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US Politics - The Separation of Powers

4. Checks and Balances

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In this module, we complicate the notion of a strict separation of powers, focusing in particular on: (i) the practice of “checks and balances” in the US political system; (ii) the perceived necessity, at the time of the US Constitution being written, for “checks” to be placed on each branch of government; (iii) the various ways in which each branch of government “checks” the two others, including (iv) the President’s right of veto; (v) the role of members of the Supreme Court as “guardians of the Constitution”; (vi) the varieties in electoral term length.


In this course, Andrew Wroe (University of Kent) explores the theory and practice of the separation of powers in the United States. In the first module, we are introduced to our key concepts and begin to complicate the notion of separated powers with Neustadt’s formulation of ‘separated institutions sharing powers’. The second module consists of a brief historical overview, providing a useful backdrop to the powers of government enshrined in the US constitution. In the third module, we explore the separation of powers more thoroughly, and in the fourth module, we complement this with an exploration of checks and balances. In the final module, we look at these concepts in practice, thinking about developments over recent years and finishing with the question of whether these political structures and institutions are still fit for purpose in the modern US.


Dr Andrew Wroe is Senior Lecturer in American Politics at the University of Kent. His current research interest is the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Previous work has focused on trust in government, particularly the reasons for its decline and its effects on the wider polity, and on how low levels of political trust frame citizens' perceptions of elected officials and may actually help engender political scandals. He has written, edited and contributed to many books on US politics. These publications cover areas including the politics of immigration reform, the Republican party and the alleged 'culture war' in the United States. His most recent book is The Ordinary Presidency of Donald J. Trump (2019).

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APA style

Wroe, A. (2021, October 14). US Politics - The Separation of Powers - Checks and Balances [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wroe, Andrew. "US Politics - The Separation of Powers – Checks and Balances." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Oct 2021,

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