The Political System
PART A Background Information
The United States is a representative democracy. All government power rests ultimately with the people, who direct policies by voting for government representatives. The nation's constitution defines the powers of national and state governments, the functions and framework of each branch of government, and the rights of individual citizens. All public officials of the national as well as state governments must swear to abide by the Constitution, which was created to protect the democratic interests of the people and government.
The principle of limited government is basic to the Constitution. When the Constitution was first written about two hundred years ago, many Americans feared that government power could become concentrated in the hands of a few. Several features were created to guard against this possibility: 1) the federal organization of government; 2) the separation of powers among different branches of government; and 3) a system of checks and balances to restrict the powers of each branch.
Under federalism, the principle of limited government was achieved by dividing authority between the central government and the individual states. The federal (national) government has powers over areas of wide concern. For example, it has the power to control communications among states, borrow money, provide for the national defense, and declare war.
The states possess those powers which are not given to the national government. For example, each state establishes its own criminal justice system, public schools, and marriage and divorce laws.
There are certain powers, called concurrent powers, which both the federal and state government share. Examples include the power to tax, set up courts, and charter banks.
Besides the division of power between state and national governments, power is also limited by the separation of power among three branches — legislative, executive, and judicial. In the United States, each branch has a separate function.
The function of the legislative branch is to make laws. The legislative branch is made up of representatives elected to Congress. Congress is comprised of two groups, called houses: the House of Representatives (the House) and the Senate.
Lawmakers from all of the states are elected to serve in the House of Representatives. The number of representatives each state sends to the House depends upon the number of districts in each state. Each district chooses one representative. The number of districts in each state is determined by population. The most heavily populated states have more districts and, therefore, more representatives than the sparsely populated states. There are currently 435 representatives in the House. Each representative is elected to a two-year term.
The Senate is the smaller of the two bodies. Each state, regardless of population, has two senators. The senatorial term is six years. Every two years, one third of the Senate stands for election.
Each house of Congress is engaged in making laws, and each may initiate legislation. A law first begins as a "bill." Once a bill is introduced, it is sent to the appropriate committee. Each house of Congress has committees which specialize in a particular area of legislation, such as foreign affairs, defense, banking, and agriculture. When a bill is in committee, members study it and then send it to the Senate or House chamber where it was first introduced. After a debate, the bill is voted on. If it passes, it is sent to the other house where it goes through a similar process.
The Senate may reject a bill proposed in the House of Representatives c add amendments. If that happens, a "conference committee" made up of members from both houses tries to work out a compromise. If both sides agree on the new version, the bill is sent to the president for his signature. At this point, the bill becomes a law.
The executive branch of government is responsible for administering the laws passed by Congress. The president of the United States presides over the executive branch. He is elected to a four-year term and can be re-elected to a second term. The vice-president, who is elected with the president, is assignee only two constitutional duties. The first is to preside over the Senate. However the vice-president may vote only in the event of a tie. The second duty is to assume the presidency if the president dies, becomes disabled, or is removed from office.
The Constitution gives the president many important powers. As chief executive, the president appoints secretaries of the major departments that make up the president's cabinet. Today there are 13 major departments in the executive branch: the Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, and Education. As chief executive, the president also appoints senior officials of the many agencies in the expansive bureaucracy.
As head of state, the president represents the country abroad, entertains foreign leaders, and addresses the public. As director of foreign policy, he appoints foreign ambassadors and makes treaties with other nations. The president also serves as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and as head of his political party.
In the United States, the president and legislature are elected separately, housed separately, and they operate separately. This division is a unique feature of the American system. In the parliamentary systems that operate in most western democracies, the national leader, or prime minister, is chosen by the parliament.
The third branch of government is the judicial branch, which is headed by the Supreme Court. Under the Supreme Court, there are many state and federal courts. An important function of the judicial branch is to determine whether laws of Congress or actions of the president violate the Constitution.
The division of government power among three separate but equal branches provides for a system of checks and balances. Each branch checks or limits the power of the other branches. For example, although Congress makes laws, the president can veto them. Even if the president vetoes a law, Congress may check the president by overriding his veto with a two-thirds vote.
The Supreme Court can overturn laws passed by Congress and signed by the president. The selection of federal and Supreme Court judges is made by the other two branches. The president appoints judges, but the Senate reviews his candidates and has the power to reject his choices. With this system of checks and balances, no branch of government has superior power.
By dividing power among the three branches of government, the Constitution effectively ensures that government power will not be usurped by a small powerful group or a few leaders.
The basic framework of American government is described in the Constitution. However, there are other features of the political system, not mentioned in the Constitution, which directly and indirectly influence American politics.
Groups and individuals have a variety of ways they can exert pressure and try to influence government policy. Many people write letters to elected officials expressing their approval or disapproval of a political decision. People sometimes circulate petitions or write letters to editors of newspapers and magazines to try to influence politicians. Organized interest groups, however, can generally exert influence much more effectively than can isolated individuals.
