AP Government Review Terms (Princeton Review) Flashcards

Terms Definitions
adversary system
A system of law where the court is seen as a neutral area where disputants can argue the merits of their cases.
affirmative action
Government-mandated programs that seek to create special employment opportunities for African Americans, women, and other victims of past discrimination.
amendment
Addition to the Constitution. These require approval by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states. The first ten make up the Bill of Rights.
amicus curiae briefs
"Friend of the court" briefs that qualified individuals or organizations file in lawsuits to which they are not a party, so the judge may consider their advice in respect to matters of law that directly affect the cases in question.
appellate jurisdiction
Term used to describe courts whose role is to hear appeals from lower courts.
Articles of Confederation
The United States' first constitution. The government formed by this lasted from 1781 (the year before the end of the Revolutionary War) to 1789. The government under this proved inadequate because it did not have the power to collect taxes from the states, nor could it regulate foreign trade to generate revenue from import and export tariffs.
bicameral
Consisting of two legislative houses. The United States has one of these legislatures; its two houses are the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Bill of Rights
First ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This guarantees personal liberties and limits the powers of the government.
blanket primary
Primary election in which voters may select a candidate from any party for each office. It uses the same procedure as general elections.
block grants
Federal money given to states with only general guidelines for its use. The states have the authority to decide how the money will be spent.
bread-and-butter issues
These political issues are specifically directed at the daily concerns of most working-class Americans, such as job security, tax rates, wages, and employee benefits.
broad constructionism
Belief that the Constitution should be interpreted loosely when concerning the restrictions it places on federal power. Supporters of this emphasize the importance of the elastic clause, which allows Congress to pass laws "necessary and proper" to the performance of its duties.
Brown v. Board of Education
The 1954 case in which the Supreme Court overturned the "separate but equal" standard as it applied to education. In a 9-to-0 decision for this case, the court ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." "Separate but equal" had been the law of the land since the Court had approved it in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).
budget deficit
Condition that arises when federal expenditures exceed revenues; in other words, when the government spends more money than it takes in.
budget resolution
Set of budget guidelines that must pass both houses of Congress in identical form by April 15. This guides government spending for the following fiscal year.
categorical grants
Federal aid given to states with strings attached. To receive the money, the states must agree to adhere to federally mandated guidelines for spending it.
caucus
Meeting of local party members for the purpose of choosing delegates to a national party convention. The term also refers to a meeting of the Democratic members of the House of Representatives.
census
The process, mandated by the Constitution, by which the population of the United States is officially counted every ten years. Data from this is used to help distribute federal money and to reapportion congressional districts.
checks and balances
The system that prevents any branch of government from becoming too powerful by requiring the approval of more than one branch for all important acts.
civil court
Court in which lawsuits are heard.
civil disobedience
The nonviolent form of this requires activists to protest peacefully against laws they believe unjust and to be willing to accept arrest as a means of demonstrating the justice of their cause. The notion was popularized by nineteenth-century American writer Henry David Thoreau and was practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr.
civil liberties
Those protections against government power embodied in the Bill of Rights and similar legislation. These include the right to free speech, free exercise of religion, and right to a fair trial.
civil rights
Those protections against discrimination by the government and individuals. These are intended to prevent discrimination based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, physical handicap, or sexual orientation.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Federal law that made segregation illegal in most public places, increased penalties and sentences for those convicted of discrimination in employment, and withheld federal aid from schools that discriminated on the basis of race or gender.
civil service system
Method of hiring federal employees based on merit rather than on political beliefs or allegiances. This system replaced the spoils system in the United States.
class action suit
A lawsuit filed on behalf of a group of people, and whose result affects that group of people as a whole. Interest groups such as the NAACP often use these as a means of asserting their influence over policy decisions.
clear and present danger test
Interpretation by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes regarding limits on free speech if it presents clear and present danger to the public or leads to illegal actions; for example, one cannot shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater.
closed primary
Primary election in which voting is restricted to registered members of a political party.
