310 terms

AP US Government & Politics

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Affirmative Action
A policy designed to correct the effects of past discrimination; requirement by law that positive steps be taken to increase the number of minorities in businesses, schools, colleges, and labor.
Supreme Court Cases:
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978)
Gratz v. Bollinger (2003)
Agenda Setting
The process of forming the list of matters that policymakers intend to address.
Ambassador
A personal representative appointed by the head of a nation to represent that nation in matters of diplomacy.
Amicus Curiae Brief
Friend of the court; interested groups may be invited to file legal briefs supporting or rejecting arguments of the case.
Anti-Federalists
Opposed the adoption of U.S. Constitution because it gave too much power to the national government at the expense of the state governments and it lacked a bill of rights.
Key Individuals:
Patrick Henry
George Mason
Richard Henry Lee
Appeasement
The act of making concessions to a political or military rival.
Appellate Jurisdiction
The authority of a court to review decisions of inferior (lower) courts; see Original Jurisdiction.
Appropriations
Money used by Congress or a state legislature for a specific purpose.
Apportionment
Distribution of representatives among the states based on the population of each state.
Articles of Impeachment
The specific charges brought against a president or a federal judge by the House of Representatives.
At-large
Election of an officeholder by the voters of an entire governmental unit (e.g., a State or county) rather than by the voters of a district, a subdivision of that area.
Articles of Confederation
The first national constitution of the United States that created a government lasting from 1781 to 1789; replaced by the current Constitution.
Bills of Attainder
A legislative act, illegal without a judicial trial, that inflicts punishment on an individual or group for the purpose of suppressing that person or group.
Bipartisan
Politics that emphasizes cooperation between the major parties.
Blanket Primary
A nominating election in which voters may switch from one political party's primary to another on an office-to-office basis; see Direct Primary.
Block Grants
Federal grants to the states and local communities that are for general use in a broad area, such as community development.
Brief
Legal document submitted to the court setting forth the facts of a case and supporting a particular position.
Bureaucracy
Any large, complex administrative structure; a hierarchical organization with job specialization and complex rules.
Burger Court
The description given the United States Supreme Court from 1969 to 1986 (led by Chief Justice Warren Burger). It was expected that the "Burger Court" would become a conservative court under Warren Burger and reverse many of the liberal rulings of the earlier Warren Court.
Capital Punishment
The execution of an individual by the state as punishment for heinous offenses.
Constitutional Connection:
Eighth Amendment
Cabinet
Government departments headed by presidential appointees to help establish public policy and operate a specific policy area of governmental activity.
Casework
Assistance given to constituents by congressional members, answering questions or doing favors.
Categorical Grants
Federal grants to states and local communities that are earmarked for specific purposes only, such as pollution control, schools, or hospitals. Also known Grants-in-Aid.
Caucus
Locally held meeting in a state to select delegates who, in turn, will nominate candidates to political offices.
Caucus (Congressional)
An association of congressional members who advocate a political ideology, regional, ethnic, or economic interest.
Certificate
A method of putting a case before the United States Supreme Court; used when a lower court is not clear about the procedure or the rule of law that should apply in a given case and asks the Supreme Court to certify the answer to a specific question.
Checks and Balances
System of overlapping the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, to permit each branch to check the actions of the others and thus no branch of government may dominate the other; see Separation of Powers.
Civil Law
That body of law relating to human conduct, including disputes between private persons and between private persons and government not covered by criminal law.
Civil Liberties
Guarantees of the safety of persons, opinions, and property from the arbitrary acts of government.
Civil Rights
Refers to positive acts of government that seek to make constitutional guarantees a reality for all; e.g., prohibition of discrimination.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The legislative act that removed racial barriers in all places vested with a public interest.
Constitutional Connection:
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Civil Service System
The system created by civil service laws by which many appointments to the federal bureaucracy are made; established under the Pendleton Act of 1883.
Class Action Suit
A lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of persons with a similar legal claim against a party or individual.
Clear and Present Danger Test
A doctrine adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States to determine under what circumstances limits can be placed on First Amendment freedoms of speech, press or assembly.
Supreme Court Cases:
Schenck v. United States (1919)
Abrams v. United States (1919)
Gitlow v. New York (1925)
Closed Primary
Form of the direct primary in which only declared party members may vote; see Open Primary.
Cloture
Procedure that may be used to limit or end floor debate in a legislative body; requires a three-fifths vote of the Senate.
Comparable Worth
Holds that women should be paid salaries equal to men for equivalent job responsibilities and skills.
Coattail Effect
Influence that a popular candidate for a top office (e.g., President or governor) can have on the voters' support of other candidates of his/her party on the same ballot.
Commerce Power
Exclusive power of Congress to regulate interstate and foreign trade.
Committee Chairman
Member who heads a standing committee in a legislative body; selection relies heavily on party loyalty.
