POL 104 American Government Assignments (Reston, Fall 2015)

Welcome to the Course!

This is a course in the basic institutions and practices of American national government. After an introduction to some fundamental terms of politics and to the framing of the American constitution, we will study the United States congress, presidency, bureaucracy, and judiciary. In addition to these governmental institutions, we will also look at the political institutions of American political parties, campaigns, elections, and news media that are necessary for our brand of liberal democracy to function.

There is at least one chapter in the textbook on each of these subjects. Typically, a weekly assignment will consist of one chapter of the text and an additional reading or two that I will supply or that you can access by a computer link.

Be sure to get your textbooks—hardback, e-text, or rental—at the campus bookstore or online from BVT Publishing (BVT Publishing) as soon as possible.

There will also be a weekly quiz on the material that has been assigned. The quizzes are intended to see if you have read the assigned material and are thus prepared for class discussion. The quizzes are made up of the types of questions that will appear on the exams: true-false, multiple choice, definitions, and short answer essays.

An introductory course on American government focuses a great deal on basic facts and concepts. The concepts that you should learn for this course are listed on the vocabulary sheets below. (The textbook contains a list of "Key Terms" at the end of each chapter, but I am holding you responsible for the terms on these vocabulary sheets, not the list of Key Terms in the book.) You might want to download these vocabulary lists as we go through the semester and make notes on them during class.

Introduction and Chapter 1, the Constitution

Chapter 2, Federalism

Chapter 3, Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Chapter 4, Political Ideologies

Chapter 5, Public Opinion & Political Participation

Chapter 6, Politics and the Media

Chapter 7, Interest Groups and Political Parties

Chapter 8, Campaigns and Elections

Chapter 9, Congress

Chapter 10, The Presidency

Chapter 11, Bureaucracies

Chapter 12, Supreme Court

Chapter 13, Public Policy

Chapter 14, Public Policy and Economics

Here is the Course Outline that I will follow throughout the course. Note: The outline is organized on the basis of the consecutive chapters of the textbook, but we will be taking several of the chapters out of turn. You may want to print the outline and copy notes directly onto your copy.

Here are instructions for two recent exams given in the course: all of the exams in the course have the same format: ten True-False questions, ten Multiple Choice questions, ten Definitions, and four Short-Answer Essay questions:

MID-TERM EXAM. The mid-term will cover all of the materials that have been assigned since the first class and all of the class lecture materials. There will be questions on each of the chapters and readings, and I try to ask a proportional number of questions on each. There will be ten True-False questions (2 points each), ten Multiple Choice questions (2 points each), ten Definitions (2 points each), and four Short Answer Essay questions (three of which are worth 10 points, one of which is worth 20 points). Total: 110 points. Out of the ten True-False, ten Multiple Choice, and ten Definition questions there will generally be one or two True-False, one or two Multiple Choice, and one or two vocabulary terms to be defined from each chapter of the textbook that we studied. There will be one short answer essay and perhaps one or two True-False and Multiple Choice questions on each of the other readings that were assigned. Most of the exam will cover material that we have discussed in class and that was in the reading assignments, but a few questions are based solely on the readings and a few solely on the lectures. I ask questions that I really believe someone who has taken a college course on American Government should know: I do not ask obscure facts. (You might think some of the questions are obscure, but that is definitely not my intention.)

The questions are based mostly on essential facts and on definitions that we have discussed in class. For the multiple choice questions, review those terms that appeared in series: e.g., the four types of congressional committees; the different concepts of democracy; the constitutional amendments that tinkered with the presidential election and succession; and so on. These types of terms make great multiple choice questions! A couple of the true-false and multiple-choice questions will be based directly on questions in the "Pop Quiz" section at the end of each chapter in the text, but most of the test questions will not.

The mid-term will cover chapters 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, & 12 of the text, plus the Introduction, and Federalist 39 & 51, Forrest McDonald's newspaper article on George Washington, and the two newspaper articles on Pentagon Brownies and the Farmland Conservation Act that I handed out on Monday evening.

The final exam will be in exactly the same format as the mid-term. It will cover all of the assigned material in chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 and the following readings: (1) Federalist 10, (2) the excerpts from Prior, Price, and Starr, (3) the article "Voter Values" (Why did wealthy people vote Democratic and poor people vote Republican?), and (4) the article "Republican Operative Sentenced to Two Years" (What was Tyler Harber guilty of doing and why did his actions violate the Federal Election Campaign Act?). (This is the same article as the one linked to Campaign Finance Fraud below.)

