Political Primers: The Presidency

A quick breakdown of a politically complex idea, historical event, hot topic, government process - you get it.

Campaign Finance

Presidential candidates raise campaign funds from 2 main sources: 1) Personal donations and 2) PACs

Corporations have some rights of people (Supreme Court 1886: Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.) but can't donate to candidates directly. So they donate to PACs (Political Action Committees). PACs promote political platforms, work to elect and oust political candidates, support cultural movements.

For each election cycle, $5K is the maximum donation a PAC can make to a candidate or to another PAC. Individuals can donate up to $2,900 to each candidate per election.

Super PACs emerged in 2010. Instead of donating to candidates, they spend without limits to influence elections.

A deeper explanation from Vox

What is a PAC? - Open Secrets

FEC Donation Limits '21-'22

Civil Disobedience

John Rawls, American philosopher, defined this as: a public, non-violent, willful breaking of a law in order to bring about legal or civil change.  When protesters are marching peacefully for BLM/Civil Rights, are then declared a mob by authorities but continue to peacefully march for real, sustained change - that is civil disobedience.  Barack Obama, in his George Floyd Protest Speech on 06/03/20, said this era is about both activism and politics.

Stanford piece on Civil Disobedience

Congress and Lawmaking

Members in the House of Representatives (435 members) or the Senate (100 members) draft a bill.

The bill goes to a committee where it is researched further and adjusted.

Both chambers debate and vote to approve the bill: The House of Reps with 218/435 votes; the Senate votes to approve it with 51/100 votes. Only a simple majority is needed with both the House then Senate for a bill to go to the President's desk for authorization, or to be signed into law.

The President's pen used to sign a bill into law can be given to the person that did the most advocacy for that new law.

More depth from USA.gov

Executive Privilege

Definition: The right for the President (and some of his/her staff) to maintain secrecy and privacy of information - sometimes even when called into court by Congress with a subpoena.  

The checks and balances for this includes Congressional oversight (like subpoena power) and the Supreme Court's judicial review.

Executive privilege applies to a sitting President. It is no longer applicable once that particular President leaves office.

Explained by Cornell Law

"The Former Guy" or TFG

"The Former Guy" is a term coined by President Joe Biden during a 2021 town hall when he didn't want to refer to Trump by name.

It took hold in Democrats' lexicon and on social media - shortening from The Former Guy to TFG at times.

The origins and meaning from Dictionary.com

The Pentagon Papers

The Supreme Court case New York Times Company v. United States of 06/26/71 was about President Nixon's court order against the New York Times and Washington Post that prevented them from publishing government docs detailing US military ops in Vietnam.

Ruling 6-3 in favor of the NYT/WaPo, the Court said the Nixon admin's actions were unconstitutional - a milestone precedent for preventing the censorship of our American press. "Security" is not a politician's blanket term used to keep citizens in the dark.

Great ACLU read on this

The Squad

Former President Trump launched a variety of xenophobic, biased, and bigoted attacks on 4 Congressional Democratic non-white women, first in a 2019 NC speech.  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) (NY-14) coined the "Squad" in an Instagram post soon after, referring to herself and colleagues: Rep's Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), & Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).

The Squad is expanding into a stronger coalition of 6 Progressive leaders as of the 2020 election cycle, with Rep's Bowman (NY-16) and Bush (MO-01).

View AOC's IG '19 post

View Cori Bush's '21 post

The Two-Party System

Our winner-take-all system is a major reason for why we only have 2 dominant political parties in the US.  In 48/50 states, when a Presidential candidate wins a state, they get ALL of those electoral votes.  Not just the % of votes they won in that state.  

This makes it harder for smaller political parties to gain representation in Congress and nearly impossible for them to win the Presidency.

A great scientific journal explainer

The Former Guy's Deep State

The Deep State, as the Former Guy sees it, is: A constantly growing and shifting, ultra-liberal shadow government that is to be more administrative and controlling of all government functions (undermining his personal and conservative agendas). Anyone from teachers to firefighters, voters to government officials could play a part in the Former Guy's definition of a Deep State.  Fear of this illusory Deep State makes for bad, costly political decisions.

Author David Rhode explains this well

Example of an AP fact check on this