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Majority Rule

A fundamental democratic principle requiring that the majority's view be respected

Checks and Balances

System in which each branch of government can limit the power of the other two branches

Unitary System

System of government in which all power is invested in a central government


A system of government in which power is divided by a written constitution between a central government and regional governments

Expressed Powers

Powers specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution

Implied Powers

Powers of the federal government that go beyond those enumerated in the Constitution

Reserved Powers

Powers not specifically granted to the national government or denied to the states

Cooperative/Fiscal Federalism

Situations in which the national and state governments work together to complete projects

Categorical Grant

Funds provided for a specific and clearly defined purpose

Block Grant

Funds granted to the states for a broadly defined purpose


Rules telling states what they must do to comply with federal guidelines


A movement to transfer the responsibilities of governing from the federal government to state and local governments

Political Culture

A set of widely shared political beliefs and values

Political Socialization

The process by which political values are formed and passed from one generation to the next

Public Opinion

Attitudes about institutions, leaders, political issues and events

Political Ideology

A cohesive set of beliefs about politics, public policy and the role of government

Political Efficacy

The belief that one's political participation makes a difference

Split-Ticket Voting

Voting for candidates of different parties for different offices in the same election

Political Party

A group of citizens who organize to win elections, hold public offices, operate governments and determine public policy

Plurality Election

The winning candidate is the person who recieves more votes that anyone else, but less than half the total

Single-Member Distract

An electoral district from which one person in chosen by the voters for each elected office

Party Era

An historical period dominated by one political party

Critical Election

An election when significan groups of voters change their traditional patterns of party loyalty

Party Realignment

The majority party is displaced by the minority party, thus ushering in a new party era

Divided Government

A government in which one party controls the presidency while another party controls Congress

Interest Group

An organization of people whose members share views on specific interests and attempt to influence public policy to their benefit

Political Action Committee (PAC)

A committee formed by business, labor, or other interest groups to raise money and make contributions to the campaigns of political candidates whom they support

Free Riders

People who benefit from an interest group without making any contributions

Power Elite Theory

The theory that a small nember of wealthy individuals, powerful corporate interest groups and large financial institutions dominate key policy areas

Pluralist Theory

The theory that many interest groups compete for power in a large number of policy areas

Hyperpluralist Theory

The theory that government policy is weakened and often contradictory because there are so many competing interest groups

Mass Media

Means of communication such as newspapers, radio, television and the internet that can reach large, widely dispersed audiences

Linkage Institutions

Institutions that connect citizens to government

Horse-Race Journalism

The tendancy of the media to cover campaigns by emphasizing how candidates stand in polls instead of where they stand on the issues

Congressional Redistricting

The reallocation of the number of representatives each state has in the House of Representatives


The legislative process by wihc the majority party in each state legislature redraws congressional districts to ensure the maximum number of seats for its candidates


An officeholder who is seeking reelection

Franking Privilege

The right of members of Congress to mail newsletters to their constituents at the government's expense

Standing Committees

Permanent subject-matter congressional committees that handle legistlation and oversee the bureaucracy

Conference Committees

Temporary bodies that are formed to resolve differences between House and Senate versions or a bill

House Rules Committee

The House Rules Committee sets the guidelins for floor debate

House Ways and Means Committee

House committee that handles tax bills


Unwritten rule in both houses of Congress reserving committee chairs to members of the committee with the longest records of continuous service


A way of delaying or preventing action on a bill by using long speeches and unlimited debate to "talk a bill to death"


A Senate motion to end a filibuster


Tactic of mutual aid and vote trading among legislators


Congressional review of the activities of an executive agency, department or office

Delegate Role of Representation

When members of Congress cast votes based on the wishes of their constituents

Closed Primary

A primary in which voters are required to identify a party preference before the election and are not allowed to split their ticket


The recent pattern of states holding primaries early in order to maximize their media attention and political influence

Soft Money

Contributions to political parties for party-building activities

527 Group

A tax-exempt organization created to influence the political process and are not regulated by the Federal Election Commission


The president's constitutional power to reject a bill passed by Congress

Line-Item Veto

The power to veto specific dollar amounts or line items from major congressional spending bills (unconstitutional)

Executive Agreement

A pact between the president and a head of a foreign state

Executive Privilege

The president's power to refuse to disclose confidential information

Lame-Duck Period

The period of time in which the president's term is about to come to an end


A large, complex organization of appointed officals

Executive Order

A directive, order, or regulation issued by the president

Iron Triangle

An alliance among an administrative agency, an interest group and a congressional committee

Issue Network

A network that includes policy experts, media pundits, congressional staff members and interest groups who regularly debate an issue

Policy Agenda

A set of issues and problems that policy makers consider important

Appellate Jurisdiction

The authority of a court to hear an appeal from a lower court

Senatorial Courtesy

An unwritten tradition whereby the Senate will not confirm nominations for lower court positions that are opposed by a senator of the president's own party from the state in which the nominee is to serve

Writ of Certiorari

An order by the Supreme Court directing a lower court to send up the record in a given case for its review

Rule of Four

The supreme Court will hear a case if four justices agree to do so

Solicitor General

The solicitor general is responsible for handling all appeals on behalf of the United States government to the Supreme Court

Amicus Curiae Brief

A friend of the court brief filed by an interest group or interested party to influence a Supreme Court dicision

Stare Decisis

A Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand"

Judicial Restraint

Philosophy that the Supreme Court should use precedent and the Framers' original intest to decide cases

Judical Activism

Philosophy that the Supreme Court must correct injustices when other branches of government or the states refuse to do so

Monetary Policy

Monetary Policy involves regulating the money supply, controlling inflation, and adjusting interest rates

Fiscial Policy

Raising and lowering taxes and government spending programs

Entitlement Program

A government-sponsered program that provides mandated benefits to those who meet eligibility requirements

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

The OMB is responsible for preparing the budget that the president submits to Congress

Civil Liberties

Legal and constitutional rights that protect individuals from arbitary acts of government

Civil Rights

Policies designed to protect people against arbitrary or disriminatory treatment by government officals or individuals

Selective Incorporation

The case-by-case process by which liberties listed in the Bill of Rights have been applied to the states using the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

Establishment Clause

A provision of the First Amendment that prohibits Congress from establishing an official government-sponsered religion

Free Exercise Clause

A provision of the First Amendment that guarantees each person the right to believe what he or she wants

Clear and Present Danger Test

Judicial interpretation of the First Amendment that government may not ban speech unless it poses an imminent threat to society

Writ of Habeas Corpus

A court order directing that a prisioner be brought before a court and that the court officers show cause why the prisoner should not be released

Bill of Attainder

A legislative act that provides for the punishmnet of a person without a court trail

Ex Post Facto Law

A law applied to an act committed befor the law was enacted

Exclusionary Rule

Supreme Court guideline that prohibits evidence obtained by illegal searches or seizures from being admitted in court

Miranda Warnings

Warnings that police must read to suspects prior to questioning that advises them of their rights

Strict Scrutiny

Supreme Court rule that classification by race and ethnic background is inherently suspect and must be justified by a "compelling public interest"

Affirmative Action

A policy requiring federal agencies, universities and most employers to take positive steps to remedy the effects of past discrimination

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