Senate So White

White Americans are better represented in the U.S. Senate than any other racial group. What group has the least representation?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does the chart tell?

  3. Explain why this racial disparity in representation exists?

  4. What is one consequence of this disparity?

  5. In a democracy, all people are supposed to be equal. Does this chart show that all people in America are equal?

  6. Describe a connection between the data from this chart and the Connecticut Compromise.

  7. What could remedy the inequality described in the chart?

  8. Should we remedy this inequality?

  9. The author of the editorial the above chart comes from proposes that D.C. and Puerto Rico become states. How would that impact the data from the chart?

  10. Descibe one policy change that would likely happen if all racial groups in America were represented equally?

  11. One students responded to this chart by making the claim that it doesn’t matter what race of politician represents a state or district as long as they do what is best for the country. Respond to this claim.

  12. What story does the chart below tell?

Learning Extension

Read David Leonhardt’s NYTimes editorial, The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People to learn a bit more about how racial disparities in politics works.

Action Extension

Read the comments on David Leonhardt’s NYTimes editorial, The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People then leave your own comment.

Political Animal Extension

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Old Congress, Young You

AP U.S. Old Government and Politics

What is the average age of a member of the U.S. Congress?

AP US Government and Politics    GoPo Pro

AP US Government and Politics

GoPo Pro

  1. How wrong was your prediction?

  2. What trend do you see in the data?

  3. Why do you think Congress is getting so much older?

  4. What is one consequence of having such an old Congress?

  5. Would you want your grandparents or family members of age 60 and up to represent you in Congress?

  6. What are some mechanisms of how elections and parties work that might explain why Congress is so old?

  7. How do you think the age of Congress impacts gun legislation? How different do you think Congress' age would have been at the founding of our nation?

  8. What do do you think is one policy issue that Congress' old age might actually help it tackle?

  9. What is one policy issue that Congress' age might hurt its ability to legislate?

  10. Is this all good news or bad news?

  11. What is the average age of an American?*

  12. If there was a Silver Alert (missing senior) in Congress, how would the Capitol Police know which Congressperson to help????!

  13. What would be some immediate policy changes if the average age of Congress was suddenly equal to that of America = 37.9?

  14. There are age minimum requirements for Congress! What are those age requirements for the House and the Senate?**

  15. How likely is it that Congress will lower its age average requirement?

  16. Why don't we have age maximums?

  17. How different do you think American politics would be if we had 12 year term limits?

  18. Are you surprised that Democrats are older than Republicans?

  19. What do you think is the average age of new members of Congress?***

*37.9 years!

**House = 25; Senate = 30 years!

***Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Read this 538 article about the aging of Congress?

Action Extension

My U.S. House Representative is 74 years young. Contact your Congressional Representative or Senator and ask them how their age impacts how they legislate. If they are young use email. If they are old send a carrier pigeon. Share your correspondence in class or online.

 

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Approval Ratings

AP U.S. Government and Politics

Every Day is Presidents Day in GoPo

What president has had the highest approval rating since 1946?

Driven By Data    AP US Government and Politics

Driven By Data

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this chart tell?

  3. What do you think causes presidential approval ratings to generally decline over a presidential term?

  4. Which president had the steepest decline of approval ratings?

  5. Which president had the biggest increase in their approval ratings?

  6. Describe Trump’s approval ratings in comparrison with the other presidents from the chart.

  7. How have rally points impacted recent presidential approval ratings?

  8. Think about how history will impact the future public’s opinion of all the presidents listed in the chart. In other words, 50 years from now, how will we regard these presidents? (That, is will we like each president more or less in the future???)

  9. How do you imagine that falling approval ratings affect the ability of presidents to govern?

  10. How do presidential approval ratings impact midterm elections?

  11. How do presidential approval ratings impact presidential elections?

  12. If you were to add POTUS Trump since his first year in office to this chart what would his approval numbers look like?

  13. What does this chart tell us about the American public?

  14. Describe the economic factors that impact presidential approval ratings.*

  15. What does the chart tell us about political polarization?

  16. They didn’t exactly have polling back then, but what do you imagine George Washington’s approval ratings would have been?

