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Government Glossary

Activist approach – the view that judges should discern the general principles underlying the
Constitution and its often vague language and assess how best to apply them in contemporary
circumstances, in some cases with the guidance of moral or economic philosophy
Activists – individuals, usually outside of government, who actively promote a political party,
philosophy, or issue they care about
Ad hoc structure – a method of organizing a president’s staff in which several task forces,
committees, and informal groups of friends and advisers deal directly with the president
Adversarial press – a national press that is suspicious of officialdom and eager to break an
embarrassing story about a public official
Affirmative Action – the requirement, imposed by law or administrative regulation, that an
organization take positive steps to increase the number or proportion of women, African Americans, or
other minorities in its membership
Amendments – changes in, or additions to, the US Constitution. Amendments are proposed by a 2/3
vote in both houses of Congress or by a convention called by Congress at the request of 2/3 of the
state legislatures and ratified by approval of ¾ of the states
Amicus Curiae – a latin term meaning “a friend of the court.” Refers to interested groups or
individuals, not directly involved in a suit, who may file legal briefs or make oral arguments in support
of one side.
Antifederalists – opponents of a strong central government who campaigned against ratification of
the Constitution in favor of a confederation of largely independent states. Antifederalists successfully
marshaled public support for a federal bill of rights. After ratification, they formed a political party to
support states’ rights
Appropriation – a legislative grant of money to finance a government program
Articles of Confederation – a constitution drafted by the newly independent states in 1777 and
ratified in 1781. It created a weak national government that could not levy taxes or regulate
commerce. In 1789 it was replaced by our current Constitution in order to create a stronger national
Assistance program – a government program financed by general income taxes that provides
benefits to poor citizens without requiring contributions from them
Australian ballot – a government-printed ballot of uniform size and shape to be cast in secret that
was adopted by many states around 1890 in order to reduce the voting fraud associated with party-
printed ballots cast in public
Authority – the right to use power
Authorization legislation – legislative permission to begin or continue a government program or
agency. An authorization bill may grant permission to spend a certain sum of money, but that money
does not ordinarily become available unless it is also appropriated. Authorizations may be annual,
multiyear, or permanent.

Background story – a public official’s explanation of current policy provided to the press on the
condition that the source remain anonymous
Benefit – any satisfaction, monetary or nonmonetary, that people believe they will enjoy if a policy is
Bicameral legislature – a lawmaking body made up of two chambers or parts. The US Congress is a
bicameral legislature composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives
Bill of attainder – a law that declares a person, without a trial, to be guilty of a crime. The state
legislatures and Congress are forbidden to pass such acts by Article I of the Constitution
Bill of rights – a list of individual rights and liberties
Blanket primary – a primary election that permits all voters, regardless of party, to choose
candidates. A democratic voter, for example, can vote in a blanket primary for both Democratic and
Republican candidates for nomination
Block grants – grants of money from the federal government to states for programs in certain
general areas rather than for specific kinds of programs
Boycott – a concerted effort to get people to stop buying goods and services from a company or
person in order to punish that company or to coerce its owner into changing policies
Brief – a legal document prepared by an attorney representing a party before a court. The document
sets forth the facts of the case, summarizes the law, gives the arguments for its side, and discusses
other relevant cases.
Buddle standard – the total amount of air pollution that can come from a given factory. A company is
free to decide which specific sources within that factory must be reduced and how to meet the buddle
Budget – a document that announces how much the government will collect in taxes and spend in
revenues and how those expenditures will be allocated among various programs
Budget deficit – a situation in which the government spends more money than it takes in from taxes
and fees
Budget resolution – a proposal submitted by the House and Senate budget committees to their
representative chambers recommending a total budget ceiling and a ceiling for each of several
spending areas for the current fiscal year. These budget resolutions are intended to guide the work of
each legislative committee as it decides what to spend in its area
Budget surplus – a situation in which the government takes in more surplus than it spends
Bureaucracy – a large, complex organization composed of appointed officials. The departments and
agencies of the US government make up the federal bureaucracy
Bureaucrats – the appointed officials who operate government agencies from day to day

