Describe the process by which a bill becomes a law. What mechanisms in this process make legislation slow? Why?
What was the Virginia Plan? What was the New Jersey Plan? What were the reasons for disagreement between the big states and the small states? What came about after the debate between these two states?
In The Federalist Paper No. 51, James Madison warns, "It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part." What features of American democracy and institutional design safeguard citizens from such a tyranny of the majority?
What role do interest groups play in American democracy? Do they serve to advance or undermine the goals of democratic governance?
What is the process that a bill must undergo in order to become a law? Specifically, how can a minority party best pass legislation?
Why has American voting turn-out declined? In what ways can the government fix these low turn-outs? Analyze the costs and benefits that voting entailed and discuss the different factors (age, race, etc.) that affect voting turnout.
In Federalist 10, James Madison argues that there are two ways to control factions, to remove its cause and to control its effects. Seeing as how removing its cause would destroy liberty, how has the United States government controlled the effects of factions?
The executive branch has arguably become stronger than the Founding Fathers anticipated. Given our current political situation, is the executive or the legislative a more dominant actor in American politics today, or do they share power equally?
When creating a new congressional districting plan for a state, what are the most important factors to consider when forming each district, physically, demographically and geographically?
What specific institutions in modern day American government were designed and shaped by political interests? How do these institutions function today? Do they provide ‘unfair’ advantages to certain majorities?
What elements of the Constitution make it clear the document was designed to win an election? What election were the writers of the Constitution trying to win?
What is the Median Voter Theorem and how does it help explain policy making and political rhetoric in America?
Describe the Median Vote Theory and illustrate how it comes into play in:
a) political campaigns and
b) on the floor of the United States legislative body.
List some influences on the average American voter and form an argument for why or why not the average American is properly equipped and informed to make a political decision during elections.
Are the Federalist papers really trying to provide a practical political framework for the United States, or are they merely an exercise in political philosophy? Can they be both?
John Putnam concluded that falling voter turnout in the USA was evidence that “the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined.” Do you agree? Is there any argument to be made that low turnout, usually framed as a socio-political ill, may be benign or indeed beneficial to democracy?
In a couple of paragraphs, describe the main arguments in James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 and explain how it is relevant to American politics today.
Talk about some of the pros and cons of the redistricting process in the United States. Include in your discussion what you think is the best way to ensure that the rights of the minority are protected from the tyranny of the majority.
Explain the “collective action problem” in American politics. Does an advocacy organization solve the collective action problem? Explain why or why not. Does an advocacy group bring new problems that might undermine democracy?
“The logic of American politics makes it fairly easy to stifle change and maintain the status quo; not a lot seems to get done.” Assess the validity of this statement by focusing on the organization of Congress, the Presidential veto, and judicial review.
Explain the costs and benefits of the single member district system and the proportional representation system.
Describe the general feature of the U.S. government and collective decision-making.
Discuss the difference between common law and statutory law, with specific examples of these different types of legislation.
Compare and contrast the trustee and the delegate ideologies of representation, offering insight as to which one you think is preferable and why.
What role do associations (political parties, interest groups, etc.) play in American political party systems? In your opinion, do they hurt, or help, government operations? Provide examples to support your response.
How does the system of checks and balances work? Do you think it benefits minority representation? If so, explain how and provide examples supporting your argument. If not, explain what factors inhibit it from doing so.
What would be the residual effects of cracking/packing in redistricting a state (both state and national effects)? Refer to both states with large contingencies of Congressional Districts and low number of congressional districts.
Identify the current mentality regarding office elections from the perspective of the candidate and explain why or why not it is detrimental to the U.S. political system.
Discussions and readings from this class have examined the role of the two-party system in providing stability and accountability. What features of the two-party system support or weaken this claim?
One of the trends observed over time has been the expansion of federal power at the expense of the states. Are strong state powers necessary? Explain.
State and describe three ways political parties contribute to democratic politics (as provided in the Fiorina textbook).
State and describe the two possible roles of legislators (as provided in the Fiorina textbook). Describe how such roles explain the disparity between Americans' view of members of Congress from just their districts and their view of members of Congress as a whole.
Presidents often claim a "mandate" after winning an election, but then encounter varying degrees of success when dealing with Congress. First, explain what factors drive election outcomes, and second, use the median voter theorem to explain how a president may or may not enjoy legislative success.
Discuss several factors that have contributed to the "permanent campaign" and analyze the repercussions. If possible, incorporate current events into your answer.
How does federalism put a disproportionate amount of power in the hands of the judiciary branch?
