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AMERICAN IDEALS and the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION

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AMERICAN IDEALS and the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION

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  1. AMERICAN IDEALS and the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION Understanding American Politics Today May 12, 2003

  2. The Constitution of theUnited States • Just what is a constitution? • the formal rules for collective political decision-making • formal limits on what spheres are subject to collective political decisions

  3. The Constitution of theUnited States • Just what is a constitution? • What is the main thrust of the American Constitution? • protecting against the tyrannical use of power by government

  4. The Constitution of theUnited States • Just what is a constitution? • What is the main thrust of the American Constitution? • How to Protect Against the Tyrannical Use of Power by the Executive? • make it accountable to the people • limit what it can do • How to Limit What a Government Can Do? • legal prohibitions • fragmenting power

  5. THE DECLARATION OF INDEPDENDENCE (1776) “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it...”

  6. The Constitution of the United States of America (1787) “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

  7. The US Constitution • the constitution of the Constitution • seven articles (1787-88) • first ten amendments -- the Bill of Rights (1791) • seventeen additional amendments (1798-1992)

  8. The US Constitution • function of the Constitution • creates the three branches of government at the federal level • creates the two orders of government (federal government and state governments) • limits governments in their relationships with citizens

  9. 1.) Establishing the Three Branches of Government • Separation of Powers • Checks and Balances

  10. Legislates, Controls Budget, Approves Nominations and Treaties, Override Veto, Impeach VETO! Declare Laws Unconstitutional Declare Acts Unconstitutional Confirms Nominations, Impeach Nominates Judges

  11. 2.) Establishing the Two Orders of Government -- Federalism • Why Have a Federal Government? • practical reasons • philosophical reasoning • Why Maintain State Governments? • practical reasons • philosophical reasoning • Orders of Government vs. Levels of Government

  12. 3.) Limits on Government • Bill of Rights • the first Ten Amendments (1789) • “Congress shall make no law...”

  13. Amending the Constitution (Article V) • Methods of Amending the Constitution • Proposing Amendments... • 2/3 of both Houses of Congress • or 2/3 of state legislatures • Ratifying Amendments... • 3/4 of states (either by the state legislature or special convention)

  14. Recent Amendments/Proposals for Amendment • 27th Amendment (1992) -- Congressional Pay • Equal Rights Amendment • Term Limits Amendment • Flag Amendment • Gun Control...revising the 2nd Amendment • Balanced Budget Amendment

  15. Assessing the American Constitutional Framework (...from a democratic perspective) • bicameral legislature • indirectly elected president (e.g. electoral college) • unelected Supreme Court • separation of powers/checks and balances • federalism • formal limits on the powers of government • rigid constitution

  16. Democracy -- Protection of Individual Rights Protection of Individual Rights Low (Emphasis on General Welfare) High UNITED STATES

  17. Final Point... • American Constitution grounded in emphasis on rights of individual and limits on government • American emphasis on mass political participation emerged out of American political context, political culture and political practice