Political Science 1100, Introduction to American Politics, January 27, 2013

 


Current Events 

 


 What were the Founders Thinking?

 

1. What is a Constitution?

    It's a set of rules about making rules (that is, the law)

 

    Key choices:  Who makes the laws? (legislative power)

                          Who puts the laws into effect and enforces them? (executive power)

                          Who settles disputes over the laws? (judicial power)

                          What is government not permitted to do to its citizens? (civil liberties)

 

 

 

2. What were Americans’ problems in 1787?

 

 

    The States managed most policy in 1787

 

   But the states could not deal with the nation's mounting problems

       

        State rivalries

 

        Rhode Island & Shays's rebellion

      

        Foreign threats

 

  

    The Confederation government was very weak

        Each of the 13 states have an equal vote in Congress

            to accomplish anything, almost all states have to agree

 

        No U.S. executive, no national courts

 

        No dependable revenues

 

        Hard to make law, hard to amend the Articles

 

3. Who was James Madison?

 

One of the most important delegates was James Madison

 

 

 

     Who was James Madison?

 

 

   What Madison wanted: The Virginia Plan

 

            A strong, sovereign national government with broad authority

 

Proportional representation in two houses of Congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Madison's dilemma: making a lasting national republican government that would do more good than harm

 

        How do you give citizens control of the government & make sure that the government

             makes good laws and protects basic rights?
 

        How do you guarantee majority rule and that majorities do what’s right?

 

 

5. Madison’s opponents at the Convention 

            Roger Sherman wanted

           
     Equal representation of the states in Congress

           

 

                 A national government with narrow authority

 

            The New Jersey Plan

 

 

6. The framers built the Constitution on political compromises

 

 

Compromise #1: Congress

                Two houses:
                    Equal representation in the Senate,
                        representation based on population in the House

 

           Compromise #2: The presidency

                A strong presidency with many checks, especially the Senate

 

            Compromise #3: Slavery

             The Constitution protected slavery

 

            Compromise #4: Federalism

   

            •The national government: power to tax, to deal with other nations,
       provide national defense, and regulate commerce between states
 
            •States could governing themselves internally
            •The boundary between state and national power is very vague and unclear

 

6. The Results:

    The U.S. Constitution has had many successes
   

    But the possibility of gridlock was built into the Constitution -
            Checks and balances were
intended to make gridlock possible
 

    The Constitution created a government that is very hard to use when Americans
     are passionately and evenly divided
                  – like they are now.

 

     When there is bitter political disagreement, the Constitution’s government
            only works when politicians, like the framers, use all of their political
            skills of negotiation and compromise