104th Congress—the Congress elected in 1994 with the first Republican majority in both houses since the 1950s.
107th Congress—current Congress elected in 2000.
advocacy ads—used by interest groups to indirectly promote or defeat candidates for election; also called issue ads, they are a way of avoiding campaign spending limits.
affirmative action—an effort to remove affects of discrimination by requiring and expanding minority job and promotion opportunities.
agenda setting—a listing of national priorities; a major media function.
anarchy—a society without government.
Anti-Federalists—group opposing adoption of Constitution; they preferred stronger state governments and more popular participation.
appellate jurisdiction—the authority of some courts to hear appeals from lower courts.
Articles of Confederation—a document that in 1781 loosely unified the newly independent American states; its shortcomings led to the U.S. Constitution.
“balance the ticket”—the effort by parties to represent different population groups and regions in their candidates for office.
bicameral—a legislature with two houses, such as the U.S. Congress with the House of Representatives and Senate.
Bill of Rights—The first ten amendments to the Constitution, including freedoms of speech, press, religion, due process, and jury trial.
bureaucrat—an administrator in a large organization, often government; may refer to someone who slows things down by enforcing too many rules and red tape.
cabinet—the major departments of the federal government such as State and Defense of which there are now 14.
calendars—the agendas or schedules for legislation in Congress.
casework—the efforts by members of Congress to solve voters' individual problems with the government; an important part of their constituency service.
caucus—a gathering of all the members of a political party serving in either house of Congress.
chain—companies that combine media in different cities under one ownership.
checks and balances—the constitutional principle that mixes together separate powers to give each branch some powers of the others; protects and balances the functions of government.
Chief Executive—the president's role as head of the executive branch and its federal bureaucracy.
Chief of State—the role of the president as head of the nation as well as of the government.
civil liberties—legal protections against government restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, and religion.
civil rights—legal protections against discrimination because of race, religion, ethnicity, or gender.
class action suits—cases representing a whole class of people whose rights may have been violated.
coalition—a political grouping representing diverse interests organized to represent popular opinion on a particular issue.
Commander-in-Chief—the president's authority over the military; the principle behind civilian supremacy.
complete incorporationists—a judicial position that the entire Bill of Rights was incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment.
concurrent powers—those powers shared by the states and federal government, such as the power to tax.
conference committee—a temporary body of members from the two houses of Congress set up to resolve different versions of legislation passed by both houses.
consensus—a general agreement among the population on basic political questions and “rules of the game.”
conspiracy theory—an unprovable argument that America and specific activities are dominated by a unified, secret elite.
dealignment—a recent phase which refers to the growing lack of support for either major party.
democracy—a form of government in which the people effectively participate.
deviating elections—elections that show a temporary shift in popular support for the majority party.
due process—a phrase in the Fourteenth Amendment used to incorporate freedoms of the Bill of Rights to cover states' actions, including the rights to procedural fairness and impartiality by government officials.
electoral barriers—legal obstacles to voting, such as residency and registration requirements.
electoral college—an antiquated constitutional provision whereby voters on election day select electors to reflect their state's choice for president.
elites—those who get most of society's values, especially wealth and power.
equal protection—a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment used to prevent state officials and others from engaging in racial or sex discrimination.
equity—a flexible judicial doctrine that allows judges to resolve a case based on a sense of fairness.
exclusionary rule—a judicial rule that excludes any evidence obtained by illegal means.
exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction—refers to whether federal courts have sole authority over a case (exclusive) or whether they share that authority with state courts (concurrent).
exclusive powers—those powers only exercised by the federal government, such as the right to coin money.
executive agencies—major departments of the government that are not in the cabinet—for example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
executive agreements—international agreements only needing approval by the president because they are usually less important than treaties.
federalism—the distribution of political authority between the federal government and the governments of the states.
Federalists—supporters of the Constitution in the struggle to adopt it; they wanted a strong conservative central government.
filibuster—the right under Senate rules to delay action by speaking for an unlimited amount of time, only stopped by a cloture vote.
First Amendment freedoms—freedoms of religion, speech, press, and assembly.
Fourteenth Amendment—the postCivil War amendment that has been used to extend the protections in the Bill of Rights to actions by state and local governments and private individuals and groups.
fragmentation of power—a key pluralist perspective that no one group dominates American politics.
gerrymandering—designing legislative districts to favor one party's candidates over another.
government—a political association that makes rules determining the distribution of values of a society and is the ultimate regulator of legitimate force.
grassroots campaigns—the effort to bring pressure on elected officials by mobilizing voters in their own districts and states using mail, phones, or visits.
hard money—funds for candidates in federal elections that since the mid-1970s have been strictly regulated.
hyperpluralism—the view that participation by too many groups demanding too many resources from the government leads to political paralysis.
impeachment—the power of Congress to remove high officials of the executive or judicial branches from office for misconduct.
incumbent—an elected official currently in office with all the advantages that confers.
independents—voters who publicly identify with neither major political party.
injunction—a court order preventing someone from violating someone else's rights.
interest group—an association organized to pursue a common interest by bringing pressure on the political process.
Internet—a global computer network allowing near instant communication.
iron triangle—refers to public policy being shaped by a trio of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and congressional committees.
joint committees—permanent bodies including both senators and representatives, for example, the Joint Economic Committee.
judicial activism—the concept that the courts should be an active partner with the other branches of government in shaping policy.
judicial restraint—the opposing concept that the courts should not impose their views on other branches of the government except in extreme instances; a passive role for the courts.
judicial review—the courts' authority to decide on the constitutionality of the acts of state, local, and federal governments.
lame duck—the negative description of a president weakened because he is in the last months of his final term.
landmark decision—a judicial decision involving major changes in the law.
