Vocabulary from the Civics Textbook Flashcards

Terms Definitions
527 organization
A political group organized under section 527 of the IRS Code that may accept and spend unlimited amounts of money on election activities so long as they are not spent on broadcast ads run in the last 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election where a clearly identified candidate is referred to and a relevant electorate is targeted.
administrative discretion
Authority given by Congress to the federal bureaucracy to use reasonable judgment in implementing the laws.
adversary system
A judicial system in which the court of law is a neutral arena where two parties argue their differences.
advisory opinion
An opinion unrelated to a particular case that gives a court's view, about a constitutional or legal issue.
affirmative action
Remedial action designed to overcome the effects of discrimination against minorities and women.
amendatory veto
The power of governors in a few states to return a bill to the legislature with suggested language changes, conditions, or amendments. Legislators then decide either to accept the governor's recommendations or to pass the bill in its original form over the veto.
American dream
The widespread belief that the United States is a land of opportunity and that individual initiative and hard work can bring economic success.
amicus curiae brief
Literally, a "friend of the court" brief, filed by an individual or organization to present arguments in addition to those presented by the immediate parties to a case.
Annapolis Convention
A convention held in September 1786 to consider problems of trade and navigation, attended by five states and important because it issued the call to Congress and the states for what became the Constitutional Convention.
Opponents of ratification of the Constitution and of a strong central government generally.
antitrust legislation
Federal laws (starting with the Sherman Act of 1890) that try to prevent a monopoly from dominating an industry and restraining trade.
appellate jurisdiction
The authority of a court to review decisions made by lower courts.
Articles of Confederation
The first governing document of the confederated states, drafted in 1777, ratified in 1781, and replaced by the present Constitution in 1789.
The valuation a government places on property for the purposes of taxation.
assigned counsel system
Arrangement whereby attorneys are provided for persons accused of crimes who are unable to hire their own attorneys. The judge assigns a member of the bar to provide counsel to a particular defendant.
attentive public
Those citizens who follow public affairs carefully.
Australian ballot
A secret ballot printed by the state.
bad tendency test
Interpretation of the First Amendment that would permit legislatures to forbid speech encouraging people to engage in illegal action.
bicameral legislature
A two house legislature.
The principle of a two house legislature.
bill of attainder
Legislative act inflicting punishment, including deprivation of property, without a trial, on named individuals or members of a specific group.
binding arbitration
A collective bargaining agreement in which both parties agree, in case of dispute over the terms of the union contract, to adhere to the decision of an arbitrator.
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)
Largely banned party soft money, restored longstanding prohibition on corporations and labor unions for using general treasury funds for electoral purposes, and narrowed the definition of issue advocacy.
A policy that emphasizes a united front and cooperation between the major political parties, especially on sensitive foreign policy issues.
blanket primary
Primary election open to all voters, who may vote for a candidate from any party for each office.
A tactic in which PACs collect contributions from like minded individuals (each limited to $2,000) and present them to a candidate or political party as a "bundle," thus increasing the PAC's influence.
A form of organization that operates through impersonal, uniform rules and procedures.
Bush Doctrine
A policy adopted by the Bush administration in 2001 that asserts America's right to attack any nation that has weapons of mass destruction that might be used against U.S. interests at home or abroad.
Advisory council for the president, consisting of the heads of the executive departments, the vice president, and a few other officials selected by the president.
candidate appeal
How voters feel about a candidate's background, personality, leadership ability, and other personal qualities.
An economic system characterized by private property, competitive markets, economic incentives, and limited government involvement in the production, distribution, and pricing of goods and services.
A meeting of local party members to choose party officials or candidates for public office and to decide the platform.
central clearance
Review of all executive branch testimony, reports, and draft legislation by the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that each communication to Congress is in accordance with the president's program.
People who favor national action over action at the state and local levels.
charter school
A publicly funded alternative to standard public schools in some states, initiated when individuals or groups receive charters; charter schools must meet state standards.
City "constitution" that outlines the structure of city government, defines the authority of the various officials, and provides for their selection.
checks and balances
Constitutional grant of powers that enables each of the three branches of government to check some acts of the others and therefore ensure that no branch can dominate.
chief of staff
The head of the White House staff.
civil disobedience
Deliberate refusal to obey a law or comply with the orders of public officials as a means of expressing opposition.
civil law
A law that governs relationships between individuals and defines their legal rights.
class action suit
Lawsuit brought by an individual or a group of people on behalf of all those similarly situated.
clear and present danger test
Interpretation of the First Amendment that holds that the government cannot interfere with speech unless the speech presents a clear and present danger that it will lead to evil or illegal acts.
closed primary
Primary election in which only persons registered in the party holding the primary may vote.
closed rule
A procedural rule in the House of Representatives that prohibits any amendments to bills or provides that only members of the committee reporting the bill may offer amendments.
closed shop
A company with a labor agreement under which union membership can be a condition of employment.
