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Concluding Remarks POLS 21: The American Political System The government is us; we are the government, you and I.“ —Theodore Roosevelt.

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Presentation on theme: "Concluding Remarks POLS 21: The American Political System The government is us; we are the government, you and I.“ —Theodore Roosevelt."— Presentation transcript:

1 Concluding Remarks POLS 21: The American Political System The government is us; we are the government, you and I.“ —Theodore Roosevelt

2 How well does our system of government work? What are some appropriate indicators?

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4 What message are these political cartoons trying to convey?

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8 Confidence in American Institutions, 2006 Source: CNN/USA Today/ Gallup poll, June 1-4, "I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one--a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?" Confidence in government institutions is comparatively low.

9 Trust in the Federal Government, "People have different ideas about the government in Washington. These ideas don't refer to Democrats or Republicans in particular, but just to government in general. We want to see how you feel about these ideas. How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right--just about always, most of the time, or only some of the time?" Trust in government increased after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

10 Government by the People Are public needs and desires accurately communicated to elected officials? Are sound and responsible decisions made? Are public policies effective in resolving the problems they were designed to address? How well does the American system of government work? The League of Women Voters defines a healthy democracy in this way: “It is a place where people feel a sense of belonging and ownership, where they join together to address common concerns. It is a place where citizens are engaged in setting directions for the future, through the ballot box and through myriad other avenues for making one’s voice heard. It is a place where citizen participation helps to ensure that, at all levels, government is responsive to people’s needs and aspirations.” All of these questions are appropriate to ask, even if they are difficult to answer.

11 Government by the People Should we judge the success of American politics by its ability (and willingness) to respond to public opinion? Throughout American political and intellectual history there have been two points of view—both of which quickly emerged during the Constitutional Convention. One school of thought held that government decisions could not be left to the people. Most were thought to be too ill-informed and too susceptible to momentary whims of passion and prejudice to play a decisive role in the sober business of governance. In contrast, others argued that the only true and legitimate source of power was to be found in the will of the people. The tension between those two views is something we continue to struggle with today. Reduced to its essentials, the question is this: Should our political leaders be responsible for the public’s interest, or responsive to its desires?

12 Making Democracy Work At our country’s founding, Thomas Jefferson proposed that the Constitution be rewritten for each successive generation. That idea expresses a fundamental truth about self-government: Each generation is responsible for making democracy work, for forging a new relationship between citizens and their government. In the meantime, perhaps we must all accept the imperfections of our government, and acknowledge that it is stands not apart from the citizens it represents, but is instead an honest reflection of them—of their strengths, and their weaknesses. O I see flashing that this America is only you and me, Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me, Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me, Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols, armies, ships, are you and me. Its endless gestation of new States are you and me, The war (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will henceforth forget), Was you and me… Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and me, Past, present, future, are you and me, I dare not shirk any part of myself, Nor any part of America good or bad. —Walt Whitman “By Blue Ontario’s shore” Leaves of Grass (1881)

13 Making Democracy Work O I see flashing that this America is only you and me, Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me, Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me, Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols, armies, ships, are you and me. Its endless gestation of new States are you and me, The war (that war so bloody and grim, the war I will henceforth forget), Was you and me… Freedom, language, poems, employments, are you and me, Past, present, future, are you and me, I dare not shirk any part of myself, Nor any part of America good or bad. —Walt Whitman “By Blue Ontario’s shore” Leaves of Grass (1881)


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