Trustee Ap Gov Example Essay

What Do I Need to Know About the Theories of Democracy to Prep for the AP US Gov Exam?

If you are preparing for the AP US Government exam, you need to be ready to write and answer questions about the various democracy theories that political scientists have identified. The CollegeBoard considers it such an important topic that they feature a question about the Theories of Democracy in the AP US Gov course description.

What is Democracy?

Democracy was first practiced by the ancient Greeks, who believed that the people should have a voice in their governance. Aristotle, philosopher and author of a comparison of the different forms of government called Politics, warned that democracy, or the rule of the people, was a good thing that could be easily corrupted. This idea will be re-visited later in the article! In the meantime, know that from Greece, and later Rome, the United States has adopted many democratic ideas, which makes Theories of Democracy one of the key AP US Gov concepts for you to review.

One of the essential questions that is asked in any society is “Who governs?” To answer this question, you have to ask yourself who is making the laws, who has influence over public policy, who will be the next president, congressman, or senator? If you answered, “the people”, you are halfway there! But wait! Just how do “the people” make their voices heard in a democracy? Keep reading to find out.

Direct Democracy

In a direct democracy, the people’s voices are heard when citizens vote on actual decisions and bills. This was the type of democracy used in ancient Greece. In a direct democracy, a citizen would consider his or her opinion on a potential law or leader. Then, he or she would cast a vote and the votes would be counted to arrive at a majority decision.

Direct democracy is rare. It is much more likely to be seen in a small nation with few people allowed to vote. Think about how difficult it would be for a large nation like the United States to have over two million people casting votes on every decision. It would be cumbersome, expensive, and even if it could be done online, would be difficult to monitor.

Another reason why direct democracy is hard for societies to actually implement is that few citizens have the time, energy, or interest in informing themselves on every issue. The type of issues that excite people’s interest enough to cause them to form an opinion (think gun control, speed limits, abortion) are called majoritarian issues. Most issues, however, are not majoritarian issues and only those affected by the potential law are very informed about it.

Who really cares about the issues enough to devote their time and effort to understanding them? In an indirect democracy, the answer is elected representatives.

Indirect Democracy

In an indirect democracy, the citizens elect a representative who will cast votes and make decisions on their behalf. Through the citizens’ representatives, they are still able to make their voice heard in the government, but they don’t need to inform themselves on every issue, and may pursue other interests, entrusting their elected representatives to make the decisions that represent their desires.

Rather than vote on individual issues and bills, citizens in an indirect democracy choose from a number of candidates, voting for a representative. This is why indirect democracy is also called representative democracy, or republican democracy.

Note: Don’t get confused! When the words democratic or republican are used in the lower case and in the context of Theories of Democracy, they do not refer to political parties! Instead, democratic government emphasizes the voice of the people and republican government emphasizes representation. 

Which of the Democracy Theories Did the Founders Choose?

Which type of democracy does the United States have, a direct democracy or an indirect one? Perhaps the best way to answer the question is that the United States is a “democracy in a republic”. That means that the people DO have a voice in government, but rather than expressing that voice directly, they are represented by a legislator.

Remember Aristotle’s concern about corruption? In many ways, the framers of the American democracy felt that democracy could be dangerous. This is why, rather than implementing a direct democracy, the founding fathers took the decisions out of the people’s hands directly and created a system in which the people would vote for an elected representative. In other words, they chose indirect democracy over direct democracy.

Do Any Direct Democracies Exist? How Can I give an Example of One?

Very few examples of direct, or pure democracy can be found. However, for your AP US Gov review, you should be able to point to one or two examples of direct democracy. Review the bullets below and make sure you can explain how they are examples of direct, rather than indirect, democracy:

•  Government in ancient Greece, perhaps the only true democracy in history. As Greece grew larger, however, and allowed more than just its most privileged citizens to vote, direct democracy could not last. There is no example of direct democracy in a modern nation state. However…

•  The government of Switzerland comes closest to a modern day example of direct democracy. In Switzerland, many of the decisions at the Canton (state) level are put directly to the people.

•  Another good example of direct democracy is the New England Town Meeting. When the colonies were just beginning, some colonial governments were governed by allowing the people to vote directly on the issues facing the colony. Examples of this were found in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

What About Examples of Indirect Democracy?

The best example of an indirect democracy for you to use on your AP US Government exam is the United States! It is important that the graders know that you are aware that the United States is an indirect, representative, or republican democracy. Using these terms interchangeably throughout your essay will help the graders to know that you understand this.

Other examples of indirect democracies are Germany, India, Great Britain, and Taiwan. Remember, a democracy does not just mean a country with a President. A country with a king or queen can also have “rule by the many”, which is what democracy means!

Now, on to the last point of our review of this important AP US Government concept…

How Do Representatives Function in an Indirect Democracy?

In a representative democracy (remember to use these words interchangeably!), how do the people chosen to represent the “rule of many” know what the people really think? Since the people do not directly vote on the issues as in a direct democracy, the representatives must have some basis on which to act. Political scientists cite two models that characterize the people’s representatives: the trustee model and the delegate model.

In the trustee model, representatives are elected by the people after the voters carefully consider their merits as leaders and thinkers. Therefore, in the trustee model, legislators should follow their own conscience and judgment when casting votes. Think of it this way: The democratic aspect is still present in the trustee model, it just takes place in the people’s voices being heard before and not during the actual voting process.

Some disagree with the trustee model, following instead a delegate model of representation. In the delegate model, the representative serves more literally as a delegate or agent of the citizens. Those who believe in the delegate model place emphasis on polling their constituents and would claim that their conscience does not matter because they are bound to vote as the people in their district would.

What Should I Expect on the Actual AP US Gov Exam?

If you have not seen a sample exam, use links to AP Central to view a sample test in the course description or to see the format of past essay questions. The AP US Gov exam requires you to answer four FRE (Free Response Essays). Unlike some of the other AP social studies exams, the AP US Gov exam seeks responses that are less essay driven and more of a point by point answer to multiple and related questions.

On the AP US Government exam, you are almost sure to have a question that involves AP US Gov concepts such as Theories of Democracy. Lets look at the example provided in the AP US Gov Course Description:

a.) Define direct democracy.

b.) Define republican form of government.

c.) Describe one reason the framers of the United States Constitution chose a republican form of government over a democracy.

d.) Describe each of the models of Congressional representation.

•  Trustee model (attitudinal view)

•  Delegate Model (representational view)

e.) Explain why a member of Congress might sometimes act as a trustee rather than a delegate.

Check Yourself! Ready for Questions on the Theories of Democracy on the AP US Gov Exam?

To gauge whether or not you’re ready to be tested on the following AP Gov concepts, ask yourself the following:

•  What is a democracy (Who governs?)

•  What is the difference between direct and indirect democracy?

•  What are some synonyms for and examples of direct democracy?

•  What are some synonyms for and examples of indirect democracy?

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Term
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a legislature divided into two houses; the U.S. Congress and the state legislatures are bicameral except Nebraska, which is unicameral
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the process of allotting congressional seats to each state following the decennial census according to their proportion of the population
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the redrawing of congressional districts to reflect increases or decreases in seats allotted to the states, as well as population shifts within a state
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Definition
Term
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the power delegated to the House of Representatives in the Constitution to charge the president, vice president, or other "civil officers", including federal judges, with "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." This is the first step in the constitutional process of removing such officials from office
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the political party in each house of Congress with the most members
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the political party in each house of Congress with the second most members
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the only officer of the House of Representatives specifically mentioned in the Constitution; elected at the beginning of each new Congress by the entire House; traditionally a member of the majority party and the chamber's most powerful position
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Party Caucus or Conference
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a formal gathering of all party members
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the elected leader of the party controlling the most seats in the House or Senate; is second in authority to the Speaker and in the Senate is regarded as its most powerful member; helps the Speaker schedule proposed legislation for debate on the House floor
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the elected leader of the party with the second highest number of elected representatives in the House or the Senate
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key member who keeps close contact with all members of his or her party and takes nose counts on key votes, prepares summaries of bills, and in general acts as a communications link within a party
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the official chair of the Senate; usually the most senior member of the majority party; aka "pro tem"
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committee to which proposed bills are referred for consideration; continues from one Congress to the next
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committee that includes members from both houses of Congress to conduct investigations or special studies
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special joint committee created to iron out differences between Senate and House versions of a specific piece of legislation
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Select (or Special) Committee
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temporary committee appointed for specific purpose, such as conducting a special investigation or study
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petition that gives a majority of the House of Representatives the authority to bring an issue to the floor in the face of committee inaction
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legislation that allows representatives to bring home the bacon to their districts in the form of public works programs, military bases, or other programs designed to benefit their districts directly
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funds in an appropriations bill that provide dollars for particular purposes within a state or congressional district
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time of continuous service in an office or on a committee
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the fact that being in office helps a person stay in office because of a variety of benefits (i.e. name recognition, access to free media, an inside track on fundraising, a district drawn to favor the incumbent, etc.) that go with the position
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role played by elected representatives who listen to the constituents' opinions and then use their best judgment to make final decisions
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role played by elected representatives who vote the way their constituents would want them to, regardless of their own opinions
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role played by elected representatives who act as trustees or as delegates, depending on the issue
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the political condition in which different political parties control the White House and Congress; a poll in 2006 revealed that 52% of voters preferred divided government
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vote trading; voting to support a colleague's bill in return for a promise of future support; often takes place on specialized bills targeting money or projects to selected congressional districts
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a process in which committee members offer changes to a bill before it goes to the floor in either house for a vote
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a tactic by which a senator asks to be informed before a particular bill is brought to the floor. This allows the senator to stop the bill from coming to the floor until the hold is removed
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a formal way of halting action on a bill by means of long speeches or unlimited debate in the Senate; often more of a threat than an actual event; the only way to end a filibuster is a cloture motion
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mechanism requiring 60 senators to vote to cut off debate; after a cloture motion has passed, members may spend no more than 30 additional hours debating the legislation at issue
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formal constitutional authority of the president to reject bills passed by both houses of the legislative body, thus preventing the bill from becoming law without further congressional activity
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if Congress adjourns during the ten days the president has to consider a bill passed by both houses of Congress, the bill is considered vetoed without the president's signature
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Congressional review of the activities of an agency, department, or office
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a process whereby Congress can nullify agency regulations by a joint resolution of legislative disapproval; gives Congress 60 days to disapprove new agency regulations
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passed by Congress in 1973; the president is limited in the deployment of troops overseas to a 60 day period in peacetime (which can be extended for an extra 30 days to permit withdrawal) unless Congress explicitly gives its approval for a longer period
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a process by which presidents, when selecting district court judges, defer to the senator in whose state the vacancy occurs

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