A procedure for terminating debate, especially filibusters, in the Senate.
coattail effect
The boost that candidates may get in an election because of the popularity of candidates above them on the ballot, especially the president.
collective action
How groups form and organize to pursue their goals or objectives, including how to get individuals and groups to participate and cooperate. The term has many applications in the various social sciences such as political science, sociology, and economics.
collective bargaining
Method whereby representatives of the union and employer determine wages, hours, and other conditions of employment through direct negotiation.
commerce clause
The clause in the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1) that gives Congress the power to regulate all business activities that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations.
commercial speech
Advertisements and commercials for products and services; they receive less First Amendment protection, primarily to discourage false and misleading ads.
community policing
Assigning police to neighborhoods where they walk the beat and work with churches and other community groups to reduce crime and improve relations with minorities.
concurrent powers
Powers that the Constitution gives to both the national and state governments, such as the power to levy taxes.
concurring opinion
An opinion that agrees with the majority in a Supreme Court ruling but differs on the reasoning.
Constitutional arrangement in which sovereign nations or states, by compact, create a central government but carefully limit its power and do not give it direct authority over individuals.
conference committee
Committee appointed by the presiding officers of each chamber to adjust differences on a particular bill passed by each in different form.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
An agency of Congress that analyzes presidential budget recommendations and estimates the costs of proposed legislation.
congressional-executive agreement
A formal agreement between the U.S. president and the leaders of other nations that requires approval by both houses of Congress.
Connecticut Compromise
Compromise agreement by states at the Constitutional Convention for a bicameral legislature with a lower house in which representation would be based on population and an upper house in which each state would have two senators.
A belief that limited government ensures order, competitive markets, and personal opportunity.
The residents of a congressional district or state.
Constitutional Convention
The convention in Philadelphia, May 25 to September 17, 1787, that framed the Constitution of the United States.
constitutional democracy
A government that enforces recognized limits on those who govern and allows the voice of the people to be heard through free, fair, and relatively frequent elections.
constitutional home rule
State constitutional authorization for local governments to conduct their own affairs.
constitutional initiative petition
A device that permits voters to place specific amendments to a state constitution on the ballot by petition.
The set of arrangements, including checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, due process, and a bill of rights, that requires our leaders to listen, think, bargain, and explain before they act or make laws. We then hold them politically and legally accountable for how they exercise their powers.
contract clause
Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 10) originally intended to prohibit state governments from modifying contracts made between individuals; for a while interpreted as prohibiting state governments from taking actions that adversely affect property rights; no longer interpreted so broadly and no longer constrains state governments from exercising their police powers.
council-manager plan
Form of local government in which the city council hires a professional administrator to manage city affairs; also known as the city-manager plan.
court of appeals
A court with appellate jurisdiction that hears appeals from the decisions of lower courts.
criminal law
A law that defines crimes against the public order.
cross-cutting cleavages
Divisions within society that cut across demographic categories to produce groups that are more heterogeneous or different.
crossover voting
Voting by a member of one party for a candidate of another party.
cycle of decreasing influence
The tendency of presidents to lose support over time.
cycle of increasing effectiveness
The tendency of presidents to learn more about doing their jobs over time.
de facto segregation
Segregation resulting from economic or social conditions or personal choice.
de jure segregation
Segregation imposed by law.
Weakening of partisan preferences that points to a rejection of both major parties and a rise in the number of Independents.
People who favor state or local action rather than national action.
In a criminal action, the person or party accused of an offense.
The difference between the revenues raised annually from sources of income other than borrowing and the expenditures of government, including paying the interest on past borrowing.
An official who is expected to represent the views of his or her constituents even when personally holding different views; one interpretation of the role of the legislator.
Government by the people, both directly or indirectly, with free and frequent elections.
democratic consensus
Widespread agreement on fundamental principles of democratic governance and the values that undergird them.
The study of the characteristics of populations.
Usually the largest organization in government; also the highest rank in federal hierarchy.
A policy promoting cutbacks in the amount of federal regulation in specific areas of economic activity.
devolution revolution
The effort to slow the growth of the federal government by returning many functions to the states.
direct democracy
Government in which citizens vote on laws and select officials directly.
direct primary
Election in which voters choose party nominees.
discharge petition
Petition that, if signed by a majority of the House members of Representatives, will pry a bill from committee and bring it to the floor for consideration.
A requirement that candidates specify where the money came from to finance the campaign.
dissenting opinion
An opinion disagreeing with the majority in a Supreme Court ruling.
distributive policy
A type of policy that provides benefits to all Americans.
divided government
Governance divided between the parties, especially when one holds presidency and the other controls one or both houses of Congress.
The list of potential cases that reach Supreme Court.
double jeopardy
Trial or punishment for same crime by the same government; forbidden by the Constitution.
dual citizenship
Citizenship in more than one nation.
due process clause
Clause in the Fifth Amendment limiting the power of the national government; similar clause in the Fourteenth Amendment prohibiting state governments depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
due process
Established rules and that restrain government officials.
Special spending projects that are set aside on behalf of individual members of Congress for their constituents.
economic sanctions
Denial of export, import, or financial relations with a target country in an effort to change that nation's policies.
electoral college
The electoral system used electing the president and vice president, which voters vote for electors pledged to their ballots for a particular party's candidates.
eminent domain
Power of a government take private property for public use; the U.S. Constitution gives national and state govern this power and requires them to provide just compensation for property so taken.
entitlement program
Programs such as unemployment insurance, disaster relief, or disability payments that provide benefits to all eligible citizens.
enumerated powers
The powers given to Congress in the Constitution.
environmental impact statement
A state required by federal law from all agencies for project using federal funds to assess the potential effect of the new construction or development on the environment.
equal protection clause
Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment that forbids any state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. By interpretation, the Fourteenth Amendment imposes the same limitation on national government. This clause is the constitutional restraint on the power of government to discriminate against persons because of race, national origin, or sex.
establishment clause
Clause in the First Amendment that states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. The Supreme Court has interpreted this to forbid governmental support to any or all religions.
A social division based on national origin, religion, language, and often race.
Belief in the superiority of one's nation or ethnic group.
ex post facto law
Retroactive criminal law that works to the disadvantage of a person.
excise tax
Consumer tax on a specific kind of merchandise, such as tobacco.
exclusionary rule
Requirement that evidence unconstitutionally or illegally obtained be excluded from a criminal trial.
executive agreement
A formal agreement between the U.S. president and the leaders of other nations that does not require Senate approval.
Executive Office of the President
The cluster of presidential staff agencies that help the president carry out his responsibilities. Currently the office includes the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers, and several other units.
executive order
Directive issued by a president or governor that has the force of law.
executive orders
Formal orders issued by the president to direct action by the federal bureaucracy.
executive privilege
The power to keep executive communications confidential, especially if they relate to national security.
express powers
Powers the Constitution specifically grants to one of the branches of the national government.
Legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officials of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.
A term the founders used to refer to political parties and special interests or interest groups
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
A commission created by the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act to administer election reform laws. It consists of six commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Its duties include overseeing disclosure of campaign finance information and public funding of presidential elections, and enforcing contribution limits.
federal mandate
A requirement the federal government imposes as a condition for receiving federal funds.
Federal Register
An official document, published every weekday, which lists the new and posed regulations of executive departments regulatory agencies.
Federal Reserve System
The system created by Congress in 1913 to establish banking practices and regulate currency in circulation and the amount of credit available. It consists of 12 regional banks supervised by the Board of Governors often called simply the Fed.
Constitutional arrangement in which power is distributed between a central government and subdivsional governments, called states in the United States. The national and the subdivisional governments both exercise direct authority over individuals.
Supporters of ratification of the Constitution and of a strong central government.
A serious crime, the penalty for which can range from imprisonment in a penitentiary for more than a year to death.
fighting words
Words that by their very nature inflict injury on those to whom they are addressed or incite them to acts of violence.
A procedural practice in the Senate whereby a senator refuses to relinquish the floor and thereby delays proceedings and prevents a vote on a controversial issue.
fiscal policy
Government policy that attempts to manage the economy by controlling taxing and spending.
free exercise clause
Clause in the First Amendment that states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
free rider
An individual who does not join a group representing his or her interests yet receives the benefit of the group's influence.
full faith and credit clause
Clause in the Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) requiring each state to recognize the civil judgments rendered by the courts of the other states and to accept their public records and acts as valid.
Conservative Christians who as a group have become more active in politics in the last two decades and were especially influential in the 2000 presidential election.
gender gap
The difference between the political opinions or political behavior of men and of women.
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
An international trade organization with more than 130 members, including the United States and the People's Republic of China, that seeks to encourage free trade by lowering tariffs and other trade restrictions.
general election
Elections in which voters elect officeholders.
general property tax
Tax levied by local and some state governments on real property or personal, tangible property, the major portion of which is on the estimated value of one's home and land.
The drawing of legislative district boundaries to benefit a party; group, or incumbent.
government corporation
A government agency that operates like a business corporation, created to secure greater freedom of action and flexibility for a particular program.
grand jury
A jury of 12 to 23 persons who, in private, hear evidence presented by the government to determine whether persons shall be required to stand trial. If the jury believes there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed, it issues an indictment.
Green party
A minor party dedicated to the environment, social justice, nonviolence, and a foreign policy of nonintervention. Ralph Nader ran as the Green party's nominee in 2000.
gross domestic product (GDP)
The total output of all economic activity in the nation, including goods and services.
hard money
Political contributions given to a party, candidate, or interest group that are limited in amount and fully disclosed. Raising such limited funds is harder than raising unlimited funds, hence the term "hard money."
hard power
The reliance on economic and military strength to solve international problems.