Interest groups are organized by people who want to influence public policy decisions on special issues. There are many different types of interest groups in the United States. The largest organizations are labor unions, such as the AFL-CIO; business groups, such as the United States Chamber of Commerce farm groups, such as the National Farmers7 Union; and professional groups such as the American Medical Association. There are many issue-oriented groups with broad concerns such as the environment, civil rights, and peace. Some interest groups focus on narrow issues such as the preservation ot historic buildings or the control of neighborhood crime.
What all the various interest groups have in common is the desire to sway public opinion and political policy. The press, radio, and television are the most obvious media through which interest groups may influence voters and politicians. Members of interest groups also write letters to government officials, make telephone calls, hold public meetings, and sponsor newspaper advertisements.
To exert direct pressure on legislators in Washington or in state capitals, a major interest group may employ a professional lobbyist. A lobbyist, generally a lawyer or former legislator, is someone who not only specializes in the interest he or she represents, but also possesses an insider's view of the lawmaking process. Lobbyists work for interest groups by keeping them informed about proposed legislation and by talking to decision-makers about their group's concerns.
The term lobbyist often has a negative connotation. Public officials and others sometimes resent lobbyists' interference. Yet lobbyists fulfill vital functions. Besides voicing the concerns of a special group in society, they fulfill important needs of decision-makers. Legislators and their staff frequently turn to lobbyists for valuable data they would otherwise have to gather themselves. During the committee stage in the legislative process, for instance, lobbyists are invited to appear before congressional committees to provide advice and information, albeit one-sided, which will help the committee make a decision.
While they are not mentioned in the Constitution, organized interest groups and their lobbyists play a significant role in American democracy. The political party system is another important part of the political scene which is not described in the Constitution.
Historically, three features have characterized the party system in the United States: 1) two major parties alternating in power; 2) lack of ideology; and 3) lack of unity and party discipline.
The United States has had only two major parties throughout its history. When the nation was founded, two political groupings emerged—the Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Since then, two major parties have alternated in power.
For over one hundred years, America's two-party system has been dominated by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Neither party, however, has ever completely dominated American politics. On the national level, the majority party in Congress has not always been the same as the party of the president.
Even in years when one party dominated national politics, the other party retained much support at state or local levels. Thus, the balance between the Democrats and Republicans has shifted back and forth.
While minor parties, also called "third parties", have appeared from time to time, and continue to appear, they have been conspicuous in their inability to attract enough voters to enable them to assume power. Occasionally, a third party candidate will win a seat in Congress or in a state legislature. Seldom, however, have minor parties been successful for more than a short period of time. In most cases, minor parties have been assimilated by the larger two or have just faded away.
Some current third parties in the United States are the Socialist Labor Party, the American Independent Party, the Libertarian Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party.
The way candidates are elected explains why two major parties have come to dominate the American political scene. Elections are held according to the single-member district system, based on the principle of "winner take all." Under this system, only one candidate—the one with the most votes—is elected to a given office from any one district. Many people will not vote for a minor party candidate; they feel they are throwing away a vote since only one person wins.
The Democratic and Republican Parties have supporters among a wide variety of Americans and embrace a wide range of political views.
The parties tend to be similar. Democrats and Republicans support the same overall political and economic goals. Neither party seeks to shake the foundation of America's economy or social structure.
Democrats and Republicans, however, often propose different means of achieving their similar goals. Democrats generally believe that the federal government and state governments should provide social and economic programs for those who need them.
While Republicans do not necessarily oppose social programs, they believe that many social programs are too costly for taxpayers. They tend to favor big business and private enterprise and want to limit the role of government.
Because of these differences, Americans tend to think of the Democratic Party as liberal and the Republican Party as conservative.
American party politics has been largely devoid of ideology. Several attempts at developing an ideological party were unsuccessful. The Populist Party of the 1890s and the Progressive Party of the early twentieth century gained only temporary support. Senator Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate in the 1964 election, tried to imbue his party with the spirit and force of a conservative ideology. Yet the election resulted in a landslide victory for Democratic candidate Lyndon Johnson. These examples suggest that Americans tend to prefer somewhat vague party programs to the rigors of political ideology.
A third characteristic of the American party system, which sometimes confounds foreign observers, is the lack of unity and discipline within each party. Disagreement among members of the same party is common.
The voting records of Congressmen and Senators demonstrate a baffling lack of party unity. It is not uncommon for either a Democrat or a Republican to vote against the party line. There are conservative Democrats who agree with Republican ideas and liberal Republicans who agree with Democratic ideas. Personal views and the views of constituents often have priority over party views.
The loose organization of America's political parties helps explain this lack of unity within American parties, which contrasts sharply with more tightly-organized, ideologically-oriented western European parties.
In the United States, parties are decentralized, with relatively few members. Parties are organized as loose confederations of state parties, which, in turn, are decentralized down to the local level. Local party committees, which are numerous, are relatively independent of each other. Only during national elections do party committees join together to clarify issues. Party leadership, insofar as it can be located, is in the hands of a few officials and other notables.
The absence of an organized party structure and established hierarchy of leaders contributes to party disunity. Furthermore, candidates and elected officials are not held accountable for following the party line. Even at national party conventions, no formally binding party platform is drawn up.
Party membership is equally undemanding. Republicans and Democrats undergo no official initiation, pay no membership dues, and have no obligation to attend meetings or even vote for the party. Identification with a particular political party has less significance in the United States than in most other western democracies.
Political parties, interest groups, and elections are opportunities for citizens to participate in the democratic process. Many Americans, however, are politically uninvolved.
Although every citizen has the right to vote, the percentage of the voting age population that participates in elections is quite low. Voter turnout for presidential elections is usually under 60 percent, and the percentage is even lower for state and local elections.
PART B Texts
Perspective of a Public Man An Interview with Hubert Humphrey
The late Senator Hubert Humphrey was a leading figure in American government for more than 30 years. He served as mayor of Minneapolis, United States senator, vice president and was the Democratic party's candidate for president in 1968. He was an outspoken champion of civil rights, a strong advocate of nuclear disarmament and the author of much legislation on both domestic and foreign policy issues.
In this interview with CLOSE UP, conducted in 1977, Senator Humphrey discusses his long experience in public life and the importance of inspiration and motivation in effecting change.
QUESTION: All of the problems and policies that you have been discussing emphasize the need for leadership of the highest caliber in the halls of government. What are the qualities which make someone an effective leader of the people?
Senator Humphrey: Motivation. The difference between a great president and just a president is whether or not he can motivate people to greater achievements. As Teddy Roosevelt said, "You have to make the White House a bully pulpit." You have to be a combination of educator and evangelist. You have to move people. What we need in our society today is a kind of clarion call. People also need to learn to have priorities, because you can't do everything. That's where leadership comes in.
As a senator, I've always felt that my job is more than passing legislation. I see my role in politics as being the cutting edge of progress. I've spent most of my time out with the people, planting ideas by talking with hundreds of audiences. I've taken a lot of razzing for it, but I have my own methodology. I've tried to be a teacher as well as a senator. To do this you have to take your message out to the people. To be a teacher, you have to have more than a classroom, you've got to have students. You've got to have more than a rostrum, you've got to have people who will listen and you have to make your message sufficiently simple and yet profound. The good teacher is the one who knows how to simplify great, difficult problems and, at the same time, make them interesting so that he holds his audience. You have to recognize that it requires repetition. You must keep in mind that people can only absorb so much at any one session. You repeat, repeat, repeat with adaptation so that you make it interesting. It's like a song: Even the most beautiful classical music maybe has just two or three themes in it, repeated time after time in different variations. That is what a leader, what a teacher, has to do.
Another part of being a leader is being willing to run the risk of unpopularity. I don't like people in public life, particularly as presidents, mayors and governors, who can't make decisions. You have to make decisions.
Sometimes people come to me and say, "Well, the reason I have to vote like this is that the Gallup poll showed this or that." The Gallup poll is a momentary, current, unscientific survey of what is called public opinion. The important question is, "What do you think is right?" Now you don't ignore public opinion, but if you have a strong conviction, you do it. I, for example, had a strong conviction about civil rights legislation. There wasn't much public opinion on my side— I'll guarantee you that—and surely not among the political powerhouses. I ran right smack bang into all of them. But I felt I was right. And, if you feel you're right, you stay with it. Yet you also recognize that you can't get everything you want on day one. It may be a long, arduous process.
QUESTION: What advice would you give to young people who mught be contemplating careers in politics, about the pitfalls and the rewards of public service?
Senator Humphrey: When you are involved in anything, you have to expect criticism. You have to constantly ask yourself, am I prepared to do that? You can always run away from problems and hide out; many people do. If you are going to be involved, you must be willing to be criticized for your inadequacies and your limitations. This is especially true in public life, where you are constantly under examination.
Some young people today feel that it isn't worth it. Why go through all the sweat? Why put up with it? Let somebody else do it. But they forget that politics is another word for people. Politics is the people's business, particularly in a democracy. If the people don't take care of their business by participating, by getting involved, then they will "get the business." While you may not think that your individual effort amounts to much, remember that every person sitting on the sidelines gives those that are involved that much more power.
I always try to point out that while great decisions may carry the name tag of one or two leaders, in fact many more people are involved. Great decisions are the products of a kind of digestive process that takes place in the whole society, in which all individuals can express their feelings on new ideas and plans.
In this process, we look to the younger generation, to those who are filled with the love of life and with bright ideals. They've got to contribute. If they are involved, then politics will really be the people's business.
Gallup poll: a special count of opinions done by questioning a representative section of the population. George Horace Gallup, born 1901, statistician, founded the American Institute of Public Opinion.
A President's Mission George Bush's Nomination Acceptance Speech (excerpt)
"It seems to me the presidency provides an incomparable opportunity for "gentle persuasion."
I hope to stand for a new harmony, a greater tolerance. We've come far, but I think we need a new harmony among the races in our country. We're on a journey to a new century, and we've got to leave the tired old baggage of bigotry behind.
Some people who are enjoying our prosperity have forgotten what it's for. But they diminish our triumph when they act as if wealth is an end in itself.
There are those who have dropped their standards along the way, as if ethics were too heavy and slowed their rise to the top. There's graft in city hall, the greed on Wall Street; there's influence peddling in Washington, and the small corruptions of everyday ambition.
