If You Score More Than 29/35 on This US Government Quiz, You Can Fake It as President

Zoe Samuel

Image: Marco Brivio/Photographer's Choice RF/gettyimages

About This Quiz

The US government is a behemoth, even at its smallest. This is no surprise to anyone who has read the Constitution: simply enacting all of its requirements entails a fairly substantial civil service and body of elected representatives. The interactions of the federal and state governments are controlled by the personalities involved, but also by a vast body of law, some of it harking back to the Constitution and other elements of it established since then - in the form of precedent, case law, amendments, state law, executive orders, and much more. Vast bureaucracies handle issues such as interstate travel, defending American borders, preventing and solving federal crimes, ensuring aviation safety and other functions. Meanwhile all the way to the local level, all sorts of positions are held by elected officers, from county clerks to school boards to mayors.

Knowing how all of this works is the job of the American president. However, as events have shown, you don't have to actually know all of it; if you don't mind blustering your way through four years in office, you can just pretend you know what you're doing and a surprisingly large number of people will  buy it. Could you pull that off? Let's find out!

Which is NOT one of the three branches of government?

The military is not one of the three branches of our government. It's important to the rule of law to have a civilian government and an apolitical military; this was key to the Founders' work.

How many representatives are in the House?

There are 435 representatives, some of whom represent more than others! Unfortunately due to gerrymandering (partisan and/or racist drawing of electoral districts to weight some voters more heavily than others), it is very easy to get elected in some areas and very hard in others. This increases partisanship and reduces America's score on most democratic evaluations.

How many senators are in the Senate?

Two senators per state and 50 states makes 100 senators. Of course, some of them represent many millions and others just a few hundred thousand.

How many justices are on a full-strength Supreme Court?

A full court is 9 justices. However, sometimes the court is down a justice but continues to operate without for a while, due to death, retirement, etc.

Which is the most recent state to join the union?

Hawaii and Alaska both joined in 1959. However, Hawaii was not admitted until August, while Alaska was in January, giving Hawaii the status as newest state. Puerto Rico is considered a strong candidate to be state number 51 in the next 50 years.

How many votes does it take to pass a bill through both houses?

A bill can pass with 51 votes in the Senate (if not filibustered) and 218 in the House. That gives a total of 269.

What happens if a law is deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court?

SCOTUS will strike down a law it deems not to be legal under the Constitution. One of the downsides of the Constitution is that people disagree about it, as some places are a little vague.

What does it mean if a Cabinet position is "Senate confirmable"?

The Senate has to confirm certain political appointees. That means if they cannot get 51 votes, they don't get confirmed.

Who can declare war?

The president has to get permission (retroactively if necessary) to commit troops, per the War Powers Resolution that President Nixon tried unsuccessfully to veto. That means only Congress can declare war, per the Constitution.

How many original colonies formed the union?

The 13 colonies became the first 13 states that made up the Union. They soon expanded and added more states.

Which is the biggest state by land area?

Alaska is the biggest state, by a long way. It also has the longest coastline. It's the second-newest state and its addition was considered controversial partly because it is non-contiguous with the "lower 48" states; it was the first such state to be added.

What organization handles federal crimes?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was founded on the 26th of July, 1908. It's not a very big agency, as agencies go, but it's very important in handling crimes that cross state borders or break federal - instead of state - law.

Which agency handles international intelligence gathering?

The Central Intelligence Agency was founded on the 18th of September, 1847 and is one of the most feared organizations on the planet. It was born out of America realizing during World War Two that they really needed to get organized about knowing what was going on in other countries so they would not be surprised again like Pearl Harbor. Early CIA recruits were trained during the war by members of the British intelligence services.

Who is head of the Executive branch?

The president is head of the Executive branch. Their job is to execute laws; the legislature is supposed to make it and the judiciary to enforce it.

What right does the 19th Amendment grant?

The 19th Amendment was considered unnecessary by some who thought the 14th Amendment technically covered it, as it requires equality on a greater scope than previous articles. However, since women did not have the vote until the 19th Amendment, this is a controversial position.

