Principles and the Many Paradoxes of American Government

 

Robert E. Botsch, Professor of Political Science, USC Aiken

Copyright 2008-15

A free Web-based text for American Government Students created at USC Aiken

 

Chapter 1. Introduction

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 2. The Constitution

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 3. The Legislative Branch

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 4. The Executive

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 5. Bureaucracy

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 6. The Judicial Branch

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 7. Federalism

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 8. Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 9. Interest Groups

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 10. Political Parties and Elections

 

pdf version

 

 

Chapter 11. Public Opinion, Socialization, and the Media + Afterword

pdf version

 

 

       

Description: Description: Independence_Hall_Assembly_Room

The assembly room in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the constitutional convention was held, with George Washington’s chair facing the seats for the delegates. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Text Information

This text was made possible by a grant from USCA and is solely for the use of USCA students. Below is a detailed outline of the text. To view each chapter for either reading or printing, click on the chapter headings in the frame to the left. The “pdf” versions of each chapter allow you to do searches for words or phrases. If you want to print the chapters, the pdf versions may look better--your choice!

Please email any errors, corrections, or comments to bobb@usca.edu. All corrections and comments are welcome!   Bob Botsch

Dedication

For Carol Botsch, whose meticulous editing and excellent suggestions greatly improved this text, and for the thousands of USC Aiken American Government students who have asked me thought-provoking questions over the many years.

 

Abbreviated Text Outline

4/16/2013

 

  Chapter 1. Introduction

 

I. Purposes of this e-text

 

II. Some basic terms and ideas

 

III. Plan of the Text

 

 

  Chapter 2. The Constitution: An Overview

 

I. The Paradoxical American Constitution

 

II. The Nature of Constitutions

 

III. The Articles of Confederation

 

IV. The Constitutional Convention

           

V. The Battle Over Ratification–-Our Unconstitutional Constitution?

 

VI. The Structure of the Constitution      

 

VII. Compromises and Conflicts in the Constitution—A Document with Many Paradoxes   

 

VIII. The Enduring Problem of Interpretation in a Clearly Unclear Constitution

 

         

  Chapter 3. The Legislative Branch: The People’s Branch that the People Hate

  

I. What you know about and what you like about Congress—not much

 

II. The Legislative Branch as laid out in the Constitution

 

III. The Evolution of Congress: from part-time citizen legislators to full-time career professionals

 

IV. Paradoxical Views of Congress Today: “Throw the bums out” and high re-election rates  

 

V. The Conflicting Functions of Congress         

 

VI. The Organization of Congress

 

VII. Differences between the House and the Senate

 

VIII. The obstacle course of legislation

 

             IX. Policy Implications—Energy Policy

 

 

  Chapter 4. The Executive: The All-Powerful Weakling

 

I. Introduction—your image of the president and the paradox of the presidential power trap

 

II. Constitutional Foundation—invitation to a power struggle

 

III. Historical evolution—increasing power and expectations

 

IV. Presidential Powers

 

V. Checks on presidential power 

 

VI. Getting good help

 

VII. Vice presidents—Growing Importance

 

VIII. The Future of the Chief Executive—Resolving the Paradox of the Presidential Power trap—Lowering Expectations?

 

 

  Chapter 5. Bureaucracy: The Dual Demands for Equal and Unequal Treatment, for   Political Responsiveness and Political Neutrality

 

I. Introduction: the Conflicting Demands We Make on Bureaucracy 

 

II. Constitutional Basis for Bureaucracy and Conflicts Over Control of Bureaucracy

 

III. Defining Characteristics of Bureaucracy      

 

IV. The Evolution of Bureaucracy—From a Few Clerks to Spoils to Civil Service

 

V. Size and Growth of Government Bureaucracy

         

VI. Structure of the Bureaucracy at the National Level

 

VII. The Fourth Branch?

 

VIII. Policy Implications—Economic Policy

 

 

 

  Chapter 6. The Judicial Branch: The Highly Political Non-political Courts

 

I. Introduction

 

II. The Constitutional Foundation for the Federal Court System—Not Much         

 

III. Growth of the Federal Court System—Structure and Relationship to State Courts

 

IV. Powers—Judicial Review

 

V. Caseload in Federal and State Courts and the Judicial Calendar

 

VI. Selection of Justices and Judges—More Politics

 

VII. How the Supreme Court Decides Cases    

 

VIII. Conclusion—A Nation of Laws AND People

 

 

  Chapter 7. Federalism: If Everyone Is Responsible, Is No One Responsible?

 

I. Introduction: The Paradox of Who Is Responsible For What

 

II. The Constitutional Foundations of Federalism

 

III. Early Federalism–-State-Centered Federalism      

 

IV. Secession and Reconstruction: The End of State Centered Federalism?

 

V. The Late 1800s: Twilight Zone Federalism When No One Was Responsible, Except the Very Rich

 

VI. The Growth of Nation-Centered Federalism

 

VII. Cooperative Federalism: Shared and Mixed Responsibilities     

 

VIII. Devolution: Shifting More Responsibilities Back to the States

 

IX. Local governments

 

X. Forces and Factors that Shape the Balance in Who is Responsible for What   

 

XI. Conclusion

 

 

  Chapter 8. Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: Constitutional Rights and Liberties That May Not Be Constitutionally Protected

 

I. Introduction: The Paradox of Our Constitutional Rights and Liberties

 

II. Review of Rights and Liberties in the Constitution

 

III. Incorporation of the Bill of Rights to Apply to the States

 

IV. Some Key Areas of Rights and Liberties     

 

 

  Chapter 9. Interest Groups: The Paradox of Factions, Control by Letting them Multiply

 

I. Introduction—They’re Everywhere!

 

II. The Problem of Factions—Federalist Number 10    

 

III. Tactics    

         

IV. Relative Power of Interest Groups    

 

V. Evaluation—the Dangers of Pluralism

 

 

  Chapter 10. Political Parties and Elections: Good Citizens Acting Irrationally

 

I. The Logic of Voting—An Irrational Activity

 

II. Elections Without Political Parties?    

 

III. A Brief History of American Political Parties

 

IV. The Organization of Political Parties—Three Part Structure       

 

V. Why We Have a Two Party System   

 

VI. Third Parties: Splinter Protest Parties and Ideological Parties

 

VII. Voting and Election Rules     

 

VIII. Policy Implications     

 

IX. Should You Vote?

 

 

  Chapter 11. Public Opinion, Socialization, and the Media: Learning to be Ignorant

 

I. Getting Personal—How You Learned and Didn’t Learn About Politics     

 

II. Public Opinion—Learning About How Others Feel

 

III. Political Socialization—Picking Up Identifications and Opinions

         

IV. The Media—Our Windows to the World 

 

V. Policy Implications        

 

Afterword