But you see, I believe public service is honorable. And every time I hear that someone has breached the public trust it breaks my heart.
I wonder sometimes if we have forgotten who we are. But we're the people who sundered a nation rather than allow a sin called slavery - we're the people who rose from the ghettoes and the deserts.
We weren't saints - but we lived by standards. We celebrated the individual — but we weren't self-centered. We were practical - but we didn't live only for material things. We believed in getting ahead — but blind ambition wasn't our way.
The fact is, prosperity has a purpose. It is to allow us to pursue "the better angels" to give us time to think and grow. Prosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness. It means helping a child from an unhappy home learn how to read -and I thank my wife Barbara for all her work in literacy. It means teaching troubled children through your presence that there's such a thing as reliable love. Some would say it's soft and insufficiently tough to care about these things. But where is it written that we must act as if we do not care, as if we are not moved?
Well I am moved. I want a kinder, gentler nation.
Two men this year ask for your support. And you must know us.
As for me, I have held high office and done the work of democracy day by day. My parents were prosperous; their children were lucky. But there were lessons we had to learn about life. John Kennedy discovered poverty when he campaigned in West Virginia; there were children there who had no milk. Young Teddy Roosevelt met the new America when he roamed the immigrant streets of New York. And I learned a few things about life in a place called Texas.
We moved to west Texas 40 years ago. The war was over, and we wanted to get out and make it on our own. Those were exciting days, lived in a little shotgun house, one room for the three of us. Worked in the oil business, started my own.
In time we had six children. Moved from the shotgun to a duplex apartment to a house. Lived the dream - high school football on Friday night, Little League, neighborhood barbecue.
People don't see their experience as symbolic of an era — but of course we were. So was everyone else who was taking a chance and pushing into unknown territory with kids and a dog and a car. But the big thing I learned is the satisfaction of creating jobs, which meant creating opportunity, which meant happy families, who in turn could do more to help others and enhance their own lives. I learned that the good done by a single good job can be felt in ways you can't imagine.
I may not be the most eloquent, but I learned early that eloquence won't draw oil from the ground. I may sometimes be a little awkward, but there's nothing self-conscious in my love of country. I am a quiet man - but I hear the quiet people others don't. The ones who raise the family, pay the taxes, meet the mortgage. I hear them and I am moved, and their concerns are mine.
A president must be many things.
He must be a shrewd protector of America's interests; and he must be an idealist who leads those who move for a freer and more democratic planet.
He must see to it that government intrudes as little as possible in the lives of the people; and yet remember that it is right and proper that a nation's leader takes an interest in the nation's character.
And he must be able to define - and' lead — a mission.
New Orleans, August 18, 1988
The Human Side of Congress
Representative Jim Wright
Representative Jim Wright (D-Tex.), a member of the House of Representatives since 1954, describes the "nuts and bolts" of congressional decision making—people and personalities. As majority leader, a post he has held since 1977, he works with the speaker and with committee chairmen to oversee party strategy and control the flow of legislation.
After thirty years as a member of Congress, I am not an objective observer. I believe Congress is the most fascinating human institution in the world. It is beyond question me most criticized legislative assembly on earth, and yet it is the most honored. It can rise to heights of sparkling statesmanship, and it can sink to levels of crass mediocrity. In both postures, it is supremely interesting—because it is human. The story of Congress is the story of people.
Congress is a microcosm of the nation. It is a distillate of our strengths and weaknesses, our virtues and our faults. It is a heterogeneous collection of opinionated human beings. On the whole, members are slightly better educated and considerably more ambitious than the average American citizen. But members of Congress reflect the same human frailties and possess the same range of human emotions as their constituents.
Senators and representatives are individualists, not easily stereotyped or categorized. If there is a single thread of similarity that unites most, it is that they are driven in their work. The average member of Congress works longer and harder than do members of any other professional or business group I have ever observed. The average one of my colleagues probably spends from twelve to fourteen hours on work in an average day. If a member of Congress were to expend the same amount of energy and time in furthering any soundly conceived business venture, I have no doubt that he or she would become rich.
A member of Congress is not some inanimate cog in a self-propelling legislative wheel. He or she is a turner of the wheel, a decider—along with others—of the direction the vehicle will take. True, there is a mechanical process that makes the car function. It needs gasoline. It needs a battery, a working engine, tires, and a universal joint. But knowing the mechanics of a motor—important as that knowledge is—does not tell us where the car is going. Its direction and ultimate destination depend upon who is behind the wheel.
That is why careful students of Congress will do well to pay attention to the personalities of decision makers. They will reflect on backgrounds, personal philosophies, religious persuasions, and economic and educational experiences of members of Congress.
These elements determine how well legislators interact with their colleagues and how much they comprehend and even care about different issues. Constituency pressures and interests, political party affiliation, and results of public opinion polls are important factors, but not infallible prognosticators when it comes to understanding how the Congress operates.
It is instructive to ponder how the typical member of Congress sees the job. It includes more than just passing laws. I would suggest that a U.S. representative is a tripartite personality.
