The Constitution created a federal government whereby power is shared between the federal and state governments as well as the citizens. The Constitution delegates specific power to the federal government and under the Tenth Amendment reserves the remaining power to the states and to the people. However, over time Congress has attempted to expand federal power by placing conditions on the state receipt of federal funds as an extension of Congress’s spending power under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has approved these conditional spending programs as a valid exercise of Congress’s spending power but has placed requirements on them in order to ensure they do not go too far as to make them an unconstitutional exercise of power. Question still exist, however, as to whether or not these programs violate the very principles of federalism that form the foundation of our constitutional system of government.
The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits Congress from abridging free speech and the Fourteenth Amendment has been interpreted to extend those prohibitions to state and local governments as well. Over time the Supreme Court has interpreted speech to extend to financial contributions to campaigns, political parties and other political organizations engaged in influencing election results. In addition, the Court has extended some rights of personhood to corporations, including protections of corporate speech against government infringement. Starting after the Watergate scandal, Congress has attempted at several junctions to limit the financial contributions of individuals and corporations to political entities. The Supreme Court, in response, has invalidated an increasing number of those restrictions as unconstitutional restrictions of free speech. Campaign finance regulations and the constitutional protection of free speech raise difficult and essential questions about the role and impact of money in elections and what constitutes an effective democracy.
Students will explain the different between the general election and the electoral college. Students will describe the election process.
The Constitution created a federal government based on the principle of eparation of powers among the branches in order to prevent the abuse of power so feared by our Founders. That separation of powers provides Congress with the power to tax, spend and borrow money while execution of those policies falls on the President. In addition, Congress has created a statutory debt ceiling that limits federal government borrowing, while at the same time passing spending policies that can and sometimes do exceed the very debt ceiling Congress has established, creating conflicting orders for the executive to enforce. Further complicating matters is the meaning of Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment regarding the validity of the public debt of the United States and the burdens Section 4 imposes on Congress and the President. These Constitutional issues could intersect and put the President in the precarious position of deciding the constitutionality and necessity of continuing to borrow money on behalf of the federal government in excess of the debt ceiling in order to avoid default.
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments slowed (but hardly eliminated) the pervasive racial discrimination that was a principal cause of the Civil War. The principle of equal protection is embodied in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution and in general prohibits governments from passing laws that treat citizens differently without good reason. Racial discrimination has always been viewed under strict scrutiny by the Supreme Court, and other groups have successfully challenged federal and state laws as being indefensibly discriminatory. State laws have historically limited marriage to marriage between a man and a woman, yet over time more and more Americans began to challenge this conception of marriage and demanded marriage equality that allowed equal access to the benefits of marriage for same-sex couples. A series of legal challenges to state laws eventually resulted in the Supreme Court affirming the Constitution’s protection of marriage equality under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Introduce the topic of voting in this country by watching the video "A History of Voting Rights- New York Times". Students will then summarize the key points from the video and about voting in general.
In this lesson, students learn the complexities of the election process, with a focus on the electoral college and its effect on the campaign process. Students play "Win the White House" from iCivics after an introduction to the electoral college.
The word democracy describes a government by the people, in which citizens exercise their power by voting. In our democracy, citizens have rights that include being able to express our opinions, receive a free education, and practice any religion we choose. U.S. citizens won and protected these rights through voting. Having the right to vote is part of living in a democracy. And exercising that right is a way for citizens to take responsibility for - and take part in - their government.
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