Citing the Davis article, "The media and the mass public", make a convincing argument for why media does not manipulate our political opinions
Explain the Median Voter Theorem and how it affects legislature. Analyze and assess the following problem: On the floor in the House is a bill to increase taxes from the current 17% to 32%. If the median voter wants 25% what will happen in: a) Open Rule b) Close Rule
Explain the statement that “The United States Government revolves around campaigning” and how it is applicable to officials in Congress and in the Senate.
What are some of the major tools our republican government uses to make decisions? How can politicians and voters predict the outcome of legislative debates, and how can they often predict elections?
Why did the founding fathers write the Constitution? What were some of its positive features, and what were some of its negatives?
How have parties shaped the political history of the United States? Moreover, how do today’s parties differ from those of earlier eras and how powerful are parties today in American politics?
Why did the framers believe it was important to separate the powers of the government among different branches and officials? How did the forethought seek to protect judicial independence?
Are competitive districts conducive to better representation and true indirect democracy? Why or why not?
The American government is based on a complex system of checks and balances as specified in the Constitution. While this does prevent tyranny of the majority, it also often results in gridlock and inefficiency. Is checks and balances truly necessary for a fair democracy in the United States? Would there be an alternative?
Should election spending be capped? Provide an argument using the Constitution as an example.
What characteristics determine the necessity for a minority-majority district? and how, despite the presence of these characteristics, is it still difficult to prove a need for this type of district.
Professor Peterson claimed in class that the Constitution was written to win an election. What are some of the specific aspects of the Constitution that were designed to combat opposition, and how do these aspects add to or detract from the Constitution?
What is the free rider problem in interest groups? Why does it exist? Describe three ways that this problem is overcome in groups.
Would a state be more beneficial having all their districts support the same political party, or would a variety of parties represented be better?
Does the United States need to change the group of people who redistrict the individual states into congressional districts?
If, according to some, political parties polarize American politics, what is the purpose of keeping them around at all?
How has the nature of political campaigns changed in the U.S. and what effect has this change had on politics?
What are political parties and interests groups in what are their respective roles in American government. How do political parties and special interest groups exert influence over the political system?
Is there a "supreme" branch of government (or can there be)? Name two checks each branch has over the other two. How do informal powers contribute to the balance of power?
In what ways was the US Constitution shaped by compromises?
Evaluate how parties both contribute to and detract from American politics.
Explain how the federalist system in the United States protects local and minority interests while still allowing for majority rule. (As in, groups that may normally be minorities can be majorities at lower levels of government, allowing for them to be represented on a larger scale).
Detail the journey from start to finish of a piece of legislation through the national government. Reference all possible paths, considering what can happen to a bill at each stage (committees, amendments, etc.)
Explain how and why the median voter's preferences are almost always satisfied in any presidential/legislative race.
List and explain the three different components of any vote in an election. [We went over this the first week of class, so I figured it would make for a good essay question. The three components were a) parties and party identifications/affiliations, b) valence issues, and c) the personal vote.]
How has voting culture changed over the course of the century? What moments of time can be said to have influenced today's voting culture?
How can collective action be both a considerable, yet weak force? Provide examples to explain your answer.
How does the geographic nature of politics reflect or inform electoral competition in the united states?
Discuss how voting behavior is determined and how this might affect a candidate's decisions. How might congressional committees improve or at least hasten a sluggish American Democratic process? Conversely, how might committees harm the democratic process and do they have the potential to not be democratic at all?
Describe the electoral system of the United States and how that process affects the political spectrum?
The U.S. has shown to have a lower turnout compared other democratic regimes in the world, such as Australia. What is different about the voting system in the U.S. that accounts for this phenomenon, and what action(s) should the U.S. government take to make sure that low turnout does not threaten democracy? Does the federal government have power under the Constitution to make voting mandatory in the states?
Suppose you’re a small, third party trying to vie for political seats. Under which system – a two-party or a multi-party system -- would your party be in a more favorable position to do so? Explain the reasoning behind Duverger’s Law, as to why in one system third parties regularly arise and come to exert some amount of political influence, whereas in the other nearly all third parties disappear.
Discuss the Positives and Negatives of the Constitution that was made for election. (Pre Bill of Rights, Amendment Constitution).
Are special interest groups or "lobbyists" beneficial for American Government? One topic that continues to puzzle political scientists is the phenomenon that the United States of America exhibits a smaller voter turnout than do other world democracies. What are some of the reasons that are thought to play a part of the decline in American voter turnout? In giving your answer, be sure to incorporate the costs and benefits of voting in the United States compared to those in other countries. In addition, is this decline in voter turnout necessarily a bad result? Justify your answer from material presented in the textbook and in lecture/section.
It is widely acknowledged that an incumbency advantage is present in both chambers of Congress. However, this advantage is thought to be stronger in the House of Representatives than in the Senate. What are some possible explanations for why incumbency may be less important in Senate elections than in House of Representative elections? In giving your answer, be sure to incorporate how this difference in importance may potentially lead to a difference in how the representatives/Senators respond to requests from their constituents.
What is the most important factor in determining one's vote? How feasibly can a candidate alter a voter's choice through campaigning?
Describe the flaws and truths of the median voter theory. Are there any cases in which it is violated in the legislative and/or electoral process(es)?
Who is in charge of redistricting, how often is it done, and what makes a district one that is fair?
What are interest groups, how do they effect elections, and how do candidates appeal to these voters? How did the Federalist Papers impact the ratification of the Constitution? How significant was this impact?
Do each of the three branches of government have equal power? Does one branch have more power than the other? If so, give a hierarchy of power. If not argue why not.
How does the committee system work in Congress in regards to rules and getting a bill passed?
What principles constitute "fairness" when considering how to draw map lines in the congressional redistricting process?
Federal spending, and especially the spending clause of the constitution, have played a significant role in the balance of power between national and state governments. How have successive interpretations of this clause affected the balance, and to what degree was it necessary in order to maintain a stable federalist system?
What are some of the primary causes of incumbent advantage, and does it decrease the effectiveness of representatives?
Argue for whether or not it is good that political organizations have become less localized and more nationalized.
Explain both the benefits and drawbacks to the fact that most American voters are centrist.
The US system of government has been criticized for its high frequency of elections and atmosphere of permanent campaigning for politicians. Evaluate the validity of this criticism and comment on how this positively or negatively affects the governmental process in the US.
Outline the factors that influence the voting of the American electorate and comment on how political candidates compete for voters.
Comment on the struggle in America's federal system of government to balance power between the national and state governments by referring to key instances in which this conflict manifests itself in American history or current events, or where it is evident in the very structure of the American government.
Evaluate the electoral system in America. How well do elections in America actually reflect the will of the people? Are there any problems with the system of elections in America that detract from the ultimate democratic purpose of these elections?
To what extent is the “incumbent effect” the most important factor in the outcome of Congressional and Presidential Elections?
To what extent is the “median voter effect” the most important factor in Congressional Decision making?
Discuss the components that affect citizens' voting thinking/behavior and how politicians respond to this.
According to Edmund Burke, what is the role a political representative plays on behalf of his constituents? State the argument for and against the Burkean trustee view of the congressman.
Describe the role that the two-party system in the United States plays in its political process. What significance does this have on the Median Voter Theorem? Use appropriate statistical evidence to support your claim.
Define the free rider problem and explain its relationship to congressional representation.
What are some factors that have contributed to the decline of political parties? What are some advantages and disadvantages of the decline of political parties with regards to democracy?
How does Alexis de Tocqueville's notion of association play into Theda Skocpol's analysis of how Americans have come to participate in the political and civic sphere?
According to James Madison in Federalist Paper 10, what are the possible means by which the damage caused by factions could be limited? What does he find problematic about some of these means? What is the means he ultimately approves of?
In terms of partisanship and ideology, what is the importance of policy preferences? How does this connect to choices offered by the Parties to the voting population?
In lecture we discussed why there is a maximum amount a candidate can spend in a campaign. What effect does the cost to campaign inflict upon the candidate? Based upon this answer, what then is an effective strategy for the candidate to address?
How did the Constitution represent a compromise?
What were the main arguments of both the federalists and the anti-federalists?
What are the positive and negative aspects of "Earmarks" to the legislative process? Do they serve an essential purpose to serving the needs of constituents are they conduits for greater debt and corruption?
How responsive should legislators be of the will of their constituents? Should they Burke's admonition to always seek the public good or is this good actually best achieved through the process of self-interest in trying to appease voters and get re-elected as described by Mayhew? In what ways has the United States worked to combat the tyranny described by James Madison in "The Federalist Papers," regarding the dangers of not separating powers? Does the United States face these issues described by Madison today? Is one branch of government given too much power over the other two despite the system of checks and balances?
What is Federalism? Identify the three characteristics of U.S. Federalism.
Discuss the Federal Reserve. Who runs it? Why is it important? Why is it powerful?