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The federal object created by the U. Constitution is the main feature of the American governmental system. However, most people are also subject to a state government, and all are subject to various units of local government.
The latter include counties, municipalities, and special districts. The federal government was created by the states, which as colonies were established separately and governed themselves independently of the others.
Units of local government were created by the colonies to carry out various state functions. As the country expanded, it admitted new states modeled on the existing ones.
The USA is a federal union of fifty states. They have governors and legislature s to govern and make their laws. Each state also has two senators who represent their state in the United States Senate.
There are also representatives who represent their local district in the United States House of Representatives. They are elected by the American citizens every four years in democratic elections.
They also appoint people who will work in different departments that focuses on special areas for the country. From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Main article: Political parties in the United States. Main article: President of the United States. Huntington American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony.
Harvard University Press. In most states, senators serve four-year terms, and members of the lower house serve two-year terms.
The constitutions of the various states differ in some details but generally follow a pattern similar to that of the federal Constitution, including a statement of the rights of the people and a plan for organizing the government.
However, state constitutions are generally more detailed. There are 89, local governments, including 3, counties, 19, municipalities, 16, townships, 13, school districts, and 37, other special districts.
Typically local elections are nonpartisan - local activists suspend their party affiliations when campaigning and governing. City governments are chartered by states, and their charters detail the objectives and powers of the municipal government.
For most big cities, cooperation with both state and federal organizations is essential to meeting the needs of their residents. Types of city governments vary widely across the nation.
However, almost all have a central council, elected by the voters, and an executive officer, assisted by various department heads, to manage the city's affairs.
Cities in the West and South usually have nonpartisan local politics. There are three general types of city government: the mayor-council , the commission, and the council-manager.
These are the pure forms; many cities have developed a combination of two or three of them. This is the oldest form of city government in the United States and, until the beginning of the 20th century, was used by nearly all American cities.
Its structure is like that of the state and national governments, with an elected mayor as chief of the executive branch and an elected council that represents the various neighborhoods forming the legislative branch.
The mayor appoints heads of city departments and other officials, sometimes with the approval of the council.
He or she has the power of veto over ordinances the laws of the city and often is responsible for preparing the city's budget.
The council passes city ordinances, sets the tax rate on property, and apportions money among the various city departments. As cities have grown, council seats have usually come to represent more than a single neighborhood.
This combines both the legislative and executive functions in one group of officials, usually three or more in number, elected city-wide.
Each commissioner supervises the work of one or more city departments. Commissioners also set policies and rules by which the city is operated.
One is named chairperson of the body and is often called the mayor, although his or her power is equivalent to that of the other commissioners.
The city manager is a response to the increasing complexity of urban problems that need management ability not often possessed by elected public officials.
The answer has been to entrust most of the executive powers, including law enforcement and provision of services, to a highly trained and experienced professional city manager.
The council-manager plan has been adopted by a large number of cities. Under this plan, a small, elected council makes the city ordinances and sets policy, but hires a paid administrator, also called a city manager, to carry out its decisions.
The manager draws up the city budget and supervises most of the departments. Usually, there is no set term; the manager serves as long as the council is satisfied with his or her work.
The county is a subdivision of the state, sometimes but not always containing two or more townships and several villages. New York City is so large that it is divided into five separate boroughs, each a county in its own right.
In other cities, both the city and county governments have merged, creating a consolidated city—county government.
In most U. In small counties, boards are chosen by the county; in the larger ones, supervisors represent separate districts or townships.
The board collects taxes for state and local governments; borrows and appropriates money; fixes the salaries of county employees; supervises elections; builds and maintains highways and bridges; and administers national, state, and county welfare programs.
In very small counties, the executive and legislative power may lie entirely with a sole commissioner , who is assisted by boards to supervise taxes and elections.
In some New England states, counties do not have any governmental function and are simply a division of land. Thousands of municipal jurisdictions are too small to qualify as city governments.
These are chartered as towns and villages and deal with local needs such as paving and lighting the streets, ensuring a water supply, providing police and fire protection, and waste management.
In many states of the US, the term town does not have any specific meaning; it is simply an informal term applied to populated places both incorporated and unincorporated municipalities.
Moreover, in some states, the term town is equivalent to how civil townships are used in other states. The government is usually entrusted to an elected board or council, which may be known by a variety of names: town or village council, board of selectmen, board of supervisors, board of commissioners.
The board may have a chairperson or president who functions as chief executive officer, or there may be an elected mayor.
Governmental employees may include a clerk, treasurer, police and fire officers, and health and welfare officers. One unique aspect of local government, found mostly in the New England region of the United States, is the town meeting.
Once a year, sometimes more often if needed, the registered voters of the town meet in open session to elect officers, debate local issues, and pass laws for operating the government.
As a body, they decide on road construction and repair, construction of public buildings and facilities, tax rates, and the town budget.
The town meeting, which has existed for more than three centuries in some places, is often cited as the purest form of direct democracy , in which the governmental power is not delegated, but is exercised directly and regularly by all the people.
