Країнознавство США І семестр - Плани-конспекти уроків - Ю. Г. Горбунова 2016

Дидактичні матеріали до спецкурсу «Країнознавство США». Плани-конспекти уроків
Lecture and practical training «Political system of the USA»

Aims and objectives:

- to practise students' skills in reading and speaking;

- to develop logical thinking;

- to teach students how to analyze, generalize information;

- to gain interest in the US political system.



Greeting. Introducing the topic

T. Good morning! Today we’re going to work on the topic «Political system of the USA».

Warm up

Task 1. Answer the questions.

1. What doctrine is the American Constitution based on?

2. What branches of power are represented by the President, Congress and the Courts?

3. What individual liberties are guaranteed by the US Constitution?



Task 2. Read the text and mark the sentences L (legislative branch), E (executive branch) or J (judicial branch).


The American political system is generally described as a constitutional democracy.

Under the Constitution, the federal government is divided into three branches.

The legislative power is vested in the Congress and made up of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 senators in the senate. Each state elects two members every two years for a six-year term to the 100-member Senate. A senator must be 30 years old, 9 years a citizen and an inhabitant of the state, which elects him. A representative must be 25, a US citizen and live in the state from which he is elected. The Congress makes laws, controls finances (foreign and domestic spending).

The executive branch is headed by the President, who proposes bills to the Congress, enforces federal laws, controls foreign policy, serves as a Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and with the approval of the Senate, makes treaties and appoints secretaries (ministers). President can veto a bill unless Congress by a two-third vote shall overrule it. The President is chosen in nation-wide elections every 4 years together with a Vice-President. A US President must be 35 or older, a US citizen born in the USA and have lived in the USA at least 14 years. He can serve two terms. Before 1951 the law was different, that’s why Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected 4 times.

The Vice-President, elected from the same political party as the President, acts as Chairman of the Senate, and takes President’s office if President is unable to finish his term.

The judicial branch is made up of Federal District Courts, 11 Federal Courts and the Supreme Court. Nine Federal judges are appointed by the President for life. Federal Courts decide cases involving federal laws, and conflicts between citizens of different states. The Supreme Court interprets Constitution, tests laws and may rule the law to be unconstitutional. No veto is possible.

In principle, these branches are independent and maintain a balance of power. In practice, they sometimes come into conflict and can exercise more or less power than originally intended.

There are two main political parties in the USA, the Republican Party (the Elephant) and the Democratic Party (the Donkey). The Republicans tend to be more conservative and have more support among the upper classes. The Democrats tend to be more liberal and to have more support among the working classes.

Which branch:

1) appoints high federal officials?

2) approves treaties?

3) may declare actions of other branches unconstitutional?

4) makes laws?

5) enforces federal laws?

6) controls finance?

7) vetoes new laws?

8) approves presidential appointments?

9) decides cases that involve the Constitution and federal laws?

10) proposes laws to the Congress?

11) overrules presidential vetoes?

12) makes treaties?

13) conducts foreign policy?

14) interprets laws according to the Constitution?

Task 3. Mark the statements (1-12) as T (true) or F (false).

1. The number of United States senators each state has varies according to a state’s population.

2. The legislative branch is represented by Congress.

3. There are currently 100 representatives.

4. The President regulates interstate commerce.

5. The Congress makes treaties.

6. The Vice-President takes over from the President in case of death.

7. The President is elected for a term of four years and can only be reelected for one more term.

8. The President doesn’t need the approval of the Senate to make treaties and appoint secretaries.

9. Federal judges are appointed by the Congress.

10. Federal Courts decide cases that involve the Constitution and federal laws.

11. The branches are independent and maintain a balance of power.

12. The Republicans tend to be more liberal and have more support among the poor.

Reading and Speaking

Task 4. Read and discuss the quotations of famous Americans.

1. The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. (George Washington)

2. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. (Thomas Jefferson)

3. If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions. (Thomas Jefferson)

4. Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)


Task 5. Compare the structure and functions of the three branches of powers in the USA and in Ukraine.


Task 6. Read the text below. Choose from (A-I) the one which fits each space (1-8). There is one choice you do not need to use. A by means of a dual system of government B collectively known as the Bill of Rights C only twenty-six amendments D has certain authority over the others E to deal with problems facing the nation as a whole F a federal system of government G is based on the doctrine of H the individual state governments I to be made to the Constitution


The American Constitution (1) ... . the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judiciary.

The respective government institutions — the Presidency, Congress, and the Courts — were given limited and specific powers; and a series of checks, whereby each branch of government (2) ... to make sure these powers were not abused.

Government power was limited (3) ... , in which the federal government was only given the powers and responsibilities (4) ... (foreign affairs, trade, control of the army and navy, etc.).

