Advanced Placement Government Review - Terms & Concepts

The Constitutional Underpinnings




  1. What was the immediate impact of Shays’ Rebellion?
  2. Why did the Articles of Confederation fail?
  3. What motivated the framers of the Constitution? Were they elitists or pragmatists?
  4. Why did the framers create a Republican form of government?
  5. Why did the framers create a federal system of government?
  6. What is the purpose of checks and balances and the separation of powers?
  7. Why are plurality systems democratic but unstable?




  1. Articles of Confederation
  2. Shays’ Rebellion
  3. New Jersey Plan
  4. Virginia Plan
  5. Great Compromise (a.k.a. Connecticut Compromise)
  6. Three-Fifths Compromise
  7. Federalists
  8. Antifederalists
  9. Federalist Papers
  10. Bill of Rights
  11. Federalism
  12. dual federalism - holds that the federal government and the state governments are co-equals, each sovereign. In this theory, parts of the Constitution are interpreted very narrowly, such as the 10th Amendment, the Supremacy Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Commerce Clause. In this narrow interpretation, the federal government has jurisdiction only if the Constitution clearly grants such. In this case, there is a very large group of powers belonging to the states, and the federal government is limited to only those powers explicitly listed in the Constitution. (
  13. judicial review
  14. representative democracy
  15. delegated powers - powers given by the states to the national government at the time the constitution was written, such as the power to raise and support an army. Most expressly delegated powers are listed in Art. I, §8. Others are implied, courtesy of the "necessary and proper clause" and McCulloch v. Maryland.
  16. reserved powers - powers withheld by the states when the constitution was written, such as the power to regulate marriage.
  17. concurrent powers - powers that the state and national governments exercise together.
  18. full faith and credit clause
  19. privileges and immunities clause - The Constitution has two such clauses. Art. IV, §2 means that states cannot discriminate against citizens of others states. The clause in the 14th Amendment protects certain federal rights from state interference, but it was largely emasculated by the decision of the Supreme Court in the Slaughter-House Cases.
  20. extradition
  21. Supremacy clause
  22. categorical grants
  23. block grants
  24. separation of powers
  25. checks and balances
  26. veto
  27. override
  28. amendment
  29. ratify
  30. establishment clause
  31. selective incorporation
  32. cabinet
  33. governor
  34. line-item veto
  35. pardons and reprieves - a reprieve is a temporary suspension of a sentence. Note that the Presidents power to grant reprieves and pardons is limited to "offenses against the United States."
  36. bicameral legislature
  37. revenue sharing - This is when the national government shares some of the revenue it has extracted from the states with the states.

Public Opinion and The Media


  1. What is public opinion?
  2. What is the public agenda and how is the agenda shaped?
  3. How is public opinion measured?
  4. What role does the media play in shaping public opinion?
  5. What effect does the media have on individual political beliefs and voting behavior?


The Terms


  1. public opinion
  2. random sampling
  3. exit poll
  4. Gallup poll
  5. political socialization
  6. liberal ideology
  7. conservative ideology
  8. news media
  9. public agenda

Political Parties, Interest Groups, and PACs


  1. What coalitions make up the two main political parties in the United States?
  2. Why do third parties so often fail in US. politics?
  3. What effect has dealigi~ment had on political parties?
  4. Are there serious policy differences between Democrats and Republicans?
  5. Who supports the two patties and why?
  6. How does the Constitution control special interests?
  7. How have interest groups helped to democratize the U.S. political system?
  8. Why are interest groups a threat to democracy?
  9. What role do interest groups play in setting the political agenda?
  10. What techniques do PACs use to get their messages across?
  11. How do interest groups achieve and exert their influence?


The Terms

  1. political parties
  2. two-party system
  3. primary elections
  4. bolter parties - a party that splits off from a major party, such as the Dixiecrat Party in 1948.
  5. doctrinal parties - a party based on doctrinal purity, such as the Communist Party.
  6. single-issue parties
  7. independent candidates - a candidate not affiliated with either of the two major parties, such as Ralph Nader, Ross Perot or John Anderson.
  8. platform
  9. national convention
  10. soft money
  11. split-ticket voting - Voting for candidates of both the Democratic and Republican parties during the same election.
  12. party dealignment
  13. party realignment
  14. divided government - This is what it is called when the Republican Party, for example, controls the Presidency and the Democratic Party controls the Congress, or vice versa.
  15. critical election
  16. coalition
  17. amicus curiae briefs
  18. class action suits
  19. influence peddling
  20. Federal Election Campaign Act
  21. political action committees (PACs)



  1. Does the media place too much emphasis on irrelevant issues in presidential campaigns?
  2. Why do incumbents win at such a high rate?
  3. Why is voter turnout so low in the United States?
  4. What is the impact of primary elections, and who votes in them?
  5. Why do political parties have such a difficult time holding their coalitions together?
  6. Why are soft money contributions considered a threat to the election process?
  7. Why did the Supreme Court have a problem with the imposition of spending limits on PACs?
  8. Has the Federal Election Campaign Reform Act succeeded in fulfilling the intent of the legislation?
  9. What accounts for the so-called gender gap?


