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  • AQA Component Government and politics of the USA: The executive branch of government: significance of which party controls Congress

  • Edexcel Component 3 (Government and Politics of the USA): 3.3.2: Limitations on presidential power: the election cycle and divided government

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

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Background: what you need to know

On Thursday 10 November, the FT is hosting a free webinar about the mid-term elections in the US, which will have been held two days earlier. We encourage you to sign up for this session.

Mid-terms are often viewed as an indicator of public opinion on a governing party’s performance. It is common for it to lose control of one of the two houses, creating a ‘divided government’ scenario in which it becomes harder to pass legislation. Donald Trump found this after the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in November 2018.

It is still hard to predict the outcome of the 2022 mid-term elections. After widespread predictions of a disastrous outcome for the Democrats, their prospects have recently improved. This is because of an adverse reaction to Trump’s continuing influence over the Republicans, and an unpopular ruling by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court on abortion rights.

The US midterm elections

After the mid-term elections are over, answer one of the two following questions:

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • Explain and analyse three factors which may affect the balance of power between Congress and the Presidency. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3

  • Evaluate the view that the election cycle is the most important factor affecting the power of the US Presidency.

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

    TIP: Both questions allow you to consider the significance of mid-term elections as a factor either enhancing or limiting the power of the presidency. You should also demonstrate knowledge and understanding of some other factors which may affect presidential power, such as their ability to use informal powers (like the power of persuasion) to push through a legislative agenda, or the existence of formal constitutional checks and balances.

Graham Goodlad, Portsmouth High School

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