372 terms

US History

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Political Culture
A distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how political and economic life ought to be carried out
Equality of opportunity
everyone is given the same chance (i.e. job opportunities)
Equality of results
everyone receives the same in the end (i.e. salaries)
Progressive
People who think that personal freedom is as important as, or more important than, certain traditional moral rules and that those rules must be evaluated in light of the circumstances of modern life.
Orthodox
People who believe that morality is as important as, or more important than, self-expression and that moral rules derive from the commands of God or the laws of nature.
Isolationism
Elite opinion opposed getting involved in European wars; adopted after WWI
Containment
Post WWII built a network of defensive alliances in Europe and Asia during the late 1940s and 50s
disengagement
if a war was thought "immoral" we were reluctant to see American military involvement
Human Rights
idea that humanaity has certain rights including that of security of person
mass public opinion
generally believes in Americans first
Isolationism
Elite opinion opposed getting involved in European wars; adopted after WWI
Containment
Post WWII built a network of defensive alliances in Europe and Asia during the late 1940s and 50s
disengagement
if a war was thought "immoral" we were reluctant to see American military involvement
Human Rights
idea that humanaity has certain rights including that of security of person
mass public opinion
generally believes in Americans first
elite public opinion
more liberal and internationalist outlook
majoritarian foreign policy
includes those decisions that are perceived to confer widely distributed benefits and impose widely distributed costs
interest group or client polics
Congress plays a much larger role in foreign policy with this group
appropriations
funding that must be authorized by Congress for any federal spending
red tape
complex rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done
conflict
exists because some agencies seem to be working at cross-purposes with other agencies
duplication
occurs when two government agencies seem to be doing the same thing
imperialism
- the tendency of agencies to grow without regard to the benefits that their programs confer or the costs that they entail
waste
spending more then is necessary to buy some product or service
Administrative Procedure Act
before adopting a new rule or policy, an agency must give notice, solicit comments, and hold hearings
Freedom of Information Act
citizens have the right to inspect all government records except those containing military, intelligence, or trade secrets or revealing private personnel actions
National Environmental Policy Act
before undertaking any major action affecting the environment, an agency must issue an environmental impact statement
Privacy Act
Government files about individuals, such as Social Security and tax records, must be kept confidential
Open Meeting Law
every part of every agency meeting must be open to the public unless certain matters are being discussed
Pyramid Structure
used by Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush - assistants report through a hierarchy to a chief of staff, who then deals with the president
Circular Structure
used by Carter - cabinet secretaries and assistants report directly to the president
Ad Hoc Structure
used by Clinton - task forces, committees, and informal groups of friends and advisers deal directly with the president
constraints on program planning
length of time; unexpected crisis; nature of federal government
Trustee vs Delegate approach
trustee--do what is best regardless of voter opinion; delegate--do what the voters want
veto message
a statement that the president sends to Congress accompanying the bill, within ten days after the bill has been passed
pocket veto
if the president does not sign the bill within ten days and Congress has adjourned within that time, then the bill will not become a law
line item veto
the chief executive can approve some provisions of a bill and disapprove others
impoundment of funds
when Congress takes money from a bill that the president has vetoed and places it into bills he has not vetoed
executive privilege
the privilege to have secrecy between them and their advisors
Monetarism
An economic philosophy that assumes inflation occurs when there is too much money chasing too few goods. Suggests that the proper thing for government to do is to have a steady, predictably increase in the money supply at a rate about equal to the growth in the economy's productivity
Keynesianism
Assumes that the market will not automatically operate at a full-employment, low-inflation level. Suggests that the government should intervene to create the right level of demand by pumping more money into the economy (when demand is low) and taking it out (when demand is too great).
Economic planning
An economic philosophy that assumes that the government should plan, in varying ways, some part of the country's economic activity. For instance, in times of high inflation, it suggest hat the government regulate the maximum prices that can be charged and wages that can be paid, at least in the larger industries.
Industrial policy
Would have the government planning or subsidizing investments in industries that need to recover or in new industries that could replace them.
Supply Side economics
An economic philosophy that holds the sharply cutting taxes will increase the incentive people have to work, save, and invest. Greater investments will lead to more jobs, a more productive economy, and more tax revenues for the government.
Reaganomics
The federal economic polices of the Reagan administration, elected in 1981. These policies combined a monetarist fiscal policy, supply-side tax cuts, and domestic budget cutting. Their goal was to reduce the size of the federal government and stimulate economic growth.
Fiscal Policy
An attempt to use taxes and expenditures to affect the economy.
Budget Deficit vs Surplus
A situation in which the government spends more money than it takes in from taxes and fees. vs A situation in which the government takes in more money than it spends.
Monetary Policy
An attempt to alter the amount of money in circulation and the price of money (the interest rate) to affect the economy.
fiscal Year
The period from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30 for which government appropriations are made and federal books are kept.
CEA
It is an impartial group of experts, composed of 3 professional economists plus a small staff (1946), who are responsible for forecasting economic trends, analyzing economic issues and helping prepare the economic report that the president submits to Congress each year.
OMB
(1921)Its chief function is to prepare estimates of the amount that will be spent by federal agencies, to negotiate with other departments over the size of their budget, and to make certain (insofar as it can) that the legislative proposals of these other departments are in accord with the president's program.
Entitlements
A claim for government funds that cannot be abridged without violating the rights of the claimant; for example, social security benefits or payments on a contract.
Congressional Budget Act of 1974
After the president submits his budget, two budget committees study his overall package and obtain an analysis of it form the Congressional Budget Office
Gramn-Rudman (Balanced Budget Act)
The Gramm-Rudman Act required that each year form 1986-1991 the budget would automatically be cut until the federal deficit had disappeared
Progressive Tax
The wealthiest individuals paid at a higher rate than the less affluent.
Tax Loopholes
All manner of special interests can get some special benefit from the tax law that the rest of us must pay for but, given the complexity of the law, rarely notice. Loopholes are client politics par excellence.
Marginal rate
The tax rate in the highest bracket. This is the percentage of the last dollar that you earn that must be paid out in taxes
Tax Reform Act (1986)
Instead of high rates with big deductions, we got low rates with much smaller deductions. The big gainers were individuals; the big losers were businesses.
Budget Enforcement Act (1990)
It imposed a cap on discretionary (that is, non-entitlement) spending. As long as the president and Congress stay under that cap, they can change the amount of money they spend
Speaker of the House
decides who shall be recognized to speak on the floor of the house; ii. Rules whether a motion is relevant and germane to the business at hand; iii.decides the committees to which new bill shall be assigned; iv. influences what bills are brought up for a vote; v. appoints the members of special and select committees
Majority Leader
schedule the business of the senate usually in consultation with the minority leader
The Whip
a senator who helps the party leader stay informed about what party leaders are thinking, rounds up members when important votes are to be taken, and attempts to keep a noses count on how the voting on a controversial issue will go
Caucus
an association of members of congress created to advocate a political ideology or regional economic interest
GAO
General Accounting Office- performs primarily routine financial audits of the money spent by the executive branch departments and investigates agencies and policies and makes recommendations on almost every aspect of government
Standing Committee
permanent bodies with specific legislative responsibilities
Select Committee
groups appointed for a limited purpose and usually lasting for only a few congresses
Joint Committee
those on which both representatives and senators serve.
