Politics and Government in the United States
Short Answer Questions (10 Points Each)
Do 10 out of 12. Do NOT do more than 10 questions.
1. Define rational basis review, intermediate scrutiny and strict scrutiny.
2. How does the Supreme Court determine whether something is obscene or not? How does the Court define libel?
3. Why was the 14th amendment written? How has the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment changed over time? How successful or unsuccessful has the 14th amendment been in meeting its historical goals?
4. What rights are protected under the Fourth Amendment, when does the Fourth Amendment apply, and what are three exceptions to these protections?
5. Define “the Lemon test” in 1st amendment Establishment clause cases.
6. Define and distinguish between the clear and present danger test and the imminent lawless action test, including discussion of the two cases that created these standards.
7. What are the major components of the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968? What did the Supreme Court rule in the case McDonald v. Chicago?
8. Discuss the constitutional rationale the Supreme Court provided in establishing the constitutional right to privacy and name two right to privacy cases and discuss their findings.
9. Why did the Supreme Court institute a moratorium on the death penalty in Furman v. Georgia? What legal changes had to occur before the death penalty could be reinstated? How did the Court limit the application of the death penalty in the 21st century?
10. Define and distinguish between de jure and de facto discrimination. Provide examples for each, and discuss policies and/or court cases that try to eliminate them.
11. What are the major components of the Voting Rights Act of 1965? How has the application of this law changed over time? What are the major components of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
12. Define and discuss three rights protected under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution. In your answer discuss both the Constitutional text and major Supreme Court decisions connected to the exercise of these rights.
1) Identify and discuss three ways Democratic presidential primaries and Republican primaries are different from each other in terms of how delegate allocation works.
Primary elections were first created as a response to one-party dominance in the midst of the Progressive era, alongside other reforms such as the direct election of senators and the ballot initiative. Prior to primaries, party organizations would choose candidates amongst themselves. Now, candidates have to win states via primary elections or primary caucuses in order to get delegates in the electoral college in order to even be nominated. It can be said that the Republican primaries are of a far simpler nature than Democratic primaries. In order to earn the Republican nomination, a candidate needs to win at least 1,276 of 2,550 convention delegates. For the Democratic, a candidate needs to win 2,376 of 4,750 delegates. Democrats award out delegates in a proportional manner to the percentage of votes won, whereas Republicans use a “winner-take-all” approach wherein “the candidate with the most votes gets all of the delegates being contested” (Brewer and Maisel XXXXXXXXXXFinally, Democrats also are unique in the power awarded to their superdelegates, meant to come to the convention unpledged but ultimately help “nominate a winning ticket if the primary process failed to determine a clear winner” (Brewer and Maisel 252). While Republicans also technically have superdelegates, they have far less and have given them far less influence over a primary election than Democrat superdelegates.
2) Compare/contrast the political dynamics of congressional elections that occur in presidential election years vs. midterms and discuss why the incumbent re-election rate for members of Congress is so high. Discuss the nationalization of elections in your answer (defining the concept and explaining why it happened)
Voter turnout is usually at its highest during Presidential election years, ranging from 55-63% of voter turnout from the voting-eligible population. Midterm elections, on the other hand, usually see between 35-50% turn out, with 40% on average. The nationalization of elections have led to high levels of polarization and high rates of negative partisanship, in turn causing low approval ratings and low satisfaction scores for both parties, as well as low trust in Congress and the government overall. Hopkins notes that polarization and nationalization are two distinct phenomena, though they are heavily co
elated. He describes nationalization as “a multifaceted, mass-level process through which voters care less about state and local politics and use the same criteria to pick candidates across the federal system” (Hopkins 135). When combined with polarization tactics that nurture a “us vs. them” mentality, polarization can in turn foster nationalized voting patterns (Hopkins 136). For example, the nationalization of elections contributes to the high reelection rate for members of Congress, despite lower voter turnout in mid-term elections and Congress’ general low approval rating. The House sees over a 90% reelection rate, with Senate reelection rates being of a similar nature. This is due to a number of factors, one of which being high rates of straight-ticket voting resulting from partisan polarization. Additionally, incumbents have the financial advantage, established connections, institutional support, and name recognition working in their favor.
3) What are the different types of mandates Presidents can claim? How do members of Congress act in response to mandate claims? Is there any connection between a president's margin of electoral victory and mandate claims?
Peterson et al describe electoral mandates as those that “express a message about changed policy preferences of the electorate” (Peterson et al 411). Presidents can claim four different types of mandates: personal mandates, policy mandates, party mandates, and change vs. status quo mandate. Personal, policy and party mandates are dependent on the result of the election, the hypothetical win or loss co
elating to acceptance or rejection of the given focus of the mandate, respectively. The same concept goes for the change or status quo mandate, wherein an electoral result would reflect an acceptance or rejection of the status quo. Peterson et al were rather skeptical of the existence of electoral mandates but found that Congress does indeed respond to Presidential claims of mandates in their voting behavior, specifically as “an attempt to stave off the possibility of electoral defeat” or simply to continue voting towards their ideologies, though this effect is short-lived (Peterson et al 425). There is no connection between how often a president claims they have a mandate and the margin of their electoral victory or their approval ratings. Rather mandates are about legitimacy rather than about power - when presidents need to come up with a justification for their use of power, when they are expanding or defending the boundaries of the office — that’s when mandates come into use” (vox.com).
4) Define each of the four stages of social movement development.
Amenta et al define political social movements as “actors and organizations seeking to alter power deficits and to effect social transformations through the state by mobilizing regular citizens for sustained political action” (Amenta et al 288). They find that social movements can result in the extension of democratic rights and practices and the formation of new political parties, as well as possible “changes in policy, which can provide consistent benefits to a movement’s constituency as well as enforce collective identities and aid challengers in struggles against targets not mainly state oriented” (Amenta et al 289). In order to reach these effects, however, the movement must first have the opportunity to develop. The four stages of social movement development are emergence, coalescence, bureaucratization, and decline. Emergence stems from some degree of social unrest and conflict, where a need for change is strongly felt although the root of the problem may not yet be clear or a lack of urgency for collective action delays the creation of a formal movement. The second stage is coalescence, where social unrest gradually turns more centered and leads to formal organization and coordinated political action such as campaigns, rallies, and protests. The third stage of bureaucratization leads to further formal organizing, to the point of the social movement having an established presence in Washington as well as state legislatures, established relationships with other organizations, and a given reputation for their interests and behavior. The final stage, decline, can manifest in different ways. The social movement could fail due to repression, it could be abso
ed by another social movement in co-optation, or it could simply become redundant by succeeding in its goals and no longer be deemed necessary.
5) Discuss the Citizens United decision covering the facts of the case, the Supreme Court’s ruling, and its impact.
Citizens United v. FEC XXXXXXXXXXfound that corporations and unions have 1st amendment rights to make campaign donations. The case emerged when nonprofit conservative group Citizens United sought an injunction against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for prohibiting the release of their documentary Hillary: The Movie. The FEC stopped the release of the documentary for failing to adhere to campaign finance rules established in the McCain-Feingold Act. More specifically, the Act had “prohibited corporations from running television commercials for or against Presidential candidates for thirty days before primaries” (Toobin 1). The Supreme Court ultimately decided in favor of Citizens United with a 5-4 final vote. This decision drew on the concept of corporate personhood and determined that the ban on political action committee (PAC) funded electioneering communications was unconstitutional. Accordingly, independent PACs can raise and spend unlimited sums of money.
6) Why are there so few working class candidates for political office in the U.S.? Why are party leaders hesitant to recruit working class candidates and how do voters appraise working class candidates?
American politicians are typically “wealthier, more educated, and more likely to come from a white-collar occupation” (Carnes 1). According to Carnes, the lack of encouragement to run from electoral gatekeepers- “the political and civic leaders who identify, recruit, train, and support political candidates”- contributes to the lack of working-class candidates (Carnes 2). He found that “anti-worker preferences are comparable in magnitude to the well-documented bias that gatekeepers exhibit against female candidates” (Carnes 3). There are a number of factors that contribute to this phenomenon, including the convenience of picking white-collar candidates from amongst their peers, increased perception of risk of blue-collar candidates when it comes to electoral considerations, and general bias that naturally exists against working-class candidates outside of strategy. This hesitation towards working-class candidates is rooted in concern of their ability to “find it easier to take time off work, raise money, and win the election” (Carnes 8). These fears are more of a general variety, and