Committee of the Whole
A committee that consists of an entire legislative body; used for a procedure in which a legislative body expedites its business by resolving itself into a committee of itself.
Common Law
That body of law made up of generally accepted standards of rights and wrongs developed over centuries by judicial decisions rather than in written statutes.
Concurrent Jurisdiction
Power shared by federal and state courts to hear certain cases.
Concurrent Powers
Those powers which are exercised independently by both the national and state governments. Those powers shared by both levels of governments, i.e., state and national.
Examples:
Maintain law & order
Levy tax
Provide for the general welfare
Concurrent Resolution
Measure passed by both houses of a legislature that does not have the force of law nor require the chief executive's approval; often used to express the legislature's opinion or for internal rules or housekeeping.
Concurring Opinion
Written explanation of the views of one or more appellate judges who support a decision reached by majority of the court but disagree with the grounds for that decision.
Conference Committee
Temporary joint committee created to reconcile any differences between the two houses' versions of a bill.
Congressional Budget Office
Advises Congress on the probable consequences of its decisions, forecasts revenues, and is a counterweight to the president's Office of Management and Budget.
Congressional Districting
The process by which state legislatures draw congressional districts for states with more than one representatives; see Gerrymandering.
Congressional Oversight
Power used by Congress to gather information useful for the formation of legislation, review the operations and budgets of executive departments and independent regulatory agencies, conduct investigations through committee hearings, and bring to the public's attention the need for public policy.
Consent of the Governed
A derivative of the doctrine of natural rights; a philosophy, later adopted by Jefferson when he drafted the Declaration of Independence that puts the authority of the government in the people's hands.
Conservative
A person who believes government power, particularly in the economy, should be limited in order to maximize individual freedom; see also Liberal.
Constituents
All persons represented by a legislator or other elected officeholder.
Constitution
Body of fundamental law, setting out the basic principles, structures, processes, and functions of a government and placing limits upon its actions; may be written or unwritten.
Constitutional Courts
Federal courts created by Congress under Article II of the Constitution.
Examples:
Court of Appeals
U.S. Court of International Trade
Constitutional Law
Laws relating to the interpretation of the Constitution.
Consumer Price Index (CPI)
A primary measure of inflation determined by the increase in the cost of products compared to a base year.
Continuing Resolution
Measure that, when signed by the President, allows an agency to function on the basis of appropriations made the prior year.
Continuous Body
Governing unit such as the Senate whose seats are never all up for election at the same time.
Convention Bump
An increase reflected in presidential preference polls immediately following a party's nominating convention.
Cooperative Federalism
Described as various levels of government which are seen as related parts of a single governmental system, characterized more by cooperation and shared functions than by conflict and competition; also called Marble Cake Federalism.
Court Packing
The act of placing members of the same political party on the bench so that opinion of the court will be consistent with that of the political party; associated with Franklin Roosevelt.
Creative Federalism
Developed during Lyndon Johnson's administration, it was characterized by the Great Society programs, which placed a major responsibility on federally funded programs.
Criminal Law
That body of law passed by both the federal and state governments, that defines crimes and provides for their punishment.
Critical (Realigning) Elections
An election that signals a party realignment through voter polarization around new issues.
Examples:
1800, 1828, 1860, 1896, 1932, 1964
Dealignment
Marks a period when a significant number of voters choose to no longer support a particular political party; see Crtitical Election.
De Facto Segregation
Segregation that exists "in fact," not as a result of laws or governmental actions, i.e., administered by the public; see de jure segregation, segregation.
Defendant
In a civil suit, the person against whom a court action is brought by the plaintiff; in a criminal case, the person charged with the crime.
Deficit
Yearly shortfall between revenue and spending.
Deficit Spending
Government practice of spending more than is taken in from taxes.
De Jure Segregation
Segregation that exists as a result of some law or governmental action.
Examples:
Jim Crow Laws
Delegate
Role played by elected representatives who vote the way their constituents would want them to, regardless of their own opinions.
Delegated Powers
Powers which are granted to, and exercised ONLY by the national government. The delegated powers are specifically listed in the U.S. Constitution at Articles I, II, III; also known as Expressed Powers.
Department
A major administrative unit with responsibility for a broad area of government operations; usually indicates a permanent national interest in that particular governmental function.
Deregulation
A policy promoting cutbacks in the amount of Federal regulation in specific areas of economic activity.
Desegregation
The removal of racial barriers either by legislative acts or by judicial action.
Deterrence
Basic feature of American foreign policy to maintain massive military strength in order to prevent any attack upon this country or its allies.
Devolution
An effort to shift responsibility of domestic programs to the states in order to decrease the size and activities of the federal government; associated with Ronald Reagan.
Diplomatic Immunity
Practice in international law under which ambassadors and other diplomatic officials have special privileges and are not subject to the laws of the state to which they are accredited.