What form of government does the USA have?

Technically "democracy" means "rule by the people," so once you bring representatives into the mix you get a republic. The American democratic order is correctly known as liberal democracy, an umbrella term covering most of what we consider to be Enlightenment values.

Who appoints the president?

The president is not elected directly; the people choose "electors" in an electoral college who pick him or her. Since this means a vote in Wyoming is worth many times a vote in Florida, there is a growing movement to abolish the Electoral College.

Who commands the military?

The military being led by a civilian leadership is vital to democracy; it means that the government tells the military what to do, not the other way around. That's why the president is Commander-in-Chief.

What crime can the president not pardon?

The president can pardon a felony but not a state crime; that is, he or she can pardon a federal crime. However, the states are in charge of criminal justice in their own borders.

What does the Emoluments Clause forbid senior government officials from doing?

An emolument is any money given by a foreign power to officials in government. That means it includes bribes, but can also include government officials having business interests such as a foreign ambassador buying a product they sell. That's why presidents and other senior officials are expected to divest all holdings; to prevent these types of conflicts of interests.

How many non-voting delegates represent Puerto Rico in Congress?

There are five delegates for Puerto Rico but they cannot vote in the House. However, if Puerto Rico becomes a state, they will!

How many non-voting delegates represent Washington D.C. in Congress?

There's just one, and her name is Eleanor Holmes Norton. D.C. has a bigger population than some states but no representation at the highest levels of government, which some say is unconstitutional.

Who was the first president?

Washington was the leader of the Continental Army that enabled the USA to be born. He was unanimously chosen to be president by representatives from all the new states.

Four presidents have been murdered in office. Which of the below is NOT one of them?

Eight presidents have died in office: four murdered, four of disease. FDR died from a hemorrhage, however, not from murder.

Who is the only president to serve more than two terms?

FDR was widely beloved and elected to a third term, though he died before completing it. Since then, presidential term limits mean nobody can serve more than eight years.

Who was the first Secretary of the Treasury?

Hamilton was the subject of Lin-Manuel Miranda's eponymous hit musical. It made a star out of Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury and founder of the Federal Reserve Bank.

How many Courts of Appeals are there?

If you think your verdict is wrong, you can appeal it. However, with only 13 courts, it can take a long time to be heard.

Which of these is NOT a way a president, vice-president, or governor can leave office?

You cannot fire a president, senator, etc. You can impeach them, or they can die, retire, resign or simply complete their term of office and either not run again or be prevented from running by term limits.

If the Vice President were impeached, who would preside over his or her impeachment trial?

Technically, this is true. It's a loophole in the Constitution as the Senate tries impeachment and the Vice President is in charge of the Senate. However, in practice the pressure to recuse in favor of the majority leader would be overwhelming.

Who is the most senior elected official in a state?

The governor is the top brass in the state itself. The senator is also very high ranked but in a parallel structure whereby they are in the federal government, not the state one; they do not report to the governor, nor vice-versa.

Who is the second most-senior elected official in a state?

The lieutenant governor is elected alongside the governor and is the second highest official. They are like the vice president and step into the top role if needed.

How many presidents have lived their whole life without a single new American state being added?

Enough states have been added that no president has been born, lived, and died, without a new one being added. Barack Obama will be the first unless Puerto Rico or another territory becomes a state in his lifetime - so they have about 40-50 years to make it happen!

To the nearest half trillion, what is the anticipated budget of the US government this year?

This mind-blowing sum includes a deficit of about half a trillion. That will have to be borrowed, which means adding to the national debt - or cutting services.

Which president created the Environmental Protection Agency?

Nixon, like many conservatives, was very concerned with conservation, and thus created the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA. Pollutants such as coal dust currently kill approximately 7 million people a year globally, which is the sort of thing the agency is tasked with preventing.

Which president created the National Parks System?

Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican and avid conservationist, partly because - as he saw it - if you conserve a lot of land, it'll have animals on it, and then you can hunt them! He was a keen hunter who loved the great outdoors.

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