Suffrage is nearly universal for citizens 18 years of age and older. All states and the District of Columbia contribute to the electoral vote for president.
However, the District, and other U. These constituencies do not have the right to choose any political figure outside their respective areas.
Each commonwealth, territory, or district can only elect a non-voting delegate to serve in the House of Representatives. Voting rights are sometimes restricted as a result of felony conviction , but such laws vary widely by state.
Election of the president is an indirect suffrage: voters vote for electors who comprise the United States Electoral College and who, in turn vote for president.
These presidential electors were originally expected to exercise their own judgement. In modern practice, though, they are expected to vote as pledged and some faithless electors have not.
Some states contain unincorporated areas ], which are areas of land not governed by any local authorities and rather just by the county, state and federal governments.
Residents of unincorporated areas only need to pay taxes to the county, state and federal governments as opposed to the municipal government as well.
A notable example of this is Paradise, Nevada , an unincorporated area where many of the casinos commonly associated with Las Vegas are situated.
The United States also possesses a number of unorganized territories. These are areas of land which are not under the jurisdiction of any state, and do not have a government established by Congress through an organic act.
The unorganized territories of the U. American Samoa is the only one with a native resident population, and is governed by a local authority.
Despite the fact that an organic act was not passed in Congress, American Samoa established its own constitution in , and has self governed ever since.
Successful participation, especially in federal elections, requires large amounts of money, especially for television advertising.
Both parties generally depend on wealthy donors and organizations - traditionally the Democrats depended on donations from organized labor while the Republicans relied on business donations [ citation needed ].
Since , however, the Democrats' business donations have surpassed those from labor organizations [ citation needed ].
This dependency on donors is controversial, and has led to laws limiting spending on political campaigns being enacted see campaign finance reform.
Opponents of campaign finance laws cite the First Amendment 's guarantee of free speech, and challenge campaign finance laws because they attempt to circumvent the people's constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Even when laws are upheld, the complication of compliance with the First Amendment requires careful and cautious drafting of legislation, leading to laws that are still fairly limited in scope, especially in comparison to those of other countries such as the United Kingdom , France or Canada.
The American political culture is deeply rooted in the colonial experience and the American Revolution. The colonies were unique within the European world for their vibrant political culture, which attracted ambitious young men into politics.
While the roots of democracy were apparent, deference was typically shown to social elites in colonial elections, although this declined sharply with the American Revolution.
Americans spent a great deal of time in court, as private lawsuits were very common. Legal affairs were overseen by local judges and juries, with a central role for trained lawyers.
This promoted the rapid expansion of the legal profession, and dominant role of lawyers in politics was apparent by the s, with notable individuals including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson , among many others.
Unlike Europe, where the royal court, aristocratic families and the established church were in control, the American political culture was open to merchants, landlords, petty farmers, artisans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Germans, Scotch Irish, Yankees, Yorkers, and many other identifiable groups.
Finally, and most dramatically, the Americans were fascinated by and increasingly adopted the political values of Republicanism , which stressed equal rights, the need for virtuous citizens, and the evils of corruption, luxury, and aristocracy.
Republicanism , along with a form of classical liberalism remains the dominant ideology. Central documents include the Declaration of Independence , the Constitution , the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers s , the Bill of Rights , and Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" , among others.
Among the core tenets of this ideology are the following:. At the time of the United States' founding, the economy was predominantly one of agriculture and small private businesses, and state governments left welfare issues to private or local initiative.
As in the UK and other industrialized countries, laissez-faire ideology was largely discredited during the Great Depression.
Between the s and s, fiscal policy was characterized by the Keynesian consensus, a time during which modern American liberalism dominated economic policy virtually unchallenged.
Before World War II , the United States pursued a noninterventionist policy of in foreign affairs by not taking sides in conflicts between foreign powers.
The country abandoned this policy when it became a superpower , and the country mostly supports internationalism.
The United States Constitution has never formally addressed the issue of political parties, primarily because the Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan.
In Federalist Papers No. In addition, the first president of the United States , George Washington , was not a member of any political party at the time of his election or throughout his tenure as president, and remains to this day the only independent to have held the office.
Furthermore, he hoped that political parties would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation. In partisan elections, candidates are nominated by a political party or seek public office as an independent.
Each state has significant discretion in deciding how candidates are nominated, and thus eligible to appear on the election ballot. Typically, major party candidates are formally chosen in a party primary or convention, whereas minor party and Independents are required to complete a petitioning process.
The modern political party system in the United States is a two-party system dominated by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
These two parties have won every United States presidential election since and have controlled the United States Congress since at least From time to time, several other third parties have achieved relatively minor representation at the national and state levels.
Among the two major parties, the Democratic Party generally positions itself as center-left in American politics and supports an American liberalism platform, while the Republican Party generally positions itself as center-right and supports an American conservatism platform.
Like in the United Kingdom and in other similar parliamentary systems , eligible Americans vote for a specific candidate.
With a federal government, officials are elected at the federal national , state and local levels. On a national level, the president is elected indirectly by the people, but instead elected through the Electoral College.