Direct Action
Attempts to influence government by civil disobedience, and sometimes by militant or violent action.
Examples:
Demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, campus strikes, picketing
Direct Incitement Test
The advocacy of illegal action is protected by the First Amendment unless imminent action is intended and likely to occur.
Supreme Court Cases:
Brandenburg v Ohio (1969)
Direct Primary
The most widely used method of making nominations in American politics; an intra-party nominating election at which those who vote choose a party's candidates to run in the general election.
Direct Tax
A tax that must be paid by the person on whom it is levied.
Discharge Petition
A procedure to bring a bill to the floor of the legislative body when a committee has refused to report it.
Discretionary Spending
Spending set by the government through annual appropriations bills, including operating expenses and salaries of government employees.
Dissenting Opinion
Written explanation of the views of one or more judges who disagree with a decision reached by a majority of the court.
District Courts
Lowest level of federal courts; where federal cases begin and trials are held.
Divided Government
One party controls the executive, and the other party controls one or both houses of Congress.
Division of Powers
Basic principle of federalism; the constitutional provisions by which governmental powers are divided on a geographic basis.
Double Jeopardy
The constitutional prohibition against a person being put on trial more than once for the same offense.
Constitutional Connection:
Fifth Amendment
Draft
Process by which people enter compulsory service in the military.
Dual Federalism
Federal and state governments each have defined respinsibilities within their own sphere of influence; also called Layer Cake Federalism.
Due Process/Due Process Clause
The constitutional guarantee that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."
Constitutional Connections:
Fifth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Elastic Clause
Found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, it gives Congress the power to make "all laws necessary and proper" to carry out the other defined powers of Congress; also known as the Necessary and Proper Clause.
Elector
A group of people named by each state legislature to select the president and vice president.
Electoral College
Group of persons (presidential electors) chosen in each State and the District of Columbia every four years who make a formal selection of the President and Vice President.
Electorate
All of the persons entitled to vote in a given election.
Elite Theory
A perspective holding that society is ruled by a small number of people who exercise power in their self-interest; see also Pluralism.
Eminent Domain
The power of a government to seize private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner.
Constitutional Connection:
Fifth Amendment
Entitlement Programs
Government benefits that certain qualified individuals are entitled to by law, regardless of need.
Examples:
Social Security
Medicare
Enumerated Powers
Powers that are granted specifically to the three branches of the federal government under the Constitution; also known as Expressed Powers.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Regulates air and water pollution, pesticides, radiation, solid waste, and toxic substances. It is the main environmental regulatory agency.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Federal agency created to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin, religion, or sex in hiring, promotion, or firing.
Equal Protection Clause
Section of the Fourteenth Amendment that guarantees that all citizens receive "equal protection of the laws"; has been used to bar discrimination against blacks and women.
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
A proposed amendment to the United States Constitution, aimed at ending discrimination against women; defeated in 1982.
Equal Time Rule
FCC rule that requires broadcast stations to sell campaign air time equally to all candidates if they choose to sell it to any.
Establishment Clause
Part of the First Amendment prohibiting either the establishment of a religion or the sanctioning of an existing religion by the government; see also Free Exercise Clause.
Supreme Court Cases:
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
Lee v. Weisman (1992)
Exclusionary Rule
Holds that evidence gained by illegal or unreasonable means cannot be used at the court trial of the person from whom it was seized; see also Inevitable Discovery.
Constitutional Connection:
Fourth Amendment
Supreme Court Cases:
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Executive Agreement
Pact made by the president with the head of a foreign state; a binding international agreement with the force of law but which (unlike a treaty) does not require Senate consent.
Executive Office of the President
A collection of agencies that help the president oversee department and agency activities, formulate budgets and monitor spending, craft legislation, and lobby Congress.
Includes:
National Security Council,
Council of Economic Advisers
Office of Management and Budget
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Executive Order
A directive, order, or regulation issued by the president; based on constitutional or statutory authority and have the force of law.
Executive Privilege
The right of the president to withhold information from Congress or refuse to testify.
Supreme Court Cases:
U.S. v. Nixon (1974)
Exit Poll
A poll taken of a small percentage of voters as they leave the polls; used to forecast the outcome of an election or determine the reasons for voting decisions.
Ex Post Facto Law
Criminal law applied retroactively to the disadvantage of the accused; prohibited by the United States Constitution.
Expressed Powers
Powers that congress has that are specifically listed in the Constitution; also known as the Enumerated Powers.
Extradition
The constitutional provision which allows a state to request another state to return fugitives.
Fairness Doctrine
FCC regulation that required the media to air opposing opinions of the same issue; repealed in 1987.
Family Medical Leave Act (1993)
Act that gave unpaid emergency medical leave for employees with a guarantee that their job would not be taken away in the interim.
Favorite Son
The presidential candidate backed by the home state at the party's nominating convention.
Federal Budget
A detailed financial document containing estimates of federal income and spending during the coming fiscal year.
Key Agencies:
Office of Management and Budget
Congressional Budget Office
Budget Committees
Ways & Means Committee (House)
Appropriations Committee (House)
Federal Election Campaign Acts (FECA)
A law passed in 1974 for reforming campaign finances; created the Federal Election Commission, provided public financing for presidential primaries and general elections, limited presidential campaign spending, required disclosure, and attempted to limit contributions.
Federalism
A form of government in which power is divided between the federal, or national, government and the states.
Federalist Papers
A series of articles written by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison urging the adoption of the Constitution.
Key Ideas:
Federalist 10 - Factions, Tyranny of the Majority
Federalist 39 - Federalism
Federalist 51 - Checks and Balances
Federalist 70 - Presidency
Federalist 78 - Judicial Review
Fighting Words Doctrine
Holds that the government can limit free speech if it can be proved that the result of speech will cause physical violence.
Supreme Court Cases:
Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942)
Filibuster
A procedural practice in the Senate whereby a senator refuses to relinquish the floor and thereby delays proceedings and prevents a vote on a controversial issue; see also Cloture.
Flat Tax
An alternative to the progressive income tax where individuals pay the same percentage regardless of how much they earn
Flexible Construction
The principle, established by Chief Justice Marshall in 1819 in McCulloch v. Maryland, that the Constitution must be interpreted flexibly to meet changing conditions.
Fiscal Federalism
The national government's use of fiscal policy to influence states through the granting or withholding of appropriations.
Foreign Policy
The actions and stands that a nation takes in every aspect of its relationships with other countries; everything a nation's government says and does in world affairs.
Formula Grants
Categorical grants distributed according to a particular set of rules, called a formula, that specify who is eligible for the grants and how much each eligible applicant will receive.
Freedom of Information Act (1966)
Law requiring that the federal executive branch and regulatory agencies to make information available to journalists, scholars, and the public unless it falls into one of several confidential categories; also known as Sunshine Laws.
Free Exercise Clause
Part of the First Amendment guaranteeing to each person the right to believe whatever that person chooses in matters of religion.
Supreme Court Cases:
Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972)
Employment Division v. Smith (1990)
Full Faith and Credit Clause
A clause in Article IV of the Constitution which requires that each state respect the laws, records and court decisions of another state.
Funded Mandates
Those regulations passed by Congress or issued by regulatory agencies to the states with federal funds to support them.
Gatekeepers
Media executives, news editors, and prominent reports who decide what to present and how to present it.
Gender Gap
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.
General Election
Regularly scheduled election at which the voters choose public officeholders.
General Purpose Grants
The smallest category of federal grants which may be used by states and local communities mostly as they wish; see also Block Grants.
General Revenue Sharing
A controversial program, in effect between 1972 and 1986, in which the federal government returned federal tax money to state and local governments to spend without restrictions.
Gerrymandering
The process in which state legislatures create congressional districts, many of which are oddly shaped and favor the political party in power in the state making the changes.
Grand Jury
Body of 12 to 23 persons convened by a court to decide whether or not there is enough probable cause (sufficient evidence) to justify bringing a person to trial.
Grants-In-Aid Program
Financial aid granted by federal government to the states with the funds available subject to certain conditions and to be used for certain purposes.
Grass Roots
Of or from the common people, the average voter; used to describe opinion and pressure on public policy.
Gridlock
Describes people's perception that Congress and the president are in a state of disagreement that results in little legislation passing.
Hatch Act (1939)
Law that prohibits government employees from engaging in political activities while on duty.
Hyperpluralism
A theory of government and politics contending that groups are so strong that government is weakened; see also Pluralism.
Ideological Party
Political Party based on a particular set of beliefs, a comprehensive view of social, economic, and political matters.
Examples:
Libertarian Party
Impeachment
An action by the House of Representatives to accuse the president, vice president, or other civil officers of the United States of committing "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
Imperial Presidency
Term developed by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.; refers to presidents who dominate the political and legislative agenda.
Implied Powers
Powers of the national government that flow from its enumerated powers and the "Elastic Clause" of the Constitution.
Impoundment
Presidential refusal to allow an agency to spend funds that Congress authorized and appropriated; essentially ended under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.
Incorporation Doctrine
The selective application of the protections of the federal Bill of Rights to the states.
Supreme Court Cases:
Gitlow v. New York (1925)
Incrementalism
Small changes in policy over long periods of time; usually in reference to budget-making--that the best indicator of this year's budget is last year's budget plus a small increase.
Incumbents
Those elected officials who are running for new terms of office.
Independent Executive Agency
The government not accounted for by cabinet departments, independent regulatory agencies, and government corporations; its administrators are typically appointed by the president and serve at the president's pleasure.
Examples:
NASA
Independent Regulatory Agencies
Federal regulatory agencies that are are administratively independent of both the president and Congress.
