The Price of Power

Happy Constitution Day!

How often does the top spending candidate win their race for the U.S. House of Representatives?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. In 2016, how often did the candidate running for congress who spent less than their opponent win?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is the most important consequence of that story?

  6. Is this story good news for American democracy?

  7. For whom is this good news?

  8. Explain whether the information from the chart above makes it more or less likely that you would run for office in the U.S. Congress one day.

  9. Based on the data from the chart above, make a claim about money and politics in the U.S.

  10. What did the U.S. Constitution say about money in politics?

  11. Based on the data from this chart, when we say,”House of Representatives,” What is the House representative of?

  12. What question do you have about this data?

  13. Respond to this argument a student named Brett made. “The top speding canidate should win the race, because the best candidate will get the most money, so we are just electing the best candidate.”

  14. Respond to the argument made by A student named Bjork who said, “We have a government by the rich, for the rich, and of the rich.”

  15. Explain whether the data in the chart moves the United States more towards democracy or towards plutocracy?

  16. Let’s say that a group of Americans wanted to do something to make the highest spender less likely to win election. What is one action they could take?

  17. What would a typical American liberal say about this chart?

  18. Explain whether the U.S. Congress is likely to pass a law making the highest spender in an election less likely to win.

  19. In general, which costs more a U.S. House seat or a U.S. Senate seat?*

  20. Describe what has happened to the cost of seats in the U.S. congress over the past 40 years.*

  21. Why is that?*

  22. So????? *

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension

Read 10 Things Every Voter Should Know.


Action Extension

Register to vote before it’s too late. If you are already registered or ineligible to vote, help register someone who is eligible to vote.

Happy Constitution Day!

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Government of the states, by the states, and for the states

Cray Cray Government and Politics

In 2040 (only 21 years from now), 30 U.S. Senators, representing the 15 most populous states, will be home to what % of the American population?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprised are you by this data?

  3. Do you live in one of those blue states?

  4. Is that good news for you?

  5. What story does this data tell?

  6. Explain why, in 21 years, so many people will have such little representation.

  7. How different will this be from current representation?

  8. This imbalance means that 33% of the population will get 70% of Senate representation. Explain whether this is fair.

  9. Where in the government will those states with more population get representation equal to their population?

  10. Describe one consequence of this data on American politics?

  11. More populous states tend to be more liberal and less populous states tend to be more conservative. Make a claim about how the ideology of the U.S. Senate in 2040 be different from the U.S. House?

  12. What are some powers that belong only to the Senate?

  13. What is the historical reason that we give every state no matter its size, 2 Senators?

  14. A student who highly valued political equality, advocated abolishing the U.S. Senate and having only a unicameral legislature based only on population. Make a claim about whether that type of legislature would make the United States more democratic?

  15. What makes a state so special today? The original states were basically divided into their shape by colonists 200+ years ago? We know that at the time of the Constitutional Convention, each state was equal, and that made states special. But what makes states special today? Why should they get two senators each, no matter how few people live there? What if we just randomly drew lines on the map dividing the US up into 50 interesting shapes, would each of those shapes deserve special status - and two U.S. Senators? What if we gave the 50 biggest river basins 2 senators? And what if every single person from the state of Delaware moved, would we still give Delaware two Senators?

  16. If we had a unicameral legislature based on population, how would that impact federalism?

  17. If we erased all state lines and just called this the United People of America, how would that impact federalism?

  18. How would American policy be different if we erased all states?

  19. What would an anti-Federalist (like Thomas Jefferson) say about erasing all states?

  20. Brutus I (which I’ll call an Anti-Federalist Paper) argues, “The first question that presents itself on the subject is, whether a confederated government be the best for the United States or not? Or in other words, whether the thirteen United States should be reduced to one great republic, governed by one legislature, and under the direction of one executive and judicial; or whether they should continue thirteen confederated republics, under the direction and controul (sp!) of a supreme federal head for certain defined national purposes only?” How would a good federalist (like James Madison) respond to this argument?

  21. How would you respond to this argument?

Learning Extension

You know the magazine, GQ? The one with all the pictures of beautiful people? Yeah, that one. They also have words. Check out this interesting argument for why we should abolish the Senate.

Action Extension

Tell your best friend in the whole world (BFF) whether you think we should abolish the Senate. Share your argument and their reaction in class or online.

Visual Extension

Whatever you do, don’t share this with your English teacher!!!!!!!

Whatever you do, don’t share this with your English teacher!!!!!!!

N.R.A. to N.R.Z

GoPoPro

Over the past decade, what has happened to the number of As (best score) and Fs (worst) the National Rifle Association has assigned Democrats in Congress?


N.R.A. Letter Grade Assigned to Congressional Democrats

  1. Describe one trend you see in the data.

  2. What policy positions do you think earns an A grade from the N.R.A.?

  3. Explain why the trend illustrated in the chart has occurred.

  4. What is a consequence of the change illustrated in the chart?

  5. Explain whether the information from the chart is good news, bad news, or something else?

  6. What most surprised you about this data?

  7. Predict what this chart will look like in 2028.

  8. What questions do you have about this data?

  9. Would you personally prefer to get an A grade or an F grade from the N.R.A.?

  10. What grade did your U.S. House Representative and U.S. Senators get from the NRA?

  11. NRA grades dating back to 2009 are available for download here. List the scores the NRA gave your representatives.

  12. Explain whether the changes displayed in this chart is a sign of growing strength or growing weakness of the N.R.A.

  13. The N.R.A. has lost most of its Democratic allies in Congress but it has a stronger White House ally than ever before. If you were an interest group, explain whether you would rather have strong ties to the White House or to Congress.