Cabinet – by custom, the cabinet includes the heads of the fourteen major executive departments
Categorical grants – federal grants for specific purposes defined by federal law. Such grants usually
require that the state or locality put up money to “match” some part of the federal grants, though the
amount of matching funds can be quite small
Caucus (congressional) – an association of members of Congress created to advocate a political
ideology or a regional, ethnic, or economic interest
Checks and balances – the power of the legislature, executive, and judicial branches of government
to block some acts by the other two branches
Circular structure – a method of organizing a president’s staff in which several presidential
assistants report directly to the president
Civic competence – a belief that one can affect government policies
Civic duty – a belief that one has an obligation to participate in civic and political affairs
Civic law – the body of rules defining relationships among private citizens. It consists of both statutes
and the accumulated customary law embodied in judicial decisions
Civil rights – the rights of citizens to vote, to receive equal treatment before the law, and to share
equally with other citizens the benefits of public facilities
Class-action suit – a case brought into court by a person on behalf of not only himself but all other
people in the country under similar circumstances
Class consciousness – an awareness of belonging to a particular socioeconomic class whose
interests are different from those of others. Usually used in reference to workers who view their
interests as opposite those of managers and business owners
Clear-and-present-danger test – a legal interpretation that reconciled two views of the First
Amendment right to free speech, the first that Congress could not pass any law to restrict speech and
the second that it could punish harms caused by speech. Proposed by Supreme Court justice Oliver
Wendell Holmes in 1919, it held that Congress could punish only speech that created a “clear and
present danger” of bringing about the actions that Congress is authorized to prevent
Client politics – the politics of policy-making in which some small group receives the benefits of the
policy and the public at large bears the cost. Only those who benefit have an incentive to organize and
press their case.
Closed primary – a primary election limited to registered party members. Prevents members of other
parties from crossing over to influence the nomination of an opposing party’s candidate
Closed rule – a rule used by the Senate to end or limit debate. Designed to prevent “talking a bill to
death” by filibuster. For a bill to pass the Senate, 3/5 of the entire Senate membership must vote for it
Cloture Rule – a rule used by the Senate to end or limit debate. Designed to prevent a filibuster. For a
bill to pass the Senate, 3/5 of the entire senate membership must vote for it.
Coalition – an alliance among different interest groups or parties to achieve some political goal
Coattails – the tendency of lesser-known or weaker candidates to profit in an election by the presence
on the ticket of a more popular candidate
Committee clearance – the ability of a congressional committee to review and approve certain
agency decisions in advance and without passing a law. Such approval is not legally binding on the
agency, but few agency heads will ignore the expressed wishes of committees
Compensatory action – an action designed to help members of disadvantaged groups, especially
minorities and women, catch up, usually by giving them extra education, training, or services
Competitive service – the government offices to which people are appointed on the grounds of merit
as ascertained by a written examination or by having met certain selection criteria
Concurrent resolution – an expression of congressional opinion without the force of law that
requires the approval of both the House and Senate but not of the president. Used to settle
housekeeping and procedural matters that affect both houses
Concurring opinion – a Supreme Court opinion by one or more justices who agree with the majority’s
conclusion but for different reasons
Conditions of aid – federal rules attached to the grants that states receive. States must agree to
abide by these rules in order to receive grants
Confederation or confederal system – a political system in which states or regional governments
retain ultimate authority except for those powers that they expressly delegate to a central
government. The US was a confederation from 1776 to 1787 under the Articles of Confederation
Congressional campaign committee – a party committee in Congress that provides funds to
members who are running for reelection or to would-be members running for an open seat or
challenging a candidate from the opposite party
Conservative – in general a person who favors more limited and local government, less government
regulation of markets, more social conformity to traditional norms and values, and tougher policies
toward criminals
Conservative coalition – an alliance between Republicans and conservative Democrats
Constitutional Convention – a meeting of delegates in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation,
which produced a totally new constitution
Constitutional court – a federal court exercising the judicial powers found in Article III of the
Constitution and whose judges are given constitutional protection; they may not be fired, nor may their
salaries be reduced while they are in office. The most important constitutional courts are the Supreme
Court, the 94 district courts, and the courts of appeals
Containment – the view that the US should contain aggressive nations
Cost overruns – actual costs that are several times greater than estimated costs. These occur
frequently among private contractors producing new weapons for the Pentagon
Courts of appeals – the federal courts with authority to review decisions by federal district courts,
regulatory commissions, and certain other federal courts. Such courts have no original jurisdiction:
they can hear only appeals. There are a total of 12 courts of appeals in the US and its territories
Criminal law – the body of rules defining offenses that, though they harm an individual, are
considered to be offenses against society as a whole and as a consequence warrant punishment by
and in the name of society
Critical or realigning periods – periods during which a sharp, lasting shift occurs in the popular
coalition supporting one or both parties. The issues that separate the two parties change, and so the
kinds of voters supporting each party change
Cue – a signal telling a congressional representative what values are at stake in a vote—who is for,
who is against a proposal—and how the issue fits into his or her own set of political beliefs or party
De facto segregation – racial segregation in schools that occurs not because of laws or
administrative decisions, but as a result of patterns of residential settlement.
De jure segregation – racial segregation that occurs because of laws or administrative decisions by
public agencies
Delegate model – the view that an elected representative should represent the opinions of his or her
Descriptive representation – a correspondence between the demographic characteristics of
representatives and those of their constituents
Devolution – the current effort to scale back the size and activities of the national government and to
shift responsibility for a wide range of domestic programs from Washington to the states. In recent
years these areas have included welfare, health care, and job training
Dillon’s rule – a legal principle that holds that the terms of city charters are to be interpreted
narrowly. Under this rule a municipal corporation can exercise only those powers expressly given it or
those powers necessarily implied by, or essential to the accomplishment of, these stated powers
Direct or participatory democracy – a political system in which all or most citizens participate
directly in either holding office or making policy
Discharge petition – a device by which any member of the House, after a committee has had a bill
for 30 days, may petition to have it brought to the floor. If a majority of the members agree, the bill is
discharged from the committee. The discharge petition was designed to prevent a committee from
killing a bill by holding it for too long
Discretionary authority – the extent to which appointed bureaucrats can choose courses of action
and make policies that are not spelled out in advance by laws
Disengagement – a view that US involvement in Vietnam had led to a military defeat and political
disaster and that further similar involvements should be avoided
Dissenting opinion – a Supreme Court opinion by one or more justices in the minority to explain the
minority’s disagreement with the Court’s ruling
District Courts – the lowest federal courts where federal cases begin. They are the only federal
courts where trials are held. There are a total of 94 district courts in the US and its territories
Diversity cases – cases involving citizens of different states over which the federal courts have
jurisdiction as described in the Constitution
Divided government – a government in which one party controls the White House and another party
controls both Houses of congress
Division vote – a congressional voting procedure in which members stand and are counted
Double-tracking – a procedure to keep the Senate going during a filibuster in which the disputed bill
is shelved temporarily so that the Senate can get on with other business
Dual federalism – a constitutional theory that the national government and the state governments
each have defined areas of authority, especially over commerce
Due-process clause – protection against arbitrary deprivation of life, liberty, or property guaranteed
in the Fifth and 14th Amendments