The Terms


  1. nominations
  2. general elections
  3. closed primary
  4. open primary
  5. blanket primary
  6. plurality
  7. runoff primary
  8. super-delegates
  9. federal matching funds
  10. Super Tuesday
  11. front-loading - This refers to a primary election season in which the vast majority of Presidential nominating delegates are chosen in the first few weeks of primaries.
  12. Federal Election Commission
  13. brokered conventions - If no candidate has a majority of presidential nominating delegates committed to him before the convention, he will need to make some deals to get uncommitted delegates into his fold. Power brokers, such as state governors then would become important in this "brokered convention" scenario.
  14. winner-take-all system - A system in which the plurality winner wins everything. The term is usually applied to the electoral college where the winner, no matter how narrow the margin, wins all the state's electoral votes. [A few states split votes.] It can also be applied to a primary election in which the plurality winner gets all the state's delegates to the nominating convention.
  15. mandate

Institutions of Government - Congress


  1. Why do congressional incumbents have an advantage over challengers?
  2. Why did the Supreme Court strike down majority minority voting districts?
  3. Why does Congress continue to maintain the seniority system?
  4. What is it about the way Congress operates that promotes factionalism?
  5. Why has it been argued that Congress contributes to the fragmentation of policy making?
  6. Why do we hate Congress but love our congressperson?
  7. Why would members of Congress vote against campaign finance reform?
  8. Why would members of the Senate engage in a filibuster?
  9. Why is the House Rules Committee so important?
  10. How does politics enter into the nomination process for independent agencies and the judiciary?
  11. What impact has the high cost of campaigning had on the legislative process?


The Terms

83.       reapportionment

84.       census

85.       gerrymander

86.       congressional district

87.       legislative oversight - This is the process of Congress overseeing the executive branches carrying out of the will of Congress.

88.       House Rules Committee

89.       filibuster

90.       cloture

91.       pork barrel

92.       conference committee

93.       standing committee

94.       joint committee

95.       select committee

96.       pocket veto

97.       pigeonhole

98.       discharge petition

99.       Speaker of the House

100.   president pro tempore

101.   majority leader

102.   minority leader


Institutions of Government - The Judiciary


  1. What circumstances are required for a case to be brought before the Supreme Court?
  2. How do politics enter into Supreme Court decisions?
  3. Why can it be said that all judicial decisions are activist?
  4. Why can it be said that a president’s strongest legacy is found in the judiciary?
  5. What control does Congress have over the judiciary?


The Terms

103.   original jurisdiction

104.   appellate jurisdiction - This is the jurisdiction a court has to hear appeals of cases originally decided in a lower court. Some courts, such as the Supreme Court of the United States, have original jurisdiction in some cases and appellate jurisdiction in others.

105.   senatorial courtesy

106.   judicial review - The power of the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to review the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislative branch.

107.   judicial restraint - opposite of judicial activism

108.   judicial activism

109.   Marbury v. Madison

110.   writ of certiorari

111.   justiciable

112.   standing


Institutions of Government - The President


1.           How do presidents use their informal powers to get their legislative agenda passed?

2.           How can Congress curb the foreign policy making powers of the president?

3.           How does the president use the appointment power to insure that policies are carried out?

4.           What techniques can presidents use to promote their legislative agenda in the face of divided government?

5.           What impact does the White House staff have on policy making?

6.           Why would Congress give the president a line-item veto?

7.           Do executive agreements frustrate the intent of the framers of the Constitution?



The Terms

113.   executive agreements

114.   commander in chief

115.   Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

116.   War Powers Act

117.   chief of staff

118.   Office of Management and Budget

119.   cabinet

120.   impeachment


Institutions of Government - The Bureaucracy


1.           To what degree is the bureaucracy able to maintain political neutrality?

2.           How do iron triangles and issue networks foster democratic principles?

3.           How does Congress control the bureaucracy?

4.           How does the bureaucracy act to implement the intent of Congress?

5.           How do regulatory agencies work to protect society?

6.           How do presidents control their policy preferences through the bureaucracy?


The Terms

121.   regulatory agency - A department of a state or the national government that is charged with promulgating and enforcing regulations in a particular area, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

122.   bureaucrat

123.   Federal Reserve Board

124.   iron triangle

125.   alliance (issue) network - an association of people or groups that band together to advocate a particular position on a particular public policy issue.

