Constitutional requirements to stand for president
- Natural-born American citizen
- At least 35 years old
- Residency qualification of 14 years
- Can only hold office twice (after 1951)
Extra-constitutional traits to stand for president
- Political experience
- Major party endorsement
- Personal characteristics
- Ability to raise large sums of money
- Effective organisation
- Oratorical skills and being telegenic
- Sound and relevant policies
What is an invisible primary?
The period between declaring an intention to run and the first contests of the primary season
What are primaries?
A state based election to choose a party's candidate for the presidency
What are caucuses?
A state based series of meetings for the selection of a party's candidate for the presidency
What is super Tuesday?
A Tuesday in early February when a number of states coincide their presidential primaries in order to try to gain influence for their region in the selection of major party presidential candidates
What is front loading?
Where states schedule their primaries or caucuses early (before the end of March)
What is an open primary?
Where any registered voter can vote in either party's primary
What is a closed primary?
Where only registered Democrats can vote in the Democrat primaries or vice versa
What are the strengths of primaries?
- Increased participation
- Increased choice of candidates
- Process opened up to outsiders
- Power or party bosses abolished
- A gruelling race for a gruelling job
What are the weaknesses of primaries?
- Can lead to widespread voter apathy
- Voters are unrepresentative
- Process is too long
- Process is too expensive
- Process is too dominated by the media
- Can develop into bitter personal battles
- Lack of 'peer' review
The strategies used in choosing vice-president
- A balanced ticket
- Potential in government
- Party unity
Formal functions of National Party Conventions
- Choosing the party's presidential candidate
- Choosing the vice-presidential candidate
- Deciding the party platform
Informal functions of National Party Conventions
- Promoting party unity
- Enthusing the party faithful
- Enthusing the ordinary voters
National Party Conventions are important
- Only time national parties meet
- Opportunity to promote party unity
- Opportunity to enthuse party members and activists
- Introduce new new vice-presidential candidate
- Many voters don't tune into the campaign until the conventions
- A significant number of voters make their decision during the conventions
- Can lead to significant post- convention 'bounce' in polls
- Presidential nominee's acceptance speech is key moment in campaign
National Party Conventions are not important
- Presidential candidate now decided during primaries
- No second ballot at either convention since 1952
- Vice-presidential candidate now announced before the convention convenes
- Party platform agreed by the platform committee before the convention
- Television coverage much reduced
- Both 2012 conventions only lasted 3 days instead of 4
What are the strengths of The Electoral College?
- Preserves the voice of the small-population states
- Winner is likely to receive more than 50% of the popular vote because it promotes a two horse race
What are the weaknesses of The Electoral College?
- Small populated states over-represented
- Winner-takes-all system can distort the result
- Possible for a candidate to lose the popular vote but win in the Electoral College
- Unfair to national third parties
- 'Rogue' or 'faithless' electors
- Potential problems regarding system to be used if Electoral College is deadlocked
What are propositions?
A mechanism by which citizens of a state can place proposed laws - and in some states, constitutional amendments - on the state ballot.
What is a direct proposition?
Proposals that qualify go straight on the ballot
What are the pros of propositions?
- Help increase voter turnout
- Increase citizen interest in state policy issues
- Increase responsiveness and accountability
- Provide a way of enacting reforms on controversial reforms
What are the cons of propositions?
- Lack of flexibility of the legislative process
- Vulnerable to manipulation by interest groups
What is an indirect proposition?
A proposition submitted to the state legislature who decide what further action should be taken
Recent examples of propositions
- Same sex marriage, 2012. Maryland, Maine and Washington State all voted to approve
- Use of marijuana, 2012. Colorado and Washington state legalised recreational use
What is a referendum?
A vote on something the state legislature proposes.
What is a a popular referendum?
Citizens of a state can demand a referendum if not happy with a law that has been passed (used in 24 states)
What are recall elections?
A procedure which enables voters in a state to remove an elected official from office before their term has expired. Can be seen as a direct form of impeachment
The most recent example of a recall election
The Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, was challenged but beat his Democrat opponent 53% to 46% in 2012
What is pluralism?
Where power is distributed amongst a number of groups representing widely different interests within society, not just the electorate or governing elite
What is elitism?
Where power rests with a small group who gain power through wealth, family status or intellectual superiority
What are institutional pressure groups?
A group that seeks to represent other organisations and groups
What are membership pressure groups?
A group that seeks to represent individual Americans rather than organisations or groups
What are the functions of pressure groups?
- Agenda building
- Programme monitoring
- Public education
What are the reasons people join pressure groups?
- Material benefits
- Solidarity benefits
- Purposive benefits
What are the methods used by pressure groups?
- Electioneering and endorsement
- Organising grassroots activities
What are iron triangles?
An impenetrable relationship between pressure groups, congressional committees and federal agencies in a given policy area for the mutual benefit of these three parties
What is revolving-door syndrome?
The practice by which former members of congress (or the executive branch) take up well-paid jobs with Washington-based lobbying firms and then use their expertise and contacts to lobby the institution of which they were once a member
Current examples of pressure groups
- National Association of Realtors
- The National Rifle Association (NRA)
- The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- The National Farmers Union (NFU)
- The American Bar Association (ABA)
What are the pros of pressure groups?
- Provide legislators and bureaucrats with useful information
- Act as a sounding board during policy formulation
- Provide order, priorities, and aggregations to political debate
- Broaden opportunities for participation both during and between elections
- Can increase levels of accountability on legilators and elected executive branch members
- Increase opportunities for representing minority interests
- Enhance freedom of speech and freedom of association - two basic democratic rights
What are the cons of pressure groups?
- Revolving-door syndrome
- Iron triangle relationships
- Inequality between groups leading to unfair reprsentation of some views
- Concentration on 'special interest' at the expense of the 'public interest'
- Over-influence of money, Some methods used by some groups
What are political action committees?
Pressure groups that collect money from their members and then give it to candidates and political parties that support their interests
What is lobbying?
An attempt to exert influence on the policy-making, legislative or judicial process by individuals or organised groups
What is direct action?
A form of pressure group activity that most often favours the use of non-violent or violent physical protest over the more traditional forms of lobbying such as e-mailing and petitions
What are super PACs?
Fundraising committees which are permitted to receive unlimited contributions and make unlimited expenditure aimed at either electing or defeating candidates in federal elections. They are forbidden from making any direct contributions to federal candidates or parties
What are the seven steps of the electoral process?
- Invisible primary
- Primaries and caucuses
- Choosing of the vice-presidential candidate
- National Party Conventions
- General election campaigns
- Election day
- The Electoral College