Concurrent Committee
made up of representatives and senators appointed to resolve differences in the senate and house versions of the same piece of legislation before final passage
malapportionment
Characterized by an inappropriate or unfair proportional distribution of representatives to a legislative body
gerrymandering
To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts so as to give unfair advantage to one party in elections
majority-minority districts
those with a majority of residents who are part of an ethnic minority
filibuster
a prolong speech or series of speeches made to delay action in a legislative assembly
cloture rule and Rule 22
the closing or limitation of debate in a legislative body especially by calling for a vote; governs cloture, the procedure used to end a filibuster. Cloture takes 60 votes. If it wins, up to 30 hours of debate may still be held, although this is rarely utilized. Instead, debate usually ends shortly after a cloture vote, followed by an immediate vote on final passage
Primaries
used to select a party's candidate for and elective office, though in fact those who vote in a primary election may not consider themselves party members
Open primary
you can decide when you enter the voting both which party's primary you wish to participate in
Closed primary
you must declare in advanced (sometime several weeks in advance) that you are a registered member of the political party in whose primary you wish to vote
Blanket primaries
in the voting booth you mark a ballot that lists the candidates of all the parties, and thus you can help select the Democratic candidate for one office and the Republican candidate for another
coattails
any effort to obtain straight-ticket voting
position issue
one in which the rival candidates have opposing views on a question that also divides the voters
valance issue
whether a candidate fully supports the public's view on a matter about which nearly everyone agrees
general elections
used to fill an elective office
soft money
political parties can solicit unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, and unions, provided that they spend the money on local party activities such as voter registration campaigns and get-out-the-vote drives and not on behalf of specific candidates
hard money
must be reported to the FEC
Amendment
an alteration or addition to a document. Although over 6,000 constitutional amendments to the US Constitution have been proposed in Congress, only 27 have been adopted, the most recent having been ratified in 1992. According to the Constitution, there are four ways in which it can be amended. An amendment can be proposed to the states either after a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, or by a vote in two-thirds of the state legislatures. Once it has been proposed to the states, it can be ratified either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by conventions in three-fourths of the states. All 27 amendments, except the 21st Amendment, were proposed by a two-thirds majority of Congress and ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states.
Amicus curiae
a written brief which is submitted to the Supreme Court by a third party, either an individual or organization. An amicus curiae allows the opinions of the third party, with regards to the case at hand, to be considered by the court. "Amicus curiae" means "friend of the court" in Latin.
Anarchy
confused state of society in which there is no government and no laws.
Appeal
formal request that a higher court hear a case that has been decided in a lower court. State Supreme Courts are the highest courts which can hear appeals for cases involving state law, while the US Supreme Court is the highest court which can hear appeals for cases involving federal or constitutional law. An court appeal to a state appellate court are generally made on procedural grounds, i.e., on the basis that some aspect of proper legal procedure was not observed in the original trial. Anyone can petition the US Supreme Court to take a case under advisement. However, the Court is only likely to accept a case if it involves issues related to the constitutionality of the lower court's decision, or state versus federal powers.
Appellate court
a court which hears cases which have been decided in lower courts. For cases involving state law, most states provide state appellate courts, while federal circuit courts ("courts of appeal") deal with most appeals related to federal law. The State Supreme Court is the highest appellate court, the "court of last resort," for cases involving state law, while the US Supreme Court is the highest appellate court, the "court of last resort," for cases involving federal law.
Articles of Confederation
pre-Constitution document, ratified in 1781, creating the first government of the United States. The Confederation, established by the Articles, was a loose union of states with a weak Congress and no executive or judicial branch.
Authority
right to influence, control or direct the actions of other people. Authority can be given ion law, by custom, by understood rules of morality or by consent of the person under authority.
Balance of trade
the net difference between the value of American exports and imports. If the country has exported more than it has imported, then the United States has a positive or favorable balance of trade. If the country has imported more than it has exported, then it has a negative or unfavorable balance of trade.
Bicameral
"two rooms." The term refers to a legislative body, such as the US Congress or the British Parliament, that is divided into two separate houses.
Bill of Rights
another name for the first ten amendments to the US Constitution. These ten amendments protect the fundamental freedoms of Americans from any infringement by the government.
Bill
a form or draft of a proposed law presented to a legislature. In the federal government, if a bill is passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is presented to the President. If the president signs it or does nothing for ten days, it becomes a law. If the bill is vetoed, then it cannot become a law unless the Congress overrides the veto.
Bill of Attainder
legislative act declaring that a person is guilty of a crime and setting punishment without the benefit of a formal trial. The Constitution forbids the federal government (Article I, Section 9, clause 3) and the state governments (Article I, Section 10, clause 1) from passing bills of attainder.
Briefs
documents given to a court by the attorneys trying a case. These documents contain summaries of the issues in the case, the laws relevant to the case, and the arguments which support the position taken by the attorney on behalf of his or her client.
Bureaucracy
a large, complex administrative structure. Such structures exist in organizations such as governments and businesses. The executive branch of the federal government has a complex bureaucracy, with a hierarchy of bureaus and agencies.
Cabinet
board of advisors to the President, composed of the heads of the executive Cabinet departments and any other officials whom the President chooses. The Constitution does not mention a Cabinet, but Washington created one by meeting with his Secretaries of State, Treasury, and War on a frequent basis. James Madison coined the term "president' cabinet" to describe the meetings. The tradition has been maintained in every subsequent American Presidency. Today, the Cabinet includes: the Secretary of State; the Secretary of the Treasury; the Secretary of Defense; the Attorney General; the Secretary of the Interior; the Secretary of Agriculture; the Secretary of Commerce; the Secretary of Labor; the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; the Secretary of Transportation; the Secretary of Energy; and the Secretary of Health, and Welfare; the Secretary of Health and Human Services; Secretary of Education, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Campaign
effort to get a person elected to an office, usually a political office. Candidates running for office use commercials and advertisements, as well as personal appearances and speeches to help get themselves elected. Often, candidates will choose a campaign manager to coordinate their campaign.
Candidate
person who declares that he or she wants to be elected to a position, such as President, Senator, Governor, or Mayor. Candidates use campaigns to let voters know that they are running for office, and to convince people to vote for them.
Caste system
manner of organizing society based on the wealth, privilege, profession or inherited rank of individuals.
Caucus
meeting of members of a political party to determine the party's official position on issues, and to choose party leadership. In legislative caucuses, or conferences, members of a party in a chamber of legislature meet to choose the party leadership in that chamber and to agree on a party position on upcoming legislation. In local party caucuses, party members in a ward or town meet to choose party officials and candidates for public office, as well as determine the party platform on local issues.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
created by Congress in 1947. The CIA functions under the direction of the National Security Council. It serves to: coordinate information-gathering activities of all federal agencies, especially those in the Departments of State and Defense; analyze and evaluate information collected; and keep the President and National Security Council updated on all the information obtained. The CIA also conducts intelligence operations across the world, in its efforts to obtain information. It is a very secretive organization, and even Congress is largely uninformed of most of its activities, except for a few key members of Congress.
Civil Rights Laws
laws designed to protect individuals or groups from having their civil rights violated by other individuals, organizations or groups.
Civil Rights Movements
organized efforts to get laws passed and enforced which protect people and groups from having their constitutional rights violated.
Civil Service
system of hiring government employees on the basis of merit, rather than political considerations. The term is also used to refer to government employees outside the military.
Class system
manner of organizing society so that people are given certain rights and privileges according to their social class, and people in one class are prevented from moving into other classes.
Clear and Present Danger
phrase used in the Supreme Court decision, Schenck v. United States (1919). It refers to the idea that the government has the right to punish individuals who engage in speech or actions which can be shown to present a serious and immediate danger to the nation or the interests of the government. Schenck had been convicted for having distributed leaflets urging people not to register for the draft during World War I. Although such "speech" would have been within his rights in peacetime, the Supreme Court ruled that the fact that he engaged in that activity in a time of war made his actions pose a "clear and present danger" to the nation.
Common good
the interests of a society as a whole, also called "public good" and "general welfare."
Checks and Balances
principle used in the Constitution and developed through precedent that allows the three branches of government to share some responsibilities, and allows each branch some authority over the activities of the other branches. Some examples of checks are: the President's veto power, which is a check on Congress; Congress' power to override a veto; which is a check on the President's power and the Supreme Court's right of judicial review, which is a check on Congress.
Circuit Court
part of the federal court system. There are 13 federal circuit courts: one for the District of Columbia, one for patent and trademark cases, and 11 for the rest of the country. Circuit courts, also called "courts of appeal," deal with all appeals of decisions made in district courts, for both civil and criminal cases. In addition, circuits courts may review decisions of independent regulatory agencies and departments, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Citizen
person who is a member of a political society and, thus, owes allegiance to the society's government and is entitled to the rights and protections available from that government. A person who is born in the United States is automatically an American citizen, and eligible people from other countries can apply to become citizens through a process called naturalization.
Citizenship
status that requires the individual to pledge allegiance to the government and entitles that individual to the rights and protections provided by the government.
Civil Division
a division of the Department of Justice. The Civil Division deals with most of the civil cases in which the United States is a party, i.e., all civil cases which are not under the jurisdiction of any other division of the Department of Justice.
Civil War Amendments
constitutional amendments passed after the Civil War to free African Americans living under slavery, give them citizenship, and guarantee their rights as citizens. The Thirteenth Amendment was passed in 1865; the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868; and the Fifteenth Amendment was passed in 1870.
Civil case
a lawsuit brought against one person or group to enforce or protect a private right; prevent a private wrong (tort); or obtain compensation for a private wrong (tort). This is different from a criminal case, which involves the committing of a crime, or public wrong.
Civil Disobedience
the refusal to obey certain laws, in order to influence those with power to have them changed. Civil disobedience is characterized by the use of nonviolent techniques, such as boycotting, picketing, and the refusal to pay taxes. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most famous American proponents of civil disobedience as a way to make laws more just.
Civil Law
set of laws which deal with private rights of individuals. Laws which are not civil laws are criminal laws.
Civil Liberties
personal freedoms, most of which are protected by the Bill of Rights from government interference.
Civil rights
constitutional rights and privileges enjoyed by individuals and groups, which the government promises to protect from interference by others.
Concurrent powers
powers granted to the national government by the Constitution, but not denied to the states. One example is the right to lay and collect taxes.
Concurring Opinion
written explanation of the opinion of one or more judges in a court who support the decision of the majority of the court, but do not agree on the basis for the majority decision.
Confederate system
system of government in which nations or states agree to join together under a central government, to which the nations or states grant certain powers. The United States had a confederate system of government under the Articles of Confederation, from 1781 to 1789.
Confirmation
power given to the Senate to approve or disapprove presidential nominees to executive or judicial positions. The Senate needs a simple majority to confirm or reject a nominee, according to Article II, Section 2, clause 2 of the Constitution. The Senate has refused to confirm only about nine Cabinet nominees, although many more nominees have been withdrawn because they were likely to be rejected by the Senate.
Congress
chief legislative body of the United States federal government. The Congress is a bicameral legislature, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is responsible for making all federal laws. In Article I, Section 8, the US Constitution gives the Congress a number of powers, including collecting taxes, regulating commerce, and providing funding for the military.
Consent of the governed
agreement by the people of a nation to subject themselves to the authority to a government. Natural rights philosophers, such as John Locke, believe that any legitimate government must draw its authority from the consent of the governed.
Constituency
group of residents represented by a public official or any elected officer.
Constitutional Courts
federal courts formed by Congress under the authority of Article III of the Constitution, to exercise "the judicial power of the United States." They include the US Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals, the District Courts, and the Court of International Trade.
Constitutionalism
idea that the structure and powers of government should be based upon a written or unwritten constitution, which should set limits to the power of the government.
Council of Economic Advisors
established by the Employment Act of 1946. It analyzes the national economy in order to advise the President on economic policy. The Council consists of three members, appointed by the President and approved by the Senate, one of whom the President designates as Chairperson.
Covenant
agreement between two or more individual people or groups, to which all parties are bound.
Crime
a public wrong. There are two kinds of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors. A felony is the most serious type of crime (e.g., murder), which is punishable by a large fine, imprisonment, or death. A misdemeanor is a relatively less serious crime (e.g., speeding), which is punishable by a small fine or a short jail term.
Criminal Division
a division of the Department of Justice. The Criminal Division handles most of the criminal cases in which the United States is a party, i.e., all criminal cases which are not under the jurisdiction of any other division of the Department of Justice.
Criminal case
legal proceedings brought against a person or group accusing that person or group of having committed a public wrong, or crime. A criminal case involves a trial, while, with a civil case, the term "lawsuit" is more generally applied. In a criminal case, the State is always one of the parties - the prosecutor.
Criminal law
set of laws which deal with actions which are considered dangerous to the public welfare or morals, or to the interests of the state. Laws which are not criminal laws are civil laws.
Delegated powers
also called "enumerated powers." Delegated powers are those which are specifically listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as being granted to the Congress.
Democracy
rule by the people. In the United States, democracy refers to a system of government which derives its power from the consent of the majority and governs according to the will of the majority.
Disfranchised
having the right to vote taken away. The term is also used to refer to anyone whose rights and privileges of citizenship, including the right to vote, has been taken away.
Dissenting Opinion
written explanation of the opinion of one or more judges in a court who disagree with the decision of the majority of the court.
Domestic Policy
decisions, laws, and programs made by the government which are directly related to issues in the United States. Sometimes domestic and foreign policies influence each other.
Dual federalism
view of federalism that considers the national and state governments equal, but independent partners, with distinct responsibilities. According to this view, the two levels of government should not interfere with the work of the other. The dual federalism approach emerged after the Civil War and until the turn of the century.
Due Process of Law
proper legal procedure. The Constitution guarantees that every American citizen be protected from arbitrary actions by the government buy requiring the government to follow specific procedures, defined by law, in situations like investigating criminal actions and arresting suspects.
Election
process by which people choose the candidate they want to become a public official. Many positions in government are elected positions, which means that many voters have to decide on a person to fill each job. Elections are held for positions like City Council person, Mayor, State Representative, Governor, Congressperson, and President of the United States. Some positions are not elected, but appointed.