Instructions for Definitions Quizzes

One complete sentence for each term is sufficient. A definition is more than a true statement about the term; a definition captures the essence or the nature of the term being defined, and this is done by describing the genus and differentia of the term. In defining a term, the genus of the definition is the type of thing that the term is—the general class or category to which the term belongs. For example, the genus of the term "executive privilege" is "a right or a power of the president"; that is, it is one of the many rights or powers possessed by a president of the United States. The differentia of a definition is the particular characteristic that distinguishes the term in question from the other members of the class or category. The differentia that sets "executive privilege" apart from the other rights of the president is that it is his "right to withhold certain information from Congress and the courts." Thus, a good definition would be the following: “Executive privilege is the right of a president to withhold certain information from Congress and the courts.” This definition is a complete sentence; it is in genus and differentia form; and, it says more than something true about the term—it captures its essential nature. On the quiz I will give you eight vocabulary terms: you pick five to define. On the exam, I will give you sixteen and you pick ten.

Grade Calculation Fall and Spring Semesters

Grade Calculation Summer Session

The following is material from past semesters. I will be using a lot of the links again this semester.

Please read (1) pages 188-205 and 210-216 of chapter six of the textbook and (2) the handout (three excerpts from articles by Prior, Price, and Starr) on news and entertainment.

Please read the following sections of the textbook. I suggest that you read the sections of chapter 5 first, then the sections of chapter 4. Please read chapter 5, pages 153-165 and 172-181, and chapter 4, pages 123-130 and 133-140.

Sentiment for a Third Party Rasmussen

Polstats 2015

Gallup Party Affiliation

Virginia GOP Has Choice of State Presidential Primary or State Convention.

For Monday please read (1) pages 386-411 of chapter 11 on the bureaucracy, (2) pages 68-75 of chapter 2 (fiscal federalism), which we did not read earlier when we read chapter 2, and (3) Federalist 51.

A few bureaucratic horror stories:

The magic rabbit disaster plan

2015 EPA Proposed Regs on Ethanol.

"Obama's ex-aides profit from experience".

An alternative to the legislative veto: The Congressional Review Act

Jonathan Turley on the "rise of the fourth branch of government."

Gun Law

Please read the Introduction, pages 13 to 39 of Chapter One, and pages 47 to 65 of Chapter Two of the Turner textbook. Note: only parts of chapters one and two are assigned. You are responsible for the vocabulary (see the lists below) that appears in the assigned pages only.

F.E.C. on the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, as of April 9, 2014

Campaign Finance Cases:

  1. Buckley v. Valeo, 1976
  2. Citizens United v. F.E.C. (2010)
  3. Speechnow.org v. F.E.C. (C.A.D.C. 2010)
  4. McCutcheon v. F.E.C. (2014)

Talk about GOP Coalition, Dan Balz

Talk about The Political Center, Dan Balz

For Wednesday, please read (1) these excerpts from the recent Supreme Court case, Bond v. United States and (2) pages 39-42 in chapter one of the text on judicial review. The excerpts from the Bond case include the complete opinion of the court and an abbreviated opinion by Justice Scalia.

Please read chapter 12 of the textbook. For Wednesday, please read (1) these excerpts from the recent Supreme Court case, Bond v. United States and (2) the pages in chapter one of the text on judicial review.

Please read (1) the material on Political Parties in chapter 7 of the text, pp. 243-257; (2) the material on Campaigns and Congressional Elections in chapter 8 of the text, pp. 267-281, 298-302; and (3) the short newspaper article "Voter Values", linked here. The quiz will be a True-False, Multiple Choice quiz. Don't forget, the mid-term exam is on Wednesday, June 4th! Be sure that you have read all the assigned material by Wednesday. Catch up if you are behind.

You may be interested in this article on the June 10, 2014, Democratic primary. It will be taking place next Tuesday, and it explains all of the campaign signs that you see on your way to school.

Please read chapter 6, pp. 188-204, 210-216, and the readings by Prior, Price, and Starr that I handed out in class. The quiz qill be a definitions quiz. On the vocabulary sheet for chapter 6 below, you are responsible for all of the words in red. A couple of terms from the Prior-Price-Starr readings will also be included. Please reread these instructions for writing definitions:

Please read Chapter Five, pp. 153-165, 172-181,and Federalist #39 for Tuesday.

Article by Mike Wise of the Washington Post, an interesting follow-up to the article by Jonathan Rauch on prejudice. Not assigning it. Just saying.

And this one on the power of interest groups to influence political policy: "Vegas Union Blocks UFC From NY".

Johnson v. California.

Review the study questions following the Rauch article. For the court opinion, consider the following:

  1. Who won the case?
  2. What did the winner win?
  3. What was the decision or judgment of the court?
  4. What was the issue or question that the court was asked to decide?
  5. Did the court decide that the California Prisons policy was unconstitutional? that it was constitutional?

