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American Government and Politics Today

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Presentation on theme: "American Government and Politics Today"— Presentation transcript:

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 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

6 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”)

7 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

8 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

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 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


25 U.S. Population


27 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.

28 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.

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