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American Government and Politics Today

American Government and Politics Today

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American Government and Politics Today

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  1. American Government and Politics Today Chapter 1 The Democratic Republic

  2. Politics and Government • Key Terms: • Politics: “who gets what, when, and how” • Institution: an ongoing organization that performs certain functions for society • Government: institution in which decisions are made that resolve conflicts or allocate benefits and privileges

  3. Why Is Government Necessary? • Order: the process of maintaining peace and security by protecting members of society from violence and criminal activity; the oldest purpose of government • Liberty: the greatest freedom of individuals that is consistent with the freedom of other individuals in the society; can be promoted by or invoked against government

  4. Why Is Government Necessary? (continued) • Authority: the right and power of a government or other entity to enforce its decisions and compel obedience • Legitimacy: the popular acceptance of the right and power of a government or other entity to exercise authority

  5. Schools Are Different

  6. Forms of Government • Totalitarian regime: a government that controls all aspects of a nation’s political and social life • Authoritarianism: a system in which only the government itself is fully controlled by the ruler, therefore social and economic institutions exist that are not under the government’s control

  7. Forms of Government (continued) • Aristocracy: rule is by the “best,” though in reality rule is by the upper class • Democracy: political authority is vested in the people; derived from the Greek words demos (“the people”) and kratos (“authority”)

  8. Direct Democracy • Political decisions are made by the people directly, rather than by their elected representatives • Direct democracy is attained most easily in small political communities

  9. The Dangers of Direct Democracy • The founders believed in government based on the consent of the people • However, they were highly distrustful of anything that might look like “mob rule” • Therefore, they devised institutions to filter the popular will through elected elites

  10. A Democratic Republic • “Democratic republic” and “representative democracy” mean nearly the same thing—government based on elected representatives—except that a republic cannot have a vestigial king • Britain, with its largely ceremonial monarchy, is therefore a representative democracy • The United States, as created by the U.S. Constitution, is a democratic republic

  11. A Democratic Republic (continued) • Principles of democratic government • Universal suffrage: the right of all adults to vote for their representatives • Majority rule: the greatest number of citizens in any political unit should select officials and determine policies • Constitutional democracy • Principle of limited government: powers of government should be limited, usually by institutional checks; without such limits, democracy could destroy itself

  12. What Kind of Democracy Do We Have? • Majoritarianism: government ought to do what the majority of people want • Elite theory: society is ruled by a small number of privileged people who exercise power to further their self-interests • Pluralism: politics is made of conflict and compromise among interest groups

  13. Fundamental Values • Political socialization • Liberty versus order • Equality versus liberty • Economic equality • Property rights and capitalism • Capitalism: an economic system characterized by the private ownership of wealth-creating assets and by free markets and freedom of contract

  14. Tensions Over Big Government • How much power should the American government have and what role should it play in the lives of its citizens? • Example: Katrina—in this scenario, “big government” was considered desirable • Example: National security policies—concerning issues such as domestic surveillance, most Americans value limited powers

  15. Political Ideologies:Liberalism versus Conservatism • Conservatives: tend to favor limited governmental involvement in the economic sector, and see economic freedom as a necessity for the good of the society; regarding social issues they support traditional values and lifestyles • Liberals: tend to favor governmental regulation of the economy to benefit the society’s individuals; regarding social issues they advocate for social freedom, civil rights, and social change

  16. Political Ideologies:The Traditional Political Spectrum • Socialism: a political ideology based on strong support for economic and social equality; socialists traditionally envisioned a society in which major businesses were taken over by the government or by employee cooperatives • Libertarianism: a political ideology based on skepticism or opposition toward almost all government activities

  17. “Classical” Liberalism • “Liberalism” once meant limited government and no religion in politics • The term evolved into its modern American meaning along with the political evolution of the Democratic Party, which was once the party of limited government but has become the party of (relative) economic equality

  18. Direct Democracy Today • Initiative: allows voters to propose a law or a constitutional amendment • Referendum: allows the legislature to refer legislative or constitutional measures to the voters for approval or disapproval • Recall: allows the people to vote to dismiss an elected official from state office before his or her term has expired

  19. The Traditional Political Spectrum

  20. A Four-Cornered Ideological Grid • We can break down the electorate into: • Cultural and economic liberals • Cultural and economic conservatives • Cultural liberals/economic conservatives (libertarians) • Cultural conservatives/economic liberals • Classifying the voters—all four viewpoints have substantial support based on polling data • Conservative popularity—however, the term “conservative,” as a self-applied label, is more popular than any other label except “moderate”

  21. Other Ideologies • Communism: revolutionary variant of socialism that favors a partisan (often totalitarian) dictatorship, government control of all enterprises, and replacement of free markets by central planning • Fascism: a 20th-Century ideology (often totalitarian) that exalts the national collective united behind an absolute ruler, rejects liberal individualism, values action over rational deliberation, and glorifies war

  22. Ideology in the Islamic World • While communism and fascism are the historical ideologies that totalitarianism was coined to describe, our current international problem is with radical Islamism, as exemplified by al-Qaeda

  23. The Changing Face of America • Aging • Population growth • Ethnic change • Changes in Hispanic community • Women in the workforce • Increasing levels of education

  24. U.S. Population

  25. Questions for Critical Thinking • Do you think a direct democracy is a rational option for governing in the United States? Describe the forms of direct democracy that exist and discuss the pros and cons of these mechanisms.

  26. Questions for Critical Thinking • Do you think some people in American society equate security and order with protection against fellow citizens who are racially, culturally, or economically different? Why or why not? • Do you think protection against discrimination should be considered an issue of security as well as an issue of equality? Justify your answer.