In the first place, members of Congress are required to be ombudsmen for their constituents. A less dignified term might be errand boy. A widow does not receive her survivor benefit check in the mail. A college wants to apply for a federal grant. A student cannot find a bank for a student loan. One person wants out of the military service; another wants an emergency leave.
The average representative may receive two hundred letters a day. Forty percent of them will deal with the individual problems of citizens enmeshed in the coils of government and looking to their representative as their intercessor.
The ombudsman role should not be despised. If it takes a disproportionate share of representatives' time, it keeps them close to real people with real needs. If citizens are entitled to go through doors that they simply cannot find in the bureaucratic maze, by leading citizens to those doors, representatives perform necessary functions. Were government ever to become so remote and aloof that the average citizen had no intercessor it would be a sad thing indeed.
In a second role, members of Congress serve as traveling salesmen for their districts. Each tries to see that his or her slice of America gets its share of the action. Members try to direct federal projects into their cities, contracts to their factories, and grants to their local institutions of learning. Anything that promotes business or employment opportunities in a member's district is fair game to be pursued with vigor.
The late Senator Robert Kerr (D-Okla.), ranking Democrat on both Public Works and Finance Committees, once was being chided by Senator Albert Gore (D-Tenn.)- Gore gently upbraided Kerr for using his powerful posts to promote dams, highways, and public buildings for Oklahoma, while writing tax laws with "unintended benefits" for Oklahomans.
Kerr replied that he wanted to offer only "one slight correction in the otherwise excellent recitation" of his colleague. "That is the point," said Kerr, "at which my friend refers to these as "unintended benefits." I want him to know that they are fully intended benefits. While I am a senator of the United States, I am a senator from and for the state of Oklahoma. I am not ashamed of that; I am proud of that."
Scorn the "pork barrel" function as they may, purists in political science cannot wish it away. It is inherent in human nature. From the clash of conflicting parochial and economic interests, the Congress synthesizes an amalgam that serves the nation as a whole.
In the third role, representatives are often statesmen. There is conviction among members, and courage. If the law makers, on the average, did not usually vote as most of their constituents found acceptable, they probably would not be very good representatives for their districts. They might not be representatives at all for very long.
But occasions arise in the life of each when by reason of conviction deeply held or information not widely known, a law maker is impelled to vote in ways that are at least temporarily unpopular. This is when the mettle of the person is tested. A southerner voting for civil rights two decades ago, a midwesterner supporting the Panama Canal Treaty, someone from the Bible Belt resisting constituent pressures to breach the wall between church and state—these are examples of personal principle under pressure.
In 1956, then Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson was in a fight for his political life on the Texas home front. Antagonists portrayed him as a turncoat, a traitor to the southern cause, a tool of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Powerful epithets two years after Brown v. Board of Education.
Johnson never waivered. "I am not going to demagogue on that issue," he once said to me. "If I have to try to prove that I hate Negroes in order to win, then I will just not win." It was a matter of conscience.
All of the above—a mixture of servitude and conviction, servility and courage—combine to make up the human mosaic of the congressional decision-making process. Lyndon Johnson was a master of that process not because he knew the procedures better than others, but because he had an instinctive "feel" for people. He was persuasive with his colleagues because he understood them. He knew what made them tick, collectively and individually.
As House Majority Leader, I am constantly trying to meld together a majority out of an assortment of minorities. It is often frustrating but always fascinating. Building coalitions in Congress is like being a peacemaker within a family. One must know the concerns and needs of the members and must be sensitive to their opinions and the uniqueness of their individual personalities. Sometimes I see my role as a combination parish priest, evangelist, and part-time prophet. Harmony among this mixture of strong-willed individualists is an elusive grail. Sometimes you cannot find it at all, but it is fun trying.
(From 1987 to 1989, Jim Wright was Speaker of the House of Representatives. This interview was given when he was House Majority Leader. He has since resigned in disgrace.)
majority leader: party member directing the activities of the majority party on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
speaker: the presiding officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.
pork barrel: refers to the practice of using political office to further the interests of one's supporters.
Panama Canal Treaty: in the Panama Canal Treaties, ratified under President Carter, the United States agreed to hand over the canal to the Republic of Panama on December 31, 1999, and to make the canal a neutral waterway open to all shipping after 1999.
Bible Belt: those sections of the U.S., chiefly in the South and the Midwest, noted for religious fundamentalism.
NAACP: civil rights organization, founded in 1909.
Lobbyists and Their Issues American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Thomas Dine, executive director
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee t AIPAC) is the only American Jewish organization registered to lobby Congress on legislation affecting Israel. Headquartered in Washington, AIPAC is the nationwide American organization that has worked to strengthen U.S.-Israeli relations for more than 25 years. AIPAC has spearheaded efforts to defeat the sale of sophisticated American weaponry to hostile Arab regimes, and has helped to protect and defend foreign aid requests to Israel of more than $2.2 billion annually.
On a daily basis, AIPAC lobbyists meet with representatives, senators and their staffs to provide useful material, monitor all relevant legislation and anticipate legislative issues affecting Israel. In this way AIAPC lobbyists serve an invaluable function in the American political process. They are a vital informational and creative resource for members of Congress, helping them to deal with the multitude of issues that confront them every day.