Electoral college
a body of individuals which elect the President and Vice President of the United States. The Constitution created this body, which consists of gatherings of state electors in each state to formally cast their ballots for a candidate for whom they have pledged to vote. Today, the Electoral College is basically a formality. In the past, however, on at least two occasions, a president was elected based on the electoral college, even though he lost the popular vote.
Eminent Domain
governmental power to take private property for public use. The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution requires the government to pay "just compensation" to anyone from whom it takes private property under eminent domain.
Entitlements
payments made to a person or government which meets the requirements enumerated in the law. Social Security benefits, military pensions, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) are all entitlements
Enumerated Powers
powers specifically listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as being granted to the Congress.
Equal Protection Clause
provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution which prohibits states from discriminating against people arbitrarily. All Americans are, thus, guaranteed "equal protection of the laws." This amendment was passed in 1868, mainly to protect African-Americans, many of whom had previously lived under slavery, from discrimination on the basis of race.
Equal Protection of the Law
idea that all citizens should be treated equally under the law, and that no state has the right to grant privileges or discriminated against any individual or group. This idea is embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Equality of Opportunity
situation in which every person has an equal chance, especially in areas such as education, employment and political participation
Established religion
official religion, sponsored by the government. The First Amendment to the US Constitution forbids the government of the United States from establishing a state-sponsored religion.
Ethnic Group
group of people who are part of a common and distinctive culture. An ethnic group can be determined on the basis of a complex set of characteristics, including race, nationality, religion, ancestry, and language.
Ethnicity
a set of characteristics which result in a distinctive culture, in which a group of people share. In the United States, ethnicity is a term that is somewhat flexible in meaning, but generally refers to a subset of the national culture in which people share one of more of the following characteristics: race, nationality, religion, ancestry, or language. Ethnicity sometimes refers to the group of people, as well as the culture itself
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
independent federal agency in the executive branch. Created in 1964, this agency works to eliminate employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, age or other criteria unrelated to job performance. It investigates complaints of discrimination; files lawsuits in cases of discrimination and is responsible for enforcing equal opportunity laws in federal departments, offices and agencies.
Equal Rights Amendment
proposed amendment which states that "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." This amendment was passed by Congress and was proposed to the states in 1972. It failed to be ratified by enough states in time for its 1982 deadline.
Ex Post Facto
"after the fact." An ex post facto law is one which makes a particular act illegal, and punishes people who committed that crime before the law was passed, i.e., when the act was legal. "Ex post facto" means "from a thing done afterward" in Latin.
Excise taxes
taxes on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of items made within the country which is imposing the tax.
Exclusionary Rule
principle that evidence cannot be used against a person if it was obtained illegally. This principle was established by the Supreme Court in the 1967 case, Mapp v. Ohio. In Nix v. Williams (1984), the Supreme Court ruled that evidence that had been illegally obtained could be used against someone in court if the prosecution could prove that the evidence "ultimately or inevitably would have been discovered by lawful means." In the same year, in United States v. Leon, the Court again restricted the exclusionary rule. The Court decided that, "when an officer acting with objective good faith has obtained a search warrant," the evidence obtained should be admissible in court, even if the warrant later proves to be faulty.
Executive Office of the President
name for the group of agencies, councils, and staff members which advise the president and help run the federal bureaucracy. The EOP was established by an executive order from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, and the number and type of agencies included is determined by each president.
Executive Branch
section of the government which is responsible for executing laws. In the federal government, the executive branch consists of: the President, the Vice President, the Cabinet, all the executive departments, and several administrative agencies.
Executive Power
power of the President of the United States, delegated or implied by the Constitution, to implement and enforce laws.
Federal Reserve System
independent agency in the federal executive branch. Established under the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, the Federal Reserve System ("Fed") is the central bank of the United States. One of the most powerful agencies in the government, it makes and administers policy for national credit and monetary policies. The Fed supervises and regulates bank functions across the country, thus maintaining a sound and stable banking industry, able to deal with a wide range of domestic and international financial demands
Federal Judiciary
consists of the nine justices of the US Supreme Court and hundreds of federal judges, all of whom are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. Federal judges preside over constitutional courts, which include 94 district courts and 12 courts of appeal; and legislative courts, which consists of special courts like tax and military courts.
Federalism
system for national government in which some powers are delegated to either national or state government, and other powers are shared between the two levels. This system presented a compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention between delegates fighting for a strong central government and delegates concerned about states' rights.
Federalist Papers
a series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison to convince readers to ratify the Constitution in New York State. The essays were later used to promote the ratification of the Constitution in other states. The Federalist Papers stand as a primary on what the writers of the Constitution had in mind when they were creating the document.
Filibuster
a tactic in which a Senator holds the floor for a long time in order to delay or prevent a vote on an issue. Filibusters cannot occur in the House of Representatives, since speaking time is limited.
Fiscal policy
government policies which seek to influence the economy through tax and spending policies.
Foreign Service
part of the Department of State. The Foreign Service has thousands of ambassadors and staff members, who are trained to represent the United States in embassies, missions, liaison offices, consulates and other agencies in the United States and throughout the world. Ambassadors report to the President via the Secretary of State. They are responsible for implementing US civilian foreign policy within the countries to which they are assigned.
Foreign Policy
decisions and programs made by the government which are directly related to issues involving other countries. Sometimes domestic and foreign policies influence each other.
Framers
term used to refer to the people who attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787 as delegates, or were involved in the writing of the Bill of Rights.
Franchise
the right to vote
Franking privilege
power of members of Congress to send out mail free, without paying postal charges. This is one of the benefits or perquisites of being a House Representative or Senator, since members of Congress can use mailings to cultivate a positive popular image among their constituents.
Free Exercise Clause
section of the First Amendment to the US Constitution which forbids the government to make any laws to prohibit the free exercise of religion. This is the basis of the Constitution's protection of the freedom of religion.
Free trade
buying, selling and other financial transactions which are conducted tariffs or other trade barriers.
Freedom of Assembly
the right to gather with other people in public. This right is protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Freedom of expression
right to express oneself and one's views in spoken words, actions, printed materials, assemblies or gatherings and petitions submitted to the government. It refers to the collective rights guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution: religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
Freedom of petition
the right to present requests to the government without punishment or reprisal. This right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
Freedom of religion
the right to worship according to one's own beliefs. This freedom is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, although the Supreme Court has ruled that this freedom is not absolute.
Freedom of speech
the right to express oneself, with words or actions (verbally or symbolically). This freedom is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution; although the Supreme Court has ruled that this freedom is not absolute: it should not be applied when it endangers or harms the lives, liberty or property of others.
Freedom of the press
the right to publish or print without interference from the government, guaranteed in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. This extent of this freedom has been debate by the public, in the legislatures, and in the courts, especially as regard to prior restraint, libel, obscenity and national security.
Full faith and credit
first words of Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, which requires states to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings" of all the other states.
Fundamental Rights
rights and privileges considered essential by the general society.
Gerrymandering
drawing the boundaries of an election district so that one party or group has a significant advantage. The strategy generally used is to concentrate opposition votes in a few districts, while spreading out the rest of the opposition over many districts. Gerrymandering is often used to help get candidates of a particular party elected, or to help increase minority representation in government.
Government
institutions and officials which enact laws and execute and enforce public programs. Government in the United States is made up of executive, legislative and judicial branches at federal, state, and local levels.
Governor
chief executive of a state
Grand jury
ranges in size from 6 to 23, depending on the state, and functions to determine whether there is enough evidence available against a person accused of a crime to justify a trial.
Grandfather Clause
clause included in the state constitutions of several southern states after the Civil War placing high literacy and property requirements for voters whose ancestors did not vote before 1867. These clauses were designed to interfere with African-American citizens' right to vote. In 1915, the Supreme Court ruled grandfather clauses unconstitutional.
Grants-in-aid programs
federal funding given to states and local governments to fund policies and programs. The Morrill Act (1862) was the first grant-in-aid program.
Great Compromise
proposal presented by Connecticut delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to compromise between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. The Great Compromise suggested that a bicameral Congress be established, with representation in one house being determined by state population, and the other having equal representation from each state.
Grounds
rational or factual basis for arguing something. In order to appeal a case, the attorneys must have grounds for appeal. They cannot simply appeal because they are not happy with the decision.
Gubernatorial
pertaining to a governor
Hatch Act
formally known as the "Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities," called the "Hatch Act" after Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico, who was its major sponsor. The purpose of the law was to calm fears that federal civil service employees might be able to wield extraordinary influence on the election of the President and members of Congress. As a result of the Hatch Act, federal employees may vote, but may not take an active part in partisan politics.
Hate Speech
type of speech which is used to deliberately offend an individual; or racial, ethnic, religious or other group. Such speech generally seeks to condemn or dehumanize the individual or group; or express anger, hatred, violence or contempt toward them.
Thomas Hobbes
British political theorist who argued that individuals formed governments because of their rational self-interest. One of the major intellectual figures of the Enlightenment, his most famous work is The Leviathan, published in 1651.
House majority leader
prominent position in the majority party, second only to the Speaker of the House in party authority. Like the Senate majority leader, the House majority leader helps promote the legislative agenda of the party in the House.
House minority leader
the head of the minority party in the House of Representatives. The minority leader represents the interests of the minority party by meeting with the majority leader and, in the case of the House, the House Speaker to schedule bills and rules for floor action.
House of Representatives
one of the two houses of the Congress, created in Article I, Section 1 of the US Constitution. The House of Representatives has 435 members, called Representatives, who serve for 2-year terms. The number of Representatives from each state is determined by the state's population, so that states with large populations have more Representatives in Congress than states with small populations.
Ideology
set of beliefs and goals of a social or political group that explain or justify the group's decisions and behavior.
Impeachment
formal charges of "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" brought against the President, the Vice President, a Supreme Court justice, or any executive and judicial official. Members of Congress and military officers are not subject to impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee investigates the situation and makes a recommendation to the rest of the House on whether the official should be impeached. The rest of the House votes on the issue and, if the official is impeached, the Senate tries the case. If the official is convicted, he or she is removed from office. Since the ratification of the Constitution, the House of Representatives has impeached 16 federal officials, including 13 federal judges, of whom 7 were convicted by the Senate.
Implied Powers
powers claimed by Congress which are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, but are implied in its necessary and proper clause (Article I, Section 8).
Incumbent
a candidate who holds the office for which he or she is running in an election. It is usually difficult for an incumbent candidate to be defeated in an election, unless he or she has had a very poor term in office. Incumbents have the benefit of having
Individual Rights
rights claimed by the individual, as opposed to rights claimed by a group.
Interest Groups
organization of people who share political, social or other goals; and agree to try to influence public policy to achieve those goals.
International Law
laws that govern the interactions and relations between nations, resulting from officials rules, treaties, agreements and customs.
Interstate Commerce
trade that takes places across state lines. This is distinct from intrastate commerce, which takes place within a state, and foreign trade, which takes place between countries. Article I, Section 8, clause 3 of the Constitution gives the Congress the authority to regulate interstate trade, as well as foreign trade.
Jim Crow Laws
laws which promoted segregation, or the separation of people based on race. These laws worked primarily to restricted the rights of African Americans to use certain schools and public facilities, usually the good ones; to vote; find decent employment and associate with anyone of their own choosing. These laws did not make life "separate but equal," but only served to exclude African Americans and others from exercising their rights as American citizens. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), the US Supreme Court ruled that Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional. It took many years and much effort, however, before Jim Crow laws would be overturned across the country.
Joint Chiefs of Staff
a group of high-ranking military officers who represent the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines. They assist the civilian leaders of the Department of Defense in integrating policies and programs, and advise the President and National Security Council when asked. The Joint Chiefs of Staff is headed by a Chairman.
Judicial Activism
belief that the Supreme Court has the right or obligation to perform judicial review.
Judicial Branch
section of the government that interprets the laws and administers justice. In the federal government, the judicial branch consists of: the Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts of Appeal, District Courts, and several special courts.
Judicial Restraint
belief that the Supreme Court should not exercise judicial review often. People who support this view feel that justices, who are appointed, should not use much power to overturn the decisions of Congress, which is elected.
Judicial review
power of a court to refuse to enforce a law or government regulation which it believes to be unconstitutional. Chief Justice John Marshall articulated this right in the decision of Marbury v. Madison (1803). So far, the Supreme Court has ruled about 1500 congressional acts or parts of acts unconstitutional.
Jurisdiction
authority of a court to hear a case. A case cannot be tried in a court which does not have jurisdiction over it.
Jury
a group of people chosen according to the law, who listen to a case in court and reach a decision on the case. In Article III, Section 2, clause 3, the Constitution guarantees a person's right to a trial by jury. Thus, people have their cases decided by a group of people, and not just one individual. Impeachment cases, cases brought before the Supreme Court, and very minor cases are not brought before a jury.
Lame Duck
person holding office after his or her replacement has been elected to the office, but before the current term has ended. In the American presidency, the period after election day in November and the swearing-in of the new President in January is known as the lame duck period.
Legislation
laws
Legistlative Branch
section of government that makes laws. In the federal government, the legislative branch consists of: Congress, the Library of Congress, the Congressional Budget Office, and General Accounting Office, and the Government Printing Office. On the state level, the state legislatures make up the legislative branch.
Legislative Power
power to make laws. In the federal government of the United States, the Congress holds most of the legislative power.
Legislature
a group of elected people who create the laws. The national legislature is the Congress, while states and local governments also have legislatures.
Legitimacy
the belief among citizens that their government has the right to pass and enforce laws.
Libel
use of print or pictures to harm someone's reputation. Until 1964, a person could prove that they had been libeled simply by showing that the statements in question were incorrect. In 1964, the Supreme Court decided that public officials had to prove that the statements in question were made with "actual malice"-for the purpose of harming the person's reputation. As a result of the Supreme Court case, Time, Inc. v. Firestone (1976); private individuals only have to prove negligence, rather than "actual malice," on the part of the press.
Line-Item Veto
power given to the president allowing him or her to veto specific provisions of appropriations and tax bills. Congress passed a limited line-item veto in 1995, but a federal judge struck it down in 1997. The Supreme Court recently refused to rule on the law claiming that those suing( a group of Congressmen) had not been harmed by the law and thus did not have standing to sue.
John Locke
British political theorist of the Enlightenment who argued that government should be based on the consent of the governed, and that people had the right to revolt against ineffective or unfair government. His most famous work, Two Treatises on Government, was published in 1690.
Logrolling
exchanging political support for political favors, especially by members of Congress and other legislatures
Magna Carta
British document, signed by King John, which reaffirmed long-standing rights and responsibilities of the English nobility; limited the powers of the king; and recognized that all people, including the government and monarch, are subject to the law.
Majority Leader
in the Senate, this is the first-ranking party position, held by a distinguished senior member of the majority party in the Senate. The Senate majority leader schedules floor actions on bills, and helps guide the majority party's legislative program through the Senate. In the House, the majority leader stands second to the Speaker of the House in party authority. Like the Senate majority leader, the House majority leader helps promote the legislative agenda of the party in the House.
Majority Rule
idea that all the people in a group or society should be held to the rules and decisions established by more than half of the people.
Marshall Plan
a set of foreign policies adopted by the United States after World War II. Named after Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the policies provided substantial aid to European countries to help them rebuild their countries, economies and democracies, many of which had been destroyed or severely damaged during the war.
Matching Grants
funding strategy in which the donor, whether the government or a private agency, requires the recipient to provide a given percent of the money needed to implement to program.
Merit system
manner of choosing employees that emphasizes their ability, education, experience, and job performance; rather than their connections or other political factors. In 1883, Congress passed the Pendleton Act, which called for reforms to make sure more federal employees were hired by a merit system and fewer by Presidential appointment. Today, almost 95% of federal civilian employees are hired on a merit basis, through civil service examinations and educational and skill qualifications.
Minority Leader
the head of the minority party in either the House or the Senate. The minority leader represents the interests of the minority party by meeting with the majority leader and, in the case of the House, the House Speaker to schedule bills and rules for floor action.
Monetary Policy
government policies which try to influence the economy by changing the amount of money circulating in the economy (money supply) and the interest rate (rate at which people, companies, or the government can borrow money).
Charles de Montisquieu
French political theorist who analyzed different government constitutions and developed the theory upon which the separation of powers is based. His most famous work was De l'esprit des lois (The Spirit of the Laws), published in 1748.
National Security
the condition of the nation, in terms of threats, especially threats from outside. One of the major jobs of the federal government is to ensure the security of the nation.
Natural Law
set of principles which govern human interactions, which are built into the structure of the universe, as opposed to being imposed by human beings.
Natural Rights
rights, freedoms and privileges which are such a basic part of human nature that they cannot be taken away. These are different from rights which are given to people by the law. According to the Declaration of Independence, these rights include "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Naturalization
process by which an alien becomes a citizen
Necessary and Proper Clause
clause 18 of Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. This clause establishes the "implied powers," by which Congress has authority to pass legislation in areas not specifically listed in the Constitution.
Nepotism
unfair practice in which people in power give positions in a government or organization to their relatives or friends, rather than to any individual who is well-qualified. This can lead to inefficiency in the functioning of the government or organization, since hiring is based on personal connections, rather than ability or merit. In addition, nepotism can cause conflicting loyalties for the person who receives the job: he or she may be more loyal to the person who hired him or her than to the government or organization.
North Atlantic Treaty Ogranization (NATO)
established by a treaty signed in 1949. The treaty tied the security interested of the United States to those of the nations of Western Europe and other areas. NATO arose out of fear of the military and security threat posed by the Communist Soviet Union, although it still exists even after the fall of the U.S.S.R.
Ombudsman
person in a government agency to whom people can go to make complaints or explain problems with the programs or policies of the agency
Original jurisdiction
authority held by a court to be the first court to hear a particular case.
Pardon
legal forgiveness for a crime. Governors can issue pardons for state crimes, and the President can issue pardons for federal crimes.
Partisan
partial to a particular party or person, often political in nature. One criticism of federal politics, especially regarding Congress, is that some politicians spend more time and effort trying to promote their party's platform than trying to develop laws and policies which serve the American people.
Party Identification
belief that one belongs to a certain party, and the extent to which that belief affects one's political views and actions.
Petit Jury
a trial jury, which weighs the evidence against someone accused of a crime, and determines his or her guilt or lack of guilt under the law. Trial or petit juries traditionally have 12 people, although several states have juries with only 6 people. In most states, all the members of the jury must make their decision on the person's guilt or lack of guilt (verdict) unanimously. Some states, however, only require a majority which is greater than a simple majority. If a jury cannot agree on verdict, it is declared a "hung jury," and the matter is either dropped or brought to another trial with a new jury.
Platform
set of opinions and ideas for policy, upon which the members of a political party decide. Party members often determine their platforms in caucuses.
Political Action Committee (PAC)
an independent organization established by interest groups, political candidates, and people who hold office. PACs serve to raise and contribute money to the political campaigns of individuals whose platforms agree with the aims of the PAC. These organizations were founded because federal laws prohibit most interest groups from contributing money directly to political campaigns.
Political Culture
basic beliefs, customs and assumptions about government which are shared by the people in a group or nation.
Political participation
becoming involved in activities such as voting, running for political office, signing petitions and other activities which help citizens make an impact on public or political issues.
Political Party
organized group of people who want to control or influence government by winning elections, holding public office, and having the government's laws and policies reflect their political beliefs. In the United States, there are two major parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Politics
an area of activity aimed at influencing or controlling the government in order to formulate or guide public policy.
Poll tax
a tax a person is required to pay before he or she is allowed to vote. Poll taxes were used in many southern states after the Reconstruction period to restrict African-American citizens' right to vote.
Popular sovereignity
idea that government should reflect the general will of the people, or the interests that all citizens have in common. Political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) described this concept in Du contrat social (The Social Contract), published in 1762.
Popular vote
vote of the people of a nation or group. In the United States, this contrasts with an electoral vote, which is done by a small group of electors, rather than the general public.
Pork Barrel legislation
laws that directs funds to local projects in an area which a member of Congress represents.
Precinct
smallest, most local unit in the typical structure of political parties at the local level. Precincts act as voting districts, and cover an area of several blocks.
President
Chief Executive of the United States, Head of State and Commander and Chief of the US Armed Forces. The President of the United States is elected every 4 years, by the Electoral College.
Primary
process by which members of a party elect candidates to run for office as the representative of the party. Primaries are held in national presidential elections, as well as more local elections.
Prior restraint
blocking a story before it is punished or broadcast
Privileges and immunities
refers to Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution, which guarantees that "citizens of each state shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens" in any other state in the United States.
Proportional representation
system of electing members of the legislature, in which the number of seats given to a particular party is determined by the percentage of the popular vote which goes to that party. This system is used in many countries, including most European nations.
Public policy
actions which the government takes to address problems and issues raised in society and introduced through the political system.
Public Service
time, effort and energy given to local, state or national communities, generally through opportunities in appointed or elected office.
Quorum
minimum number of people needed a meeting for the business at hand to take place.
Ratification
process by which people or legislatures express their official approval of a proposed document or plan. Amendments to the US Constitution cannot become part of the Constitution until they have been ratified either by two-thirds of the state legislatures or by conventions in two-thirds of the states.
Referendum
a direct vote by the people on an issue of public policy.
Representative Democracy
system of government which derives its authority from the people and governs according to the will of the majority, but in which the people elect individuals to represent their will.
Republic
form of government based on a constitution, in which decisions are made by elected or appointed officials in a democratic manner.