cloture
A motion in the Senate to end debate, often used in the event of a filibuster. One of these votes require a three-fifths majority of the Senate.
coalition
A combination of groups of people who work together to achieve a political goal. The one on which the Democratic Party rests, for example, is made of Northern urban dwellers, Jews, African Americans, and labor unions. They also form among legislators who work together to advance or defeat a particular bill.
commander-in-chief
The president's role as leader of all United States military forces. This is one of the executive powers authorized in the Constitution.
concurrent powers
Constitutional powers shared by the federal and state governments.
conference committee
Congressional committee that includes representatives of both houses of Congress. Their purpose is to settle differences between the House and Senate versions of bills that have been passed by their respective legislatures.
Congressional Budget Office
Congressional agency of budget experts who assess the feasibility of the president's plan and who helped create Congress' version of the federal budget.
congressional district
The geographically defined group of people on whose behalf a representative acts in the House of Representatives. Each state is divided into these of equal population, with larger states having more districts and representatives than smaller states. These are reapportioned every ten years according to new census data.
conservative
A political ideology that tends to favor defense spending and school prayer and to disapprove of social programs, abortion, affirmative action, and a large, active government. This is generally affiliated with the Republican party.
constitutional convention
An as-of-yet untried method by which the Constitution may be amended. To call one, two-thirds of all state legislatures must petition the federal government; not to be confused with the one when the Constitution was written.
cooperative federalism
Preeminent form of U.S. federalism since the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment initiated the long demise of dual federalism by providing the national government the means to enforce the rights of citizens against state infringement. The Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Great Society all increased federal involvement in state government. The result is this system in which the nation and state governments share many powers.
criminal court
Court in which criminal trials are heard.
dealignment
A recent trend in which voters act increasingly independent of a party affiliation. This is partially the result of television because candidates can appeal directly to the electorate without relying on their party. One consequence is split-ticket voting, which leads to a divided government.
delegated powers
Constitutional powers granted solely to the federal government.
direct democracy
Form of government in which all enfranchised citizens vote on matters of government.
divided government
A government in which the presidency is controlled by one party and Congress is controlled by the other. This has become a common occurrence in recent decades as voters have begun to act more independent of parties and increasingly vote split tickets.
double jeopardy
The act of trying an individual a second time after he has been acquitted on the same charges. This is prohibited by the Constitution.
dual federalism
Form of U.S. federalism during the nation's early history. During this period, the federal and state governments remained separate and independent. What little contact most Americans had with government occurred on the state level, as the national government concerned itself primarily with international trade, construction of roads, harbors, and railways, and the distribution of public land in the West.
due process
Established legal procedures for the arrest and trial of an accused criminal.
elastic clause
The section of the Constitution that allows Congress to pass laws "necessary and proper" to the performance of its duties. It is called this because it allows Congress to stretch its powers beyond those that are specifically granted to it (enumerated) by the Constitution.
electoral college
Constitutionally established boy created for the sole purpose of choosing the president and vice president. During general elections, voters choose a presidential ticket. The winner in each state usually receives all of that state's votes in this. A majority of votes is required for victory; if such a majority cannot be reached, the election result is determined by the House of Representatives.
eminent domain
The power of the government to take away property for public use as long as there is just compensation for the property taken.
entitlement programs
Social insurance programs that allocate federal funds to all people who meet the conditions of the program. Social Security is the largest and most expensive one of these programs. Because they are a form of mandatory spending, it is incredibly difficult to cut funds to these during the budgetary process.
Equal Rights Amendment
Fail Constitutional amendment that would have guaranteed equal protection under the law for women (1970s).
establishment clause
Section of the Constitution that prohibits the government from designating one faith as the official religion of the United States.
exclusionary rule
Rule that prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence at trial. The Supreme Court has created several exceptions to this, notably the objective good faith rule and the inevitable discovery rule.
executive agreement
Presidential agreements made with foreign nations. These have the same legal force as treaties but do not require the approval of the Senate.
executive privilege
The right of the president to withhold information when doing so would compromise national security (e.g., in the case of diplomatic files and military secrets). This is not mentioned in the Constitution. It is, rather, part of the unwritten Constitution.
ex post facto laws
If allowed, these laws would punish people for actions that occurred before such actions were made criminal.
extradition
Process by which governments return fugitives to the jurisdiction from which they have fled.