In addition, AIPAC is active on university campuses, educating and involving pro-Israel students in the American political process and sensitizing America's future policymakers to Israel's strengths and needs.
Once a year all 34,000 members of AIPAC, including students, are invited to Washington to meet with their U.S. representatives and to formally approve AIPAC's policy statement, which serves as the organization's guide throughout the year.
The Wilderness Society
Rebecca K. Leet, director of education
The Wilderness Society is a 65,000-member conservation organization founded in 1935 to ensure the preservation of wilderness and the proper management of all federally-owned lands. It is the only national conservation organization whose sole focus is the protection of all federal lands—national forests, national parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and the lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
Although the Wilderness Society is a non-profit organization and not a lobby in the traditional sense, it is active in the arenas where public debate shapes federal policy. Primarily the Wilderness Society seeks to educate and influence decision-makers in a variety of ways. Sometimes it lobbies directly on specific legislation, talking with members of Congress or their staffs to persuade them to support a particular bill. The Society also seeks to educate the public about important public land issues by maintaining close contact with the news media. The Society recognizes that reporters and editorial writers who are well-educated about important issues are very likely to turn around and inform their readers about these same issues.
In addition, the Society's staff discusses proper regulation and management of public lands with key government officials; sponsors workshops to teach citizens how to become involved in the policymaking process; analyzes and comments on new preservation and management proposals; testifies at congressional hearings in support of or in opposition to public land measures; and establishes cooperative programs with other conservation organizations. Occasionally the Society's staff has conducted original research. When the administration wanted to search for oil and gas deposits in wilderness areas, the Society, using federal data, found that despite claims by the administration, only a negligible amount of oil and gas exists in wilderness areas.
The fairest public policy is developed when a variety of viewpoints are considered. The Wilderness Society considers that its role is to bring to the process of public policy formation a well researched and clearly articulated point of view that reflects the interests of the public—those concerned and those unaware—who depend on the federally-owned lands to provide recreation, to protect the air and water supplies, to protect wildlife and fragile ecological areas and to ensure a sustained yield of renewable resources like trees and grasslands.
"If Conservatives Cannot Do It Now... "
Interview with Irving Kristol Authority on Political Trends
At the beginning of the Reagan administration, Irving Kristol, a noted political expert, said that with the rise of conservatism, Republicans had their best chance in fifty years to become the country's "natural majority party" again.
Q: Professor Kristol, what are the chances that President Reagan can mobilize conservative resources to forge an enduring coalition for governing the nation?
A: I think his chances are very good. And if he can establish that coalition, there is no reason why the Republican Party cannot again be the natural majority party in the country. This is the best chance conservatives have had in 50 years to create such a coalition. If they cannot do it now, one has to assume that they cannot do it at all. 0 Would conservatism then come to dominate politics as liberalism did after the 1930s? R I think so. People will have confidence in their government and its programs as long as they perceive that it's working in a vigorous way toward the solution of their problems. If President Reagan can generate the kind of economic growth that his policy forecasts, the American people will be perfectly satisfied.
Q: Which elements in the conservative movement will President Reagan have to bring together into his governing coalition?
A: I'd say there are perhaps four main elements:
One certainly is the Moral Majority — that is, the basically Christian-oriented, patriotic Americans who feel that the government has become too intrusive and the United States has been too weak in its foreign relations.
Then you have what you might call the Establishment conservatives — namely, the governmental types who have been serving in various Republican administrations and who are cautious, prudent men of the middle.
You also have the neoconservatives — with whom I am usually classified — who are really the people within academe, the media and the intellectual community generally who have become conservative over the past 15 years.
The fourth component, I suppose, would be the traditional right-wing organizations, like the American Conservative Union, that are close to the Moral Majority but are also interested in such issues as right-to-work legislation. ...
Q: Can the Moral Majority element — emphasizing religious intervention in controversial issues — fit into a stable coalition?
A: Sure. Look, if Franklin D. Roosevelt could fuse the Southern-conservative vote and the Northern-liberal-union vote into a single coalition, then Reagan should have no trouble fusing the existing conservative groups into a coalition. They're far less disparate in their interests than the coalition established by FDR.
True, moral issues such as abortion can be very disruptive because it's hard to compromise on them. It's too bad that the Supreme Court made the abortion issue a national issue instead of leaving it to the states. There doesn't seem to be much possibility at the moment that it will revert to the states, so we'll just have to negotiate it as best we can. ...
Q: What role will people like you play in the coalition-building process?
A: A crucial role, in my opinion. Every political movement needs its intellectual wing these days. It's the age of higher education and the media, and a movement can succeed only temporarily unless it has an intellectual segment to go along with its popular appeal and an interest group to articulate what the movement is up to. ...
Q: What will be Reagan's most difficult challenge in translating conservatives ideas into government policy?