Examples:
Federal Trade Commission
Securities and Exchange Commission
Indictment
Accusation by a grand jury; i.e., a formal finding by that body, that there is probable cause (reasonable grounds to make or believe an accusation against a named person to warrant his/her criminal trial.
Informal Amendment
A change made in Constitution not by actual written amendment.
Methods:
Legislation passed by Congress
Actions taken by the President
Decisions of the Supreme Court
Activities of political parties
Custom
Inherent Powers
The powers of the national government in foreign affairs that the Supreme Court has declared do not depend on constitutional grants but rather grow out of the very existence of the national government.
Initiative
Petition process by which a certain percentage of voters can put a proposed constitutional amendment or statute on the ballot for popular approval or rejection.
Injunction
Court order that requires or forbids some specific action.
Interim Government
Government set up to serve during the transition from a previous government.
Interest Group
An organization of people sharing a common interest or goal that seeks to influence the making of public policy.
Interstate Compact
Formal agreements, largely in the form of financial arrangements, which are entered into between states, only with the approval of Congress.
Iron Triangle
The three-way alliance among legislators, bureaucrats, and interests groups to make or preserve policies that benefit their respective interests.
Joint Committee
Legislative committee composed of members of both houses of Congress.
Examples:
Joint Committee on the Library
Joint Committee on Printing
Joint Resolution
Legislative measure that must be passed by both houses and approved by the chief executive to become effective; similar to a bill, with the force of law, and often used for unusual or temporary purposes.
Issue Network
A network of people in Washington, D.C.-located within interest groups, on congressional staff, universities, think tanks, and the media-who regularly discuss and advocate public policies.
Judicial Activism
A philosophy of judicial decision-making that argues judges should use their power broadly to further justice, especially in the areas of equality and personal liberty.
Judicial Restraint
A judicial philosophy in which judges play minimal policy-making roles, leaving that duty strictly to the legislatures.
Judicial Review
Authority given to the courts to review the constitutionality of acts by the executive, the legislature, or the states; established in Marbury v. Madison.
Judiciary Act of 1789
The congressional act which set the scope and limits for the federal judiciary system.
Judiciary Committee
Key Senate committee that is responsible for recommending presidential judicial appointments to the full Senate for approval.
Jurisdiction
Authority vested in a particular court to hear and decide the issues in any particular case.
Jus Sanguinis
Acquisition of American citizenship at birth, because of the citizenship of one or both parents; the "law of the blood," to whom born.
Jus Soli
Acquisition of American citizenship at birth, because of birth in the United States; the "law of the soil," where born.
Lame Duck
A defeated office holder after that person has lost their reelection, but is still in office until the newly elected official is sworn in.
Lemon Test
Three-prong test used to determine the constitutionality of a government action under the Establishment Clause.
Constitutional Connection:
First Amendment
Supreme Court Cases:
Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971)
Libel
Publication (written) of statements that wrongfully damage another's reputation; see slander.
Constitutional Connection:
First Amendment
Supreme Court Cases:
New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
Liberal
A person whose views favor more government involvement in business, social welfare, minority rights, & increased government spending; see also Conservative.
Limited Government
Basic principle of the American system of government; that government is limited in what it may do, and each individual has certain rights that government cannot take away.
Line Item Veto
Presidential power to strike, or remove, specific items from a bill without vetoing it in its entireity; passed by Congress in 1996 and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1998.
Supreme Court Cases:
Clinton v. City of New York
Literacy Test
A test administered as a precondition for voting, often used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote; suspended in most states under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Constitutional Connection:
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Lobbyist
A person who is employed by and acts for an organized interest group or corporation to try to influence policy decisions and positions in the executive and legislative branches.
Logrolling
The exchange of political favors for support of a bill.
Loose Construction
The belief, first expressed by Alexander Hamilton, that the government can do anything that the Constitution does not specifically prohibit; see also the Elastic Clause.
Majority Opinion
A court opinion reflecting the views of the majority of the judges; sets forth the decision of the court and an explanation of the rationale behind the court's decision.
Mandate
A claim by a victorious candidate that the electorate has given him or her special authority to carry out promises made during the campaign.
Mandatory Spending
Federal spending required by law that continues without the need for annual approvals by Congress.
Marshall Court
John Marshall's tenure as Chief justice of the Supreme Court, whose leadership resulted in the landmark decisions of Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, and Gibbons v. Ogden. These cases shifted power to the judiciary and federal government.
Matching Funds
Limited federal funds given to presidential candidates that match private donations raised during the campaign
Matching Requirements
A federal requirement that state or local governments must put up some of their own funds in order to get federal money.
McCarthyism
The act of seeking out subversives without cause or need (seen during the 1950s with Senator Joseph McCarthy in terms of the fear of Communism).
