From high school civics or government class, you have probably heard or read that the phrase “checks and balances” refers to three seperate branches of government. But, this is an oversimplification, and the checks and balances in the Constitution are much more complex than this. As you begin writing for the midterm, consider the following: Although it is true that the three branches of government largely have separate spheres, each branch also has some of the powers of the other two. For example, the President (executive) has some functions that are legislative and judicial in nature. Make sure that you explore these and cite examples for each branch. Within the Legislative branch, there are two Houses. It was viewed that the legislature was the most powerful branch, and there are checks that the houses have to limit each others’ powers. Explore the concept of enumerated powers as a check on government power Discuss the role of the people and their ability to check the government’s actions. At the same time, some items were inserted to prevent democracy from getting out of hand, and there are parts of the Constitution that limit the people’s influence on govenrment. Looking at the concept of pluralism would also help with this part of the discussion. Federalism is a major topic in Constitutional studies, and is a check on the Federal Government’s powers. Make sure that you devote adequate attention to the division of powers between the Federal and state governments. Explore the outside forces that we have looked at thus far that place limits on the Federal government–the Press, political parties, and public participation. Make sure that you support your points with the text of the Constitution.
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