Reserved Powers
powers given to the states that are not enumerated in the US Constitution. According to the Tenth Amendment, "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Rule of Law
doctrine that no individual stands above the law, and that all rulers are answerable to the law. This is one of the major legacies of the constitutional system. The rule of law can also be understood as the belief that there is a universal standard of justice, equality and impartiality, against which all governments and governmental actions may be measured.
Rule of Men
doctrine that an individual or government may stand above the law, and rule according to personal whim or choice. The doctrine reflects the belief that standards of justice, equality and impartiality are subjective, not universal. This is the opposite of the rule of law.
Search warrant
a court order that allows the person holding the order, generally a law enforcement officer, to search areas specified in the order for items specified in the order.
Selective Service System
independent federal agency in the executive branch. Selective Service works to register all males in the United States, between the ages of 18 1/2 to 26,to make sure that the Armed Forces can be adequately supplied with people in case of a crisis in national security.
Senate
independent federal agency in the executive branch. Selective Service works to register all males in the United States, between the ages of 18 1/2 to 26,to make sure that the Armed Forces can be adequately supplied with people in case of a crisis in national security.
Senate Majority Leader
first-ranking party position, held by a distinguished senior member of the majority party in the Senate. The Senate majority leader schedules floor actions on bills, and helps guide the majority party's legislative program through the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader
the head of the minority party in the Senate. The minority leader represents the interests of the minority party senators by meeting with the majority leader to schedule bills and rules for floor action.
Separation of Church and State
idea that the government and religion should be separate, and not interfere in each other's affairs. In the United States, this idea is based on the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that the government cannot make any laws to establish a state religion or prohibit the free exercise of religion.
Separation of Powers
division of governmental authority among the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The US Constitution uses this principle in setting up the presidency, the Congress, and the courts.
Shared Powers
powers granted to the national government by the Constitution, but not denied to the states. One example is the right to lay and collect taxes.
Shay's Rebellion
incident in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787. Small-farm owners, led by Daniel Shays, rebelled in reaction to the state's failure to address the widespread farm foreclosures and credit difficulties. Although troops were able to calm the rebellion, the rioting convinced many national leaders that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient for national stability, and that a stronger central government was needed. This helped compel leaders to create what would become the US Constitution.
Slander
the use of spoken words to harm someone's reputation.
Social Contract
agreement among all the people in a society to give up part of their freedom to a government in exchange for protection of natural rights. John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were two European political philosophers who wrote about this concept.
Sovereignty
supreme and final authority or power in a government. In the United States, sovereignty rests with the people.
Speaker of the House
leading member of the house of Representatives. Third in line to the presidency.
Special Courts
federal courts which were created by Congress to hear specific types of cases. Sometimes called "legislative courts," they include: the Court of Military Appeals, the Claims Court, the Tax Court, territorial courts, and the courts of the District of Columbia.
Suffrage-the right to vote
The Fifteenth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees suffrage for all Americans, regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed suffrage for all Americans, regardless of gender.
Supremacy Clause
Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the "Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme law of the land." Thus, if any state laws come into conflict with the Constitution , then the Constitution must win out.
Supreme Court (also High Court)
the highest court in the judicial branch of the United States government, and the only court specifically mentioned in the Constitution. It consists of a Chief Justice and eight other Associate Justices. The Supreme Court is the "court of last resort" for appeals-the final authority on any questions dealing with the Constitution, acts of Congress, and treaties of the United States. The only way to get around a Supreme Court decision is to amend the Constitution or have the Supreme Court itself reverses the decision. If a case is decided by the US Supreme Court, it cannot be appealed anywhere else.
Symbolic Speech
action that is meant to convey a message.
Tariffs
taxes on goods, often placed on goods being brought into the United States from foreign nations (import tariffs).
Taxes
money collected by federal, local or state government from individuals or businesses for use in public spending.
Treaty
official agreement between two or more sovereign nations. Many treaties establish terms of peace after a war or conflict, or determine the rules nations must follow in theory relationship with other nations. A treaty creates rights or responsibilities, or restricts existing rights or responsibilities.
Treaty Ratification
power given to the Senate to accept or reject treaties made by the President. A two-thirds majority is needed to ratify a treaty, as stated by the Constitution in Article II, Section 2, clause 2.
Unalienable rights
fundamental rights belonging to people, which cannot be taken away. The phrase "unalienable rights" was used in the Declaration of Independence (1776).
Unenumerated rights
rights not listed in the Constitution or constitutional amendments; but either implied or, for some other reason, recognized and protected by the Supreme Court.
Unfunded mandates
actions imposed by the federal or state government on lower levels of government which are not accompanied by the money needed to fund the action required.
Unicameral
"one room." The term refers to a legislature that has only one body, such as the Israeli Knesset or the German Bundestag.
Unitary government
system of government in which all authority is placed in a central government. Countries with unitary governments, such as Great Britain and France, have regional and local governments which derive their power from the central government.
Unitary system
a system of government in which constitutional authority lies in the hands of the national government. In such a system, political subdivisions created by the central government take responsibility for much of the everyday administration of the government. Great Britain is an example of a country with a unitary system of government.
United Nations
international organization established in 1945. The U.N. supports cooperation among nations and the peaceful settlement of debates. The United States is one of the U.N.'s 183 member states.
Veto
power given the President to refuse to sign a bill that has been passed by Congress, thus blocking its becoming a law. Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. American presidents have vetoed about 2500 acts of Congress, of which Congress has overridden about 100. "Veto" means "I forbid" in Latin.
Vote
choose. In order to vote in the United States, a person has to be at least 18 years old and a citizen of the United States. People who are eligible to vote must register.
Wall of separation
term for the separation of church and state, coined by Thomas Jefferson. According to Jefferson, the freedom of religion articulated in the First Amendment to the Constitution could best be articulated with the image of a "wall of separation" between the state and the church. This view of the First Amendment has been criticized by some.
Warrant
a court order that makes an official action legal, such as a search warrant or an arrest warrant.
Writ of certiorari
court order issued by the Supreme Court to order a lower court to send up the record of a case. Supreme Court justices use writs of certiorari to bring cases from lower courts to the Supreme Court for review. "Certiorari" means "to be informed" or "to be made more certain" in Latin.
Writ of Habeas Corpus
court order which requires that individuals who have been arrested or detained be physically brought before the court to determine whether they are being held on legal grounds. This helps protect people from being arbitrary arrested and/or held in custody for excessive periods unnecessarily. "Habeas corpus" means "you must have the body."
Adversary system
A system of law where the court is seen as a nuetral area where disputants can argue the merits of their cases.
Affirmative action
Government-mandated programs that seek to create special employment opportunities for blacks, women and other victims of past discrimination.
Bread and Butter issues
Those political issues are specifically directed at the daily concerns of working-class Americans, such as job security, tax rates, wages, and employment benefits.
Broad constructionism
Belief that the Constitution should be interpreted loosely concerning the restrictions it places on federal power.
Budget deficit
Condition that arise when federal expenditures exceed revenues.
Budget resolution
Set of budget guidelines that must pass both houses of Congress in identical form by April 15.
Census
A recount of the population every ten years for purposes of reapportionment of the Congress
Coalition
A combination of groups of people who work together to acheive a political goal.