A: Foreign affairs, by far. He came into office with a very coherent and fully articulated economic policy, and he's going to get it through with the coalition entirely behind him. But he also took office with a set of attitudes on foreign policy, not a coherent, well-worked-out set of policies. Witness the controversy over the grain embargo within the administration. This lack of coherence is going to be a very serious problem for the administration. Let me put it this way: We have no conservative counterpart in foreign policy to "supply side" economics in economic policy — something which is identifiably ours. ...
Q: As a student of politics and ideas, do you see the dramatic rise of conservatism as part of a cyclical pattern in the ascendancy of rival political philosophies?
A: There is a cyclical pattern — yes — which to some degree is simply natural. Namely, a party becomes powerful, holds office until it makes mistakes, exhausts its agenda, then another party takes its place. But this, in a way, is simply a function of retrospection. There is a natural cycle in the sense no one ever expects any party to dominate forever in a democracy. I don't know that there's more of a cycle than that.
Q: Does the cycle shorten or lengthen according to how well the party out of power sees new situations emerging and develops new and persuasive ideas for meeting them?
A: To some degree, yes. Mainly, however, I think it results from the fact that a ruling party eventually hits a crisis which it cannot cope with, as happened to the Republicans with the Great Depression. Then people will turn to the other party almost regardless of what it has to offer.
Q: Now that liberalism seems to be declining, can it avoid the stagnation that typified conservatism for so long after 1932?
A: Well, what liberals have to do is to come up with an agenda. That is not going to be easy, because, to begin with, they enacted most of their agenda. Parts of it will be repealed or cut back, but most of their agenda will remain the law of land. No one's going to repeal medicare or medicaid. Certainly no one's going to repeal Social Security or unemployment insurance.
That being the case, it's hard to see what the Democratic agenda can be. My own guess is that the Democratic Party will find its agenda on the left, because unless this administration behaves in a very stupid and inept manner, there will be no room on the right for liberals. Therefore, they will probably have to go into the wilderness for a few years before coming out with an agenda — perhaps something that sets the goal of total equality, with more state intervention and an emphasis not on job creation, which is Reagan's program, but on job retention — that sort of thing.
Kristol, Irving: professor of social thought at New York University, co-editor of Public Interest and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Social Security: government measures providing economic assistance to persons faced with unemployment, disability, or old age.
Keynote Address by Governor Cuomo to the Democratic National Convention
San Francisco, July 16, 1984
. . . So, here we are at this convention to remind ourselves where we come from and to claim the future for ourselves and for our children. Today, our great Democratic Party, which has saved this nation from depression, from fascism, from racism, from corruption, is called upon to do it again — this time to save the nation from confusion and division, from the threat of eventual fiscal disaster and most of all from a fear of a nuclear holocaust. That's not going to be easy. ... You're exactly right, it won't be easy. And in order to succeed, we must answer our opponent's polished and appealing rhetoric with a more telling reasonableness and rationality. We must win this case on the merits. We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship — to the reality, the hard substance of things. And we will do that not so much with speeches that sound good as with speeches that are good and sound. Not so much with speeches that will bring people to their feet as with speeches that will bring people to their senses. We must make the American people hear our "tale of two cities." We must convince them that we don't have to settle for two cities, that we can have one city, indivisible, shining for all of its people. . ..
Remember that unlike any other party, we embrace men and women of every color, every creed, every orientation, every economic class. In our family are gathered everyone from the abject poor of Essex County in New York, to the enlightened affluent of the gold coasts of both ends of the nation. And in between is the heart of our constituency. The middle class, the people not rich enough to be worry-free but not poor enough to be on welfare, the middle class, those people who work for a living because they have to, not because some psychiatrists told them it was a convenient way to fill the interval between birth and eternity. White collar and blue collar. Young professionals. Men and women in small business desperate for the capital and contracts that they need to prove their worth.
We speak for the minorities who have not yet entered the mainstream. We speak for ethnics who want to add their culture to the magnificent mosaic that is America. We speak for women who are indignant that this nation refuses to etch into its governmental commandments the simple rule "thou shalt not sin against equality", a rule so simple — I was going to say — and I perhaps dare not but I will — it's a commandment so simple it can be spelled in three letters: e.r.a.! We speak for young people demanding an education and a future. We speak for senior citizens who are terrorized by the idea that their only security, their Social Security, is being threatened. We speak for millions of reasoning people fighting to preserve our environment from greed and from stupidity. And we speak for reasonable people who are fighting to preserve our very existence from a macho intransigence that refuses to make intelligent attempts to discuss the possibility of nuclear holocaust with our enemy. They refuse because they believe we can pile missiles so high that they will pierce the clouds and the sight of them will frighten our enemies into submission. .. .
Of course, we must have a strong defense! Of course, Democrats are for a strong defense. Of course, Democrats believe that there are times when we must stand and fight. And we have. Thousands of us have paid for freedom with our lives. But always, when this country has been at its best, our purposes were clear. Now they're not. Now our allies are as confused as our enemies. Now we have no real commitment to our friends or to our ideals, not to human rights, not to the refuseniks, not to Sakharov, not to Bishop Tutu and the others struggling for freedom in South Africa. ...
