Ap us government and Politics: The Playbook Constitutional Underpinnings Key concepts



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AP US Government and Politics: The Playbook
Constitutional Underpinnings

Key concepts:

  • Compare the similarities and differences between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Articles: weak central government, no tax power, weak executive states were sovereign. Constitution: Stronger central government, created federalism with dual sovereignty between national and state, stronger executive, independent judiciary, gained power to tax. Supremacy clause.

  • Why are separation of powers and federalism key parts of the Constitution? Both ensure no single part of government becomes too powerful. Separation of powers is for federal power, creates 3 branches: legislative, executive, and judiciary. Federalism divides power between national, state and local governments.

  • Why didn’t the Constitution originally contain a bill of rights? Why was one added? Most state governments already had one. Some framers feared that if a bill of rights were created, some people in the future might try to say that any rights not listed don’t exist. One was added to please anti-Federalists as a condition of ratifying the Constitution.

  • What are the two ways the Constitution can be amended? Always proposed by 2/3 of Congress; then either ¾ of state legislatures or ¾ of a special conventions called by states

  • Compare the federalist and anti-federalist perspectives. Federalists supported the Constitution and a stronger central government; Anti-Federalists supported states rights and opposed the Constitution

  • What were the primary goals of the anti-federalists? Limit federal government power, protect states rights, add a bill of rights.

  • What is the difference between federal and centralized systems? Federalism: power is divided between federal, state, and local governments. Centralized power is when all the power is held in one place.

  • Give examples that show the U.S. has shifted towards cooperative federalism? Federal government has made laws in areas that were previously reserved to only the states, like health (Medicare/Medicaid, Affordable Care Act), Education: (No Child Left Behind), Licenses: DOMA

  • Why have federal grants-in-aid been politically popular with states? But what are the drawbacks of accepting this federal money? They provide federal money that states can spend within their state and the states don’t have to raise taxes to pay for it. Drawback: the federal government wants the states to do certain things in exchange for that money, like raise their drinking age, agree to federal standards on something the federal government doesn’t technically have power over.

  • Why have categorical grants continued to grow more rapidly than block grants? Categorical grants are money for a specific purpose. Congress is in charge of giving the grants, so giving categorical grants to states gives Congress more power over how that money is spent.

  • How has the relationship between the states and national government changed over time? National has grown stronger. They now influence many areas of government that were supposed to be left to the states. The main way they do this is by giving grants to the states that have conditions of aid, or requirements for what the states must do to receive that money.

  • Distinguish between mandates and conditions of aid. Mandates: rules by the federal government that states must follow whether money is given or not. Not optional. Conditions of aid: what states must do to receive federal grants, technically optional, though most states will comply so they can get the money.

  • What has been the effect of the commerce clause on federal (Congressional) power? Commerce clause allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce. This clause has been interpreted VERY broadly, allowing federal (Congressional) power to increase greatly. Almost anything can be interpreted as “interstate,” allowing Congress to make lots of laws that they probably weren’t intended to have power over.

  • Provide examples of the U.S. becoming more democratic. More democratic = people having more power. So, 15th, 17th, 19th, 26th amendments expanding voting rights are good examples. Primaries have also given people more power picking their party’s candidate for the general election.

  • What is the difference between separation of powers & checks and balances? Separation of powers refers to the powers of the federal government being given to three branches: legislative makes laws, executive enforces laws, and the judiciary interprets laws. Checks and balances refers to the fact that each branch has ways of “checking” or limiting the power of the other branches. So there’s an interaction between branches involved.

  • List key enumerated/expressed powers of the federal government. Declare war, raise an army, tax, coin money

  • What are some limits on federal governmental power? Writ of Habeas Corpus, no bill of attainder, no ex post facto law, Bill of Rights

  • What are some limits on state power? Supremacy clause, incorporation (states now cannot restrict liberties contained in the Bill of Rights once they are incorporated), categorical grants

  • How does the Constitution limit majority rule? Electoral college, Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, bicameralism

  • What features of the Constitution have led to the federal government gaining more power over time? Supremacy clause: if federal law and state law conflict, the federal law trumps the state law; necessary and proper (elastic) clause: allows Congress to make laws and have powers not given to them by the Constitution but related to their expressed powers; it is the basis for Congress’ implied powers; commerce clause: allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce, the SC has taken a broad interpretation of what exactly “interstate” means, giving Congress more power to make laws regulating most commerce.

  • Distinguish between specific powers delegated to federal government and those reserved to the states. Not many specific delegated powers, no list of reserved powers. Everything not specifically delegated was supposed to be reserved to the states according to the 10th amendment. Police, health, welfare, education, etc. are all supposed to be reserved powers, but the federal government has exerted more influence over these areas because of grants in aid.




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