Conservative
A political ideology that tends to favor defense spending and school prayer and disapprove of social programs, abortion, affirmative actions and a large, active government.
Dealignment
the weakening partisan preferences that points to a weakening of the two party system and a rise of independents in politics.
Double jeopardy
The act of trying an individual a second time after he has been acquitted on the same charges.
Extradition
Process by which governments return fugitives to the jurisdiction from which they have fled.
Front-loading
Because early primaries have grown increasingly important in recent years, many states have pushed forward the date of their primary elections.
Indictment
Written statement of criminal charges brought against a defendant.
Initative
Process through which voters may propose new laws.
Iron triangle (subgovernment)
The close working relationship between interest grousp, congressional committees and executive agencies.
Killer amendment
Amendment to a bill proposed by its opponenets for the specific purpose of decreasing the bill's chance of passage.
Legislative orversight
One of Congress most important tasks--to investigate and evaluate the executive departments and agencies.
Mandate
Level of support for an elected official as perceived through election results.
Objective good faith
Exception to the exclusionary rule that allows the use of illegally obtained evidence at a t trial if the court determines that the police beelived they were within the limits of the law when they obtained the evidence.
Senatorial courtesy
A check placed on the presidency whereby candidates for the federal bureaucracy must first be approved by the Senate.
Shield law
Law guaranteeing news reporters the right to protect the annonymity of their sources. States have passed this--not the federal government.
Brown v. Board of Education
1954 case that overturned Separate but Equal standard of discrimination in education.
Gideon v. Wainwright
1963 ruling that a defendant in a felony trial must be provided a lawyer free of charge if the defendant cannot afford one.
Griswold v. Connecticut
1965 decision that the Constitution implicitily guarantees citizens' right to privacy.
Marbury v. Madison
1803 established the principle of judicial review
Miranda v. Arizona
1966 ruling that upon arrest, a suspect has the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a lawyer.
Plessy v. Ferguson
1896 ruling that separate but equal facilities for different races were not unconstitutional.
Schenck v. United States
1919--Case involving limits on free speech. Established the "clear and present danger" principle.
Roe v. Wade
1973 ruling that decriminalized abortion.
Carig v. Boren
1976 ruling that classification of individuals based on gender must be related to an important government objective; replaced minimum rationality standard.
Miler v. California
1973 ruling that determined the obscenity clause to related to works that lack literary, artisitic, political or scientific value. (LAPS test)
Lemon v. Kurtzman
1971 defining government actionsin dealing with religion--must not inhibit or advance religion and does not entangle the goverment with religion.
Fletcher v. Peck
The decision stems from the Yazoo land cases, 1803, and upholds the sanctity of contracts.
McCulloch v. Maryland
1819--The Court ruled that states cannot tax the federal government, i.e. the Bank of the United States; the phrase "the power to tax is the power to destroy"; confirmed the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States.
Dartmouth College v. Woodward
1819--New Hampshire had attempted to take over Dartmouth College by revising its colonial charter. The Court ruled that the charter was protected under the contract clause of the U. S. Constitution; upholds the sanctity of contracts.
Gibbons v. Ogden
1824--Clarified the commerce clause and affirmed Congressional power over interstate commerce.
Korematsu v. U. S.
T1941--he court upheld the constitutionality of detention camps for Japanese-Americans during World War 2.
Escobedo v. Illinois
1964--Ruled that a defendant must be allowed access to a lawyer before questioning by police.
U. S. v. Richard Nixon
1974--The court rejected Richard Nixon's claim to an absolutely unqualified privilege against any judicial process.
Bakke v. Regents of the University of California
1978--Ambiguous ruling by a badly divided court that dealt with affirmative action programs that used race as a basis of selecting participants. The court general upheld affirmative action, but with a 4/4/1 split, it was a very weak decision.
Brandenburg v. Ohio
1969--Determined that a law that proscribes advocacy of violence for political reform is constitutional if applied to speech that is not directed toward producing imminent lawlessness and is not likely to produce such action is not constitutional.
Duncan v. Louisiana
1968 guarantees the right to a trial by jury where a sentence of at least two years is involved.
Gitlow v. New York (1925)
Anarchist calling for overthrow of the government. Established precedent of federalizing Bill of Rights (applying them to States); States cannot deny freedom of speech - protected through due process clause of Amendment 14
Palko v. Connecticut (1937)
Provided test for determining which parts of Bill of Rights should be federalized - those which are implicitly or explicitly necessary for liberty to exist.
Mapp v. Ohio (1961)
Established exclusionary rule; illegally obtained evidence cannot be used in court; Warren Court's judicial activism.
Engel v. Vitale (1962)
Prohibited state-sponsored recitation of prayer in public schools by virtue of 1st Amendment's establishment clause and the 14th Amendment's due process clause; Warren Court's judicial activism.
Baker v. Carr (1962)
"One man, one vote." Ordered state legislative districts to be as near equal as possible in population; Warren Court's judicial activism.
Abbington v. Schempp (1963)
Prohibited devotional Bible reading in public schools by virtue of establishment clause and due process clause. Warren Court's judicial activism
Wesberry v. Sanders (1963)
Ordered House districts to be as near equal in population as possible (extension of Baker v. Carr to Congressional districts).
Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)
Prohibited states from banning the teaching of evolution.
Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)
Guaranteed a student's right to protest (wearing armbands).
Furman v. Georgia (1972)
State death penalties (as then applied) are arbitrary and violate equal protection of 14th Amendment.
Gregg v. Georgia (1976)
Upheld new Georgia death penalty laws requiring dual-phase trial and special circumstances; capital punishment does not constitute cruel & unusual punishment of 8th Amendment.
Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
1st Amendment protects campaign spending; legislatures can limit contributions, but not how much one spends of his own money on campaigns.
Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1987)
More leeway for states in regulation abortion, though no overturning of Roe v. Wade. Upholds MO law prohibiting abortion in public hospitals; shift in composition of court. (Later cases allow 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent for minors, etc.)
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
Flag-burning is symbolic speech with a political purpose and is protected by 1st Amendment.
Shaw v. Reno (1993)
NO racial gerrymandering; race cannot be the sole or predominant factor in redrawing legislative boundaries; majority-minority districts.
U.S. v. Lopez (1995)
Gun Free School Zones Act exceeded Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce.
Bush v. Gore (2000)
Use of 14th Amendment's equal protection clause to stop the Florida recount in the election of 2000.
Parker v. Gladden
Right to an impartial jury
Barron v Baltimore (1833)
The guarantee in the 5th Amendment that private property shall not be taken "for public use, without just compensation" is not applicable to state governments as well as the federal government.
Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
The boy scouts were allowed to dismiss a leader after learning that he was gay, holding that freedom of association outweighed the New Jersey anti-discrimination statute.
Near v Minnesota (1925)
Case centered on censorship - government cannot censor something (newspapers) because that restricts freedom of the press. Main issue was government officials were being criticized and wanted to censor the criticism.
Everson v Board of Education (1942)
A New Jersey law allowing reimbursements of money to parents who sent their children to school (public and private) on buses operated by the public transportation system did not violate the establishment clause or the 1st and 14th Amendments.
Palko v Connecticut (1937
Ruled a harsher sentence as a result of a new trial won on appeal does not violate double jeopardy.