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Democracy in America
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Federal Government — United States
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1.

The Constitution [electronic resource]: Fixed or Flexible?

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Examines the search for balance between the original Constitution and the need to interpret and adjust it to meet the needs of changing times. Details the original Jeffersonian-Madisonian debate, the concept of checks and balances, and the stringent procedures for amending the Constitution. Case studies include legislative decisions about capital punishment for mentally retarded individuals, President Truman's veto of the Taft-Hartley Bill, and the fight for women's suffrage in the United States.
Online
2003
2.

Legislatures [electronic resource]: Laying Down the Law

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Explores the idea that legislatures, although contentious bodies, are institutions composed of men and women who make representative democracy work by reflecting and reconciling the wide diversity of views held by Americans. Case studies include the work of John McCain and others to reform campaign funding, the fight for "Death with Dignity" laws in Oregon, and a day in the life of Representative Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland.
Online
2003
3.

The Modern Presidency [electronic resource]: Tools of Power

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Traces the changes in the Presidency from the 1930's to today. Shows how Presidents today are overtly active in the legislative process, use the media to appeal directly to the people and exercise leadership over an "institutional presidency" with thousands of aides. Cases studies include Johnson's personal campaign to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Nixon's use of the publicity from his attempted assassination to pass his tax cuts legislation and an introduction to President Clinton's "West Wing" support team.
Online
2003
4.

Bureaucracy [electronic resource]: A Controversial Necessity

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Reveals how the American bureaucracy delivers significant services directly to the people, how it has expanded in response to citizen demands for increased government services, and how bureaucrats sometimes face contradictory expectations that are difficult to satisfy. Case studies include FIMA's support for tornado victims in Maryland, government response to environmental concerns during the 60's and 70's, and child labor laws that prevented children under sixteen from becoming teenage umpires.
Online
2003
5.

The Courts [electronic resource]: Our Rule of Law

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Examines the role of courts as institutions dedicated to conflict resolution, with the power to apply and to interpret the meaning of law in trial and appeal courts. Reveals the difficulty of creating a judiciary that is independent of politics and the increased power the Supreme Court has acquired through its use of judicial review. Case studies include the trial of Rodney King and the ensuing L.A. riots, the Supreme Court decision in the Bush/Gore presidential election, and the appointment of Joyce Bird as Chief Justice of California.
Online
2003
6.

The Media [electronic resource]: Inside Story

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Explores the media as an integral part of American democracy, highlighting its scrutiny of the performance of public officials, the interdependence of politics and the media, and the power the media wields in selecting the news. Examples include the Washington Post's investigation of the deaths of 240 children and subsequent challenge of D.C. Child Protection Services; the press' revelation of the dangers of smoking during the "Tobacco Wars", and a field trip to CNN.
Online
2003
7.

Federalism [electronic resource]: U.S. V. The States

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Explores federalism as a Constitutional compromise, especially in terms of present-day conflicts between people who believe that power should reside primarily in the national government and those who want government authority retained within the states. Case studies include the conflict between Idaho and the federal government when wolves were re-introduced to public lands; the use of federal incentives to influence blood-alcohol standards for drunk drivers in South Carolina, and the devolution of welfare programs in the United States.
Online
2003