An Overview of the American Government Current Issues – Libertyville HS
First Principles • What are the ideals upon which America rests? • Democracy • Liberty / Freedom • Equality • Capitalism • Majority rule • … and many more • Where do we get these ideals from?
Foundation of American Government • Declaration of Independence • Read the first two paragraphs • Principles contained in the document? • Why was this such a radical document for its time? • Laid out principles of governance • Gave justification for overthrowing any government • Not a monarchy!
Foundation of American Government • US Constitution • “Grand experiment in democracy” • First government in history to be set up based on a piece of paper • Principles of US Constitution • Popular sovereignty • Limited government • Separation of powers • Checks and balances • Federalism • Judicial Review
Structure of American Government • Three branches • Executive • Legislative • Judicial • Before looking at each branch, which do you think is … • the most powerful? • The most important? • The most representative?
Legislative Branch • What does it do? • Makes the laws • How a bill becomes a law • Who runs it? • House (435 members): Speaker of the House • Senate (100 members): Majority Leader (President pro tempore) • Basis in Constitution? • Article I lays out powers of both chambers (examples of Congress, House, Senate)
The Executive Branch • What does it do? • Enforce the laws • When you think of “the Government”, the Executive Branch is it! • Who runs it? • President • Bureaucracy (agencies, departments, etc) • Basis in Constitution? • Article II lays out powers of President (examples)
Judicial Branch • What does it do? • Interpret the laws • Judicial Review • Who runs it? • US Supreme Court = 1 chief justice, 8 associate justices • Appellate courts • District courts (lowest level) • Basis in Constitution? • Article III • Only the USSC was created in Constitution; all other courts created by Congress
Federalism • Idea that local issues should be handled by local government • Why? • Closest to the problem • Big country, lots of differences between states • National issues handled by national government • “Floor” and “Ceiling” effect of national lawmaking
Political Parties • Not anticipated by founding fathers • Not provided for in Declaration, Constitution • Came about shortly after founding (Federalists / Anti-Federalists) • Today, two major parties • Democrats • Republicans • Third Parties exist, too (examples?)
Differences Between Political Parties Democrats (Liberals) Republicans (Conservatives) Basic philosophy: Government should be limited to allow individuals the ability to do best for themselves Emphasis on individual innovation, free market principles Foreign relations: unilateral action ok; skeptical of multi-national efforts • Basic philosophy: Government is a positive force, to improve people’s lives • Emphasis on protecting poor & vulnerable in society, gov’t regulation of marketplace • Foreign relations: preference towards multi-lateral (coalition) actions, skeptical of unilateral (go it alone) efforts