Federal Reserve Board
Executive agency that is largely responsible for the formulation and implementation of monetary policy. By controlling the monetary policy, they help maintain a stable economy.
federalism
Term describing a system under which the national government and local governments (state governments, in the case of the Unites States) share powers.
Federalist Papers
A series of essay written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay to defend the Constitution and persuade Americans that it should be ratified. These documents presented the concerns and issues the framers faced as they created a blueprint for the new government.
Fifteenth Amendment
Ratified 1870, prohibited states from denying voting rights to African Americans. Southern states circumvented this through literacy tests and poll taxes.
filibuster
A lengthy speech that halts all legislative action in the Senate. These are not possible in the House of Representatives because strict time limits govern all debates there.
First Amendment
Protects the rights of individuals against the government by guaranteeing the freedom of speech, the press, religion, and assembly.
fiscal year
Twelve-month period starting on October 1. Government budgets go into effect at the beginning of this. Congress and the president agree on a budget resolution in April to guide government spending for the coming one.
Freedom of Information Act
Passed 1978, declassified government documents for public act.
Fourteenth Amendment
Ratified 1868, prevented the states from denying "due process of law" and "equal protection under the law" to citizens. The amendment was specifically aimed at protecting the rights of newly freed slaves. In the twentieth century, the Supreme Court used the amendment to strike down state laws that violated the Bill of Rights.
front-loading
Because early primaries have grown increasingly important in recent years, many states have pushed forward the date of their primary elections.
full faith and credit clause
Section of the Constitution that requires states to honor one another's licenses, marriages, and other acts of state courts.
general election
Election held on the first Tuesday of November, during which voters elect officials.
gerrymandering
The practice of drawing congressional district lines to benefit one party over the other.
Gideon v. Wainwright
The 1963 Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that a defendant in a felony trial must be provided a lawyer free of charge if the defendant cannot afford one.
Gramm-Rudman-Holings Bill
Passed 1985, set budget targets to balance budget but failed to eliminate loopholes.
Great Compromise
Settlement reached at the Constitutional convention between large states and small states. This called for two legislative houses: One in which states were represented by their populations (favoring the large states) and one in which states received equal representation (favoring the small states).
Great Society
President Lyndon B. Johnson's social/economic program, aimed at raising the standards of living for America's poorest residents. Among these programs are Medicare, Medicaid, Project Head Start, Job Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
Griswold v. Connecticut
The 1965 Supreme Court decision in which the Court rules that the Constitution implicitly guarantees citizens' right to privacy.
Hatch Act
Passed 1939, a congressional law that forbade government officials from participating in partisan politics and protected government employees from being fired on partisan grounds; it was revised in 1993 to be less restrictive.
House of Representatives
Lower house of U.S. Congress, in which representation is allocated to states in direct proportion to their population. They have the sole power to initiate appropriations legislation.
House Rules Committee
Determines the rules for debate of each bill, including whether the bill may be amended. This is the most powerful committee in the House. The Senate, which is smaller, has no rules for debate.
impeachment
Process by which a president, judge, or other government official can be tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.
indictment
A written statement of criminal charges brought against a defendant. These guarantee that defendants know the charges against them so they can plan a defense.
inevitable discovery
Exception to the exclusionary rule that allows the use of illegally obtained evidence at trial if the court decision determines that the evidence would eventually have been found by legal means.
initiative
Process through which voters may propose new laws. One of several Progressive Era reforms that increased voters' power over government.
interest group
Political group organized around a particular political goal or philosophy. There attempt to influence public policy through political action and donations to sympathetic candidates.
iron triangle
Also called subgovernment. These are formed by the close working relationship among various interest groups, congressional committees, and executive agencies that enforce federal regulations. Working together, these groups can collectively exert a powerful influence over legislation and law enforcement.
Jim Crow laws
State and local laws passed in the post-Reconstruction Ear South to enforce radical segregation and otherwise restrict the laws of African Americans.
joint committee
Congressional committee composed of members of both houses of Congress, usually to investigate and research specific subjects.
judicial activism
Term referring to the actions of a court that frequently strikes down or alters the acts of the executive and/or legislative branches.
judicial restraint
Term referring to the actions of a court that demonstrates an unwillingness to break with precedent or to overturn legislative and executive acts.
judicial review
The power of the Supreme Court to declare laws and executive actions unconstitutional.
killer amendment
Amendment to a bill proposed by its opponents for the specific purpose of decreasing the bill's chance of passage.
Ku Klux Klan
Nativist hate group founded during the Reconstruction Era. They terrorized African Americans throughout the south, especially those who attempted to assert their civil rights. This group also preaches hatred of Catholics and Jews.
legislative oversight
One of Congress's most important tasks. In order to check the power of the executive branch, congressional committees investigate and evaluate the performance of corresponding executive agencies and departments.
liberal
Descriptive of an ideology that tends to favor government spending on social programs, affirmative action, a woman's right to an abortion, and an active government, and to disfavor defense spending and school prayer. These are generally afflicted with the Democratic Party.
limited government
Principle of government that states that government powers must be confirmed to those allowed it by the nation's Constitution.
line-item veto
Power held by some chief executives (e.g., governors) to excise some portions of a spending bill without rejecting the entire bill. The purpose of this power is to allow executives to eliminate frivolous appropriations. The president's claim to this was denied by the Supreme Court.
mandate
Level of support for an elective official as perceived through election results.
Marbury v. Madison
The 1803 Supreme Court decision that established the principle of judicial review.
Marshall, John
Third Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (he served from 1800 to 1835). A Federalist who worked to increase the powers of the federal government over the states. He established the principle of judicial review.
Miranda v. Arizona
The 1966 Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that, upon arrest, a suspect must be advised of the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a lawyer.
national convention
Occasion at which a political party officially announces its presidential nominee and reveals its party platform for the next four years. Today's are merely media events; nominees have already been determined by primary election results.
National Organization of Women
Feminist political group formed in 1967 to promote legislative change. They lobbied for the failed Equal Right Amendment to the Constitution.
National Security Council
Presidential advisory board established in 1947. They consults with the president on matters of defense and foreign policy.
Nineteenth Amendment
Ratified 1868, granted voting rights to woman.
nomination
Endorsement to run for office by a political party.
objective good faith
Exception to the exclusionary rule that allows the use of illegally obtained evidence at trial if the court determines that police believed they were acting within the limits of their search warrant when they seized the evidence.
Office of Management and Budget
Executive branch office responsible for drawing up the president's proposals for the federal budget.
open primary
Primary election in which voters may vote in whichever party primary they choose, though they must select that party before entering the voting booth.
original jurisdiction
Term used to describe a court's power to initially try a case. Courts in which cases are first heard are those with this in the case.
override
The Constitutional power of Congress to supersede a president's veto by a two-thirds majority in both houses. Such a vote is difficult to achieve, however, so these are fairly rare.
pardon
Cancellation of criminal punishment. Presidents and governors have the power to grant these to those awaiting trial and to those convicted of crimes.
platform
Statement of purpose and policy objectives drafted and approved by political parties at their national conventions. These rarely exert much influence on day-to-day activities.
Plessy v. Ferguson
The 1896 Supreme Court ruling that "separate but equal" facilities for different races are not unconstitutional. This ruling opened the door to 75 years of state-sanctioned segregation in the south.
pocket veto
If the president fails to approve a bill passed during the last ten days of a congressional session, the bill does not become law.
political action committee
The fundraising apparatus of interest groups. Donations to and contributions from these are regulated by federal law. These contribute heavily to the reelection campaigns of representatives and senators sympathetic to their political agenda.
political party
Group of people with common political goals which hopes to influence policy through the election process. These run candidates for office who represent the political agenda of members. They therefore serve as an institutional link between the electorate and politicians.
policy implementation
The process by which executive departments and agencies put legislation into practice. They are often allowed a degree of freedom to interpret legislation as they write guidelines to enact and enforce the law.
Populists
Political party of the late 1800s. They primarily represented farmers and working-class Americans. They sought inflationary economic policies to increase farm income. They also lobbied for a number of Democratic reforms that would later be adopted by the Progressives, such as direct election of senators.
pork barrel
Budget items proposed by legislatures to benefit constituents in their home state or district. Such expenditures are sometimes unnecessary but are passed anyway because they are politically beneficial.
president pro tempore
Individual chosen to preside over the Senate whenever the vice president is unavailable to do so. This person is chosen by the Senate from among its members.
primary elections
Form of election held by the majority of the states, during which voters select the nominees for political parties. Winners appear on the ballot during the general election.
prior restraint
Censorship of news material before it is made public.
privileges and immunities clause
Section of the Constitution stating that a state may not refuse police protection or access to its courts to U.S. citizens because they live in a different state.
progressive income tax
This increases tax rates for people with higher incomes. Those citizens at the poverty level, for example, may pay few or no taxes. Middle-class citizens may be taxed at a 15 percent rate, while the wealthy are taxed at two or three times that rate. The goal of this is to allow those with greater need to keep more of what they earn while taking more from those who can best afford it.
quorum
The minimum number of people required for the legislature to act.
realignment
Occurs when a party undergoes a major shift in its electoral base and political agenda. The groups of people composing the party coalition may split up, resulting in a vastly different party. This is rare and tends to be signaled by a critical election.
reapportionment
The process by which congressional districts are redrawn and seats are redistributed among states in the House. This occurs every ten years, when census data reports shifts in the population of districts. Each district must have an equal number of residents. States may lose or gain seats during this process, but the total House membership remains 435.
recall election
Process through which voters can shorten an office holder's term. One of several Progressive Era reforms that increased voters' power over government.
referendum
Process through which voters may vote on new laws. One of several Progressive Era reforms that increased voters' power over government.
regulatory agency
Executive agency responsible for enforcing laws pertaining to a certain industry. They write guidelines for the industry, such as safety codes, and enforces them through methods such as inspection.
representative democracy
Form of government under which citizens vote for delegates who in turn represent citizens' interests within the government. The United States is one of these.
reserved powers
Constitutional powers that belong solely to the states. According to the Tenth Amendment, these powers include any that the Constitution does not either specifically grant the national government or deny the state governments.
Roe v. Wade
The 1973 Supreme Court case that decriminalized abortion.
runoff primary
Election held between top two vote-getters in a primary election, when neither received a legally required minimun percentage of the vote. Many states require one when no candidate receives at least 40 percent of the primary vote for his or her party.
sampling error
Margins of error in a public opinion poll. Most polls are accurate within a margin of (+)/(-) 4 percent.
saving amendment
Amendment to a bill proposed in hopes of softening opposition by weakening objectionable elements of the bill.
Schenck v. United States
Supreme Court case involving limits on free speech rights. This case established the "clear and present danger" principle in determining what type of speech could be restricted.
search warrant
Document issued by the courts to allow the police to search private property. To obtain a warrant, the police must go before a judge and explain 1) where they want to search, and 2) what they are looking for. This also limits where the police may search and what they may take as evidence (Fourth Amendment).
select committee
Temporary committee of Congress, usually created to investigate specific issues.
selective incorporation
Process by which the Supreme Court has selectively applied the Fourteenth Amendment to state law.
