POL326Y1 Lecture 5: Political Culture and USFP

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26 Aug 2019
American Political Culture and USFP
Separation of powers is an inaccurate description of US
o Basic idea is to create a political equivalent that was described by A. smith: within an economic
system governed by free markets, ambition will counter ambition
o Leaders aren’t trusted to respect limits imposed on them for they’re forced to abide by these limits
Poor ambitions by one branch wit
The constitution is a brief document (sketches most basic outline of system of government) and is a highly
ambiguous document
o To write the constitution in such a way is to have people of diverse orientations read their
interpretations of it
Issue of Sovereignty: where does sovereignty reside?
o 13 colonies weren’t inclined to surrender their independence to another power of government
distant from their own territory
o first American constitution would be a confederation, as opposed to federalism where sovereignty
resides within the government
o the constitution dealt with this through allowing supporters of different visions to allow their own
interpretation of it; ex. there’s debate on if Texas surrendered its sovereignty to USA
The constitution allows you to read both interpretations; the authority of the constitution comes from the
people of the United States
o The authority of US federal government comes from the states; they may take the authority back; if
from the people, union is created and states are subservient to it
Constitution and Foreign Policy
3 separate branches that hold each other at account and enforce the limits by the constitution w/ bill of
rights (1st 10 amendments)
o Framers of constitution deemed BOR unnecessary for the American government was to be one
with enumerated powers; BOR was made for political purposes
In domestic politics, the most dangerous branch was congress, and all its legislative power
o Because of legislation that breached others’ rights, the branches had to be divided into two
o From foreign policy view, the constitution provides congress with certain policies; congress not
only makes laws but also collect taxes/borrow money
o The government is intended to regulate commerce between foreign powers/various states to coin
money, declare war and raise/supply arming of navy, define/punish piracy, call for militia to
suppress insurrections and invasions; it was a finite list of powers
o Most reside in states with regards to criminal law; there was ambiguities
Elastic Clause: congress should only have power in the constitution and any other powers to execute them;
creates doctrine of implied powers
o Baker v. Carr:
Chartered a bank given that the constitution; states wanted their own chartered bank; US
Supreme Court sided with the government
Article II of Constitution: the executive branch and the president were relatively unimportant; president
was a head bureaucrat; his main function was to see laws faithfully executed
o He has some powers, which are his veto powers; president has choice to sign legislative matters
into law or veto them 9ex. South African sanctions in 90s; Reagan
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Pocket Veto: president must sign any piece of legislation in 10 days and after, the legislation is dead
The president is the commander in chief of the armed forces
Framers of constitution didn’t envision that there’d be permanent armed forces; congress would only
mobilize navy if there was a conflict; wasn’t realistic
o It is congress that declares war and then raises the navy and president prosecutes this conflict
o Only 5 times congress declared war; this system of checks/balances is a little shaky
o Majority of military interventions were gunboat diplomacies; Americans intervened in Caribbean
The power of commander-in-chief was an important one; he negotiates treaties with advising consent of
the senateany treaty he negotiates must be handed to congress and be approved by 2/3s of majority
o President sends and receives ambassadors also with advising consent of the senate/congress
Receiving of ambassador doesn’t require senate advising; to recognize the power of the
foreign governments;
Ex. half to 20th century under Cheng Kai-Shek; Americans didn’t recognize this government
until ’49, where they recognized Taiwan—Nixon did this is 60s
Ex. referendum on Kurdish independence: enormously important move for credibility of
Kurdish state; Iraq/Iran/Turkey/Spain/Syria doesn’t recognize Kurdish independent state;
such would undermine American relationship with the latter states
The president appoints various officers: secretary of state, defense
o Annually, the president must present SOTU before joint session of congress
US Court System is a separate/equal branch of American government; not the same as the DOJ; in
executive branch, prosecutors to enforce federal law
o Present those charges to the neutral and see if they hold a trial
Judiciary has one important institution: Supreme Court
o Comprised of 9 judges with advice/consent of the senate that’re appointed for life; can’t be
removed from office other than for illness/crime
o Supreme Court are insulated from any democratic pressure; intended to protect the rights of
minorities, organization of congress can pass legislation that violates minority rights
Distrust of democracy on part of the framers
o Senate was designed away from democratic pressure to address their philosophical beliefs; 1/3 of
senate is up for reelection every 2y to ensure 2/3s of senate aren’t up for election
Supreme Court is removed from democratic pressure; appointers though are elected officials; once a judge
has been approved, they took a life of their own
o Supreme Court has power to overrule acts of congress/president; this is a power nowhere stated in
the constitutionunstated to eliminate a difficulty by government to approve it
Marbury v. Madison (Wont Show on MIDTERM)
Case came out of attempt to stack the court; if there were, they wouldn’t be the same, hard for parties to
function, represent people
Parties comprised federalists/anti-federalists
o Jefferson was a federalist: he might dismantle the constitution and take as much power down to
the states; it formerly took 6 months until new president was installed
o Midnight Judges: appointed by Adams and approved by senate; most took their offices but one
remained in on the desk for Madison
Totally illegal and couldn’t hand judgeship
Marbury took Madison court
Chief Justice Marshall told if handed writ of mandamus, they won’t enforce it; breached sep. of powers
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