Hatch Act
Federal statute barring federal employees from active participation in certain kinds of politics and protecting them from being fired on partisan grounds.
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
Alternative means of health care in which people or their employers are charged a set amount and the HMO provides health care and covers hospital costs.
A procedural practice in the Senate whereby a senator temporarily blocks the consideration of a bill or nomination.
Period at the beginning of a new president's term during which the president enjoys generally positive relations with the press and Congress, usually lasting about six months.
horse race
A close contest; by extension, any contest in which the focus is on who is ahead and by how much rather than on substantive differences between the candidates.
A theory of international relations that focuses on the hope that nations will act together to solve international problems and promote peace.
Exemption from prosecution for a particular crime in return for testimony pertaining to the case.
Formal accusation by the lower house of a legislature against a public official, the first step in removal from office.
The process of putting a law into practice through bureaucratic rules or spending.
implied powers
Powers inferred from the express powers that allow Congress to carry out its functions.
Presidential refusal to allow an agency to spend funds that Congress authorized and appropriated.
independent agency
A government entity that is independent of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
independent expenditure
The Supreme Court has ruled that individuals, groups, and parties can spend unlimited amounts in campaigns for or against candidates as long as they operate independently from the candidates. When an individual, group, or party does so, they are making an independent expenditure.
independent regulatory commission
A government agency or commission with regulatory power whose independence is protected by Congress.
Providing automatic increases to compensate for inflation.
A rise in the general price level (and decrease in dollar value) owing to an increase in the volume of money and credit in relation to available goods.
information affidavit
Certification by a public prosecutor that there is evidence to justify bringing named individuals to trial.
inherent powers
The powers of the national government in foreign affairs that the Supreme Court has declared do not depend on constitutional grants but rather grow out of the very existence of the national government.
Procedure whereby a certain number of voters may, by petition, propose a law or constitutional amendment and have it submitted to the voters.
interest group
A collection of people who share a common interest or attitude and seek to influence government for specific ends. Interest groups usually work within the framework of government and try to achieve their goals through tactics such as lobbying.
interested money
Financial contributions by individuals or groups in the hope of influencing the outcome of an election and subsequently influencing policy.
The belief that nations must engage in international problem solving.
interstate compact
An agreement among two or more states. Congress must approve most such agreements.
iron triangle
A policy-making alliance that involves very strong ties among a congressional committee, an interest group, and a federal department or agency.
The desire to avoid international engagement altogether.
issue advocacy
Promoting a particular position or an issue paid for by interest groups or individuals but not candidates. Much issue advocacy is often electioneering for or against a candidate, and until 2004 had not been subject to any regulation.
issue network
Relationships among interest groups, congressional committees and subcommittees, and the government agencies that share a common policy concern.
Jim Crow laws
State laws formerly pervasive throughout the South requiring public facilities and accommodations to be segregated by race; ruled unconstitutional.
joint committee
A committee composed of members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate; such committees oversee the Library of Congress and conduct investigations.
judicial activism
Philosophy proposing that judges should interpret the Constitution to reflect current conditions and values.
judicial interpretation
A method by which judges modify the force of a constitutional provision by reinterpreting its meaning.
judicial restraint
Philosophy proposing that judges should interpret the Constitution to reflect what the framers intended and what its words literally say.
judicial review
The power of a court to refuse to enforce a law or a government regulation that in the opinion of the judges conflicts with the U.S. Constitution or, in a state court, the state constitution.
justiciable dispute
A dispute growing out of an actual case or controversy and that is capable of settlement by legal methods.
Keynesian economics
Theory based on the principles of John Maynard Keynes, stating that government spending should increase during business slumps and be curbed during booms.
labor injunction
A court order forbidding specific individuals or groups from performing certain acts (such as striking) that the court considers harmful to the rights and property of an employer or a community.
laissez-faire economics
Theory that opposes governmental interference in economic affairs beyond what is necessary to protect life and property
leadership PAC
A PAC formed by an office holder that collects contributions from individuals and other PACs and then makes contributions to other candidates and political parties.
Written defamation of another person. For public officials and public figures, the constitutional tests designed to restrict libel actions are especially rigid.
A belief that government can and should achieve justice and equality of opportunity.
Libertarian party
A minor party that believes in extremely limited government. Libertarians call for a free market system, expanded individual liberties such as drug legalization, and a foreign policy of nonintervention, free trade, and open immigration.
An ideology that cherishes individual liberty and insists on minimal government, promoting a free market economy, a noninterventionist foreign policy, and an absence of regulation in moral, economic, and social life.
line item veto
Presidential power to strike, or remove, specific items from a spending bill without vetoing the entire package; declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
literacy test
Literacy requirement some states imposed as a condition of voting, generally used to disqualify black voters in the South; now illegal.
