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Every word in the American Government textbook

Activist Approach

The view that judges should discern the general principles underlying laws or the Constitution and apply them to modern circumstances.


People who tend to participate in all forms of politics.

Ad Hoc Structure

Several subordinates, cabinet officers, and committees report directly to the president on different matters.

Adverserial Press

The tendency if the national media to be suspicious of officials and eager to reveal unflattering stories about them.

Affirmative Action

Programs designed to increase minority participation in some institution by taking positive steps to appoint more minority-group members.


A new provision in the Constitution that has been ratified by the states.

Amicus Curiae

A brief submitted by a "friend of the court" (16)


Those who favor a weaker national government.


A legislative grant of money to finance a government program or agency.

Articles of Confederation

A weak constitution that governed America during the Revolutionary War.

Assistance Programs

A government program financed by general income taxes that provides benefits to poor citizens without requiring contribution from them. (19)

Australian Ballot

A government-printed ballot of uniform dimensions to be cast in secret that many states adopted around 1890 to reduce voting fraud associated with party-printed ballots cast in public. (8)


The right to use power.

Authorization Legislation

Legislative permission to begin or continue a government program or agency. (15)


A public official's statement to a reporter that is given on condition that the official not be named (12)


A satisfaction that people believe they will enjoy if a policy passes.

Bicameral Legislature

A lawmaking body made up of two chambers or parts.

Bill of Attainder

A law that declares a person, without a trial, to be guilty of a crime. (2)

Bill of Rights

First ten amendments to the Constitution.

Bipolar World

A political landscape with two superpowers.

Blanket Primary

A primary election in which each voter may vote for candidates from both parties.

Block Grants

Money from the national government that states can spend within broad guidelines determined by Washington.


A series, or log, of discussion items on a page of the World Wide Web.


A written statement by an attorney that summarizes a case and the laws and rulings that support it.


A document that states tax collections, spending levels, and the allocation of spending among purposes.

Budget Resolution

A congressional decision that states the maximum amount of money the government should spend.

Bully Pulpit

The president's use of his prestige and visibility to guide or enthuse the American public. (14)


A large, complex organization composed of appointed officials.

Bureaucratic View

View that the government is dominated by appointed officials.


The heads of the fifteen executive branch departments of the federal government. (14)

Categorical Grants

Federal grants for specific purposes, such as building an airport.


A meeting of party members to select delegates backing one or another primary candidates. (9, 10, 13)

Charitable Choice

Name given to four federal laws passed in the late 1990s specifying the conditions under which nonprofit religious organizations could compete to administer certain social delivery and welfare programs. (19)

Checks and Balances

Authority shared by three branches of government.

Circular Structure

Several of the presidents assistants report directly to him. (14)

Civic Competence

A belief that one can affect government policies.

Civic Duty

A belief that one has an obligation to participate in civic and political affairs.

Civil Disobedience

Opposing a law one considers unjust by peacefully disobeying it and accepting the resultant punishment.

Civil Rights

The rights of people to be treated without unreasonable or unconstitutional differences.

Class Consciousness

A belief that you are a member of an economic group whose interest are opposed to people in other such groups.

Class-Action Suit

A case brought by someone to help him or her and all others similarly situated.

Clear-and-Present-Danger Test

Law should not punish speech unless there was a clear and present danger of producing harmful actions.

Client Politics

A policy in which one small group benefits and almost everybody pays.

Closed Primary

A primary election in which voting is limited to already registered party members.

Closed Rule

An order from the House Rules Committee that sets a time limit on debate; forbids a bill from being amended on the floor. (13)

Cloture Rule

A rule used by the senate to limit or end debate. (13)


An alliance of factions.


The alleged tendency of candidates to win more votes in an election because of the presence at the top of the ticket of a better-known candidate, such as the president. (10)

Command-and-Control Strategy

A strategy to improve air and water quality, involving the setting of detailed pollution standards and rules. (21)

Committee Clearance

The ability of a congressional committee to review and approve certain agency decisions in advance and without passing a law.