The remaining responsibilities and duties of government were reserved to (5) ... .

Article V allowed for amendments (6) ... (once passed by a two- thirds majority in both houses of Congress and then ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states).

The Constitution ratified by all thirteen states in 1791 already contained ten amendments, (7) ... (the freedoms of religion, speech, and the press, etc), to protect the citizens against possible tyranny by the federal government.

So far (8) ... have been made to the Constitution.



Task 7. Answer the questions.

1. What are the formal responsibilities of the President, and what are his responsibilities in practice?

2. What are the functions of the Congress?

3. What parties dominate the political life of the US today?

Home assignment

Choose a quotation and expound the point of view given in it.

Additional material to the topic «Political system of the USA»

Task 8. Read the text below. For questions (1-5) choose the correct answer (a, b, c or d).


The government of the United States is based on a written constitution, the shortest in the world in fact. This constitution consists of a Preamble, seven Articles, and 27 Amendments. From this document, the entire federal government was created. It is a living document whose interpretation has changed over time. The amendment process is such that while not easily amended, US citizens are able to make necessary changes over time.

The Constitution created three separate branches of government. Each branch has its own powers and areas of influence. At the same time, the Constitution created a system of checks and balances that ensured no one branch would reign supreme. The three branches are:

Legislative Branch

This branch consists of the Congress which is responsible for making thefederal laws. Congress consists of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Executive Branch

The Executive power lies with the President of the United States who is given the job of executing, enforcing, and administering the laws and government. The Bureaucracy is part of the Executive Branch.

Judicial Branch

The judicial power of the United States is vested in the Supreme Court and thefederal courts. Their job is to interpret and apply US laws through cases brought before them. Another important power of the Supreme Court is that of Judicial Review whereby they can rule laws unconstitutional.

1. Which of the following is stated in the text about the government of the United States?

a) The interpretation of the constitution hasn’t changed over time.

b) The executive power is vested in the Congress.

c) The President of the United States execute, enforce, and administer the laws and government.

d) US citizens aren’t able to make necessary changes over time.

2. What is TRUE about the constitution of the United States?

a) The constitution of the USA is uncodified.

b) The constitution of the USA has been amended twenty-seven times.

c) The constitution of the USA is easily amended.

d) The constitution of the USA is it is the longest written constitution in force.

3. Which of the following is NOT TRUE according to the text?

a) The entire federal government was created from the constitution.

b) The branches of power have their own areas of influence.

c) The Congress of the United States is bicameral.

d) The judicial branch is supreme.

4. According to the text, what is the legislative branch responsible for?

a) Making federal laws.

b) Enforcing federal laws.

c) Interpreting laws.

d) Applying laws.

5. What is TRUE about judicial branch of the power?

a) The judicial power of the United States is vested only in the federal courts.

b) Judicial review is the power of the Court to decide the constitutionality of the laws.

c) The Bureaucracy is part of the judicial branch.

d) The judicial branch is responsible for administering the laws and government.

Task 9. Match the principles (A-F) to their descriptions (1-6).

A Limited Government D Checks and Balances

B Federalism E Separation of Powers

C Popular Sovereignty F Judicial Review


The Constitution is built on six basic principles. These are deeply ingrained in the mindset and landscape of US Government.

1. This principle states that the source of governmental power lies with the people. This belief stems from the concept of the social contract and the idea that government should be for the benefit of its citizens. If the government is not protecting the people, it should be dissolved.

2. Since the people give government its power, government itself is limited to the power given to it by them. In other words, the US government does not derive its power from itself. It must follow its own laws and it can only act using powers given to it by the people.

3. As stated previously, the US Government is divided into three branches so that no one branch has all the power. Each branch has its own purpose: to make the laws, execute the laws, and interpret the laws.

4. In order to further protect the citizens, the constitution set up a system of checks and balances. Basically, each branch of government has a certain number of checks it can use to ensure the other branches do not become too powerful. For example, the president can veto legislation, the Supreme Court can declare acts of Congress unconstitutional, and the Senate must approve treaties and presidential appointments.

5. This is a power that allows the Supreme Court to decide whether acts and laws are unconstitutional. This was established with Marbury vs. Madison in 1803.

6. This principle is one of the most complicated foundations of the USA. This is the idea that the central government does not control all the power in the nation. States also have powers reserved to them. This division of powers does overlap and sometimes leads to problems such as what happened with the response to Hurricane Katrina between the state and federal governments.

Task 10. Mark the statements (1-12) as T (true) or F (false).