Engaging in activities aimed at influencing public officials, especially legislators, and the policies they enact.
A person who is employed by and acts for an organized interest group or corporation to influence policy decisions and positions in the executive and legislative branches.
Mutual aid and vote trading among legislators.
majority leader
The legislative leader selected by the majority party who helps plan party strategy, confers with other party leaders, and tries to keep members of the party in line.
majority rule
Governance according to the expressed preferences of the majority.
The candidate or party that wins more than half the votes cast in an election.
majority-minority district
A legislative district created to include a majority of minority voters; ruled constitutional so long as race is not the main factor in redistricting.
Having legislative districts with unequal populations.
A president's claim of broad public support.
manifest destiny
A notion held by nineteenth century Americans that the United States was destined to rule the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
manifest opinion
A widely shared and consciously held view, like support for homeland
mass media
Means of communication that reach the public, including newspapers and magazines radio, television (broadcast, cable, satellite), films, recordings, books, and electronic communication.
mayor-council charter
The oldest and most common form of city government, consisting of either a weak mayor and a strong city council or a strong mayor elected by voters and a weak council.
means-tested entitlements
Programs such Medicaid and welfare under which applicants must meet eligibility requirements based on need.
Federal program that provides medical benefits for low-income persons.
medical savings account
Alternative means of health care in which individuals make tax-deductible contributions to a special account that can be used to pay medical expenses.
National health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
merit system
A system of public employment in which selection and promotion depend on demonstrated performance rather than on political patronage.
midterm election
Elections held midway between presidential elections.
minor party
A small political party that rises and falls with a charismatic candidate or, if composed of ideologies on the right or left, usually persists over time; also called a third party.
minority leader
The legislative leader selected by the minority party as spokesperson for the opposition.
A minor crime; the penalty is a fine or imprisonment for a short time, usually less than a year, in a local jail.
Missouri Plan
A system for selecting judges that combines features of the appointive and elective methods. The governor selects judges from lists presented by panels of lawyers and laypersons, and at the end of their term, the judges may run against their own record in retention elections.
A theory that government should control the money supply to encourage economic growth and restrain inflation.
monetary policy
Government policy that attempts to manage the economy by controlling the money supply and thus interest rates.
Domination of an industry by a single company that fixes prices and discourages competition; also, the company that dominates the industry by these means.
A large body of people interested in a common issue, idea, or concern that is of continuing significance and who are willing to action. Movements seek to change attitudes institutions, not just policies.
A philosophy that encourages individual nations to act together to solve international problems.
name recognition
Incumbents have an advantage over challengers in election campaigns because voters are more familiar with them, and incumbents are more recognizable.
national debt
The total amount of money the federal government has borrowed to finance it spending over the years.
national intelligence director
The federal government's primary intelligence officer, responsible for overseeing all national intelligence agencies and providing advice to the president terrorist threats.
national party convention
A national meeting delegates elected in primaries, caucuses, or conventions who assemble once every four years to nominate candidates for president and president, ratify the party platform, elect officers and adopt rules.
national supremacy
Constitutional doctrine whenever conflict occurs between the constitutionally authorized actions of the national government and those of a state or local government the actions of the federal government prevail.
national tide
The inclination to focus on national issues, rather than local issues, in an electoral campaign. The impact of a national tide can reduced by the nature of the candidates on the ballot who might have differentiated themselves their party or its leader if the tide is negative, as well as competition in the election.
natural law
God's or nature's law that defines from wrong and is higher than human law.
natural rights
The rights of all people to dignity worth; also called human rights.
A legal action conferring citizenship upon an alien.
necessary and proper clause
Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3) setting the implied powers of Congress. It states Congress, in addition to its express powers, the right to make all laws necessary and proper to carry out all powers the Constitution in the national government.
New Jersey Plan
Proposal at the Constitutional Convention made by William Paterson of New Jersey for a central government with a single legislature in which each state would be represented equally.
judicial federalism
The practice of some courts using the bill of rights in their state constitutions to provide more protection for some rights than is provided by the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
news media
Media that emphasize the news.
nongovernmental organization (NGO)
A non-profit association or group operating outside of government that advocates and pursues policy objectives.
non-partisan election
A local or judicial election in which candidates are not selected or endorsed by political parties and party affiliation is not listed on ballots.
nonprotected speech
Libel, obscenity, fighting words and commercial speech, which are not entitled to constitutional protection in all circumstances.
normal trade relations
Trade status granted as of an international trade policy that gives a nation the same favorable trade concessions and tariffs that the best trading partners receive.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Agreement signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1992 to form the largest free trade zone in the world.
Quality or state of a work that taken as a whole appeals to a prurient interest in sex by depicting sexual conduct in a patently offensive way and that lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
office block ballot
Ballot on which all candidates are listed under the office for which they are running.
Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Presidential staff agency that serves as a clearinghouse for budgetary requests and management improvements for government agencies.
Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
Agency that administers civil service laws, rules, and regulations.
The practice of exporting U.S. jobs to lower-paid employees in other nations.
one-party state
A state in which one party wins all or nearly all the offices and the other party receives only a small proportion of the popular vote.
open primary
Primary election in which any voter, regardless of party, may vote.
open rule
A procedural rule in the House of Representatives that permits floor amendments within the overall time allocated to the bill.
open shop
A company with a labor agreement under which union membership cannot be required as a condition of employment.
opinion of the court
An explanation of a decision of the Supreme Court or any other appellate court.
original jurisdiction
The authority of a court to hear a case "in the first instance."
Contracting of government services to private firms.
An action taken by Congress to reverse a presidential veto, requiring a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
Legislative or executive review of a particular government program or organization. Can be in response to a crisis of some kind or part of routine review.
parliamentary system
A system of government in which the legislature selects the prime minister or president.
party caucus
A meeting of the members of a party in a legislative chamber to select party leaders and develop party policy. Called a conference by the Republicans.
party column ballot
Type of ballot that encourages party line voting by listing all of a party's candidates in a column under the party name.
party convention
A meeting of party delegates to vote on matters of policy and in some cases to select party candidates for public office.
party identification
An informal and subjective affiliation with a political party that most people acquire in childhood.
party registration
The act of declaring party affiliation; required by some states when one registers to vote.
The dispensing of government jobs to persons who belong to the winning political Party.
petit jury
A jury of six to 12 persons that determines guilt or innocence in a civil or criminal action.
plea bargain
Agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant that the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser offense to avoid having to stand trial for a more serious offense.
A theory of government that holds that open, multiple, and competing groups can check the asserted power by any one group.
Candidate or party with the most votes cast in an election, not necessarily more than half.
pocket veto
A veto exercised by the president after Congress has adjourned; if the president takes no action for ten days, the bill does not become law and is not returned to Congress for a possible override.
police powers
Inherent powers of state governments to pass laws to protect the public health, safety, and welfare; the national government has no directly granted police powers but accomplishes the same goals through other delegated powers.
policy agenda
The informal list of issues that Congress and the president consider most important for action.
political action committee (PAC)
The political arm of an interest group that is legally entitled to raise funds on a voluntary basis from members, stockholders, or employees to contribute funds to candidates or political parties.
political culture
The widely shared beliefs, values, and norms about how citizens relate to government and to one another.
political ideology
A consistent pattern of beliefs about political values and the role of government.
political party
An organization that seeks political power by electing people to office so that its positions and philosophy become public policy.
political predisposition
A characteristic of individuals that is predictive of political behavior.
political socialization
The process-most notably in families and schools-by which we develop our political attitudes, values, and beliefs.
poll tax
Tax required to vote; prohibited for national elections by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment (1964) and ruled unconstitutional for all elections in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections (1966).
popular consent
The idea that a just government must derive its powers from the consent of the people it governs.
popular sovereignty
A belief that ultimate power resides in the people.
The right of a federal law or regulation to preclude enforcement of a state or local law or regulation.
preferred position doctrine
Interpretation of the First Amendment that holds that freedom of expression is so essential to democracy that governments should not punish persons for what they say, only for what they do.
president pro tempore
Officer of the Senate selected by the majority party to act as chair in the absence of the vice president.
presidential election
Elections held in years when the president is on the ballot.
presidential ticket
The joint listing of the presidential and vice presidential candidates on the same ballot as required by the Twelfth Amendment.
primary election
Elections in which voters determine party nominees.
prior restraint
Censorship imposed before a speech is made or a newspaper is published; usually presumed to be unconstitutional.
Contracting public services to private organizations.
pro bono
To serve the public good; term used to describe work that lawyers (or other professionals) do for which they receive no fees.
procedural due process
Constitutional requirement that governments proceed by proper methods; limits how government may be exercise power.
progressive tax
A tax graduated so that people with higher incomes pay a larger fraction of their income than people with lower incomes.
property rights
The rights of an individual to own, use, rent, invest in, buy, and sell property.
proportional representation
An election system in which each party running receives the proportion of legislative seats corresponding to its proportion of the vote.
prospective issue voting
Voting based on what a candidate pledges to do in the future about an issue if elected.
Policy of erecting trade barriers to protect domestic industry.
public assistance
Aid to the poor; "welfare."
public choice
Synonymous with "collective action," it specifically studies how government officials, politicians, and voters respond to positive and negative incentives.
public defender system
Arrangement whereby public officials are hired to provide legal assistance to people accused of crimes who are unable to hire their own attorneys.
public opinion
The distribution of individual preferences for or evaluations of a given issue, candidate, or institution within a specific population.
public policy
A specific course of action taken by government to achieve a public goal.
quid pro quo
Something given with the expectation of receiving something in return.