Medicaid
A shared program between the federal and local governments that covers hospital and nursing home costs of low: income people
Medicare
Program that covers hospital and medical costs of people 65 years of age and older as well as disabled individuals receiving Social Security.
Military-Industrial Complex
The assumption that there is an alliance between the military and industrial leaders.
Misdemeanor
An offense that is less than a felony with punishment ranging from a fine to a short jail term.
Motor Voter Act of 1993
Signed into law by President Clinton, it enables people to register to vote at motor vehicle departments.
Multi-Seat District
Electoral districts in which voters choose more than one representative.
National Committee
The governing body of a political party made up of state and national party leaders.
National Nominating Conventions
The governing authority of the political party. They give direction to the national party chairperson, the spokesperson of the party, and the person who heads the national committee, the governing body of the party. They are also the forums where presidential candidates are given the official nod by their parties.
Natural Rights
Part of Locke's philosophy; rights that are God given such as life, liberty, and property.
Naturalization
Process by which persons acquire citizenship.
New Deal
Legislation that provided a safety net for all members of society, such as Social Security, under Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
New Democrat
A term created by the Democratic Leadership Council in 1992, it denotes a more conservative, centrist Democrat.
"New Federalism"
President Ronald Reagan's effort to restore to state governments the responsibility for making and implementing policies.
New Jersey Plan
Offered at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, it urged the delegates to create a legislature based on equal representation by the states.
Non-Preferential Primary
Where voters choose delegates who are not bound to vote for the winning primary candidate.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Agreement that called for dramatic reductions of tariffs among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Obscenity
Any work that, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient interest in sex.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Its director, appointed with the consent of the Senate, is responsible for the preparation of the massive federal budget, which must be submitted to the Congress in January each year. Besides formulating the budget, the OMB oversees congressional appropriations.
Original Jurisdiction
Cases heard by the Supreme Court that do not come on appeal and that "affect ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party."
Outputs
The binding decisions that a political system makes, whether in the form of laws, regulations, or judicial decisions.
Partisan
Political opposition drawn along party lines.
Patronage
Dispensing government jobs to persons who belong to the winning political party.
Party Caucus
Also known as the party conference, it is a means for each party to develop a strategy or position on a particular issue.
Party Dealignment
A shift away from the major political parties to a more neutral, independent ideological view of party identification.
Party Eras
A time period characterized by national dominance by one political party. There have been four major party eras in American history: the era of good feeling, the Republican era following the Civil War, the Democratic era following the election of Franklin Roosevelt, and the Republican era following the election of Richard Nixon.
Party Machine
The party organization that exists on the local level and uses patronage as the means to keep the party members in line. Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall are examples.
Party Platforms
Voted on by the delegates attending the National Convention, they represent the ideological point of view of a political party.
Party Realignment
The signaling resulting from a national election or a major shift in the political spectrum and characterized by the start of a party era. Party regulars: enrolled party members who are usually active in the organization of a political party and support party positions and nominated candidates.
"Peace Dividend"
Funds allocated to national defense that might be spent on domestic needs because of the end of the Cold War.
Pendleton Act
Known as the Civil Service Act of 1883, it set up merit as the criterion for hiring, promoting, and firing federal employees.
Petit Jury
A trial jury of 12 that sits at civil/criminal cases.
Plaintiff
The party who brings a civil action to court for the purpose of seeking a monetary remedy.
Political Action Committees
Known as PACs, they raise money from the special interest constituents and make contributions to political campaigns on behalf of the special interest group.
Political Participation
The different ways an average citizen gets involved in the political process ranging from conventional means of influencing government to more radical unconventional tools that have influenced our elected officials.
Political Party
A group of people joined together by common philosophies and common approaches with the aim of getting candidates elected in order to develop and implement public policy. It is characterized by an organization that is responsible to the electorate and has a role in government.
Political Question
Constitutional question that judges refuse to answer because to do so would encroach upon the authority of Congress or the president.
Political Socialization
The factors that determine voting behavior such as family, religion, and ethnic background.
Policy
A course of action decided upon by government, or by any organization, group, or individual, that involves a choice among competing interests.
Poll Tax
The requirement of a person to pay for the right to vote.
Pork Barrel Legislation
The practice of legislators obtaining funds through legislation that favors their home districts.
Precedent
Judicial use of prior cases as the test for deciding similar cases.
President Pro Tempore
Temporary presiding officer of the Senate.
Presidential Primary
Elections held in individual states to determine the preference of the voters and to allocate the number of delegates to the party's national convention.
Price Supports
The government's price guarantees for certain farm goods. The government subsidizes farmers to not grow certain crops and also buys food directly and stores it, rather than let the oversupply in the market bring the prices down.
Prior Restraint
Censorship enacted before the speech, publication, etc., is released to the general public.
Privileges and Immunities
. Also a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment that protects citizens from abuses by a state.