  14. During this same time period as shown in the chart above, what has happened to the N.R.A. ratings of Republican Congresspeople?*

  15. Why do you think this has happened?

  16. American politics are generally becoming increasingly polarized (moving away from the center towards the extremes). Explain a connection between this wider trend of political polarization and the data in the chart?

  17. For a number of reasons, including the power of the N.R.A., gun control legislation has been remarkably difficult to pass, especially at the national level. Explain whether the data in this chart makes gun control more likely.

  18. The N.R.A. is an interest group. What are some of the tactics interest groups typically use to achieve their goals?

  19. What specific methods has the N.R.A. used to successfully stop or delay gun control legislation?

  20. How much do the N.R.A. rankings impact American elections?*

  21. Explain whether a positive N.R.A. rating (A) is a negative or a positive for Democrats running for election.

  22. The N.R.A. is now mostly concentrating its campaign funding on candidates in safe seat districts. What does that tell us about the strength of the N.R.A.?

  23. In 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that not only federal gun control laws, but also state gun control laws (incorporation doctrine!!!!) were unconstitutional and violate the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the individuals the right to own guns. Make a claim about whether the reduction of N.R.A. power in Congress will ultimately make a difference in American gun regulation.

  24. Assault weapons are a relatively new class of semi-automatic firearm based on high-powered military designs, specifically designed to kill humans quickly and efficiently. The Second Amendment passed Congress on September 25, 1789 and was ratified by the states on December 15, 1791 becoming the second of the first 10 amendments to form the Bill of Rights. Do you think the authors of this amendment meant to protect the right of individuals to personally own military-grade weapons?

Learning Extension

Read these two very interesting and different interpretations of the Second Amendment by legal scholars. Read The Reasonable Right to Bear Arms and Not a Second Class Right: The Second Amendment Today and be prepared to claim which interpretation your find most persuasive.

Action Extension

Take a look at these sites representing both sides of the gun issue.

Tell your classmates what you learned, which side you support and why. Then check out this easy-to-use guide to contact your representative and tell them what you think about guns.

terrible-maps-03.jpg
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Mike Drop

Are there more Johns and Mikes or more female members of the House GOP (Republican Party)?

  1. What story does the chart tell?

  2. Explain why that is the case.

  3. Because of the data from the chart, explain one consequence on American politics.

  4. Is this good news?

  5. Does this information surprise you?

  6. List one question you have about this data:

  7. 50% of Americans are female. 23% of Congress is female. Imagine that 50% of the House was female. Consider how that would that change American public policy. Describe three specific policies that would impact.

  8. Explain whether you personally think that would be a good change.

  9. 50% of Americans are female. 23% of Congress is female. List the top three reasons for this lack of gender parity:

  10. How different do you imagine this data will be in 40 years (if there is a Congress in 40 years)?

  11. How different do you predict this data was 100 years ago?

  12. How do you think the number of Johns or Mikes compares to the number of female House members of the Democratic Party?*

  13. What about the demographic (race,age, gender, religion, etc.) makeup and ideological (beliefs and values) makeup of the two major US parties explains this difference?

  14. A student of mine once asked, in exasperation, “How could any woman be a Republican?” How would you answer her question?

  15. Based on the terms lengths and the way members of the House and the Senate are elected, explain whether the Senate or the House is more male or female?*

  16. In the comments section below list the first year you believe the U.S. Congress will achieve gender parity and be 50% female:

*Visual Extension

*There are 7 Democratic House Members named John or Mike. Believe me, I read the entire list.

*Fun Fact-The following House members first names are real:

Learning Extension

Read more about all the Republican and Democratic women in the U.S. House from the Center For American Women and Politics

Action Extension

Find out how many women, Mikes, and Johns represent your state in the U.S. House of Representatives. Share your answer in class or online.

Even-these-Terrible-Maps-can-teach-us-something%u2028-43bc53a0-9976-4123-939c-2e808c0948c9.jpg
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Shrinking Swing Seats

AP US Government and Politics

Out of 435 House seats how many are swing seats*?

*A swing seat is a district held with a small majority that is generally competitive in a legislative election. Because the number of Democrats and Republicans in a swing district are so close, a swing seat might be won by a Republican one election, and then a Democrat the next. This is also known as a competitive seat. The opposite is a safe seat, an district that is drawn so that it is predictably won by one party or the other, so the success of that party's candidate is almost taken for granted.

Cook Political Report

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this chart tell?

  3. Explain one reason the number of swing seats is shrinking.

  4. What is one consequence of the shrinking number of swing seats?

  5. What is good about swing seats?

  6. Is the shrinking number of swing seats good news or bad?

  7. How surprising was this information?

  8. What would be one way for there to be more swing seats in the US?

  9. Who draws the district lines in US house races?

  10. Does this chart make majority leadership in the House likely to change parties any time soon?

  11. How does the lack of swing seats affect how campaign and elections are run?

  12. If you were to extrapolate these trends into the future what would the chart look like by the year 2020?

  13. If you were a representative in a safe seat, explain what incentive you would have to listen to the will of the people or compromise on your views.

  14. Explain whether the Senate has swing seats.

  15. How would having more competitive elections, instead of elections where we already know who will win in almost all elections, impact the kind of policies we get?

  16. What questions do you have about this?

  17. How does this information impact American democracy?


Learning Extension

I have not lived in a swing seat during my adulthood. Instead, the two districts I have lived in have been safe for one party for the past two decades. Check out the Cook Political Report chart of very few competitive races from 2016 or take a gander at this interactive map of competitive seats from 270 to Win.


Action Extension

Find out if your district is a swing seat. Share your answer in class or online. Contact your US House representative and explain to them why they do or don't need to listen to the will of the people or compromise in any way.


Bonus Map

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