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Chapter 2: A democratic ideal or a democracy in crisis?

Pre-reading

  • How many current and previous members of Congress can you mention off the top of your head? How many presidents?
  • Find information about the latest congressional elections results. How many seats do each of the two parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, have in the two chambers of parliament, the Senate and the House of Representatives?
  • In the United States, political views are often defined as either liberal or conservative. Find out what characterizes the two ideologies.
  • Explain and translate into Danish the following words/phrases related to politics:

    • Affiliation, amendment, bipartisan, carrot and stick, checks and balances, federation, gridlock, implement, oppressive, partisan, proponent.

Comprehension

  • 1. Fill in the crossword:

Across

  • 2. The person who works to gather or hold the party together as a united political group
  • 5. An effort to prevent action in a legislature (such as the U.S. Congress) by making a long speech
  • 7. A document which describes the system of beliefs and laws by which a country is governed
  • 10. Nickname for the Democratic Party
  • 11. Nickname for the Republican Party
  • 12. The practice of influencing legislators to favor special interests
  • 13. The activity of collecting money for a campaign

Down

  • 1. A set of ideas where the free, independent individual is the main focus
  • 3. A formal process in which a public official is charged with improper conduct in office
  • 4. The head of the government in some countries (for instance the United States)
  • 6. The national legislative body of the United States
  • 8. A country formed by separate states that have given certain powers to a central government while keeping control of local matters
  • 9. The right or power of a person in authority to decide that something (such as a new law) will not be approved


You can make your own crosswords and other puzzles using the website www.discoveryeducation.com//free-puzzlemaker/index.cfm.

  • 2. Explain the organization of the political system in the United States with regards to the federal, state and local level.
  • 3. The United States is a federation, a presidential system, and a constitutional democracy. What does that mean?
  • 4. How does each of the three branches of government (the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary) limit the powers of the other two?
  • 5. What are the roles of the President, Congress and the Supreme Court?
  • 6. Explain the different phases of the decision-making process.
  • 7. Describe the historical and current values of the two main parties in U.S. politics, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
  • 8. What does it take to win the presidential/congressional election?

Post-reading

  • 1. Find the official website of the White House. Analyze the website, including its content, structure, pictures/videos and text.
  • 2. Make a comic that explains the decision-making process in the United States. Draw by hand or use the website www.pixton.com.
  • 3. Use the website www.classtools.net/FB/home-page to make a fake Facebook profile of either a typical Democratic politician or a typical Republican politician.
  • 4. Explain the joke about the difference between Republicans and Democrats:
  • A Republican and a Democrat were walking down the street when they came to a homeless person. The Republican gave the homeless person his business card and told him to come to his business for a job. He then took twenty dollars out of his pocket and gave it to the homeless person.
  • The Democrat was very impressed, and when they came to another homeless person, he decided to help. He walked over to the homeless person and gave him directions to the welfare office. He then reached into the Republican's pocket and gave the homeless person fifty dollars.

    • (Source: www.politicalhumor.about.com)

  • 5. Discussion: Choose one or more issues that are central in the American debate (e.g. abortion, economy, gun control, health care, same-sex marriage etc.). Prepare either Democratic or Republican arguments on the issues and discuss in small groups or in class.
  • 6. Discussion: Should corporations be allowed to donate money to political campaigns?
  • 7. Find and analyze previous election campaign videos on the website www.livingroomcandidate.org. Use the communication model (who says what to whom in which channel and with what effect?).
  • 8. Make an analysis of the most recent inaugural address in which you include structure, forms of appeal, rhetorical devices, theme, message etc.
  • 9. Imagine you have just been elected as the next president of the United States. Write your inaugural address by using the following five-part structure:

    • Greet your audience
    • Describe the state of the nation
    • Pick an issue (e.g. economy, war, equality etc.) and lay out your presidential plan
    • Appeal to the crowd
    • Close your speech