[POLI SCI 220] - Final Exam Guide - Comprehensive Notes for the exam (23 pages long!)

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POLI SCI 220
FINAL EXAM
STUDY GUIDE
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Lecture 2 Creating a Constitutional Democracy 09/22/2016
Main questions
o Is the quality of US democracy sustainable over time?
o What is the origin story of the American republic?
o What did the framers of the Republic actually do?
o How do modern politicians and citizens reference the actions of the framers?
o Does it matter whether the policies that politicians advocate are in line with this
tradition?
Identified problems in the government
o There is a declining trust in government
Politicians are perceived to be solely focused on their campaigns/constituents rather
than on beneficial policies; this is problematic since public opinion is not always well-
informed so politicians end up following the ill-advised policies of their base
constituents
Ted Cruz example: he followed the interests of his constituents at the expense of the
public good, effectively shutting down the government (in order to stop Obamacare)
for a day regardless of the resistance from the Republican establishment
o Democracy exposes the governing institutions and process to the basic instincts of the
people
Checks and balances make it hard to change policy and get things done (as designed
by founders) because:
The Founders had a deep skepticism of the masses
The Founders wanted to protect their own economic interests (such as slavery)
Although the office of the President (Executive branch) is elected, it is the weakest
branch since the Founders did not want to replicate the problems of a tyrannical
dictator
If inequality is any marker for how uninformed the citizens are, then there are a lot
of uninformed people in the US
Most people and history tend to glorify the Founders rather than view many of their ideas
as outdated
o People believe that the Founders were heroes/pro-independence from the start, but
most of the Founders were reluctant to wage war against Britain; they sought peaceful
solutions and pleaded with King George before they resorted to war
o Thomas Jefferson believed that a new constitution should be drafted every generation
(21 years) to prevent the document from become obsolete
o The US was a big experiment but achieved a large feat by creating the first working
democracy over a large territory/population; out of this experimentation, there is bound
to be some obsolete material
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o Example: Michele Bachmann (R-MN) frequently referenced the actions of the framers
during her campaign
She was savagely attacked in the media for assuming the Founders wanted equality
at the signing of the declaration
The newly formed Republic was not a color-blind one nor were the Founders
believers in true equality among all men/women
Because politicians such as Michele Bachmann can be influential and have a role
in educating the American people, she was rightfully criticized
She also said that once the colonists landed in America, they all dreamed of a land
that would provide equality for everyone
The Republic didnt legally become color-blind until the 14th amendment (citizenship
law) but, even then, it took until the civil rights movement with MLK before that law
was actually realized
o Example: Boston Massacre is an event in which the facts have been distorted over time;
we choose to not remember that the colonists started the massacre
The most revered painting of the Boston Massacre was created by Paul Revere (who
wasnt at the actual incident) in which British militiamen are shooting at the
defenseless colonists
The colonists actually helped provoke the incident, throwing stones and objects at
the British militia
Reveres depiction of the events excludes Crispus Attucks, the one famous black
death from the attack
Originalism: in order to determine whether law is constitutional, one must discern what the
original intent of the Founders was
Early historiography of the founding of America
o Charles Beard (1874-1948): deeloped the eooi itepetatio of the foudig
Economic interpretation: social and economic status of the framers led them to
privilege their property rights over the democratic rights of the masses in the
constitution
One of the most widely influential theses of American history in the early 20th
century
The founders therefore created the constitution with an eye to designing institutions
that would protect the Founders privileged rights
o Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick (1960): argued that Beard war wrong; the framers were
motivated by a desire to resolve collective action problems and preserve the republic
They argued that the Founders did not have to give federal citizenship rights to
masses, for example
“hays’ Reellio 1: financial crises led to the rebellion which cemented the
atioal elite’s desie to poote efos and shift away from the Confederation to
a new form of governance
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