Senate
Upper house of Congress, in which each state has two representatives. This body has the sole power to approve cabinet, ambassadorial, and federal judicial appointments. International treaties must receive two-thirds approval from them.
senatorial courtesy
A check placed on the president by which candidates for the federal bureaucracy must first be approved by a vote within the Senate.
separation of powers
The system that prevents any branch of government from becoming too powerful by dividing up important tasks among the three branches. Also called the system of checks and balances.
shield law
Law guaranteeing news reporters the right to protect the anonymity of their sources. Many states have passed these, but there is no federal one.
Sixteenth Amendment
Ratified 1913, authorized Congress to impose and collect federal income tax.
soft money
Political donations made to parties for the purpose of general party maintenance and support, such as get-out-the-vote campaigns, issue advocacy, and advertisements that promote the party (but not individual candidates). These contributions to political parties were banned in 2002 by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) (also know as the McCain-Feingold Bill).
Speaker of the House
Individual chosen by members of the House of Representatives to preside over its sessions.
split-ticket voting
Choosing candidates from different parties for offices listed on the same ballot. Voters have been more inclined to vote this way in recent decades. This trend has led to divided government.
spoils system
The political practice of trading government jobs and preferences for political and financial support.
standing committee
A permanent congressional committee.
strict constructionism
Belief that the Constitution should be read in such a way as to limit the powers of the federal government as much as possible. This emphasizes the importance of the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states all powers not explicitly granted to the federal government.
supremacy clause
Section of the Constitution that requires conflicts between federal and state law to be resolved in favor of federal law. State constitutions that violate the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, or international treaties can be invalidated through this.
Supreme Court
Highest court in the United States. The only federal court specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.
The Patriot Act
Act passed in 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, granting broad police authority to the federal, state, and local governments to interdict, prosecute, and convict suspected terrorists.
Thirteenth Amendment
Ratified 1865, abolished slavery.
Three-fifths Compromise
Agreement reached at the Constitutional Convention between Southern and Northern states. The South wanted slaves counted among the population for voting purposes but not for tax purposes; the North wanted the exact opposite. Both sides agreed that three-fifths of a state's slave population would be counted toward both congressional appointment and taxation.
Twenty-fourth Amendment
Ratified 1964, outlawed poll taxes, which had been used to prevent the poor from voting.
Twenty-second Amendment
Ratified 1951, limited the number of years an individual may serve as president. A president may be elected no more than twice.
Twenty-sixth Amendment
Ratified 1971, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
United Nations
International organization established following World War II. They aim to preserve international peace and foster international cooperation.
unanimous consent decree
Agreement passed by the Senate that establishes the rules under which a bill will be debated, amended, and voted upon.
unwritten Constitution
Certain deeply ingrained aspects of our government that are not mentioned in the Constitution, such as political parties, political conventions, and cabinet meetings.
veto
The power held by chief executives (e.g., the president or governors) to reject acts of the legislature. A presidential one can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress.
Voting Rights Acts of 1965
Federal law that increased government supervision of local election practices, suspended the use of literacy tests to prevent people (usually African Americans) from voting, and expanded government efforts to register voters. The Voting Rights Act of 1970 permanently banned literacy tests.
War on Poverty
Those programs of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society that were specifically aimed at assisting the poor. Among these programs was Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Medicaid, and the creation of the Office of Economic Opportunity.
War Powers Act
Law requiring the president to seek periodic approval from Congress for any substantial troop commitment. Passed in 1973 in response to national dissatisfaction over the Vietnam War.
Warren Court
The Supreme Court during the era in which Earl Warren served as Chief Justice (1953-1969). This court is best remembered for expanding the rights of minorities and the rights of the accused.
Watergate
The name of the hotel in which spies working for President Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign were caught breaking into Democratic National Headquarters. The name soon became synonymous with a number of illegal activities undertaken by the Nixon White House. The resulting scandal forced Nixon to resign the presidency in 1974.
writ of habeas corpus
A court order requiring an explanation as to why a prisoner is being held in custody.
write of certiorari
A legal document issued by the Supreme Court to request the court transcripts of a case. This indicates that the Court will review a lower court's decision.
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