Probable Cause
A set of facts and circumstances that would induce a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that a particular person had committed a specific crime; reasonable grounds to make or believe an accusation.
Procedural Due Process
Constitutional requirement that a government proceed by proper means.
Progressive Tax
tax based upon the amount of money an individual earned, such as an income tax. Became legal as a result of the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Prohibited Powers
Expressly bar government from specific actions, e.g. state governments cannot coin money, no ex post facto laws or grant titles of nobility.
Quasi-Legislative
A characteristic of independent regulatory agencies that gives them legislative powers to issue regulations.
Ratification
The procedure followed by the states to approve the Constitution and/or its formal amendments.
"Reagan Revolution"
A concept was to restore to state governments the responsibility for making and implementing policies. It is additionally a term popularly used to describe the broad spending cuts in social welfare programs instituted by the Reagan administration, beginning in 1981.
Reapportionment
The process in which a state legislature redraws congressional districts based on population increases or declines.
Reapportionment Act of 1929
Act that provides for a permanent size of the House and for the number of seats, based on the census, each state should have.
Red Tape
Used to describe the difficulty it takes to get answers from a bureaucratic agency.
Redistributive Policy
Policy that results in the government taking money from one segment of the society through taxes and giving it back to groups in need. It includes such policies as welfare, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, tax credits for business expenses or business investment, and highway construction made possible through a gasoline tax.
Referendum
The process whereby a legislative proposal is voted upon by popular vote.
Regressive Tax
A tax that is imposed on individuals regardless of how much they earn, such as a sales tax.
Regulatory Policy
Policy that results in government control over individuals and businesses. Examples of regulatory policy include protection of the environment and consumer protection.
Regulatory Federalism
A term used to describe the emergence of federal programs aimed at, or implemented by, state and local governments.
Rehnquist Court
The description given the United States Supreme Court from 1986 to the present (led by Chief William H. Rehnquist). It is marked by its conservative rulings, cutting back on the rights of the accused and expanding the concept of federalism.
Religious Right
An evangelical conglomeration of ultraconservative political activists, many of whom support the Republican Party.
Reserved Powers
Powers retained by the states, as dictated by the 10th Amendment.
Riders
Amendments to bills, often in the form of appropriations, that sometimes have nothing to do with the intent of the bill itself and many times are considered to be pork barrel legislation. Safety net: a minimum government guarantee that ensures that individuals living in poverty will receive support in the form of social welfare programs.
Rule of Four
In order for a case to be heard by the Supreme Court, four justices must agree to hear the case.
Safe Seat
Electoral office, usually in the legislature, for which the party or incumbent is strong enough that reelection is almost taken for granted.
Sedition
Conduct/language inciting rebellion against authority of the state.
Select Committees
Specially created congressional committees that conduct special investigations. The Watergate Committee and Iran-Contra investigators were select Senate committees.
Senatorial Courtesy
Policy that gives senators the right to be notified by the chief executive of pending political nominations, usually judicial. Once informed, the approval of the senators from the state from which the judge comes is obtained and the appointment process moves on. This courtesy does not apply to Supreme Court justice nominations.
Separate But Equal
The judicial precedent established in the Plessy v Ferguson decision that enabled states to interpret the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment as a means of establishing segregation.
Separation of Church and State
Also known as the "establishment clause," it is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the federal government from creating a state supported religion.
Separation of Powers
Originally developed by Montesquieu in The Spirit of Natural Laws written during the Enlightenment and James Madison in Federalist No. 48, this important doctrine resulted in the establishment of three separate branches of government: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, each having distinct and unique powers.
Shared Powers
The fused or overlapping powers and functions of the separate branches of government.
Simpson-Marzzoli Act (1987)
Act that resulted in more than 2 million illegal aliens who were living in this country since 1982 being allowed to apply for legal status.
Slander
Verbal defamation of a person's character.
Social Welfare
Entitlement programs such as Social Security and programs such as Aid to Dependent Children paid for by the federal government.
Solid South
Dominance by the Democratic Party in the South following the Civil War. The Republicans made strong inroads when Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980 and after the Republicans gained control of the Congress in 1994.
Sound Bites
30 or 60-second statements by politicians aired on the evening news shows or Sunday morning talk shows.
Speaker of the House
The representative from the majority party in the House of Representatives who presides over House meetings, recognizes speakers, refers bills to committees, answers procedural questions, and declares the outcome of votes.
Special Courts
Courts created by Congress to deal with cases deriving from the delegated powers of Congress such as military appeals, tax appeals, and veteran appeals.
Standing Committees
Committees that deal with proposed bills and also act in an oversight function. They are permanent, existing from one Congress to the next, such as the House Ways and Means and Senate Appropriations.
Stare Decisis
Latin for judicial precedent, this concept originated in England in the twelfth century when judges settled disputes based on custom and tradition.
Statutory Law
Law enacted by a legislative body.
