Temporary congressional committees appointed for a specific purpose, such as impeachment investigations or the "Super Committee" on the Budget
Selective Incorporation Doctrine
Judicial doctrine that applies the Bill of Rights (one right at a time) to state and local governments by incorporating them into the concept of liberty in the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause (which is binding on the states)
The heads of the minority and majority parties in the Senate. Less powerful than the Speaker, they set legislative agenda for their party and help set the daily Senate agenda.
Senate will not confirm a presidential nomination for a position within a state (ex., District Court Judge) without the consent of the senior senator of the President's party from that state. Informal amendment to appointment process (by tradition)
A congressional custom that gives the chair of a committee or subcommittee to the member of the majority party with the longest continuous service on the committee.
Separation of Powers
The principle of dividing governmental powers among different branches of government to protect against tyranny (Federalist 51).
Failed rebellion in 1786 by poor farmers in MA against state government & banks that were taking their farms. Showed how weak the central confederation government was vs. threats to private property and order. Major factor in creation of Constitutional Convention in 1787 (Elite theory)
Single-Member Plurality District (SMPD)
Electoral district with only one representative (single member). The representative is whoever wins a plurality of the votes in a general election (no run-off elections). Senate and House districts are SMPDs. Discourages third parties, leads to two-party system.
Government should protect "traditional" (Christian) views on marriage, gender roles, & social issues. Oppose gay marriage, legalization of drugs, abortion.
Belief in government assistance to improve society, especially for the poor and minorities. Socially liberal policies include universal health care, public education, affirmative action, welfare programs
A policial ideology that opposes capitalism and supports government control of major aspects of the economy (ex. electricity, health care).
Money that is not subject to campaign finance limits and regulation by the FEC. All money before FECA was soft money. FECA shut down unlimited contributions to candidates so soft money flowed to political parties. McCain-Feingold shut down soft money contributions to political parties so now unlimited contributions flow to 527s and Super-Pacs.
Senior Justice Department attorney. Decides what cases the government will appeal to the Supreme Court, files amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in cases the government is interested in, and represents the United States before the Supreme Court.
Speaker of the House
The leader of the majority party and presiding officer of the House of Representatives. Key role in assigning bills to committee and members to committees & setting party's legislative agenda
The attempt of politicians to cast their words & actions in the most flattering light (propaganda, distortion)
When a 3rd party candidate takes enough votes away from one of the main party candidates to make him/her lose the election. Ex., Ralph Nader & Green Party may have caused Al Gore to lose 2000 election to George Bush.
Permanent committees in House and Senate that handle bills dealing with a particular subject area. Examples: Defense, Budget, Education.
"Let the decision stand"; the principle that cases should be decided in ways consistent with similar prior cases. Promotes consistency & fairness.
"The decision stands". A rule in deciding cases where judges follow precedent (how similar cases were decided in the past). Helps promote consistency and fairness in the legal process. Lower courts must follow precedent set by higher courts. Supreme Court can reject precedent if absolutely necessary (Example: Brown rejects precedent of Plessy).
State of the Union Address
A yearly report by the president to Congress required by Constitution describing the nation's condition and recommending programs and policies (bully pulpit to set legislative agenda )
A group within a standing committee that specializes in a subcategory of the standing committee's responsibility. (Ex. House Committee on Foreign Affairs has subcommittees on Asia, Europe, Africa, etc.)
Organization set up after Citizens United to engage in independent electioneering. Can receive unlimited donations but cannot coordinate with a candidate. Causing amount of money spent on elections to skyrocket (SuperPacs have spent $85 million so far in Election 2012)
The Federal constitution, laws, and treaties are the supreme law of the land. States cannot interfere with federal power (ex. McCulloch v. Maryland).
Final federal appellate court ("court of last resort"). Hears appeals from Circuit Courts (certiorari petition / rule of 4). Only hears "important" constitutional cases.
