US Government and Politics

US Government and Politics

US Government and Politics

US Government and Politics

Synopsis

Focusing on the latest developments, this book explores whether the US political system lives up to its promise to provide freedom and equality of opportunity for all. Starting with the Constitutional Convention, which drew up the framework of the political system, the book examines mechanisms designed to prevent the oppressive use of power before analyzing the ways that the elected branches of government use power in modern America. Readers are provided with thought-provoking material on which to base their own conclusions on the extent to which US institutions and political practices succeed in living up to the Founding Fathers' lofty ideals.

The US political system is evaluated through the topics of:

The Constitution

Race & US Politics

The Supreme Court

Federalism

Elections

Political Parties

Pressure Groups

Congress

The Presidency

Each chapter examines how the system currently works and how it has developed, and makes comparisons with the British system of government to present a readable, accessible but academically stimulating introduction to the government and politics of the USA.

Excerpt

When the thirteen North American colonies broke away from Britain in 1776, they opened their Declaration of Independence with the words, 'We believe 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.'

The Constitution they drew up in 1787, after the War of Independence, was designed to ensure that no single person, or group of people, could acquire enough power to threaten the liberties of the new nation's citizens, or threaten their ability to freely pursue whatever goals would bring them happiness. The first ten amendments to the Constitution reinforced these safeguards by protecting specified rights against any threat, even the will of a majority of Americans. The political culture which then developed ensured that almost anyone with the power to influence people's way of life, from members of the local school board to Senators, were held accountable at frequent elections.

Many in the USA, and around the world, regard this political system as a model for liberal democracy, a 'beacon on the hill'. It is seen as providing liberty for Americans and the world's 'huddled masses, yearning to breathe free'. It is also seen as a framework for equality of opportunity, a genuine meritocracy in which anyone can develop their true potential if they try hard enough.

Yet, as this political culture was being moulded, even as the Declaration of Independence was setting out its high ideals and the Constitution was being written and debated, the USA permitted slavery and, later, legalised segregation. As a former slave, Frederick Douglass, put it, [liberty and slavery — opposite as heaven and hellare both in the Constitution]. With racism and oppression as much a feature of mainstream US politics as liberty and opportunity, questions have long been asked about whether the country is truly the meritocracy it is held up to be. Furthermore, the mechanisms for holding those in power to account, such as elections, have been criticised for becoming tools for the already powerful to reinforce their political, social and economic dominance.

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