  17. What about Lincoln (think hard)?

  18. Write one question you have about this information:

  19. How do you celebrate Presidents' Day?

  20. In Federalist No. 70, Alexander Freaking Hamilton argues for a strong executive leader, as provided for by the Constitution, as opposed to the weak executive under the Articles of Confederation. He asserts, “energy in the executive is the leading character in the definition of good government. What do you think Hamilton would think about approval ratings and their impact on presidential power?

  21. Explain why Trump’s approval ratings do NOT deviate that much over time. What impact do his static ratings numbers have on American politics.

  22. In the comments section way below, if you were elected president, what would be one thing you could do to immediately improve your approval rating, and what is one thing you could do to make your approval ratings immediately tank?

Visual Extension*

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Learning Extension

Check out these Presidential Approval Ratings charts and story from the Pew Research Center. Or follow the daily interactive Trump approval ratings tracker from FiveThirtyEight.

Action Extension

Go to this interactive Wall Street Journal presidential approval ratings chart. Scroll through each president to see their approval ratings, and the inflection points where their approval went up or down. What generally causes approval ratings to fall and what usually causes approval ratings to go up? Contact POTUS Trump with one piece of advice about improving his approval ratings.

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Paternity Leave Me Alone

How many total weeks of paid leave is mandated to new parents by the American federal government?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this?

  3. What is the big story that this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think that the United States, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is the only one on this chart to offer ZERO mandated paternal leave?

  5. Based only on family leave, would you rather live in a country which offered mandated paternity leave or a country which offered no mandatory parental leave?

  6. Of course, there are also no laws forbidding employers from offering paid parental leave. What kind of people then, get paid parental leave?

  7. What is one consequence of this?

  8. Explain whether you think it is better to leave decisions about parental leave to companies or whether this should be mandated by the government?

  9. What would a libertarian say about this?

  10. Do. you think private companies should be allowed to abuse workers or discriminate against them or should that be regulated by the government?

  11. Because of federalism, do you think that we have similar laws in each state regarding mandated paid parental leave?

  12. Explain whether the data from this chart is good news.

  13. In general, what is American public opinion regarding mandated paid parental leave?*

  14. How much does party identification impact Americans’ views on paternity leave?*

  15. How much does age impact Americans’ views on paternity leave?*

  16. How much does gender and income impact whether Americans actually take parental leave?*

  17. Americans making over $75,000 a year take, on average, TWICE as much paternity leave as Americans making under $30,000 a year. Describe how that impacts the American Dream and Equality of Opportunity.

  18. What about American political culture and values explains why we are the only modern post-industrial (rich) country that does NOT give any mandated paid paternity leave?

  19. What is one positive consequence of not having paid paternal leave?

  20. What is one negative consequence of not having paid paternal leave?

  21. Let’s say you wanted America to have a national policy of mandated paid parental leave. What House or Senate committees might have jurisdiction over this topic?

  22. Let’s say you wanted America to have a national policy of mandated paid parental leave. What interest groups might join you in your fight and how might they partner with you to make this policy happen?

  23. Imagine you wanted to change the rules of paternity leave in the US. What part of the US bureaucracy would be tasked with these sorts of rules?

  24. Explain how US federalism might complicate the issue of a universal paternity leave from the US government?

  25. In the comments section below, explain whether you personally think the US should grant mandated paid leave to mothers or fathers.

Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Read this article from The Week about how the US ended up with the worst maternity leave laws on earth.

Action Extension

Contact your US Senator and share your opinion about paid paternity leave.

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Release or Not?

What percent of Americans think that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report should be released to the American public?

  1. How accurate was your incorrect prediction?

  2. How surprised are you by this data?

  3. What is the big story the data tell?

  4. What is one consequence of this?

  5. Explain whether you personally think the Mueller report should be released to the American public.

  6. In a democracy, one would think that if 84% of people supported a certain idea or policy that it would happen. Explain whether you personally think the Mueller report will be released to the American public.