Leadership PACs—modern political machines established by congressional leaders to further their ambitions by raising funds for party colleagues.
legitimacy—a publicly recognized quality of an institution like a family or government that make the actions of people connected to that institution both legal and correct.
limited government—the constitutional principle by which the powers of government are limited by the rights and liberties of the people.
lobbying—the process of influencing government officials by private interests.
maintaining elections—elections that continue the parties' popular support at the same level.
marblecake federalism—the modern mix of overlapping relations between the states and federal government.
Mayflower compact—an early example (1620) of American settlers' (Pilgrims) desire to be governed by a publicly accepted rule of law.
media—those means of communications, such as television, radio, and newspapers, that permit messages to be made public.
memorandum orders—the method by which the Supreme Court decides most cases without the need for oral arguments.
national agenda—the important political issues that are the current focus of public attention; gaining control of this agenda is a major aspect of presidential power.
national convention—an assembly of party delegates usually selected by primaries who meet every four years to nominate their party's candidates for president and vice president.
news management—techniques used by public officials to control information going to the media.
order—when the court requires someone to take a specified action to ensure someone else's rights.
original jurisdiction—the authority of the court to initially try cases.
oversight—a nonlegislative power of Congress to investigate and examine the activities of executive branch agencies.
PACs (political action committees)—legally sanctioned organizations set up by private groups to raise campaign funds.
partial incorporationists—judicial position that believes only preferred rights, such as the First Amendment freedoms, should be included in the Fourteenth Amendment and applied to the states.
party platform—a document stating the party's positions on issues.
plural elitism—a view of American politics as being divided into different policy arenas where various special interest elites dominate.
pluralism—a group theory of democracy that positively views the competition between many different groups resulting in compromises that produce public policies.
political conflict—a widespread dispute over society's values—for example, wealth.
political efficacy—the sense of political effectiveness; that efforts like voting will produce results like a change in government policies.
political machine—a traditional locally based political organization led by a boss which controlled government jobs and services through loyalty and corruption.
political party—an organization that runs candidates for public office under the party's name.
political questions—controversial issues that the courts refuse to deal with because they feel they lack the capacity and that other branches are most suited to resolve.
political science—the study of those social relations involving power and authority, especially those including government.
political socialization—the process of learning political attitudes and behavior.
politics—the process of who gets what, when, and how; actions among a number of people involving influence.
power elite—a theory that American politics is dominated by a unified nonrepresentative elite.
power—the ability to influence another's behavior.
precedent or stare decisis—the judicial practice by which the courts generally follow previous court decisions involving the same issue.
presidential primaries—elections held by states to determine which nominee's delegates will be sent to the national convention.
realigning elections—elections that show a long-term shift in the popular base of support of the parties.
reciprocity—the congressional practice of members looking for guidance on legislation to members of their party on committees specializing in that area.
regulatory commissions—agencies semi-independent from the rest of government charged with regulating parts of the economy—for example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Rehnquist court—the current Supreme Court, since 1986, named after Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
representative democracy—government in which the people rule indirectly through elected representatives.
reserved powers—those powers not delegated to the federal government that are reserved to the states or people by the Tenth Amendment.
residual powers—those powers not spelled out in the Constitution but necessary for the president to carry out his other responsibilities; used to expand powers of the president.
ruling class—the economically privileged group that controls the major institutions of society according to the power elite view.
select or special committees—temporary congressional panels established to do specific tasks, usually investigations; a recent example was the Senate Special Committee on Whitewater.
Senate majority leader—leader of the Senate majority party and the Senate equivalent to the House Speaker, currently Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
senatorial courtesy—the practice of the senate to only approve judicial nominees who are acceptable to the senator from that state.
seniority—an informal congressional rule by which the chairman of a committee is automatically the member from the majority party who has served the longest on the committee.
separation of powers—a constitutional principle that the powers of government should be separated into three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial.
single-member district—n electoral system of electing one member of Congress from each district; considered an obstacle to the rise of minor parties.
social class—a major social division based on occupation and income and the awareness this produces of relations toward other classes.
social sciences—the academic disciplines, such as history, economics, or political science, that study relationships among people.
soft money—funds for state and local parties that do not come under federal regulation; a widely used loophole to raise money for candidates in federal elections.
sound bite—a brief video clip of a candidate or political official speaking.
Speaker of the House—the head of the House of Representatives and the leader of the majority party, currently Republican J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
specialization—an expectation that members will remain on the same committee and become experts in its issues.
spin—slang for putting a favorable interpretation or slant on information given to the media and public.
spoils system—process of filling government positions with supporters of the winning politicians; largely replaced by the civil service.
standing committees—the permanent specialized units of both houses that draft legislation in subject areas like taxes and agriculture.
State of the Union address—a presidential speech before Congress at the beginning of the year outlining his legislative program.
Supreme Court of the United States—the head of the federal court system, composed of a chief justice and eight associate justices.
suspect classifications—a judicial doctrine that laws with classifications involving race, religion, or ethnicity will be subject to close scrutiny by the courts because they are presumed invalid.
term limits—popular effort to limit the number of times that members of Congress can run for re-election.
test case—brought by lawyers to court as the best example of a major violation affecting a large group of people.
TV networks—corporations owning nationwide local television outlets to whom they produce and sell programs.
U.S. courts of appeals—thirteen federal courts above the district courts, which mainly hear appeals from those courts.
U.S. district courts—the federal courts where most cases involving federal law are first tried.
veto—a president's constitutional power to refuse to sign legislation thus preventing it from becoming law unless overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress.
whips—floor leaders who work to coordinate votes and assist the party leaders.
writ of certiorari—order of a higher court to a lower court to send the record of a case for review.