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  • Edexcel: Component 3.4: Interpretations of the US presidency 

  • AQA: Component The executive branch of government: President 

Background: what you need to know

This article reviews Joe Biden’s first year in office, highlighting three issues which have damaged his standing. Rising inflation makes it likely that there will be an unpopular tightening of monetary policy in 2022. Divisions on Capitol Hill have meant that Biden’s signature ‘Build Back Better’ legislation will struggle to pass.

There has also been a politically ill-advised focus on cultural liberalism — in other words, a heightened awareness of racial discrimination and other ‘identity’ issues. This is popular with Democrat Party activists but not with the wider American public. All of these factors make it likely that the Democrats will suffer losses in the midterm elections next autumn.

Click to read the articles below and then answer the questions:

Biden’s disappointing first year in office

Depending on the examination board you are following, answer one of the two following questions.

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • Explain and analyse three constraints on the power of the US Presidency. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 2

  • Evaluate the view that the most important factor influencing the ability of US Presidents to achieve their goals is the effect of external events.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

    TIP: Remember that in answering questions on this topic, you should certainly demonstrate knowledge of the incumbent’s record, but Joe Biden should also be compared with other recent presidents. For example, you could look at the handling of the 9/11 crisis by George W Bush, or his and Barack Obama’s responses to the 2008-09 financial crisis, or Donald Trump and the Covid-19 pandemic. All are events which have given presidents an opportunity to demonstrate governing competence — or the reverse.

Graham Goodlad, St John’s College

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