  7. Describe the partisan impact on the results of the survey.

  8. Typically, Democrats and Republicans agree on almost nothing. Explain why Republicans and Democrats are mostly united in their opinion of the Mueller report being made public.

  9. What group of Americans is least supportive of the Mueller report being released to the American public?

  10. What group of Americans is most supportive of the Mueller report being released to the American public?

  11. What is the most persuasive argument you have heard for why the report should be released?

  12. What is the most persuasive argument you have heard for why the report should NOT be released?

  13. How has the Mueller investigation impacted your view of the American government and political system?

  14. What branch of government is the Department of Justice a part of?

  15. Who hires and fires the head of the Justice Department, the Attorney General?

  16. In what way is the Mueller investigation an example of checks and balances and in what way is it NOT an example?

  17. How has the Mueller investigation impacted your view of the Trump presidency and the office of the president?

  18. In recent years, many political observers have made the claim that the American presidency was becoming weaker. Based on your knowledge of the Mueller investigation and the American political system, how would you respond to that argument.

  19. In Federalist No. 70 (1788), Alexander Hamilton (The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father/Got a lot farther by workin’ a lot harder/
    By bein’ a lot smarter/By bein’ a self-starter/
    By fourteen, they placed him in charge of a trading charter)
    argues for a strong executive leader, as provided for by the Constitution, as opposed to the weak executive under the Articles of Confederation. Hamilton asserts, “energy in the executive is the leading character in the definition of good government.” What would someone like Hamilton who wanted a strong executive think about an investigation of the president?

  20. How do most Americans feel about the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation?*

  21. How do demographics impact Americans’ opinion on the Mueller investigation?*

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, was supposed to decide whether President Trump had committed a crime. Why did the attorney general, William Barr, do it instead? Listen to this Mueller Report episode of The Daily

Action Extension

Contact the Department of Justice and share your thoughts about whether the Mueller Report should be released.

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Changes in Spending

AP US Government & Politics

By 2040, what portion of U.S. Federal budget spending will be discretionary

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending?

  3. List two examples of mandatory spending:

  4. List two examples of discretionary spending:

  5. What story do these charts tell?

  6. What is one reason for the changing nature of U.S. federal spending?

  7. What are two consequences of the changing nature of U.S. federal spending?

  8. As discretionary spending gets squeezed, what are some specific discretionary U.S. government programs that you think might get cut?

  9. Describe the general trend in overall (discretionary + mandatory)U.S. government spending?

  10. What specific parts of the government play a major role in creating the budget?

  11. Describe the U.S. Government’s budgetary process.

  12. Let's say that you felt the government was spending too much money on mandatory spending. Is there anything the federal government could do about this?

  13. Overall, is this good news or bad?

  14. Why doesn't the U.S. save money and just stop paying the interest on the debt?

  15. What questions do you have about all this?

  16. In the comments section below, list one program or expenditure that you wouldn't mind seeing cut from the US federal budget.


Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Learn more about the changes in discretionary spending at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.


Action Extension

Plug in your family information to the tax receipt calculator to see where the federal government spent your family's taxes.

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The Center Cannot Hold

AP US Government and Politics

How much ideological overlap is there between U.S. House Democrats and Republicans?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What political ideology is most associated with each of the parties?

  3. What is one trend you see in the data?

  4. What are two causes of this trend?

  5. What is one consequence of this trend?

  6. Is this good news for the average American?

  7. What question do you have about this chart?

  8. In 2012 there were only 11 members of the House of Representatives who had overlapping ideology. What part of the country or type of district do you think these crossover House members are from?

  9. How does ideological overlap in the U.S. Senate compare to the overlap in the U.S. House?

  10. How does ideological overlap in the U.S. Congress compare to the overlap in the U.S. population?

  11. Explain how the trend from the chart above affects the ability of the president to govern.

  12. Imagine that the Supreme Court declares gerrymandering unconstitutional and forces state legislatures to appoint independent panels to redraw all districts without gerrymandering. Explain how the data in the chart would change in the next ungerrymandered congress?