Competitive Service

The government offices to which people are appointed to on the basis of merit, as ascertained by a written exam or by applying certain selection criteria. (15)

Concurrent Powers

Powers shared by the national and state governments.

Concurring Opinion

A signed opinion in which t=one or more members agree with the majority view but for different reasons.

Conditions of Aid

Terms set by the national government that states must meet if they are to receive certain federal funds.

Conference Committees

A joint committee appointed to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the same bill.

Congressional Campaign Committee

A party committee in Congress that provides funds to members and would-be-members.

Conservative Coalition

An alliance between Republican and conservative Democrats.

Constitutional Court

A federal court authorized by Article III of the Constitution that keeps judges in office during good behavior and prevents their salaries from being reduced. They are the Supreme Court and appellate and district courts created by Congress.


The belief that the United States should resist the expansion of aggressive nations, especially the former Soviet Union.


A burden that people believe they must bear if a policy is enacted.

Cost Overruns

When the money actually paid to military suppliers exceeds the estimated costs.

Courts of Appeals

Federal courts that hear appeals from district courts; no trials. (16)

Critical or Realignment Period

Periods when a major, lasting shift occurs in the popular coalition of supporting one or both parties.

De Facto Segregation

Racial segregation that occurs in schools, not as a result of law, but as a result of patterns of residential sentiment.


What occurs when the government in one year spends more money than it takes from taxes.

De Jure Segregation

Racial segregation that is required by law.


The rule of many.


The effort to transfer responsibility for many public programs and services from the federal government to the states.

Direct or Participatory Democracy

A government in which all or most citizens participate directly.

Discharge Petition

A device by which any member of the House, after a committee has had the bill for thirty days, may petition to have it brought to the floor.

Discretionary Authority

The extent to which appointed bureaucrats can choose courses of action and make policies that are not spelled out in advance by laws.


The belief that the United States was harmed by its war in Vietnam and so should avoid supposedly similar events. (20)

Dissenting Opinion

A signed opinion in which one or more justices disagree with the majority view.

District Courts

The lowest federal courts; federal trials can be held only here.

Diversity Cases

Cases involving citizens of different states who can bring suit in federal courts. (16)

Divided Government

One part controls the White House and another party controls one or both houses of Congress.

Division Vote

A congressional voting procedure in which members stand and are counted.


A procedure to keep the Senate going during a filibuster in which the disputed bill is shelved temporarily so that the Senate can get on with other business.

Dual Federalism

Doctrine holding that the national government is supreme in its sphere, the states are supreme in theirs, and the two spheres should be kept separate.

Due Process of Law

Denies the government the right, without due process, to deprive people of life, liberty, and property.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

A provision of a 1975 law that entitles working families with children to receive money from the government if their total income is below a certain level. The program was expanded in the early 1990s.

Economic Planning

The belief that the government plans, such as wage and price controls or the direction of investment, can improve the economy.

Electoral College

The people chosen to cast each state's votes in a presidential election. Each state can cast one electoral vote for each senator and representative it has. The District of Columbia has three electoral votes, even though it cannot elect a representative or senator.


Persons who possess a disproportionate share of some valued resource, like money or power.


A claim for government funds that cannot be changed without violating the rights of claimant. (18)

Entrepreneurial Politics

A policy in which almost everybody benefits and a small group pays the cost.

Enumerated Powers

Powers given to the national government alone.

Environmental Impact Statement

A report required by federal law that assesses the possible effect of a project on the environment if the project is subsidized in whole or part by federal funds.

Equal Protection of Law

A standard equal treatment that must be observed by the government.

Equal Time Rule

An FCC rule that if a broadcaster sells time to one candidate, it must sell equal time to other candidates.

Equality of Opportunity

Giving people an equal chance to succeed.

Equality of Result

Making certain people achieve the same result.

Establishment Clause

First Amendment ban on laws "respecting an establishment of religion."

Ex Post Facto Law

A law that makes an act criminal although the act was legal when it was committed.

Exclusionary Rule

Improperly gathered evidence may not be introduced in a criminal trial.

Exit Polls

Polls based on interviews conducted on Election Day with randomly selected voters.

External Efficacy

The willingness of the state to respond to the citizenry.