126.   civil service system


Public Policy


1.           Why do the poorest people in the United States have the least political power?

2.           What role does federalism play in the implementation of social welfare policy?

3.           Why is it so difficult to pass social welfare policy?

4.           Why are entitlement programs always a threat to the budget-making process?

5.           Why can it be said that the president is a secondary player when it comes to the economy?

6.           Why is it so difficult to write a budget for the United States?

7.           How can the president use the budget-making process to control his policy initiatives?


The Terms

127.   social welfare policy

128.   incrementalism

129.   policy fragmentation

130.   policy implementation

131.   agenda setting

132.   issue-attention cycle

133.   gross domestic product (GDP)

134.   laissez-faire economics

135.   Keynesian economics

136.   fiscal policy

137.   monetary policy

138.   trade deficit

139.   deficit spending

140.   Federal Reserve System

141.   supply-side economics

142.   Office of Management and Budget

143.   Congressional Budget Office

144.   mandatory spending - opposite of discretionary spending

145.   discretionary spending

146.   social welfare

147.   entitlement programs - Benefits extended to individuals who meet legislatively established eligibility requirements. Any individual who meets the requirements is considered "entitled" to the benefit, regardless of the overall amount spent on providing the benefit to all eligible individuals. (

148.   Medicare

149.   Social Security

150.   COLAS

151.   food stamps

152.   supplemental public assistance programs

153.   Welfare Reform Act

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties


1.           Why would Justice Thurgood Marshall blame the Supreme Court for the racial policies practiced in the United States before the Brown decision?

2.           Why did the Supreme Court allow the use of affirmative action programs?

3.           Why is it said that the Warren Court took the handcuffs off the criminals and put them on the police?

4.           What mechanism did the Supreme Court use to ensure the rights of defendants in state criminal prosecutions?

5.           What impact has the interpretation of speech as a preferred right had on the government’s power to censure?

6.           How does the Supreme Court interpret the right to privacy on matters dealing with human reproduction?

7.           How has the Supreme Court changed its reasoning in dealing with religious activities in schools financed by the public?


The Terms

154.   selective incorporation

155.   Fourteenth Amendment

156.   freedom of speech

157.   freedom of the press

158.   freedom of assembly

159.   freedom of religion

160.   slander

161.   libel

162.   obscenity

163.   preferred position doctrine - Freedom of expression has a preferred position in our constitutional hierarchy; judges have a special duty to protect these freedoms and should be most skeptical about laws trespassing on them.

164.   prior restraint

165.   rights of the accused

166.   double jeopardy

167.   unreasonable search and seizure

168.   probable cause

169.   exclusionary rule

170.   objective good faith

171.   inevitable discovery rule

172.   cruel and unusual punishment

173.   implied right to privacy

174.   due process

175.   Jim Crow laws

176.   poll tax

177.   grandfather clause

178.   Civil Rights Act of 1964

179.   de facto segregation

180.   de jure segregation

181.   affirmative action

182.   Equal Rights Amendment

183.   abortion


You should know the consequences of the following cases:


1.           Marbury v. Madison

2.           Dartmouth College v. Woodwind

3.           MeCulloch v. Maryland

4.           Gibbons v. Ogden

5.           Shaw v. Reno

6.           Miller v. Johnson

7.           INS v. Lopez

8.           Clinton v. City of New York

9.           Plessy v. Ferguson

10.       Brown v. Board of Education (and Brown II)

11.       Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

12.       California v. Bakke

13.       Adarand v. Pena

14.       Smith v. Allwright

15.       Schenck v. US

16.       Gitlow v. New York

17.       Dennis v. US

18.       Brandenburg v. Ohio

19.       New York Times v. Sullivan

20.       New York Times v. US

21.       Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier

22.       Griswold v. Connecticut

23.       Roe v. Wade

24.       Webster v. Reproductive Health Services

25.       Lemon v. Kurtzman

26.       Engle v. Vitale

27.       Abington Township v. Schempp

28.       Miranda v. Arizona

29.       Mapp v. Ohio

30.       Gideon v. Wainright