A state that could go either way in a presidential elections (unlike "safe states"). Target of a lot of attention in elections. Also known as "battleground states" or "purple states" (Ohio, Florida in 2008)
Group of important advisors to the President (Heads of Department agencies, VP and other VIPs chosen by president). Created by Washington, example of an informal amendment to the Constitution based on custom / tradition.
The New Deal
Series of liberal (Keynesian) economic laws enacted by FDR to combat Great Depression. Includes Social Security System & federal minimum wage law. Birth of Democratic Party as liberal party (soft electoral realignment)
Any political party that appears as an alternative to the two main parties of the Democrats and the Republicans. Often extremist, single-issue or candidate-centered. Not major feature of US political system because of winner-take-all electoral system. Can have spoiler effect (Nader in 2000) or are absorbed into major party (Tea Party in 2008).
Voting for one party for one office and for another party for other offices. Frequent among independent voters; leads to divided government.
Major anti-gender discrimination law that applies to universities and schools that accept federal funding. Controversial because many universities cut male sports programs so as not to violate Title IX.
U.S. v. Nixon
Supreme Court intervenes in battle between President Nixon and Congress (impeachment process). President cannot use executive privilege as an excuse to withhold evidence in impeachment process. Leads to Nixon's resignation.
Federal laws that require the states to do things without providing the money to do so. Examples: ADA (wheelchair ramps), NCLB (AIMs testing)
A state ruled by one central government. This is the system used by most countries. Compare with federal state.
Replaced the League of Nations after WWII. Global organization to maintain peace and facilitate diplomacy.
"The supreme law of the land." Written in 1787 at Philadelphia Convention to replace Articles of Confederation and create stronger central government. Outlines structure & power of 3 branches of national government. Oldest written constitution still in use (but amended 27 times plus myriad informal amendments).
President may veto any bill by returning it to Congress with explanation. Congress can override with 2/3 vote in both houses (very hard to do)
Back-up president. Only constitutional role = President of Senate & casts tie-breaker vote in Senate. Typically selected to increase odds in election (Biden experience & foreign policy; Palin youth & Tea Party)
Also known as the Big State Plan. Wanted proportional representation in Congress (based on population).
About 50-60% of eligible voters in Presidential elections; much less in midyear elections (30-40%)
Low in America compared to other western democracies (50-60% for presidential elections; 40-50% for midterms)
Voting Rights Act (1965)
Federal law protecting against racial discrimination in voting. Major accomplishment of civil rights movement vs. Jim Crow. Bans all discriminatory voting procedures. Requires ballots to be printed in minority languages. Section 5 = federal policing of states with history of discrimination (still necessary?)
War Powers Act
A law passed in 1973 after Vietnam fiasco requiring (1) president to notify Congress within 48 hours of sending troops into combat and (2) begin to remove troops after 60 days unless Congress approves of the action. Limited effort to reverse erosion of Congress' war powers since World War II (last formal declaration of war).
Nixon's "friends" broke into Democratic National Committee HQ during 1972 election, then Nixon tried to cover up White House involvement. Example of media muckraking (Woodward & Bernstein). Led to resignation of Richard Nixon.
White House Chief of Staff
Closest presidential advisor ("Jafar"). PowerfulgGatekeeper in pyramidal system; does not require senate confirmation
White House Office
EOP group that includes the President's most trusted personal advisors (led by White House Chief of Staff); members do not need senate confirmation
White House Press Secretary
Member of White House staff that controls flow of information from president, holds daily press briefings, tries to spin/control media
A form of restricting African American's 15th Amendment rights during the Jim Crow Era by only allowing whites to vote in the primary elections; giving African Americans only the opportunity to vote for white racist A or white racist B.
Winner-Take-All System (Electoral College)
Most common state system for allocating electoral college votes (candidate with the most votes wins all of the electoral votes of that state). Used in all but 2 states. Maximizes states' influence in electoral process but completely ignores votes for losing candidates (undemocratic).
Writ of Certiorari
An order by the Supreme Court saying that it will hear a certain case (rule of 4). Granted in cases that raise important constitutional questions or where circuit courts have reached different opinions on a particular issue.