This is one of those "supervisory" opinions that the Supreme Court renders from time to time. Read the opinion carefully.

Justice Scalia's opinion in Florida v. Jardines, decided by the Supreme Court on March 26th.

Jardines v. Florida. If you read or download the Jardines case from the Supreme Court website, you will notice that it comes in four parts:

  1. the two-page syllabus or headnote at the beginning of the materials;
  2. the ten-page opinion by Justice Scalia;
  3. the five-page concurrence of Justice Kagan; and,
  4. the twelve-page dissent by Justice Alito

Scalia's opinion is organized in typical fashion: (1) an initial statement of the issue in the case, (2) a summary of the facts and the prior judicial actions in the case in Part I, (3) an answer to the question or issue with supporting rationale in the different sections of Part II, (4) a pointed response to, and rejection of, some of the arguments of the losing party in Part III, and (5) a short restatement of the holding and decision in the case.

The headnote is helpful in getting an overall understanding of the case, but I would like you to read Justice Scalia's opinion in full and as much of Kagan's and Alito's opinions as necessary to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the precise question that Scalia says the Court is addressing?
  2. Where did this case come from?
  3. Which court(s) decided the question below? How did those courts rule (what did they say?)?
  4. Who appealed (or petitioned the Supreme Court to review) the lower court decision(s)?
  5. What is the Court's answer to the question presented (this is the "holding")?
  6. What reasons does the Court give to support its answer (holding)?
  7. Who won the case before the Supreme Court? This is the decision or judgment of the Court.
  8. Why does Kagan write a separate opinion? Does she disagree with Scalia about the decision or the rationale for the decision that Scalia sets forth?
  9. Is Scalia's opinion the "opinion of the Court" if Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg write separately?
  10. Why does Alito dissent? What is his main disagreement with Scalia's opinion? with Kagan's opinion?

I think some of you will be interested in these two articles: United States Debt Held by China and Bulk of America's debt held not by China but by U.S. itself.

2013 Budget Charts from zerohedge.com



There are many websites devoted to the 2012 presidential primaries. A couple that I have found useful in learning about the presidential nomination process are the Wikipedia website "Republican Presidential Primaries, 2012, and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) calendar of primaries and caucuses. The Wikipedia site lists the primaries and caucuses by date, and the FEC site lists them alphabetically by state.

Wikipedia Presidential Primaries Article

Of the many polling organizations, two well respected ones are The Cook Political Report and The Rasmussen Reports. Check them out.

A good general source of electoral politics is RealClearPolitics.

We will list sources for the economic crisis later in the semester.

Election 2002

Voter Values

If you are interested in following political (and other) polls, the following are two good sources:

Gallup Polls

Rasmussen Political Polling Reports

Articles on the budget situation:

Monster Interest on the National Debt (February 17, 2011);

Government Shutdown article (April 4, 2011) The link at the end of this article to "Full Coverage of Government Shutdown" contains all the information you would ever want to have about what a shutdown entails.

Budget Battle Came Down to Three Men and their Weaknesses.

Though not assigned, you may be interested in the Status of FY 2011 Appropriations Bills.

FY 2015 Budget Graphic

To guide you through Federalist #10, look for answers to the following questions:

  1. How does James Madison define "factions"?
  2. Why are factions a particular problem for democracies? All kinds of democracies?
  3. Why shouldn't we focus on eliminating the causes of faction?
  4. Can we have any control over the effects of factions in democracies?
  5. What two devices were built into the design of the United States Constitution to address the problem of factions?

For Federalist #39. Consider the following as you read the essay:

Madison organizes the essay on the basis of two questions posed by opponents of the 1787 constitution.

  1. What question does Madison first address in the essay?
  2. How does Madison define "republican government"?
  3. How does Madison go about answering the question and what is his final answer?
  4. What is the next question he addresses?
  5. How does Madison define "federal government" and "national government" in Federalist 39?
  6. How does Madison go about answering the second question and what is his final answer?

I may also ask you these questions, so jot down short possible responses as you read the essay.

A few study questions to lead you through Federalist 51:

  1. What is the initial question that Madison addresses?
  2. According to Madison, why should the basic power of government be separated?
  3. Does he insist on a strict separation and independence of the fundamental powers of government?
  4. How does he answer his original question?
  5. What is Madison's view of human nature, or at least of the nature of most politicians?
  6. How does his view of the nature of politicians inform his suggested design of republican government?
  7. In the final two paragraphs of the essay, Madison provides two additional reasons that the American system prevents the concentration of political power. What is the first argument Madison makes?
  8. .
  9. What is Madison's second argument? (The second argument recaps the case Madison made in Federalist #10 for an "extended" republic.)

