Liberty and equality. These words represent basic values of democratic political systems, including that of the United States. Rule by absolute monarchs and emperors has often brought peace and order, but at the cost of personal freedoms. Democratic values support the belief that an orderly society can exist in which freedom is preserved. But order and freedom must be balanced.
The American colonies began developing a democratic tradition during their earliest stages of development. Over 150 years later, the colonists believed their experience was great enough to refuse to recognize the British king. The first decade was rocky. The American Revolution and the domestic instability that followed prompted a call for a new type of government with a constitution to guarantee liberty. The constitution drafted in the early days of the independent American republic has endured longer than any in human history.
So the freedom that the American Revolution sought to preserve proved to create a government under the Articles of Confederation that could not keep law and order. But the failure of the initial experiment helped the founders to find a more perfect balance between liberty and order in the Constitution they produced in 1787.
Most of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had already risked being hanged as traitors by the British. No wonder that they worried about their states' reactions to their decision to abandon the Articles of Confederation and create a whole new document.
Famous events from American history åÑ the movement West, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, involvement in World Wars I and II, the New Deal and the Great Society åÑ have been expressions of American political culture. Many events have questioned and answered various interpretations of American values and beliefs. But most of all, the political culture defines political attitudes, institutions, and activities that are most cherished in American political life.
Given the challenges of accurate polling of public opinion, it is amazing that polls that follow the right steps almost always make the right predictions. They've come a long way since George Gallup helped his mother-in-law win her election in 1932.
Today many Americans take pride in their status as "independent voters," partly because they see parties as lacking vision for the country. Since many Americans have become disenchanted by partisan politics, they avoid identification as a "loyal Democrat" or a "staunch Republican." These negative attitudes toward parties are rooted in the roles that they play in American politics.
So, the election is over. How can the average American remain involved in politics without waiting for the next election? One chief means of influencing the American government is by joining an interest group an organization that pressures elected officials to enact legislation favorable to its causes.
Not since television has an innovation had the potential to impact politics greater than the Internet. With more and more Americans getting wired, the ability to reach millions of voters will be a lure which no politician can resist.
The Constitution specifically grants Congress its most important power the authority to make laws. A bill, or proposed law, only becomes a law after both the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved it in the same form. The two houses share other powers, many of which are listed in Article I, Section 8. These include the power to declare war, coin money, raise an army and navy, regulate commerce, establish rules of immigration and naturalization, and establish the federal courts and their jurisdictions.
Committees help to organize the most important work of Congress considering, shaping, and passing laws to govern the nation. 8,000 or so bills go to committee annually. Fewer than 10% of those bills make it out for consideration on the floor.
The founders feared the masses. Cautious about granting powers to the general voting public, they created a safety valve against popular will. The American people do not technically elect their President. Electors do.
The Constitution painstakingly defines the structure and functions of the legislative (Congressional) branch of the government. It clearly (although less thoroughly) addresses the responsibilities and powers of the president. But, it treats the judicial branch almost as an afterthought. Article III specifically creates only one court (the Supreme Court), allows judges to serve for life and to receive compensation, broadly outlines original and appellate jurisdiction, and outlines the trial procedure for and limitations of congressional power against those accused of treason.
What rights can Americans claim if they are accused of crimes? The 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments provide much of the constitutional basis of these rights.
The moment had finally come. Far too much bad blood existed between the colonial leaders and the crown to consider a return to the past. More and more colonists felt deprived by the British not only of their money and their civil liberties, but their lives as well. Bloodshed had begun over a year ago and there seemed little chance of a ceasefire. The radical wing of the Continental Congress was gaining strength with each passing day. It was time for a formal break with mother England. It was time to declare independence.
Huitzilopochtl, God of the Sun, was the Aztec principal god. He had an insatiable appetite for blood. Under his urging, the Aztecs rose from a band of primitive farmers to become the bloodiest civilization of the early Americas. Many Central America cultures indulged in human sacrifice. The Aztec practiced it on an industrial scale, sacrificing tens of thousands of victims each year.
Public education is the single largest expenditure for state and local governments across the nation. Yet it is arguably the most criticized. Many people charge that public schools are faltering and that American academic achievements are far behind those in other countries. In recent years, many states and localities have experimented with improving public schools.
As 19th century America grew larger, richer, and more diverse, it was also trying to achieve a culture that was distinct and not imitative of any in Europe. At the same time, the thirst for individual improvement had local communities creating debating clubs, library societies, and literary associations for the purpose of sharing interesting and provocative ideas. Maybe, people speculated, if any society were completely reorganized, it could be regenerated and, ultimately, perfected. Utopia, originally a Greek word for an imaginary place where everyone and everything is perfect, was sought in America through the creation of model communities within the greater society.
Transcendentalism is a very formal word that describes a very simple idea. People, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that "transcends" or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel.