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Facts on the United States.pdf

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Political Science
Emily Regan Wills

Background Facts on the United States POL 3140A: Comparative Politics: United States Fall 2013 – Prof. Regan Wills Facts About US Political History • The territories that were now the US were home to a variety of Native communities before European arrival, which were either exterminated or exist in a dual-national capacity until this day. Colonial claims on the contemporary US came from England, the Netherlands, France, and Spain. The US’s major territorial expansion over time came from the Louisiana Purchase (1803), when the majority of the Midwest was acquired from France, and the Mexican-American war (1846-1848), when most of the Southwest, including Texas (previously independent, kind of) and California, were captured and held onto. • The three key documents of US History are the Declaration of Independence (1776), which began the process of US departure from the British Empire, the Constitution (1787), which laid out the structure of the US government as it exists until this day, and the Bill of Rights (1789), the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, which guarantee a variety of basic liberties. th th th • Key non-Bill of Rights amendments are the 13 , 14 and 15 , which ended slavery, guaranteed basic rights to all citizens, and forbid racial discrimination in voting rights; the 16 , which permitted the collection of income tax; the 17 , which allowed for the direct election of Senators; the 19 , which enfranchised women; the 23 , which provided Electoral th College votes for Washington DC; and the 26 , which lowered the voting age to 18. • The US Civil War was fought between 1861-1865, and serves as a good demarcation line for US politics, in terms of rights to citizenship, the powers of the federal government, and political culture on both sides of the slave/free line. You will hear pre-1861 referred to as “antebellum” (i.e., pre-war). • Another major period in US political history is the post-war, meaning post-World War II (1942-1945, if you’re in the US), period. This is the era we’re going to be focusing on, but it includes the ideology of the nuclear family, the Cold War, the rise of the US as a global superpower and its conscious practices in this area, Watergate, the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the Reagan era… Facts about the US Population • US population: 316 million (for comparison, the population of Canada is 34.38 million) • Median household income: US$53,000 (about CDN$54,700; median Canadian income is CDN$69,860) • Racial breakdown nationwide: non-Hispanic whites 63%, 13% black, 17% Hispanic, 5% Asian, 1% American Indians. • 80.7% of the US population lives either in either urban or suburban areas; 19.3% lives in rural areas. • Immigrants make up 13% of the US population. About 45% of those have US citizenship. Facts About States: • There are 50 of them, and a number of other territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, etc; territories don't have political representation, states do). Washington, DC, the national capital, is not a part of any state, and does not have legislative representation. (Their license plates say "Taxation without Representation" on them, a slogan from the US Revolution used against the British.) • Each state is represented by one star on the US flag. (Therefore, you can date historic flags by how many stars there are. Fun trivia fact!) • States are incredibly important to the political system, in a way that parallels but isn’t identical to the importance of provinces in Canada. Each state gets two Senators; states determine education and health policy, among others; votes for the presidency are distributed by the states. States also matter culturally: state names are associated with qualities (both earned and unearned) and saying you're from a state can be a mark of pride or shame. Largest States by Size: Alaska, Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico Largest States by Population: California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois Most population-dense states: New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland Smallest States by Size: Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware Smallest States by Population: South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming Least population-dense states: South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska Regions of the US: Note: these are the Bureau of Economic Analysis divisions; there are lots of other options that are “official.” But I think that these map the best onto how most Americans understand regional divisions. If there's a name in parentheses after the name of the region , that's another name in might be known by. New England: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont Mideast (Mid-Atlantic): Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania Great Lakes (Midwest): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin Plains (also sometimes the Midwest): Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota Southeast (the South): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas Rocky Mountain: Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming Far West (West Coast): Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington States that remained States that were States whose situation members of the Union members of the was mixed during the US Civil War Confederate States of America California Alabama Delaware Connecticut Arkansas Maryland Illinois Florida Missouri Indiana Georgia Kentucky Iowa Louisiana West Virginia Kansas Mississippi Maine North Carolina Massachusetts South Carolina Michigan Tennessee Minnesota Texas Nevada Virginia New Hampshire New Jersey New York Ohio Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island Vermont Wisconsin Other US Political Vocabulary: Veto: Legislation passed by both houses of Congress requires the signature of the president to become law. The president has the ability to refuse to sign any piece of legislation that has been passed by both houses of Congress and return it to Congress, giving his reasons for refusing to sign it. If both houses vote with a 2/3 majority (supermajority) in support of the vetoed bill, it passes over the president's veto/is 'overturned.' Vetoing is rare; overturning a veto is rarer still. There is also the "pocket veto," where, if Congress adjourns within ten days of a bill being given to the president, and s/he has not signed it, the bill does not become law. (However, if s/he fails to sign it within ten days, and Congress is still in session, it becomes law.) Filibuster: Where a member of the US Senate or one of the legislative bodies of a US state can block a vote on a piece of legislation by refusing to cede the floor for hours. They can continue to speak until they are physically unable to, or until the rules of the body allow them to be shut down. The filibuster has been in the news for two reasons lately: first, for the US Senate's policy of allowing the statement that a Senator will filibuster to serve instead of a filibuster; second, for Texas State Senator Wendy Davis's attempt to filibuster a law restricting abortion. Red State/Blue State: these terms derive from the colors used to mark which states voted for Al Gore (blue) and which voted for George W. Bush (red) in the highly contested 2000 election. Red State signifies Republican/conservatism, Blue State signifies Democratic/liberalism. They can be used as affectionate terms, as disparaging terms, or can be transformed, as when American political writer Dan Savage described an "archipelago of blue," meaning that urban areas vote more liberally than rural areas, or when people talk about 'purple states' or use shading to describe
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