We Democrats still have a dream. We still believe in this nation's future. And this is our answer to the question — this is our credo: we believe in only the government we need, but we insist on all the government we need. We believe in a government that is characterized by fairness and reasonableness, a reasonableness that goes beyond labels, that doesn't distort or promise to do things that we know we can't do. We believe in a government strong enough to use words like 'love" and "compassion" and smart enough to convert our noblest aspirations into practical realities. We believe in encouraging the talented, but we believe that while survival of the fittest may be a good working description of the process of evolution, a government of humans should elevate itself to a higher order. We — our government — should be able to rise to the level where it can fill the gaps that are left by chance or a wisdom we don't fully understand. . ..
We believe, as Democrats, that a society as blessed as ours, the most affluent democracy in the world's history, one that can spend trillions on instruments of destruction, ought to be able to help the middle class in its struggle, ought to be able to find work for all who can do it, room at the table, shelter for the homeless, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute.
And we proclaim as loudly as we can the utter insanity of nuclear proliferation and the need for a nuclear freeze, if only to affirm the simple truth that peace is better than war because life is better than death. We believe in firm but fair law and order, we believe proudly in the union movement, we believe in privacy for people, openness by government, we believe in civil rights, and we believe in human rights. We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I would write what a proper government should be. The idea of family. Mutuality. The sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all. Feeling one another's pain. Sharing one another's blessings. Reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography or political affiliation.
... For 50 years we Democrats created a better future for our children, using traditional democratic principles as a fixed beacon, giving us direction and purpose, but constantly innovating, adapting to new realities. . . . Democrats did it — and Democrats can do it again. We can build a future that deals with our deficit. Remember this that 50 years of progress under our principles never cost us what the last four years of stagnation have. And we can deal with that deficit intelligently, by shared sacrifice, with all parts of the nation's family contributing, building partnerships with the private sector, providing a sound defense without depriving ourselves of what we need to feed our children and care for our people. We can have a future that provides for all the young of the present by marrying common sense and compassion. We know we can, because we did it for nearly 50 years before 1980. And we can do it again. . ..
And, ladies and gentlemen, on Jan. 20, 1985, it will happen again. Only on a much, much grander scale. We will have a new President of the United States, a Democrat born not to the blood of kings but to the blood of pioneers and immigrants. We will have America's first woman Vice-President, the child of immigrants, and she will open with one magnificent stroke a whole new frontier for the United States. It will happen, if you and I make it happen. And I ask you now, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters — for the good of all of us, for the love of this great nation, for the family of America, for the love of God. Please make this nation remember how futures are built. Thank you and God bless you.
Cuomo, Mario: Governor of New York State since 1982.
national convention: formal meeting of party delegates to adopt platforms and party rules and select presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
refusenik: a citizen of the Soviet Union who has been refused permission to emigrate from his/her country.
Sakharov, Andrei: (1921-1989) Russian physicist and dissident, won the Nobel Peace Prize 1975.
Bishop Tutu: Anglican bishop in South Africa opposing apartheid.
a new President of the United States: reference to Walter Mondale, Democratic presidential candidate in 1984.
America's first woman Vice-President: reference to Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1984.
The Washington Post Americans Vote For Divided Government
By David S. Broder
THE AMERICAN voters gave George Bush and the Republican Party a pattern-breaking presidential victory Tuesday but blurred the import of their decision by cautiously opting once again for divided government in Washington. The outcome of the long and expensive struggle signaled little more than the start of a new round of political warfare, one in which the White House and Congress will wrestle for control of the policy agenda and both parties will search for answers to vexing problems - like the budget deficit - which the candidates sidestepped on the stump.
.. . the evidence suggests that the preference for divided government - with Democrats looking after domestic needs in Congress and the state capitols while Republicans manage the economy, defense and foreign policy from the White House — may have had as much to do with the outcome as any impressions created by the often-venomous campaign. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll just before the election found voters by a 5-to-3 margin thought it better for different parties to control the White House and Congress. Ken Adams, 35, a tire-store owner in Clarkston, Ga., and pro-Bush Democrat, spoke for many when he said Tuesday, "I'd rather have a little argument going to work things out/7 Echoed Karen Ekegren, 54, a Chicago office worker, "It's not good to have one party in control
Scholars of presidential election said they were sure that in-depth analysis of the unprecedented mass of polling data this election generated will demonstrate that peace and prosperity were the fundamental forces behind Bush's victory Six years of sustained economic growth, low inflation and declining unemployment, coupled with improving relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, boosted President Reagan's popularity back up from its Iran-Contra lows. And as Reagan's standing rose, so did support for his loyal vice president.
William Galston, a professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland and adviser to past Democratic presidential candidates, said, "All year long, the voters felt the tension between general satisfaction with the present and vague but pervasive anxiety about the future. In the end, the present trumped the future."
That left the question of mandate open to interpretation. Paul Weyrich, a leading conservative strategist, argued that "if the Democrats take the policy initiative on the basis of their projected Senate gains, they will probably get somewhere with it. They could say voters were deliberately tying Bush's hands because they were worried what he might do." ...
Iran-Contra: a reference to a scandal of the Reagan presidency when it was discovered that the U.S. had sold arms to Iran and illegally diverted the profits to the contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.
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