"Congress's Afterthought, Wall Street's Trillion Dollars," by Appelbaum and Irwin.

Election 2002. Compare the points made in these two older articles (2000 and 2002) with the results reflected in the exit polls of the 2004 and 2008 elections. Are the conclusions in the two articles still true (if they ever were)?

Study Questions for the Marcus Prior, Tom Price, Paul Starr articles on news v. entertainment, the survival of the news media, and the effects of fewer news media.

Key terms from Prior's "News vs. Entertainment" (you can either determine their meaning from the article itself or from other sources):

  1. knowledge gap
  2. selective exposure
  3. chance encounters, indiscriminate viewing
  4. content preference, preference-based gaps
  5. TV as knowledge leveler
  6. socioeconomic-based gaps
  7. political advertising
  1. What is the "knowledge gap" that Prior discusses?
  2. Why is the knowledge gap a cause for concern in our country and in democracies generally?
  3. With more and more information about politics, government, and current events available throught the electronic media, why does the knowledge gap seem to be widening?
  4. Poorer people have less access to the more sophisticated and expensive technologies and media, such as cable television, computers, and smart phones. According to Prior, if all people had equal access to these media (if the "socioeconomic-based gap" were eliminated), is it likely that the public as a whole would be better informed about politics? Why? Why not?
  5. According to Prior, what is the likely effect of political knowledge on voter turnout?
  6. What does Prior suggest as one possible solution to fill the knowledge gap and level the knowledge of political information for the public?
  7. (Take a look at the discussion questions following Prior's article.)

Key terms from Tom Price's "Future of Journalism":

  1. death of newspapers
  2. 18th and 19th century newspapers, the party press era
  3. ripple effect
  4. the press corps
  5. Washington Bureaus
  6. "vetted" news reports
  7. citizen journalists
  8. niche sites
  9. general-circulation newspapers
  1. What is one of the main worries of scholars about the decline of American newspapers?
  2. According to Price, are web-based (online) newspapers the answer?
  3. Why, according to Price, is the health of newspapers (the print media) more important than the health of web-based news, television news, and radio news (the electronic media)?
  4. Answer the three questions posed by Price in the article:
  5. How do Price's conclusions answer Marcus Prior's concerns: If a successful democracy needs a well-informed electorate, does Tom Price's article give us cause to believe that the electronic media will benefit to democracies?

Key terms from Paul Starr's "Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers":

  1. public goods, private goods
  2. news junkies
  3. the information revolution
  4. non-market collaborative networks
  5. original sources, parasitic sources
  6. philanthropic organizations
  1. What is Starr's main concern about online news?
  2. How does Starr's argument agree or disagree with the conclusions and concerns found in Tom Price's article on the death of newspapers?
  3. How does Starr's argument affect Marcus Prior's concerns about the knowledge gap?
  4. What does Starr suggest as solutions to his concern about online news?

Miscellaneous Materials on Campaigns and Elections

Virginia GOP Has Choice of State Presidential Primary or State Convention

Lobbyists as Chief Fund-Raisers

Legislation Responding to Citizens United v. FEC Decision

Gallup Polls

"Libertarians: Don't Call Us Tea Partyers."

Miscellaneous Materials on Congress

Speakers of the House of Representatives

Congressional Elections, 1900 to 2012

John Dean on "Going Nuclear" and the Senate Filibuster

Example of Gerrymandering: North Carolina Congressional District 12

Robert Kaiser on Congress ("Three Reasons Congress is Broken").

Here's an article on Congressional Staffers that might be of interest to you.

Miscellaneous Materials on Lobbying

Not all big lobbying efforts succeed.

Lobbyists Focus on States and Municipalities

The Revolving Door

Competing Lobbyists/Interest Groups

Miscellaneous Materials on the Bureaucracy

Increase of Government Employees since 1942

"Obama's ex-aides profit from experience".

Questioning the Cattle Call: The Congressional Review Act

Jonathan Turley on the "rise of the fourth branch of government."

Bureaucratic Regulation at its Best! Magic Rebbit Regulation

2015 EPA Proposed Regs on Ethanol.

Gun Law

North Carolina's 12th Congressional District

Miscellaneous materials on the 2011 Budget Crisis:

Obama at Risk of Losing Liberal Support

Obama's New Approach: Entitlements on the Table

Budget Battle Came Down to Three Men and their Weaknesses

Shutdown Looks More Likely

Government Shutdown article (April 4, 2011)

Budget Impasse article

"Without a budget, Living in limbo"

House Approves 6th Supplemental March 15th