Activities of members of Congress that help constituents as individuals; cutting through bureaucratic red tape to get people what they think they have a right to get.
A group of members of Congress sharing some interest or characteristic. Most are composed of members from both parties and from both houses.
Caucus (State Party)
A meeting of all state party leaders for selecting delegates to the national party convention. Usually organized as a pyramid.
Elections to select party nominees in which only people who have registered in advance with the party can vote for that party's candidates, thus encouraging greater party loyalty.
An organization that consists of a number of parties or groups united in an alliance or league.
Congressional committees formed when the Senate and the House pass a particular bill in different forms. Party leadership appoints members from each house to iron out the differences and bring back a single bill.
The compromise reached at the Constitutional Convention that established two houses of Congress.
A nation's basic law.
A system of government in which powers and policy assignments are shared between states and the national government. They may also share costs, administration and even blame for programs that work poorly.
An electoral "earthquake" whereby new issues emerge, new coalitions replace old ones, and the majority party is often displaced by the minority party. Critical election periods are sometimes marked by a national crisis and may require more than one election to bring about a new party era.
A system of selecting policymakers and of organizing government so that policy represents and responds to the public's preferences.
A system of government in which both the states and the national government remain supreme within their own spheres, each responsible for some policies.
The final paragraph of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to pass all laws "necessary and proper" to carry out the enumerated powers.
A theory of government and politics contending that societies are divided along class lines and that an upper-class elite will rule, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization.
Powers of the federal government that are specifically addressed in the Constitution; for Congress, these powers are listed in Article I, Section 8, and include the power to coin money, regulate its value, and impose taxes.
Public opinion surveys used by major media pollsters to predict electoral winners with speed and precision.
A way of organizing a nation so that two levels of government have formal authority over the same land and people. It is a system of shared power between units of government.
A strategy unique to the Senate whereby opponents of a piece of legislation try to talk it to death, based on the tradition of unlimited debate. It can be halted with a 60 member vote.
The pattern of spending, taxing, and providing grants in the federal system; it is the cornerstone of the national government's relations with state and local governments.
The problem faced by unions and other groups when people do not join because they can benefit from the group's activities without officially joining. The bigger the group, the more serious the free-rider problem.
The recent tendency of states to hold primaries early in the calendar in order to capitalize on media attention.
Full faith and credit
A clause in Article IV, Section 1, of the Constitution requiring each state to recognize the official documents and civil judgments rendered by the courts of other states.
A term that refers to the regular pattern by which women are more likely to support Democratic candidates. Women tend to be significantly less conservative than men and are more likely to support spending on social services and to oppose higher levels of military spending.
A practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan, incumbent-protected districts.
A theory of government and politics contending that groups are so strong that government is weakened.
The political equivalent of an indictment in criminal law, prescribed by the Constitution. The House of Reps may impeach the president by a majority vote for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Powers of the federal government that go beyond those enumerated in the Constitution. The Constitution states that Congress has the power to "make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution" the powers enumerated in Article I.
Those already holding office. In congressional elections, these candidates usually win.
An organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals. Many arenas are used to pursue those goals.
The power of the courts to determine whether acts of Congress, and by implication the executive, are in accord with the U.S. Constitution.
Congress' monitoring of the bureaucracy and its administration of policy, performed mainly through hearings.
The channels or access points through which issues and people's policy preferences get on the government's policy agenda. In the U.S., 3 main components are political parties, interest groups, and the mass media.
Contributions of up to $250 are matched from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to candidates for the presidential nomination who qualify and agree to meet various conditions, such as limiting their overall spending.
A commission formed at the 1968 Democratic convention in response to demands for reform by minority groups and others who sought better representation.
Rights inherent in human beings, not dependent on governments, which include life, liberty, and property.
Olson's Law of Large Groups
Advanced by Mancur Olson, a principle stating that "the larger the group, the further it will fall short of providing an optimal amount of a collective good".
Elections to select party nominees in which voters can decide on Election Day whether they want to participate in the Democratic or Republican contests.
A type of political party organization that relies heavily on material inducements, such as patronage, to win votes and to govern.
