January 03, 2007

Final Exam


Our study of the operations of the Government of the United States is inspired by two themes – the desire to explain, and the desire to predict. Developing and applying a reasoned, yet general, philosophical understanding of how people seeking power, and how people in power behave, is the route we have taken together.

We develop our understanding through observation. It is not good enough to raise ‘easy’ questions, attempt to answer them, and move on. Rather, we aim to learn the basics of the system, and then to use that understanding to develop our questions. It is my hope that in this very brief time together, doors have indeed been opened to you, and that through that process, your own questions will develop and grow, as you do.

“….Events, dear boy, events”.

As our aim is to explain and predict personal and structural behavior, we decided to do so by examining the individual, the systemic structure of the government, the electoral structure, and, events.[1]That fourth classifier – events – is the reference point for all we have dealt with in our course.


The States
· States as central political unit
· Confederation
· Equality among states
· Federalism
· The Electoral College
· The US Senate
· In-State Political Affairs (Legislative Elections)

The Supreme Court
· The Least Understood Branch
· Marbury v. Madison
· The Civil War and the Constitution
· Civil Rights – Religion and Race
· The Appointment Process
· Constitutional Interpretation

The Congress
· Committees
· House and Senate
· Direct Election of Senators
· Congressional Decision Making
· Congressional/Presidential Relations

The Presidency
· Election
· Governing
· The Evolving Presidency
· Succession and Constitutional Change
· Presidents in History – Truman and Ford
· Primary/Caucus

Comparative Politcs
· Parliament
· Monarchy

Current Events
· World Affairs
· President as Commander-in-Chief

Theory Into Practice
· Tyranny of the Majority
· Life, Liberty, and…..
· The Declaration, The Constitution, The Law – From Poetry to the Mechanics of Governing
· 3/5TH Clause

We started our course with the understanding from the past, that the states’ governments were and remain the reference point for the power of the federal government. We spoke of the Articles of Confederation, and the desire of the Framers to ensure a weaker national government than its roots – namely, the centralized British regime, given best example by the King, and the unrecognized Parliament.
It was in response to that centralized Government that our Declaration of Independence was written – and written, to make a point. In the wake of a hard won victory, and the words of Jefferson, the Confederation was born.
But it was, as your textbook suggests, a government that failed. It is in the shadow of the Confederation that we see concepts such as “Tyranny of the Majority”, and we recognize, that such a weak government, could protect no one. We are not alone in recognizing this. A government must exist to secure rights, as Jefferson borrowed from Locke, and if a government doesn’t work- then throw it off. We saw that in the span of several years, a second revolution occurred, to create a new government.
As the new government would grow, the Framers determined that the Legislature – Congress – would be the most prominent branch. The leader of the country, Washington, would be a unanimous choice for President, and in Washington’s footprint would that office grow.
But as the Presidency and the Congress grew, so too did the least understood branch- the Supreme Court. As was Washington to the Presidency, so was John Marshall, to the court.
Fast forward two hundred years to Lemon v. Kurtzman or Gideon v. Wainwright. Do we see a Court Marshall would recognize, or should we take notice of an unspoken development, more like the unwritten traditions of the British? Would Marshall be open to a Court of changing rights? Paraphrasing Supreme Court Justice Byron White – Marshall didn’t create Judicial Review[2]. The Constitution did. He enforced it.
The recurring theme from our course, is explaining the link between the poetry between the Declaration of Independence and the mechanics of today’s government.

For our purposes today, I want you to address the issues raised by the bullet points, similar to our exercise on Tuesday. Using the following questions as a guideline, please summarize and analyze our work. You may use your notes and textbook as well as the internet, provided you use citations.

1. States’ powers have changed. Structurally, how is states’ prominence still seen in the political system, both compared to the Federal government, but also in relation to each other?
2. How has the concept of equality changed since the founding, and what concepts are now justified/enforced in ways unheard of by the framers?
3. Consider for a moment that you are a newspaper publisher in the year 1950. You have just gotten word that your City Council has banned newspapers. Please discuss your options and explain why they may exist. What if it’s the year 1850? What if Congress, not the City Council has done the offending act?
4. Your daughter was recently sent home for wearing a piece of apparel that is required by your religious views. Your lawyer says, ‘this will be a breeze. We can get an exemption from this law because your beliefs are genuinely held’. What is your response?
5. Please explain to me the political process that Bruce Braley and Mike Whalen went through in June of 2006; then explain to me how the winner of that race will fulfill his campaign promises, upon taking office in Congress next week.
6. Assume for a moment you work in the White House, and are seeking a way to pay for a road you would like built in your home district. As of this coming Thursday, who needs to help you by appropriating the money?
7. Explain the significance of the Iowa caucuses, and explain the ‘bob to the left, weave to the right’ process candidates must routinely do to get out of Iowa and into New Hampshire.

For your final question, I want to focus on events. We spent hours discussing the nature of events as relating to Presidential politics and decision making. In 750-1000 words (3-3.5 pages), please explain how a Missouri County Judge and a Michigan Attorney came to occupy the Oval Office, and what they did once they arrived. Please feel free to recognize similarities/differences between the two, and be certain to explain their respective reactions to events beyond their control, in their personal, political, and electoral lives.

[1] Harold Macmillan, Prime Minister of Britain. When asked by a reporter what concerned him the most about governing, he replied, “Events, dear boy, events”.
[2] Bob Woodward, “The Brethren”.


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