  13. Gerrymandering was named after Elbridge Gerry. Four decades from now, when political scientists use the term Trumping what will it mean? Submit your answer in the comments section below!

  14. How will the Trump administration impact the level of polarization in the future?

  15. If you extrapolate from the data, how many crossover votes do you imagine there will be in 2020?

  16. In the comments section, explain the connection between the data and the fact that less than 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing:

Take Our Survey
Take Our Survey
I approve of the job Congress is doing.

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension

Read this Pew Research Center report on political polarization. Or watch this BBC video about polarization.

Action Extension

Take the Pew Political Typology Quiz and then compare your results to your Congressional Representative's ideology scorecard.

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Census So White

What ethnic group is most concerned that the answers they provide to the 2020 Census will be used against them?

  1. How wrong was your assumption?

  2. How surprised are you by this information?

  3. What story does this data tell?

  4. How accurately does this data reflect your own story?

  5. The U.S. census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. Describe precisely (feel free to quote it) who the U.S. constitution says should be counted:

  6. more than $800 billion in annual federal funds are allocated based in part on Census population data. That’s a lot of money! What else is the Census data used for anyway?

  7. The Census question many Americans are worried about asks, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" Why would this question worry anyone?

  8. Of all ethnic and racial groups, Explain why Asians are the most concerned and Whites the least concerned about census data being used against them.

  9. The Census Bureau expects that 630,000 households may not complete the 2020 Census because of a potential question asking about respondents' citizenship question. Why would the CENSUS BUREAU INTENTIONALLY ask a question they know will SKEW the results of the SURVEY data?

  10. What U.S. Government department is the Census Bureau part of?

  11. One expert predicts that as many as 24 million people would not be counted as a result of adding this citizenship question. HOw could thE undercount of the actual population impact things like public health and education?

  12. Federal law strictly prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing information with organizations like ICE, the FBI, or Border Patrol. Obviously, this is not comforting enough to the many people who are deciding not to answer the census. Why do you think they feel this fear of the Census AND THE GOVERNMENT?

  13. The Trump administration is locked in a legal battle with dozens of states, cities and other groups that do not want the question to appear on forms for the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. Why would so many states and cities be opposed to this question?

  14. Has the census ever asked about citizenship status before*?

  15. How will the census citizenship question affect you?

  16. Do you know anyone who has concerns about filling out the census?

  17. Here is a claim: The census is supposed to count everyone who is here, and this question will make AN ACCURATE count unlikely. Respond to THE VALIDITY OF THAt claim using your knowledge of the US political system.

  18. Who decides whether the use of a citizenship question on the census is constitutional?

  19. If you were the president (you’re not), explain whether you would include the citizenship question on the Census?

  20. Based on the map below*, do you think the census will impact red and blue stats equally?

Visual Extension*

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Learning Extension

Look at this online copy of the new census.

Action Extension

Tweet the Census Bureau at @uscensusbureau and let them know what you think about the citizenship question.

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National Emergency Declarations

How many times have presidents declared a national emergency since the National Emergencies Act was passed in 1976?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Since 1976, what type of national emergency declaration was the most common?

  3. the National Emergencies Act, passed in 1976, giving the president power to declare emergency, was passed by what branch?

  4. In your opinion, did that branch give away too much of their power to another branch, thus upsetting the careful balance of powers created by the U.S. Constitution?

  5. If that branch “unpassed” that law, How would they go about it?

  6. Explain whether any other branch could “unpass” the National Emergencies Act.

  7. How many military actions resulted from declarations of national emergency?

  8. Based on this list of every single National emergency declaration since 1976, Were Democratic or Republican Presidents more likely to declare emergency?

  9. Since 1976, the other military action as part of a national emergency was George W. Bush’s declaration of a national emergency on September 14, 2001, in response to the terror attacks of September 11, which ordered troops of the military reserve to assist in national security. Explain whether the terror attacks of September 11 and the current “national emergency” at the border are equivalent emergency threats to national security?

  10. Trump’s Presidential Proclamation of the National Emergency begins with the following line, “The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency." Does that seem like an accurate description of the situation at the southern border to you?