Stay
The temporary delay of punishment, usually in capital offenses
Strategic Arms Limitation Talk (SALT) Treaty
Agreement signed by President Nixon in 1972 that resulted in the first arms reductions since the nuclear age began. Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START) of 1991: treaty between the United States and Russia that agreed to major reductions in their nuclear arsenals.
Strict Constructionists
Individuals who believe in a conservative interpretation of the Constitution.
Substantive Due Process
Legal process that places limits related to the content of legislation and the extent government can use its power to enact unreasonable laws.
Super Tuesday
The Tuesday on which a number of primary votes take place, with a heavy concentration of Southern states voting.
Super Delegates
Democratic Party leaders and elected party officials who automatically are selected as delegates to the National Convention.
Superfund
Legislation that mandated the cleanup of abandoned toxic waste dumps and authorized premarket testing of chemical substances. It allowed the EPA to ban or regulate the manufacture, sale, or use of any chemicals that could present an "unreasonable risk of injury to health or environment," and outlawed certain chemicals such as PCBS.
Supremacy Clause
Clause that states that "the Constitution and the laws of the United States... shall be the supreme law of the land."
Suspect Classification
Racial or national origin classifications created by law and subject to careful judicial scrutiny
Symbolic Speech
Forms of free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution, such as wearing a black armband to protest a governmental action or burning an American flag in protest for political reasons.
Trial Court
Any court of original jurisdiction that empowers a jury to decide the guilt or liability of an individual.
Taft-Hartley Act (1947)
Act that outlawed the closed union shop and certain kinds of strikes, permitted employers to sue unions for violations of contracts, allowed the use of injunctions to stop union activities, and allowed states to adopt right: to: work laws, giving employers more rights regarding the establishment of union shops. Finally, the act gave the president the right to step in and prevent a strike by an entire industry, such as the steel or auto industry, if such an action would threaten the nation's health and safety.
Talking Heads
Politicians who use sound bites or other means to present a superficial look at a policy position rather than an in-depth approach in explaining their views.
Thirty-Second Spots
Paid political ads 30 seconds in duration
Trial Balloons
Selective leaks aimed at testing the political waters
Unicameral Legislature
Single-house legislature
Unitary system
A system of government in which power is concentrated in the central government.
Unfunded Mandates
Federal laws that require states to meet certain regulatory standards, but provide no money to help the states comply. Congress enacted a law in 1995 to curtail the practice.
Unwritten Constitution
Traditions, precedent, and practice incorporated into our form of government that adds to the Constitution's elasticity and its viability. Political parties, the president's cabinet, political action committees, and the federal bureaucracy are important examples.
Vertical Federalism
Principle that describes the obligations established by the Constitution between the states and the national government.
Virginia Plan
Offered at the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia, it urged the delegates to create a legislature based on the population of each state.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
Act that finally made the Fifteenth Amendment a reality. As a result of this act, any state not eliminating the poll tax and literacy requirements would be directed to do so by the federal government. It also resulted in the establishment of racially gerrymandered congressional districts in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wagner Act
Also called the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, it gave workers involved in interstate commerce the right to organize labor unions and engage in collective bargaining and prevented employers from discriminating against labor leaders and taking action against union leaders.
War Powers Act
1973 act that states that a president can commit the military only after a declaration of war by the Congress, by specific authorization by Congress, if there is a national emergency, or if the use of force is in the national interest of the United States.
Warren Court
The description of the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren) from 1953 to 1969 which became the symbol of judicial activism and which handed down many landmark decisions on desegregation, civil rights, First Amendment freedoms, and the rights of criminal defendants
Watergate
The illegal entry and phone monitoring of the Democratic headquarters by members of the Republican Party.
Whips
Also known as assistant floor leaders, they check with party members and inform the majority leader of the status and feelings of the membership regarding issues that are going to be voted on. Whips are responsible for keeping party members in line and having an accurate count of who will be voting for or against a particular bill.
White House Staff
Managed by the White House Chief of Staff, who directly advises the president on a daily basis, it includes the more than 600 people who work at the White House, from the chef to the advance people who make travel arrangements. The key staff departments include the political offices of the Office of Communications, Legislative Affairs, Political Affairs, and Intergovernmental Affairs. It includes the support services of Scheduling, Personnel, and Secret Service and the policy offices of the National Security Affairs, Domestic Policy Affairs, and cabinet secretaries.
Workfare
An alternative to the traditional welfare, where an individual is trained to work instead of receiving welfare
Writ of Appeal
Formal request to have a court review the findings of a lower court.
Writ of Certiorari
Latin for "to be made more certain," the process in which the Supreme Court accepts written briefs on appeal based on the "rule of four" justices voting to hear the case.
Writ of Habeas Corpus
Court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody.
Writ of Mandamus
Court order directing an official to perform a nondiscretionary or ministerial act as required by law.