Earned Income Tax Credit – a provision of a 1975 tax law that entitles working families with children
to receive money from the government if their total income falls below a certain level
Elite – an identifiable group of persons who possess a disproportionate share of some valued resource
Entitlement – a claim for government funds that cannot be abridged without violating the rights of
the claimant
Entrepreneurial politics – policies benefiting society as a whole, or some large part that impose a
substantial cost on some small identifiable segment of society
Equality of Opportunity – a view that it is wrong to use race or sex either to discriminate against or
give preferential treatment to minorities or women
Equal time rule – a rule of the Federal Communications Commission stating that if a broadcaster sells
time to one candidate for office, he or she must be willing to sell equal time to opposing candidates
Establishment clause – a clause in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution stating that Congress shall
make no law “respecting an establishment of religion”
Exclusionary rule – a rule that holds that evidence gathered in violation of the Constitution cannot be
used in a trial. The rule has been used to implement two provisions of the Bill of Rights—the right to be
free from unreasonable searches or seizures (4th Amendment) and the right not to be compelled to
give evidence against oneself (5th Amendment)
Ex post facto law – a law that makes criminal an act that was legal when it was committed, that
increases the penalty for a crime after it has been committed, or that changes the rules of evidence to
make conviction easier: a retroactive criminal law. The state legislatures and Congress are forbidden
to pass such laws by Article I of the Constitution

Faction – according to James Madison, a group of people who seek to influence public policy in ways
contrary to the public good
Fairness doctrine – a former rule of the Federal Communications Commission that required
broadcasters to give time to opposing views if they broadcast a program giving one side of a
controversial issue
Feature articles – media reports about public events knowable to any reporter who care to inquire,
but involving acts and statements not routinely covered by a group of reporters. Thus a reporter must
take the imitative and select a particular event as newsworthy, decide to write about it, and persuade
the editor to run it
Federalism – a political system in which ultimate authority is shared between a central government
and state or regional governments
Federalist papers – a series of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John
Jay that were published in New York to adopt the newly proposed Constitution
Federalists – supporters of a stronger central government who advocated ratification of the
Constitution. After ratification they founded a political party supporting a strong executive and
Alexander Hamilton’s economic policies
Federal-question cases – cases concerning the Constitution, federal laws, or treaties over which the
federal courts have jurisdiction as described in the Constitution
Federal regime – a political system in which local units of government have a specially protected
existence and can make final decisions over some governmental activities
Federal system – a system in which sovereignty is shared so that on some matters the national
government is supreme and on others the state, regional, or provincial governments are supreme
Fee shifting – a law or rule that allows the plaintiff to collect its legal costs from the defendant if the
defendant loses
Filibuster – an attempt to defeat a bill in the Senate by talking indefinitely, thus preventing the
Senate from taking action on the bill
Franking privilege – the ability of members of Congress to mail letters to their constituents free of
charge by substituting their facsimile signature for postage
Freedom of expression – the constitutional rights of Americans to “freedom of speech, or of the
press, or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of
grievances” as outlined in the 1st Amendment
Freedom of religion – the religious rights of Americans outlined in the 1st Amendment to the
Constitution. The amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion: or abridging the free exercise thereof.”
Free-exercise clause – a clause in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution stating that Congress shall
make no law prohibiting the “free exercise” of religion

Gender gap – differences in the political views and voting behavior of men and women
General-act charter – a charter that applies to a number of cities that fall within a certain
classification, usually based on city population. Thus in some states all cities with populations over
100,000 are governed on the basis of one charter, while all cities with population between 50,000 and
99,999 are governed by a different one
General election – an election used to fill an elective office
Gerrymandering – drawing the boundaries of political districts in bizarre or unusual shapes to make it
easy for candidates of the party in power to win elections in those districts
Good-faith Exception – admission at a trial of evidence that is gathered in violation of the
Constitution if the violation results from a technical or minor error
Grandfather clause – a clause added to registration laws allowing people who did not meet
registration requirement laws to vote if they or their ancestors had voted before 1867. This was to
exempt poor and illiterate whites from registration requirements established to keep former slaves
from voting. The Supreme Court declared the practice unconstitutional in 1915
Grants-in-aid – federal funds provided to states and localities. Grants-in-aid are typically provided for
airports, highways, education, and major welfare services
Great Compromise – a compromise at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 that reconciled the
interests of small and large states by allowing the former to predominate in the Senate and the latter
in the House. Under the agreement each state received two representatives in the Senate, regardless
of size, but was allotted representatives on the basis of population in the House

Home-rule charter – a charter that allows the city government to do anything that is not prohibited
by the charter or state law
Human rights – in foreign policy, the view that our government should act to enhance the rights of
people living in other countries

Ideological interest groups – political organizations that attract members by appealing to their
political convictions with coherent sets of controversial principles
Ideological party – a party that values principled stands on issues above all else, including winning. It
claims to have a comprehensive view of American society and government radically different from that
of the established parties
Impeachment – a formal accusation against a public official by the lower house of a legislative body.
Impeachment is merely an accusation and not a conviction. Only two presidents, Andrew Johnson in
1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998, were ever impeached. They were not, however, convicted, for the
Senate failed to obtain the necessary 2/3 vote required for conviction
Incentive – a valued benefit obtained by joining a political organization
Income strategy – a policy of giving poor people money to help lift them out of poverty
Incumbent – the person currently in office
Independent expenditure – spending by political action committees on political matters that is done
directly and not by giving money to a candidate or party
Initiative – a procedure allowing voters to submit a proposed law to a popular vote by obtaining a
required number of signatures
Insider stories – information not usually made public that becomes public because someone with
inside knowledge tells a reporter. The reporter may have worked hard to learn these facts, in which
case it is called “investigative reporting,” or some official may have wanted a story to get out, in which
case it is called a “leak”
Insurance program – a self-financing government program based on contributions that provide
benefits to unemployed or retired persons
Interest group – an organization of people sharing a common interest or goal that seeks to influence
the making of public policy
Interest group politics – the politics of policy-making in which one small group bears the costs of the
policy and another small group receives the benefits. Each group has an incentive to organize and to
press its interest
Iron triangle – a close relationship between an agency, a congressional committee, and an interest
group that often becomes mutually advantageous alliance
Issue network – a network of people in Washington-based interest groups, on congressional staffs, in
universities and think tanks, and in the mass media who regularly discuss and advocate public policies.
Such networks are split along political, ideological, and economic lines
Jim Crow – a slang expression for African Americans that emerged in the 1820s and came to signify
the laws and governmental practices designed to segregate blacks from whites, especially in the South
John Q. Public – colloquial term for average citizens and what they want or believe
Joint committees – committees on which both representatives and senators serve. An especially
important kind of joint committee is the conference committee, made up of representatives and
senators appointed to resolve differences in the Senate and House versions of the same piece of
legislation before final passage
Joint resolution – a formal expression of congressional opinion that must be approved by both
houses of Congress and by the president. Joint resolutions proposing a constitutional amendment need
not be signed by the president
Judicial review – the power of the courts to declare acts of the legislature and of the executive to be
unconstitutional and hence null and void

Keynesianism – an economic philosophy that assumes that the market will not automatically operate
at a full-employment, low-inflation level. It suggests that the government should intervene to create
the right level of demand by pumping more money into the economy (when demand is low) and taking
it out (when demand is too great)

Laissez-faire – an economic theory that government should not regulate or interfere with commerce
Lame duck – a politician who is still in office after having lost a reelection bid
Legislative court – a court that is created by Congress for some specialized purpose and staffed with
judges who do not enjoy the protection of Article III of the Constitution. Legislative courts include the
Court of Military Appeals and the territorial courts
Legislative veto – the rejection of a presidential or administrative agency action by a vote of one or
both houses of Congress without the consent of the president. In 1983 the Supreme Court declared the
legislative veto unconstitutional
Legitimacy – political authority conferred by law, public opinion, or constitution
Libel – a written statement that falsely injures the reputation of another person
Liberal – in general, a person who favors a more active federal government for regulating business,
supporting social welfare, and protecting minority rights, but who prefers less regulation of private
social conduct
Libertarians – people who wish to maximize personal liberty on both economic and social issues.
They prefer a small, weak government that has little control over either the economy or the personal
lives of citizens
Line-item veto – the power of an executive to veto some provisions in an appropriations bill while
approving others. The president does not have to exercise a line-item veto and must approve or reject
an entire appropriations bill
Literacy test – a requirement that citizens pass a literacy test in order to register to vote. It was
established by many states to prevent former slaves from voting. Illiterate whites were allowed to vote
by a “grandfather clause” added to the law saying that a person could vote, even if he did not meet
the requirements, if he or his ancestors voted before 1867.
Litmus test – a test of ideological party
Loaded language – words that reflect a value judgment, used to persuade the listener without
making an argument.
Lobby – an interest group organized to influence government decisions, especially legislation. To
lobby is to attempt to influence such decisions. A lobbyist is a person attempting to influence
government decisions on behalf of the group
Logrolling – mutual aid among politicians, whereby one legislator supports another’s pet project in
return for the latter’s support of his

Majoritarian politics – the politics of policy-making in which almost everybody benefits from a policy
and almost everyone pays for it
Majority leader – the legislative leader elected by party members holding the majority of seats in the
House of Representatives or the Senate
Majority-minority districts – congressional districts designed to make it easier for citizens of a racial
or ethnic minority to elect representatives
Malapportionment – drawing the boundaries of political districts so that districts are very unequal in
Mandates – rules imposed by the federal government on the states as conditions for obtaining federal
grants or requirements that the states pay the costs of certain nationally defined programs
Marginal districts – political districts in which candidates elected to the House of Representatives
win in close elections, typically with less than 55% of the vote
Market – an area easily reached by a television signal
Marxists – people who believe that those who control the economic system also control the political
Material incentives – benefits that have monetary value, including money, gifts, services, or
discounts received as a result of one’s membership in an organization
McCarthyism – charges that unfairly or dishonestly tarnish the motives, attack the patriotism, or
violate the rights of individuals, especially of political opponents
Means test – an income qualification that determines whether one is eligible for benefits under
government programs reserved for lower-income groups
Middle America – a phrase coined by Joseph Kraft in a 1968 newspaper column to refer to Americans
who have moved out of poverty but are not yet affluent and who cherish traditional middle-class
Military-industrial complex – an alleged alliance among key military, government, and corporate
decision-makers involved in weapons procurement and military support systems
Minority leader – the legislative leader elected by party members holding a minority of seats in the
House of Representatives or Senate
Monetarism – an economic philosophy that assumes inflation occurs when there is too much money
chasing too few goods. Monetarism suggests that the proper thing for government to do is to have a
steady, predictable increase in the money supply at a rate about equal to the growth in the economy’s
Monetary policy – an attempt to alter the amount of money in circulation and the price of money to
affect the economy
Motor-voter law – a bill passed by Congress in 1993 to make it easier for Americans to register to
vote. The law, which went into effect in 1995, requires states to allow voter registration by mail, when
one applies for a driver’s license, and at state offices that serve the disabled or poor
Muckraker – a journalist who searches through the activities of public officials and organizations
seeking to expose conduct contrary to the public interest. The term was first used by President
Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to warn that antibusiness journalism could be excessively negative
Mugwumps or progressives – the faction in the Republican party of the 1890s-1910s composed of
reformers who exposed the use of patronage and party bosses and favored the leadership of experts.
After 1910 they evolved into a nonpartisan “good government” movement that sought to open up the
political system and curb the abuses of parties
Multiple referral – a congressional process whereby a bill may be referred to several committees
that consider it simultaneously in whole or in part
Municipal cooperation – a legal term for a city. It is characterized by the state to exercise certain
powers and provide certain services

Name-request job – a job to be filled by a person whom a government agency whom a government
agency has identified by name
National chairman – a paid, full-time manager of a party’s day-to-day work who is elected by the
national committee
National committee – a committee of delegates from each state and territory that runs party affairs
between national conventions
National convention – a meeting of party delegates elected in state primaries, caucuses, or
conventions that is held every 4 years. Its primary purpose is to nominate presidential and vice-
presidential candidates and to ratify a campaign platform
“Necessary and proper” clause – the final paragraph of Article I, section 8, of the Constitution,
which authorizes Congress to pass all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out the enumerated
Nonviolent and civil disobedience – a philosophy of opposing a law one considers unjust by
peacefully violating it and allowing oneself to be punished as a result
Norm – a standard of right or proper conduct that helps determine the range of acceptable social
behavior and policy options
Nullifications – a theory first advanced by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson that the states had
the right to “nullify” a federal law that, in the states’ opinion, violated the Constitution. The theory was
revived by John C. Calhoun of South Carolina in opposition to federal efforts to restrict slavery. The
North’s victory in the Civil War determined once and for all that the federal Union is indissoluble and
that states cannot declare acts of Congress unconstitutional, a view later confirmed by the Supreme

Office-bloc ballot – a ballot listing all candidates for a given office under the name of that office
Open primary – a primary election that permits voters to choose on election day the primary in which
they wish to vote. They may vote for candidates of only one party
Open rule – an order from the House Rules Committee that permits a bill to be amended on the
legislative floor
Opinion of the Court – a Supreme Court opinion written by one or more justices in the majority to
explain the decision in a case
Ordinance – a law passed and enforced by city government
Orthodox – people who believe that moral rules are derived from the commands of God or the laws of
nature; these commands and laws are relatively clear, unchanging, and independent of individual
moral preferences. They are likely to believe that traditional morality is more important than individual
liberty and should be enforced by government and communal norms

Party-column ballot – a ballot listing of all candidates of a given party together under the name of
that party
Party polarization – a vote in which a majority of democratic legislators oppose a majority of
republican legislators
Per curiam opinion – a brief, unsigned opinion issued by the Supreme Court to explain its ruling
Perks – a short term for perquisites, meaning “fringe benefits of office.” Among the perks of political
office for high-ranking officials are limousines, expense accounts, free air travel, fancy offices, and
Personal following – the political support provided to a candidate on the basis of personal popularity
and networks
Plaintiff – the party that initiates a lawsuit to obtain a remedy for an injury to his rights
Pluralist – a theory that competition among all affected interests shapes public policy
Plurality system – an electoral system, used in almost all American elections, in which the winner is
the person who gets the most votes, even if he does not receive a majority of the votes
Pocket veto – one of two ways for a president to disapprove a bill sent to him by Congress. If the
president does not sign the bill within ten days of his receiving it and Congress has adjourned within
that time, the bill does not become law
Police power – the power of a state to promise health, safety, and morals
Policy entrepreneurs – those in and out of government who find ways of pulling together a
legislative majority on behalf of unorganized interests
Political action committees – a committee set up by and representing a corporation, labor union, or
special-interest group that raises and spends campaign contributions on behalf of one or more
candidates or causes
Political culture – a broadly shared way of thinking about political and economic life that reflects
fundamental assumptions about how government should operate. It is distinct from political ideology,
which refers to a more or less consistent set of views about the policies government ought to follow.
Up to a point people sharing a common political culture can disagree about ideology.
Political editorializing rule – a rule of the Federal Communications Commission that if a broadcaster
endorses a candidate, the opposing candidate has a right to reply
Political efficacy – a citizen’s belief that he can understand and influence political affairs. This sense
is divided into two parts—internal efficacy (confidence in a citizen’s own abilities to understand and
take part in political affairs) and external efficacy (a belief that the system will respond to a citizen’s
Political ideology – a more or less consistent set of views as to the policies government ought to
Political machine – a party organization that recruits its members by dispensing patronage—tangible
incentives such as money, political jobs, or an opportunity to get favors from government—and that is
characterized by a high degree of leadership control over member activity
Political party – a group that seeks to elect candidates to public office by supplying them with a label
by which they are known to the electorate
Political question – an issue that the Supreme Court refuses to consider because it believes the
Constitution has left it entirely to another branch to decide. Its view of such issues may change over
time, however
Political subculture – fundamental assumption about how the political process should operate that
distinguish citizens by region, religion, etc
Poll – a survey of public opinion
Poll tax – a requirement that citizens pay a tax in order to register to vote. It was adopted by many
states to prevent former slaves from voting. It is now unconstitutional
Populists – people who hold liberal views on economic matters and conservative ones on social
matters. They prefer a strong government that will reduce economic inequality, regulate businesses,
and impose stricter social and criminal sanctions. The name and views have their origins in an
agriculturally based social movement and party of the 1880s and 1890s that sought to curb the power
of influential economic interests
Pork-barrel legislation – legislation that gives tangible benefits to constituents in several districts or
states in the hope of winning their votes in return
Position issue – an issue dividing the electorate on which rival parties adopt different party positions
to attract voters
Power – the ability of one person to get another person to act in accordance with the first person’s
Primary election – an election prior to the general election in which voters select the candidates who
will run on each party’s ticket. Before presidential elections, a presidential primary is held to select
delegates to the presidential nominating conventions of the major parties
Prior restraint – the traditional view of the press’s free speech rights as expressed by William
Blackstone. According to this view the press is guaranteed freedom from censorship. After publication,
however, the government can punish the press for material that is judged libelous or obscene
Private bill – a legislative bill that deals only with specific, private, personal, or local matters rather
than with general legislative affairs. The main kinds include immigration and naturalization bills and
personal claim bills
Progressive – a person who believes that moral rules are derived in part from an individual’s beliefs
and the circumstances of modern life. Progressives are likely to favor government tolerance and
protection for individual choice
Progressive voting – voting for a candidate because one favors his or her ideas for addressing issues
after the election
Public bill – a legislative bill that deals with matters of general concern. A bill involving defense
expenditures is a public bill; a bill pertaining to an individual’s becoming a naturalized citizen in not
Public-interest lobby – a political organization that stated goals of which will principally benefit
Purposive incentive – the benefit that comes from serving a cause or principle from which one does
not personally benefit
Pyramid structure – a method of organizing a president’s staff in which most presidential assistants
report through a hierarchy to the president’s chief of staff

Quorum – the minimum number of members who must be present for business to be conducted in
Quorum call – a calling of the roll in either house of Congress to see whether the number of
representatives in attendance meets the number required to conduct official business
Random sample – a sample selected in such a way that any member of the population being
Ratings – an assessment of a representative’s voting record on issues important to an interest group.
Such ratings are designed to generate public support for or opposition to a legislator
Reaganomics – the federal economic policies of the Reagan administration, elected in 1981. These
policies combined a monetarist fiscal policy, supply-side tax cuts, and domestic budget cutting. Their
goal was to reduce the size of the federal government and stimulate economic growth
Recall – a procedure, in effect in over 20 states, whereby the voters can vote to remove an elected
official from office
Red tape – complex bureaucratic rules and procedures that must be followed to get something done
Referendum – the practice of submitting a law to a popular vote at election time. The law may be
proposed by a voter’s initiative or by the legislature
Registered voters – people who are registered to vote. While almost all adult American citizens are
theoretically eligible to vote, only those who have completed a registration form by the required date
may do so
Religious tradition – the moral teachings of religious institutions on religious, social, and economic
Remedy – a judicial order preventing or redressing a wrong or enforcing a right
Representative democracy – a political system in which leaders and representatives acquire
political power by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote. This is the form of
government used by nations that are called democratic
Republic – a form of democracy in which power is vested in representatives selected by means of
popular competitive elections
Restrictive rule – an order from the House Rules Committee that permits certain kinds of
amendments but not others to be made into a bill on the legislative floor
Retrospective voting – voting for or against the candidate or party in office because one likes or
dislikes how things have gone in the recent past
Revenue sharing – a law providing for the distribution of a fixed amount or share of federal tax
revenues to the states for spending on almost any government purpose. Distribution was intended to
send more money to poorer, heavily taxed states and less to richer, lightly taxed ones. The program
was ended in 1986
Reserve discrimination – using race or sex to give preferential treatment to some people
Rider – an amendment on a matter unrelated to a bill that is added to the bill so that it will “ride” to
passage through Congress. When a bill has a lot of riders, it is called a Christmas tree bill
Right-of-reply rule – a rule of the Federal Communications Commission that if a person is attacked
on a broadcast, that person has the right to reply over that same station
Roll-call vote – a congressional voting procedure that consists of members answering “yea” or “nay”
to their names. When roll calls were handled orally, it was a time-consuming process in the House.
Since 1973 an electronic voting system permits each House member to record his or her vote and
learn the total automatically
Routine stories – media reports about public events that are regularly covered by reporters and that
involve simple, easily described acts or statements
Runoff primary – a second primary election held in some states when no candidate receives the
majority of the votes in the first primary; the runoff is between two candidates with the most votes.
Runoff votes are common in the South

Safe districts – districts in which incumbents win by margins of 55% or more

Sampling error – the difference between the results of two surveys or samples
School district – a special-district government responsible for administering public schools
Search warrant – an order from a judge authorizing the search of a place; the order must describe
what is to be searched and seized, and the judge can issue it only if he is persuaded by the police that
good reason exists that a crime has been committed and that the evidence bearing on the crime will
be found at a certain location
Second-order devolution – the flow of power and responsibility from states to local governments
Select committees – congressional committees appointed for a limited time and purpose
Selective attention – paying attention only to those parts of a newspaper or broadcast story with
which one agrees. Studies suggest that this is how people view political ads on television
Separate-but-equal doctrine – the doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson in which the Supreme
Court ruled that a state could provide “separate but equal” facilities for African Americans
Separation of powers – a principle of American government whereby constitutional authority is
shared by three separate branches of government—the legislative, the executive, and the judicial
Sequential referral – a congressional process by which a Speaker may send a bill to a second
committee after the first is finished acting, or may refer parts of bill to separate committees
Sequester – automatic, across-the-board cuts in certain federal programs that are triggered by the
law when Congress and the president cannot agree on a spending plan
Service strategy – a policy of providing poor people with education and job training to help lift them
out of poverty
Shay’s Rebellion – a rebellion is 1787 led by Daniel Shays and other ex-Revolutionary War soldiers
and officers to prevent foreclosures of farms as a result of high interest rates and taxes. The revolt
highlighted the weaknesses of the Confederation and bolstered support for a stronger national
Silent majority – a phase used to describe people, whatever their economic status, who uphold
traditional values, especially against the counterculture of the 1960s
Simple resolution – an expression of opinion either in the House of Representatives or the Senate to
settle housekeeping or procedural matters in either body. Such expressions are not signed by the
president and do not have the force of law
Social movement – a widely shared demand for change in some aspect of the social or political
Social status – a measure of one’s social standing obtained by combining factors such as education,
income, and occupation
Soft money – funds solicited from individuals, corporations, and unions that are spent on party
activities, such as voter registration campaigns and voting drives, rather than on behalf of a specific
candidate. These funds need not be reported to the Federal Election Commission
Solidary incentives – the social rewards that lead people to join local or state political organizations.
People who find politics fun and want to meet others who share their interests are said to respond to
solidary incentives
Sophomore surge – an increase in the votes that congressional candidates usually get when they
first run for reelection
Sound bite – a brief statement no longer than a few seconds used on a radio or television news
Sovereign immunity – a doctrine that a citizen cannot sue the government without its consent. By
statute Congress has given its consent for the government to be sued in many cases involving a
dispute over a contract or damage done as a result of negligence
Sovereignty – supreme or ultimate political authority; a sovereign government is one that is legally
and politically independent of any other government
Special-act charter – a charter that denies the powers of a certain named city and lists what the city
can and cannot do
Special-district government or authority – a local or regional government with responsibility for
some single function such as administering schools, handling sewage, or managing airports
Split ticket – voting for candidates of different parties for various offices in the same election
Spoils system – another phrase for political patronage—that is, the practice of giving the fruits of a
party’s victory, such as jobs and contracts, to the loyal members of that party
Sponsored party – a local or state political party that is largely staffed and funded by another
organization with established networks in the community
Standing – a legal concept establishing who is entitled to bring a lawsuit to court. A person must
usually show personal harm in order to acquire standing and be heard in court
Standing committees – permanently established legislative committees that consider and are
responsible for legislation within a certain subject area
Stare decisis – a latin term meaning “let the decision stand.” The practice of basing judicial decisions
on precedents established in similar cases decided in the past
Straight ticket – voting for candidates who are all of the same party
Strict-constructionist approach – the view that judges should decide cases on the basis of the
language of the Constitution
Strict scrutiny – the standard by which the Supreme Court judges classifications based on race. To be
accepted such a classification must be closely related to a “compelling” public purpose
Substantive representation – the correspondence between representatives’ opinions and those of
their constituents
Superdelegates – party leaders and elected officials who become delegates to the national
convention without having to run in primaries or caucuses. Party rules determine the percentage of
delegate seats reserved for party officials
Symbolic speech – an act that conveys a political message, such as burning a draft card

Teller vote – a congressional voting procedure in which members pass between two tellers, the
“yeas” first and then the “nays.” Since 1971 the identities of members in a teller vote can be recorded
Third-order devolution – the use of nongovernmental organizations to implement public policy
Trail balloon – information provided to the media by an anonymous public official as a way of testing
the public reaction to a possible policy or appointment
Trustee approach – the view that an elected representative should act on his or her own best
judgment of what public policy requires
Trust funds – funds for government programs that are collected and spent outside the regular
government budget; the amounts are determined by preexisting law rather than by annual
Two-party system – an electoral system with two dominant parties that compete in state or national
elections. Third parties have little chance of winning

Unalienable – based on nature and Providence rather than on the preferences of people
Unified government – a government in which the same party controls both the White House and
both houses of Congress
Unitary system – a system in which sovereignty is wholly in the hands of the national government so
that the subnational political units are dependent on its will

Valence issue – an issue on which voters distinguish rival parties by the degree to which they
associate each party or candidate with conditions, goals, or symbols the electorate universally
approves or disapproves of
Veto message – one of two ways for a president to disapprove a bill sent to him by Congress. The
veto message must be sent to Congress within ten days after the president receives the bill
Voice vote – a congressional voting procedure in which members shout “yea” or “nay”; allows
members to vote quickly or anonymously on bills
Voting-age population – the citizens who are eligible to vote after reaching a minimum age

Wall-of-separation principle – a Supreme Court interpretation of the establishment clause in the 1st
Amendment that prevents government involvement with religion, even on a non-preferential basis
Whip – a senator or representative who helps the party leader stay informed about what party
members are thinking, rounds up members when important votes are about to be taken, and attempts
to keep a nose count on how the voting on controversial issues is likely to go
White primary – the practice of keeping African Americans from voting in primary elections through
arbitrary implementation of registration requirements and intimidation. Such practices were declared
unconstitutional in 1944
Writ of certiorari – a Latin term meaning “made more certain.” An order issued by a higher court to
a lower court to send up the record of a case for review. Most cases reach the Supreme Court through
a writ of certiorari, issued when at least 4 of the 9 justices feel that the case should be reviewed
Writ of habeas corpus – a Latin term meaning “you shall have the body.” A court order directing a
police officer, sheriff, or warden who has a person in custody to bring the prisoner before a judge and
show sufficient cause for his or her detention. The writ of habeas corpus was designed to prevent
illegal arrests and imprisonment