A grouping of human beings with distinctive characteristics determined by genetic inheritance.
racial gerrymandering
The drawing of election districts so as to ensure that members of a certain race are a minority in the district; ruled unconstitutional in Gomillion v. Lightfoot (1960).
racial profiling
Police targeting of racial minorities as potential suspects of criminal activities.
rally point
Arise in public approval of the president that follows a crisis as Americans "rally 'round the flag" and the chief executive.
random sample
In this type of sample, every individual has a known and random chance of being selected.
realigning election
An election during periods of expanded suffrage and change in the economy and society that proves to be a turning point, redefining the agenda of politics and the alignment of voters within parties.
A theory of international relations that focuses on the tendency of nations to operate from self-interest.
The assigning by Congress of congressional seats after each census. State legislatures reapportion state legislative districts.
Procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term.
redistributive policy
A type of policy that takes benefits (usually through taxes) from one group of Americans and gives them to another (usually through spending).
The redrawing of congressional and other legislative district lines following the census, to accommodate population shifts and keep districts as equal as possible in population.
reduction veto
The power of governors in a few states to reduce a particular appropriation.
Procedure for submitting to popular vote measures passed by the legislature or proposed amendments to a state constitution.
Reform party
A minor party founded by Ross Perot in 1995. It focuses on national government reform, fiscal responsibility, and political accountability. It has recently struggled with internal strife and criticism that it lacks an identity.
regressive tax
A tax whereby people with lower incomes pay a higher fraction of their income than people with higher incomes.
Efforts by government to alter the free operation of the market to achieve social goals such as protecting workers and the environment.
The formal instructions that government issues for implementing laws.
regulatory taking
Government regulation of property so extensive that government is deemed to have taken the property by the power of eminent domain, for which it must compensate the property owners.
reinforcing cleavages
Divisions within society that reinforce one another, making groups more homogeneous or similar.
representative democracy
Government in which the people elect those who govern and pass laws; also called a republic.
responsibility contract
A welfare strategy adopted by some states in which recipients sign a written agreement specifying their responsibilities and outlining a plan for obtaining work and achieving self-sufficiency.
restrictive covenant
A provision in a deed to real property prohibiting its sale to a person of a particular race or religion. Judicial enforcement of such deeds is unconstitutional.
retrospective issue voting
Holding incumbents, usually the president's parry, responsible for their records on issues, such as the economy or foreign policy.
revision commission
A state commission that recommends changes in the state constitution for action by the legislature and vote by the voters.
revolving door
Employment cycle in which individuals who work for governmental agencies that regulate interests eventually end up working for interest groups or businesses with the same policy concern.
A provision attached to a bill-to which it may or may not be related-iii order to secure its passage.
right of expatriation
The right to renounce one's citizenship.
A precise legal definition of how government will implement a policy.
rule-making process
The formal process for making regulations.
safe seat
An elected office that is predictably won by one party or the other, so the success of that party's candidate is almost taken for granted.
sales tax
General tax on sales transactions, sometimes exempting food and drugs.
search warrant
A writ issued by a magistrate that authorizes the police to search a particular place or person, specifying the place to be searched and the objects to be seized.
Attempting to overthrow the government by force or use violence to interrupt its activities.
selective exposure
The process by which individuals screen out messages that do not conform to their own biases.
selective incorporation
The process by which provisions of the Bill of Rights are brought within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment and so applied to state and local governments.
selective perception
The process by which individuals perceive what they want to in media messages.
senatorial courtesy
Presidential custom of submitting the names of prospective appointees for approval to senators from the states 'in which the appointees are to work.
Senior Executive Service
Established by Congress in 1978 as a flexible, mobile corps of senior career executives who work closely with presidential appointees to manage government.
seniority rule
A legislative practice that assigns 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
Constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making law, the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judiciary interpreting the law.
severance tax
A tax on the privilege of "severing" such natural resources as coat, oil, timber, and gas from the land.
Shay's Rebellion
Rebellion led by Daniel Shays of farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787, protesting mortgage foreclosures. It highlighted the need for a strong national government just as the call for the Constitutional Convention went out.
single-member district
An electoral district in which voters choose one representative or official.
social capital
Democratic and civic habits of discussion, compromise, and respect for differences, which grow out of participation in voluntary organizations.
social insurance
Programs in which eligibility is based on prior contributions to government, usually in the form of payroll taxes.
Social Security
A combination of entitlement programs, paid for by employer and employee taxes, which includes retirement benefits, health insurance, and support for disabled workers and the children of deceased or disabled workers.
social stratification
Divisions in a community among socioeconomic groups or classes.
An economic and governmental system based on public ownership of the means of production and exchange.
socioeconomic status (SES)
A division of population based on occupation, income, and education.
soft money
Unlimited amounts of money that political parties previously could raise for partybuilding purposes. Now largely illegal except for limited contributions to state and local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
soft power
The reliance on diplomacy and negotiation to solve international problems.