1. The people hold ultimate power in the government.

2. The citizens of the country are in charge of the government and how it is run.

3. A limited government defines how much power the government can have.

4. Government must obey the law.

5. Powers are distributed among 4 different branches.

6. No one component of the government holds too much power.

7. The system of checks and balances was designed to prevent abuse of power in the government.

8. The judicial branch of power is more powerful than the others.

9. The Congress can declare a law constitutional and unconstitutional.

10. If the President broke the law the Judicial review allows for a court to decide what consequences the president deserves to have.

11. The power isn’t shared between the central/national government and the states.

12. Federalism is the idea of splitting political power between a large group and smaller groups.

Task 11. Read the text below. Choose from (A-H) the one which best fits each space (1-6). There are two choices you do not need to use.

A coalitions and attempt to win elections

B their candidates have in most cases not won

C there is no role for third parties in the American landscape

D as an institution is held in popular contempt

E the offices of Congress and the Presidency are filled

F is released to lower levels of government

G the electoral system itself

H join together to try and win political office


While the Constitution sets up the system of government, the actual way in which (1) ... are based upon the American political system. Many countries have numerous political parties (groups of people who (2) ... and thereby control the government) but the US exists under a two-party system. The two major parties in America are the Democratic and Republican parties. They act as (3) ... . We currently have a two-party system because of not only historical precedent and tradition but also (4) ... .

The fact that America has a two-party system does not mean that (5) ... . In fact, they have often swayed elections even if (6) ... . There are four major types of third parties:

✵ Ideological Parties, e.g. Socialist Party

✵ Single-issue parties, e.g. Right to Life Party

✵ Economic Protest Parties, e.g. Greenback Party

✵ Splinter Parties, e.g. Bull Moose Party

Task 12. Read the texts below. For questions (1-6) choose the correct answer (a, b, c or d).


Elections occur in the United States at all levels (1) ... local, state, and federal. There are numerous differences from locality to locality and state to state. Even when (2) ... the presidency, there is some variation with how the electoral college (3) ... from state to state. While voter turnout (4) ... barely over 50 % during Presidential election years and (5) ... lower than that during midterm elections, elections can be hugely important as seen by the top ten significant presidential elections.


a) to include

b) include

c) includes

d) including


a) determining

b) determination

c) determinate

d) determine


a) determines

b) has determined

c) is determined

d) are determined


a) be

b) being

c) is

d) was


a) a lot of

b) more

c) far

d) much

Task 13. Read the text below and think of the word which best fits each gap.

Use only one word in each space.


Understanding the federal nature of (1) ... United States is critical to appreciating the complexities of the American political system.

Most political systems (2) ... created top-down. A national system of government is constructed and a certain amount (3) ... power is released to lower levels of government. The unique history of the United States means that, (4) ... this case, the political system was created bottom-up.

First, some 240 years (5) ... , there were were 13 autonomous states who, following the War of Independence against the British, created a system of government in which the various states somewhat reluctantly ceded power to the federal government. Around a century later, the respective authority of the federal government and the individual states was an issue at the heart of the Civil War (6) ... there was a bloody conflict over who had the right to determine whether slavery was or was not permissable. With the exception of Switzerland, no other Western democracy diffuses power to the same degree (7) ... America.

So today the powers of the federal government remain strictly limited (8) ... the Constitution — the critical Tenth Amendment of 1791 — which leaves a great deal of authority to the individual states.

Each state (9) ... an executive, a legislature and a judiciary.

The head of the executive is the Governor (10) ... is directly elected. As with the President at federal level, state Governors (11) ... issue Executive Orders.

The legislature consists (12) ... a Senate and a House of Representatives (the exception is the state of Nebraska which has a unicameral system).

The judiciary consists of (13) ... state system of courts.

The 50 states are divided (14) ... counties (parishes in Louisiana and boroughs in Alaska). Each county has (15) ... court.

Although the Constitution prescribes precisely when Presidential and Congressional elections will (16) ... held, the dates and times of state and local elections are determined by state governments. Therefore (17) ... is a plethora of elections in the United States and, at almost all times, an election is being held somewhere in the country. State and local elections, (18) ... federal elections, use the «first past the post» system of election.

The debate (19) ... federalism in the US is far from over. There are those (20) ... argue for a stronger role for the federal government and there are advocates of locating more power at the state level. The recent rise of the electorally-successful Tea Party movement owes a good deal to the view that the federal government (21) ... become too dominant, too intrusive and too profligate.

Meanwhile many states — especially those west of the Rockies — have (22) ... has been called «the fourth arm of government»: this is the ballot or referendum initiative. This enables a policy question to be put to the electorate (23) . a result of the collection of a certain number of signatures or the decison of the state legislation. Over the last century, some 3,000 such initiatives have (24) ... conducted — in some cases (such as California) with profound results.

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