A group with a distinct political interest.

Feature Stories

Media stories about events that, though public, are not regularly covered by reporters.


Government authority shared by national and state governments.


Those who favor a stronger national government.

Federal-Question Cases

Cases concerning the Constitution, federal laws, or treaties. (16)

Fee Shifting

A rule that allows a plaintiff to recover costs from the defendant if the plaintiff wins.


An attempt to defeat a bill in the Senate by talking indefinitely, thus preventing the Senate from taking action on the bill.

Fiscal Policy

Managing the economy by the use of tax and spending laws. (18)

Fiscal Year

For the federal government, October 1 through the following September 30. (18)

527 Organizations

Organizations that, under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, raise and spend money to advance political causes. (10)

Franking Privilege

The ability of members to mail letters to their constituents free of charge by substituting their facsimile signature for postage. (13)

Freedom of Expression

Right of people to speak, publish, and assemble.

Freedom of Religion

People shall be free to exercise their religion, and government may not establish a religion.

Free-Exercise Clause

First Amendment requirement that law cannot free exercise of religion.

Gender Gap

Difference in political views between men and women.

General Election

An election held to choose which candidate will hold office.


Drawing the boundaries of legislative districts in bizarre or unusual shapes to favor one party.

Gold Plating

The tendency of Pentagon officials to ask weapons contractors to meet excessively high requirements.

Good-Faith Exception

An error in gathering evidence sufficiently minor that it may be used in trial.

Grandfather Clause

A clause in registration laws allowing people who do not meet registration requirements to vote if they or their ancestors voted prior to 1867.


Money given by the national government to the states. (3)

Great Compromise

Plan to have a popularly elected House based on population and a state-selected Senate, with two members for each state.


The inability of the government to act because rival parties control different parts of the government.

Gross Domestic Product

The total of all goods and services produced in the economy during a given year.

Habeas Corpus

An order to produce an arrested person before a judge.

Human Rights

The view that we should try to improve the lives of people in other countries.

Ideological Interest Groups

Political organizations that attract members by appealing to their political convictions or principles.

Ideological Party

A party that values principled stands on issues above all else.


Charges against a president approved by a majority of the House of Representatives.

In Forma Pauperis

A method whereby a poor person can have his or her case in federal court without charge.


Something of value one cannot get without joining an organization.

Income Strategy

A policy giving poor people money to help lift them out of poverty.


The person already holding an elective office.

Independent Expenditures

Spending by political action committees, corporations, or labor unions that is done to help a party or candidate but is done independently of them.


Process that permits voters to put legislative measures directly on the ballot. (3)

Insider Stories

Media Stories about events that are not usually made public.

Insurance Program

A self-financing government program based on contributions that provide benefits to unemployed or retired persons. (19)

Interest Group

An organization of people sharing a common interest or goal that seeks to influence the making of public policy.

Interest Group Politics

A policy in which one small group benefits and another small group pays.

Internal Efficacy

The ability to understand and take part in politics.

Iron Triangle

A close relationship between an agency, a congressional committee, and an interest group. (15)


The opinion that the United States should withdraw from world affairs.

Issue Network

A network of people in Washington D.C.--based interest groups, on congressional staffs, in universities and think tanks, and in the mass media, who regularly discuss and advocate public policies. (15)

Joint Committees

Committees on which both senators and representatives serve.

Joint Resolution

A formal expression of congressional opinion that must be approved by both houses of Congress and by the president; constitutional amendments need not be signed by the president.

Judicial Review

The power of the courts to declare laws unconstitutional.


The belief the government must manage the economy by spending more money when in a recession and cutting spending when there is inflation.


An economic theory that government should not regulate or interfere with commerce.

Lame Duck

A person still in office after he or she has lost a bid for reelection. (14)

Legislative Courts

Courts created by Congress for specialized purposes whose judges do not enjoy the protections of Article III of the Constitution. (16)

Legislative Veto

The authority of Congress to block a presidential action after is has taken place. The Supreme Court has held that Congress does not have this power. (14, 15)


Political authority conferred by law or by a state or national constitution.

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