The presiding officer in the House of Representatives, formally elected by the House but actually selected by the majority party.
special or select committee
A congressional committee created for a specific purpose, sometimes to conduct an investigation.
split ticket
A vote for some of one party's candidates and some of another party's.
spoils system
A system of public employment based on rewarding party loyalists and friends.
standing committee
A permanent committee established in a legislature, usually focusing on a policy area.
stare decisis
The rule of precedent, whereby a rule or law contained in a judicial decision is commonly viewed as binding on judges whenever the same question is presented.
State of the Union Address
The president's annual statement to Congress and the nation.
states' rights
Powers expressly or implicitly reserved to the states and emphasized by decentralists.
The idea that the rights of the nation are supreme over the rights of the individuals who make up the nation.
straight ticket
A vote for all of one party's candidates
strong mayor-council form
Form of local government in which the voters directly elect the city council and the mayor, who enjoys almost total administrative authority and appoints the department heads.
substantive due process
Constitutional requirement that governments act reasonably and that the substance of the laws themselves be fair and reasonable; limits what a government may do.
The right to vote.
take care clause
The constitutional requirement (in Article 11, Section 3) that presidents take care that the laws are faithfully executed, even if they disagree with the purpose of those laws.
Tax levied on imports to help protect a nation's industries, labor, or farmers from foreign competition. It can also be used to raise additional revenue.
tax expenditure
Loss of tax revenue due to federal laws that provide special tax incentives or benefits to individuals or businesses.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Federal welfare reform law that replaced the 60-year-old assistance program for poor families with children, Aid to Families with Dependent Children. This 1996 law strengthened work requirements for recipients, limited the time that families can receive benefits, and gave states flexibility to develop service programs supporting work, marriage, and self-sufficiency.
The Federalist
Essays promoting ratification of the Constitution, published anonymously by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in 1787 and 1788.
Government by religious leaders, who claim divine guidance.
theory of deterrence
A theory that is based on creating enough military strength to convince other nations not to attack first.
three-fifths compromise
Compromise between northern and southern states at the Constitutional Convention that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for determining direct taxation and representation in the House of Representatives.
tort law
Law relating to injuries to person, reputation, or property.
trade deficit
An imbalance in international trade in which the value of imports exceeds the value of exports.
A formal, public agreement between the United States and one or more nations that must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate.
A monopoly that controls goods and services, often in combinations that reduce competition.
An official who is expected to vote independently based on his or her judgment of the circumstances; one interpretation of the role of the legislator.
The proportion of the voting-age public that votes, sometimes defined as the number of registered voters that vote.
two-party state
A state in which the two major parties alternate in winning majorities.
uncontrollable spending
The portion of the federal budget that is spent on programs, such as Social Security that the president and Congress are unwilling to cut.
The number of Americans who are out of work but actively looking for a job. The number does not usually include those who are not looking.
unfunded mandates
Programs that the federal government requires states to implement without federal funding.
unicameral legislature
A one-house legislature.
A philosophy that encourages individual nations to act on their own when facing threats from other nations.
union shop
A company in which new employees must join a union within a stated time period.
unitary system
Constitutional arrangement that concentrates power in a central government.
value-added tax (VAT)
A tax on increased value of a product at each stage of production and distribution rather than just at the point of sale.
A formal decision to reject a bill passed by Congress.
Virginia Plan
Initial proposal at the Constitutional Convention made by the Virginia delegation for a strong central government with a bicameral legislature dominated by the big states.
voter registration
System designed to reduce voter fraud by limiting voting to those who have established eligibility to vote by submitting the proper documents.
Money government provides to parents to pay their children's tuition in a public or private school of their choice.
weak mayor-council form
Form of local government in which the members of the city council select the mayor, who then shares power with other elected or appointed boards and commissions.
weapons of mass destruction
Biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons that can cause a massive number of deaths in a single use.
Party leader who is the liaison between the leadership and the rank-and-file in the legislature.
white primary
Democratic party primary in the old "one-party South" that was limited to white people and essentially constituted an election; ruled unconstitutional in Smith v. Allwright (1944).
winner-take-all system
An election system in which the candidate with the most votes wins.
A welfare strategy adopted by some states that gives able-bodied adults who do not have preschool-aged children the opportunity to learn job skills that can lead to employment.
World Trade Organization (WTO)
International organization derived from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that promotes free trade around the world.
writ of certiorari
A formal writ used to bring a case before the Supreme Court.
writ of habeas corpus
Court order requiring explanation to a judge why a prisoner is being held in custody.
writ of mandamus
Court order directing an official to perform an official duty.
women's suffrage
The right of women to vote.
A career government employee.
The current holder of elected office.
A repeat offender.
A decision made by a higher court such as a circuit court of appeals or the Supreme Court that is binding on all other federal courts.
A formal written statement from a grand jury charging an individual with an offense; also called a true bill.
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