  11. Trump’s proclamation goes on to say, “In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States,” Does a border wall seem like the best solution to this problem?

  12. If there is a security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security why doesn’t the Congress act on this?

  13. Considering that 16 states are already suing the government over the national declaration of emergency. Describe the argument an anti-federalism might make about the president Proclaiming a federal declaration of emergency and taking funds to build a wall?

  14. 32 of the national emergency declarations are still active. Explain whether there Should be a sunset clause to these declarations (a mechanism to automatically end the emergency declaration after a certain time)?

  15. AS PART OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY DECLARED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP, THE PRESIDENT WILL TAKE FUNDS TO BUILD THE WALL WHICH WERE APPROPRIATED BY CONGRESS FOR THE MILITARY. WHAT WILL THE MILITARY DO ABOUT THE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IT IS SUDDENLY LOSING?

  16. If you were president (I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!!!!) Explain whether you would have declared a national emergency at the border.

Learning Extension

Read Trump’s actual Presidential Proclamation of the National Emergency.

Action Extension

Contact your member of Congress and let them know what you think about Trump’s Declaration.

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National Emergency

AP US Government and Politics

What portion of Americans approve of Donald J. Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to build a wall?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe public opinion of the Trump Emergency Declaration?

  3. How do you think public opinion on the emergency declaration varies by party affiliation?*

  4. Why do you think the public feels that way about Trump’s national emergency Declaration funding a border wall?

  5. Who does the U.S. Constitution empower to fund things such as interstate highways, n.A.S.A., and border walls?

  6. Does Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution give the president the power to go against the Congress’ wishes and fund a border wall?

  7. President Trump’s power to declare a national emergency and build a wall comes from 33 U.S. Code § 2293 - Reprogramming during national emergencies and 10 U.S. Code § 2808 - Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or national emergency. Based on your reading of these two short section of the U.S. Code, does Trump’s declaration of an emergency fall within the meaning of that code?

  8. You just made a claim about Trump’s power to declare a national emergency. What institution gets to make a claim about this which carries the rule of law?

  9. There are a number of things Congress could do to stop Trump. What is the most likely thing the Senate and House could do about Trump‘s declaration of a national emergency?

  10. The power of the purse (funding) is a Congressional power laid out in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. COnstitution. The Congress has repeatedly refused to fund a wall. By declaring a national emergency and funding a border wall, president Trump is taking away the funding from congress and giving it to himself. What does this action do to checks and balances?

  11. According to James Madison in Federalist No. 51, Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. Whose ambition is currently counteracting trump’s ambition?

  12. List the top three national emergencies that America faces:

  13. If you had to rank the border, in terms of national emergencies, how high would it rank?

  14. When Americans are asked to name the top national emergencies how high does the border wall rank?*

  15. Explain whether there is a connection between Trump taking such unpopular positions as declaring the border an emergency and his low public approval ratings?

  16. clearly, the president is taking a highly unpopular action. In your opinion, Explain whether this means that Trump is a strong or a weak leader.

  17. explain whether taking such a highly unpopular position makes Trump more of a trustee, delegate, or Politico.

  18. During two years of a Republican controlled Congress, POTUS Trump was not able to convince the legislature to fund his wall, Nor was he able to convince the public of the importance of the wall. Why do you think that is?

  19. President Trump is very good at convincing people of things they already believe in. He has been less successful at convincing people who don’t already agree with him. Explain whether successful presidents (or politicians) are able to convince people to change their minds. Support your argument with examples from american political history.

  20. The House and Senate have rejected the president’s requests for spending for the wall. Many Senators from his own party have publicaly opposed his national emergency declaration. Explain whether you believe the Congress will stop him?

  21. There are already a number of legal challenges to the national emergency Declaration (hear the list below). Where will these challenges ultimately end up and how do you think the SCOTUS will rule on this issue?

VISUAL Extension*

LEARNING EXTENSION

Action Extension

Contact your member of Congress and let them know what you think about Trump’s Declaration.

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