A political party's statement of its goals and policies for the next four years. The platform is drafted prior to the party convention by a committee whose members are chosen in rough proportion to each candidate's strength. It is the best formal statement of what a party believes in.
The displacement of the majority party by the minority party, usually during a critical election period.
A theory of government and politics emphasizing that politics is mainly a competition among groups, each one pressing for its own preferred policies.
A veto taking place when Congress adjourns within ten days of having submitted a bill to the president, who simply lets it die by neither signing nor vetoing it.
The issues that attract the serious attention of public officials and other people actually involved in politics at any given point in time.
Political action committee
Funding vehicles created by the 1974 campaign finance reforms. Formed by a corporation, union, or some other interest group. These are registered with the Federal Election Commission, which will meticulously monitor its expenditures.
According to Anthony Downs, a "team of men seeking to control the governing process apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election".
According to Richard Dawson, "the process through which an individual acquires his particular political orientations, his knowledge, feelings, and evaluations regarding his political world".
Pork barrel legislation
Appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district.
All the people who might be interest group members because they share some common interest. These are almost always larger than an actual group.
Privileges and immunities clause
A clause in Article IV, Section 2, of the Constitution according citizens of each state most of the privileges of citizens of other states.
An electoral system used throughout most of Europe that awards legislative seats to political parties in proportion to the number of votes won in an election.
The key technique employed by sophisticated survey researchers, which operates on the principle that everyone should have an equal probability of being selected for the sample.
A popular theory in political science to explain the actions of voters as well as politicians. it assumes that individuals act in their own best interest, carefully weighing the costs and benefits of possible alternatives.
A subset of a statistical population that accurately reflects the members of the entire population.
A form of government that derives its power, directly or indirectly, form the people. Those chosen to govern are accountable to those whom they govern. Unlike in a direct democracy where people themselves make laws, representatives are elected who make the laws.
Under the 10th amendment, powers that the United States Constitution does not give to the federal government, or forbid to the states, are reserved to the states or the people.
Responsible party model
A view favored by some political scientists about how parties should work. According to the model, parties should offer clear choices to the voters, who can then use those choices as cues to their own preferences of candidates. Once in office, parties would carry out their campaign promises.
A committee of the United States House of Representatives in charge of determining under what rule (resolution to permit the immediate consideration of a legislative measure) bills will come to the floor. It will decide for how long and under what rules the full body will debate the proposition. It possesses control over amendments, debate, and when measures will be considered. One of the most powerful committees and often described as "an arm of the leadership" or "traffic cop of Congress."
A simple rule for picking committee chairs, in effect until the 1970s. The member who had served on the committee the longest and whose party controlled Congress became chair, regardless of party loyalty, mental state, or competence.
Political contributions earmarked for party-building expenses at the grass-roots level. Unlike money that goes to the campaign of a particular candidate, such party donations are not subject to contribution limits.
Short video clips of approximately 15 seconds, which are typically all that is shown from a politician's speech or activities on television news.
Separate subject-matter committees in each house of Congress that handle bills in different policy areas.
National party leaders who automatically get a delegate slot at the Democratic national party convention.
Article IV of the Constitution, which makes the Constitution, national laws, and treaties supreme over state laws when the national government is acting within its constitutional limits.
The constitutional amendment stating that "the powers not delegated the United states by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people".
Voting with one party for one office and with another party for other offices. It has become the norm in American Voting behavior.
An intentional news leak for the purpose of assessing the political reaction.
Trustees vs. delegates
Trustee: An individual person or member of a board given the administration of property with a legal obligation to administer it solely for specified purposes. The holder of property on behalf of a beneficiary.
Delegate: A person sent or authorized to represent others, in particular an elected representative sent to a conference. Receives and carries out instructions from the group that sends them and are not expected to act independently.
A way of organizing a nation so that all power resides in the central government.
The constitutional power of the president to send a bill back to Congress with reasons for rejecting it. Can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.
War Powers Resolution
A law passed in 1973 in reaction to American fighting in Vietnam and Cambodia that requires presidents to consult with Congress whenever possible prior to using military force and to withdraw forces after 60 days unless Congress declares war or grants an extension.
Writ of habeas corpus
A court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody.