Understanding the inner workings of government
This branch, known as congress, has the power to
There are two houses that comprise congress
▪ Senate-each state is represented by two members
▪ House of Representatives-each state is represented
proportionally by population
This branch is headed by the President. He has no
power to make laws or interpret them, however
he is responsible to preserve, protect and defend
This branch is responsible for administering
justice interpreting the law.
Upholds the constitution and all statutes and
regulations pursuant to it.
Speaker of the House
Secretary of State
The President is the head of the executive branch and plays a large role in making America’s laws.
His job is to approve the laws that Congress creates. When the Senate and the House approve a
bill, they send it to the President. If he agrees with the law, he signs it and the law goes into
If the President does not like a bill, he can refuse to sign it. When he does this, it is called a veto. If
the President vetoes a bill, it will most likely never become a law. Congress can override a veto,
but to do so two-thirds of the Members of Congress must vote against the President.
Despite all of his power, the President cannot write bills. He can propose a bill, but a member of
Congress must submit it for him.
In addition to playing a key role in the lawmaking process, the President has several duties. He
serves as the American Head of State, meaning that he meets with the leaders of other countries
and can make treaties with them. However, the Senate must approve any treaty before it
The President is also the Chief of the Government. That means that he is technically the boss of
every government worker.
Also, the President is the official head of the U.S. military. He can authorize the use of troops
overseas without declaring war. To officially declare war, though, he must get the approval of the
The President and the Vice-President are the only officials chosen by the entire country. Not just
anyone can be President, though. In order to be elected, one must be at least 35 years old. Also,
each candidate must be a natural-born U.S. citizen and have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years.
When elected, the President serves a term of four years. The most one President can serve is two
terms, for a total of eight years
In politics, a vice president is a. politician whose primary job is to
replace the president on the event of his or her death or
resignation. Vice presidents are either elected jointly with the
president as his or her running mate, elected separately, or
appointed independently after the president's election.
Governments with vice presidents generally have only one person
in this role at any time. If the president is not present, dies,
resigns, or is otherwise unable to fulfill his or her duties, the vice
president will generally serve as president. In many presidential
systems, the vice president does not wield much day-to-day
political power, but is still considered an important member of the
As President of the Senate, the Vice President has two primary
duties: to cast a vote in the event of a Senate deadlock and to
preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral
The Speaker in the United States is, by tradition, the head of the
majority party in the House of Representatives, outranking the
Majority Leader. However, the Speaker usually does not
participate in debate (though he or she has the right to do so) and
rarely votes on the floor.
The Speaker is responsible for ensuring that the House passes
legislation supported by the majority party. In pursuing this goal,
the Speaker may utilize his or her power to determine when each
bill reaches the floor. He or she also chairs the majority party's
House steering committee. While the Speaker is the functioning
head of the House majority party, the same is not true of the
President pro tempore of the Senate, whose office is primarily
ceremonial and honorary.
When the Speaker and the President belong to the same party,
the Speaker normally plays a less prominent role as the leader of
the majority party.
In the United States federal government, Secretary of State has the unique
meaning of the official responsible for foreign policy. In most other countries, this
official is called the foreign secretary or foreign minister. The U.S. Secretary of
State is head of the United States Department of State. In the presidential line of
succession the Secretary of State is the highest-ranking member of the Cabinet,
and fourth overall. The Secretary of State is also the first cabinet member in the
order of precedence, and there is a space between the Secretary of State and
other cabinet members where the order allows room for former presidents and
first ladies, and widows of U.S. presidents. The position is widely regarded as the
senior most of the cabinet.
Performs such duties as the President is required, in accordance with the United
States Constitution, relating to correspondence, commission, or instructions to
U.S. or consuls abroad, and to conduct negotiations with foreign representatives.
The Secretary has also served as principal adviser to the President in the
determination of U.S. foreign policy and in recent decades has become
responsible for overall direction, coordination, and supervision of
interdepartmental activities of the U.S. Government overseas, excepting certain
Executive-headed by the state Governor who
oversees city Mayors
Legislative-run by the state Senators
Judicial-headed by the state supreme court which
hears appeals from the lower state courts
Laws as outlined by the Constitution
Laws passed by state governor and state
City laws that are upheld by local law
Oldest party in the world, Congress majority
Nicknamed the Grand Old Party (GOP)
Largest third party, founded in 1971
Generally favors liberal positions and a large government role
Historically, the party has favored farmers, laborers, labor unions, and
religious and ethnic minorities; it has opposed unregulated business and
finance, and favored progressive income taxes
Advocates more social freedoms, affirmative action, balanced budget,
and a free enterprise system tempered by government intervention
Also favors: affordable and quality healthcare with governments help,
environment protection, low cost college tuition, equal opportunity
employment, women's right, stem cell research, dependence on other
countries in time of war, right to privacy and gun control.
The Republican Party is the more socially conservative and economically
libertarian of the two major parties. The party generally supports lower
taxes and limited government in most economic areas allowing for more
Opposed to abortion, doubt affirmative action (getting minorities
represented in higher education) and does not approve stem cell
In favor of: capital punishment, gun ownership rights, prayer in schools
as well as creationism, allowing government to act in time of war without
support from other countries.
Much more “moral” minded, based on evangelical and fundamentalist
Adoption of laissez-faire principles which would reduce the state's role in the
Protection of property rights.
Minimal government bureaucracy, the government's responsibilities should be
limited to the protection of individual rights from the initiation of force and fraud.
Strong civil liberties positions, including privacy protection, freedom of speech,
freedom of association, and sexual freedom.
No government interference in reproductive rights, including access to abortion.
(Right-libertarians and Libertarians for Life usually do not support abortion, but
they believe that the federal government has no say in regulating the procedure).
Support for the unrestricted right to the means of self-defense (such as gun
rights, the right to carry mace or pepper spray, etc).
Abolition of laws against what are called victimless crimes: (prostitution, driving
without a seatbelt, use of controlled substances, fraternization, etc.).
Opposition to regulations on how businesses should run themselves (e.g.,
A foreign policy of free trade and non-interventionism.
Support for a fiscally responsible government including a hard currency
(commodity-based money supply as opposed to fiat currency).
Abolition of all forms of taxpayer-funded assistance (welfare, food stamps, public
Advocates a Bible-based platform which it claims to reflect original intent of the U.S.
Constitution and the principles of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
Supports reducing the role of the United States federal government through cutting
bureaucratic regulation, reducing spending, and replacing the income tax with a tariff-
based revenue system supplemented by excise taxes.
Encourage the idea that the United States terminate its participation in international
lending institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the Export-
Import Bank. It also urges the government to immediately terminate all subsidies, tax
preferences, and investment guarantees that encourage U.S. businesses to invest in
foreign property; and to seek to collect all foreign debts owed to it.
The party is pro-life and thus opposes euthanasia and abortion. The party supports a States'
right to administer the death penalty to those convicted of "capital crimes" which, it should
be noted, are not necessarily limited to murder but usually equate to such in modern
The party also opposes government recognition of same-sex unions, and believes state and
local governments have the right to criminalize "offensive sexual behavior". The party
further opposes pornography, believing the government needs to take a stand against it.
Viewing gambling as destructive and contributing to crime, the party opposes legalized
gambling as well as government's support of gambling organizations. However, the party
opposes federal anti-drug laws
Emphasize environmentalism, non-
hierarchical participatory democracy, social
justice, respect for diversity, peace and
a meeting of supporters or members of a political party or
the 538 President Electors who meet every 4 years to cast
the electoral votes for President and Vice President of the
those states that are not firmly rooted in either the
Republican or Democratic party
One meaning is a meeting of members of a political party or subgroup to
coordinate members' actions, choose group policy, or nominate candidates for
various offices. The term is frequently used to discuss the caucuses used by some
states to select presidential nominees
Another meaning is for a subgrouping of elected officials that meet on the basis
of shared affinities or ethnicities, usually to affect policy. At the highest level, in
Congress and many state legislatures, Democratic and Republican members
organize themselves into a caucus (occasionally called a "conference").
Of the many Congressional caucuses, one of the best-known is the Congressional
Black Caucus, a group of African-American members of Congress. Another
prominent example is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose members voice
and advance issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, including Puerto
Rico. In a different vein, the Congressional Internet Caucus is a bipartisan group
of Members who wish to promote the growth and advancement of the Internet.
Other congressional caucuses such as the Out of Iraq Caucus, are openly
organized tendencies or political factions (within the House Democratic Caucus,
in this case), and strive to achieve political goals.
Each state is allocated as many electors as it has Representatives and Senators in the
United States Congress. Since the most populous states have the most seats in congress,
they also have the most electors.
Electors are chosen by the state and local representatives, which have been elected by the
people living within the state.
Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, voters within the 50 states
and the District of Columbia are actually choosing Electors from their state when they vote
for President and Vice President. These Presidential Electors in turn cast the official
(electoral) votes for those two offices. Although the nationwide popular vote is calculated
by official and media organizations, it does not determine the winner of the election.
A candidate must receive a majority of votes from the electoral college (currently 270) to
win the Presidency. If in either election for President or Vice-President no one receives a
majority, the election is determined by Congress.
Potential elector candidates are nominated by their state political parties in the summer
before the Election Day. The U.S. Constitution allows each state to choose its own means
for the nomination of electors.
The system is designed to require presidential candidates to appeal to many different types
of interests, rather than those of a specific region or state.
A swing state (also, battleground state) in United States presidential
politics is a state in which no candidate has overwhelming support,
meaning that any of the major candidates have a reasonable chance of
winning the state's electoral college votes. Such states are targets of
both major political parties in presidential elections, since winning these
states is the best opportunity for a party to gain votes. Non-swing states
are sometimes called safe states, because one candidate has strong
enough support that they can safely assume they will win the state's
Every four years, Americans elect a President and Vice
President, thereby choosing both national leaders and a
course of public policy. There are 4 stages:
The pre-nomination-In these elections, state party members get to vote for
the candidate that will represent their party in the upcoming general election.
The national conventions -At the end of the primaries and caucuses, each
party holds a national convention to finalize the selection of one Presidential
nominee. During this time, each Presidential candidate chooses a running-
mate (or Vice-Presidential candidate).
The general election campaign-Candidates campaign throughout the
country in an attempt to win the support of voters.
The electoral college phase-in which the President and Vice President are
officially elected by state electors