Monday, 14 March 2011

Examples for exams 1

I thought it might be nice if I started occasionally briefly list examples for politics exams and how they can relate to the content. So I did. This is aimed a A2 politics students doing the US Government and Politics course, particularly Edexcel, but I think all three exam boards have very similar courses. Some will link to Unit 3, some to Unit 4, and some to both. Perhaps it's a bit patronising for a student to be doing this, but I don't have much interesting to say at the moment and wanted to do an article.

Wisconsin gone wild
Wiconsin has been all the rage recently in US news. In a nutshell (what an awful phrase) Governor Scott Walker (Republican) is attempting to reduce the state's deficit, and as part of this move he decided to get public service workers to pay more to their own retirement and welfare funds. What's caused furore, though, is his move to reduce the collective bargaining rights of the unions. Meaning that the unions will have less legal power to get concessions or benefits from their employer - the state government. Since the Republicans had a majority in the state Senate, and the Democrats knew it would get passed, they went into hiding to prevent proceedings continuing. They recently returning from hiding, and the controversial legislation was passed.

How can I go wild in the exam?
  • Weakness of the President:
    Aside from expressing his support for the workers and opposition to Walker's legislation, there was little he could do to influence events.
  • Weakness of the federal government's power:
    It wasn't an issue which the federal government had control over, so was entirely up to the state to resolve.
  • Pressure groups - money:
    It's possible you could link this into pressure group criticism if you make the argument about wealthy groups having greater influence than more poorly funded groups. Governor Walker is pally with the wealthy David Koch (a fact which was revealed through a nifty prank call). Koch also donated to Walker's campaign for government, and Walker's close connection to him  arguably serves as evidence that the wealthy can have more access to politicians than others. You could cite the Buffalo Beast newspaper as taking this view if you want to cite a silly name.
  • Pressure group influence:
    Mostly an example of a lack of influence. Trade unions and labour groups, despite gaining support and donations from workers in many other states, failed to prevent the legislation passing.

Ron Paul's success
Success is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but I like to mention Ron Paul in most of my essays. Mostly because I remember his name and because, wielded correctly, he's a useful weapon in many politics questions. Ron Paul is a Republican, but one who doesn't always fit in with his fellow GOP chums. He's libertarian for the most part, so he supports drug legalisation; is against the Iraq war; supports free markets with minimal government intervention; and wants reduced government spending and taxation. For example, he wants to abolish income tax. (Don't confuse right-wing libertarian with lefty liberal.) He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, and is back again in 2012. Recently, he's had some success: he's won the Tea Party straw poll and the Conservative Political Action Committee Straw Poll.

How can I wield him in the exam?
  • Moderates:
    Ron Paul can be considered to be immoderate, and not in the centre ground. You can cite the success above as suggesting that the influence of moderates in the Republicans has decreased
  • Tea Party:
    His links to the Tea Party and success within the group also serve as a similar example to the above.
  • Presidential election methods:
    Being almost 76 years young, Mr Paul isn't the young whipper-snapper he once was. You can therefore use him as an example of a candidate who is put at a disadvantage in the long, gruelling electoral campaigns.
  • Presidential funding:
    Ron Paul, being less well-known and immoderate has a harder time getting funding. Moreover, he spent none of his own money, whereas opponent Mitt Romeny spent over $44 million of his own money.
  • Views:
    Ron Paul is also an excellent person to cite as someone who has certain views; here's a few samples:
    • Ron Paul hates the Federal Reserve - he thinks it's too powerful and takes power away from the President.
    • Tea Party supporter and an example of a candidate who has ensured he's got independence from his party by getting support and funding from the movement.
    • Supporter of states rights and smaller federal government. Believes federal government is too powerful and does too much.

Obama goes all Skywalker on us
Naturally, I was sad enough to watch the 2011 State of the Union address and write an analysis of it. They key thing I took out of it was a threat of the President using the force of the veto. Obama, keen to keep control of Congress and assert his dominance, said he would veto any legislation with earmarks attached. These are spending commitments which Congressmen have a nasty habit of tacking onto legislation. Obama cited the reason for his threatened veto as helping to reduce the deficit, but really it's political posturing and a show of solidarity with the public, since earmarks account for a minuscule amount of federal government spending.

How can I use the force in my exam?
  • Power of the President:
    Debate both sides. The threat of the veto serves as evidence of how the President can keep control over Congress, but it can also be seen as showing weakness that he's had to threaten such measures already. Could link to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
  • Congressional opposition:
    No sooner had Obama made the threat, prominent Democrats like Harry Reid - Democrat leader in the Senate - started to bitch about it. They said that it would take power away from the Senate and give it to the President, which wasn't something they were prepared to put up with. The willingness of Reid to do this could be seen as showing the President as weak. If you really want to push the boat out, you might even get away with citing Reid as an example of someone who thinks the office of the President is weak. If he didn't, he probably wouldn't publicly whine about his address.
  • Compromise:
    A key theme in the State of the Union was compromise. Obama even offered to compromise with Republicans on changing healthcare legislation. You could say his willingness to compromise suggests Presidential weakness and dependence upon the Senate. Contrast this with pushing through the initial healthcare reform despite strong Republican opposition.
  • Influence of moderates:
    The compromise above could be seen as showing Obama being more willing to take the centre ground. If so, then you could suggest that if the President has become more moderate and open to concession, then the power of moderates must be on the up.

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