In modern times, the electors almost always vote with the popular vote of their state, however in rare occurrences they may vote against the popular vote of their state, becoming what is known as a faithless elector.
All members of Congress , and the offices at the state and local levels are directly elected. Both federal and state laws regulate elections.
The United States Constitution defines to a basic extent how federal elections are held, in Article One and Article Two and various amendments.
State law regulates most aspects of electoral law, including primaries, the eligibility of voters beyond the basic constitutional definition , the running of each state's electoral college, and the running of state and local elections.
American political parties are more loosely organized than those in other countries. The two major parties, in particular, have no formal organization at the national level that controls membership.
Thus, for an American to say that he or she is a member of the Democratic or Republican parties is quite different from a Briton's stating that he or she is a member of the Conservative or Labour parties.
A person may choose to attend meetings of one local party committee one day and another party committee the next day. Party identification becomes somewhat formalized when a person runs for partisan office.
In most states, this means declaring oneself a candidate for the nomination of a particular party and intent to enter that party's primary election for an office.
A party committee may choose to endorse one or another of those who is seeking the nomination, but in the end the choice is up to those who choose to vote in the primary, and it is often difficult to tell who is going to do the voting.
The result is that American political parties have weak central organizations and little central ideology, except by consensus. A party really cannot prevent a person who disagrees with the majority of positions of the party or actively works against the party's aims from claiming party membership, so long as the voters who choose to vote in the primary elections elect that person.
Once in office, an elected official may change parties simply by declaring such intent. At the federal level, each of the two major parties has a national committee See, Democratic National Committee , Republican National Committee that acts as the hub for much fund-raising and campaign activities, particularly in presidential campaigns.
The exact composition of these committees is different for each party, but they are made up primarily of representatives from state parties and affiliated organizations, and others important to the party.
However, the national committees do not have the power to direct the activities of members of the party.
Both parties also have separate campaign committees which work to elect candidates at a specific level.
The most significant of these are the Hill committees , which work to elect candidates to each house of Congress.
State parties exist in all fifty states, though their structures differ according to state law, as well as party rules at both the national and the state level.
Despite these weak organizations, elections are still usually portrayed as national races between the political parties. In what is known as " presidential coattails ", candidates in presidential elections become the de facto leader of their respective party, and thus usually bring out supporters who in turn then vote for his party's candidates for other offices.
On the other hand, federal midterm elections where only Congress and not the president is up for election are usually regarded as a referendum on the sitting president's performance, with voters either voting in or out the president's party's candidates, which in turn helps the next session of Congress to either pass or block the president's agenda, respectively.
Special interest groups advocate the cause of their specific constituency. Business organizations will favor low corporate taxes and restrictions of the right to strike, whereas labor unions will support minimum wage legislation and protection for collective bargaining.
Other private interest groups, such as churches and ethnic groups, are more concerned about broader issues of policy that can affect their organizations or their beliefs.
One type of private interest group that has grown in number and influence in recent years is the political action committee or PAC.
These are independent groups, organized around a single issue or set of issues, which contribute money to political campaigns for U. Congress or the presidency.
PACs are limited in the amounts they can contribute directly to candidates in federal elections. There are no restrictions, however, on the amounts PACs can spend independently to advocate a point of view or to urge the election of candidates to office.
PACs today number in the thousands. Since many of them focus on a narrow set of concerns or even on a single issue, and often a single issue of enormous emotional weight, they compete with the parties for citizens' dollars, time, and passion.
The amount of money spent by these special interests continues to grow, as campaigns become increasingly expensive. Many Americans have the feeling that these wealthy interests, whether corporations, unions or PACs, are so powerful that ordinary citizens can do little to counteract their influences.
A survey of members of the American Economic Association find the vast majority regardless of political affiliation to be discontent with the current state of democracy in America.
The primary concern relates to the prevalence and influence of special interest groups within the political process, which tends to lead to policy consequences that only benefit such special interest groups and politicians.
Some conjecture that maintenance of the policy status quo and hesitance to stray from it perpetuates a political environment that fails to advance society's welfare.
In , political discontent became more prevalent, putting a severe strain on democratic institutions. Many of America's Founding Fathers hated the thought of political parties.
They wanted citizens to vote for candidates without the interference of organized groups, but this was not to be. By the s, different views of the new country's proper course had already developed, and those who held these opposing views tried to win support for their cause by banding together.
The followers of Alexander Hamilton , the Hamiltonian faction, took up the name " Federalist "; they favored a strong central government that would support the interests of commerce and industry.
The followers of Thomas Jefferson , the Jeffersonians and then the "Anti-Federalists," took up the name " Democratic-Republicans "; they preferred a decentralized agrarian republic in which the federal government had limited power.
By , the Federalists had disappeared as an organization, replaced by the Whigs , brought to life in opposition to the election that year of President Andrew Jackson.
In the s, the issue of slavery took center stage, with disagreement in particular over the question of whether slavery should be permitted in the country's new territories in the West.
The Whig Party straddled the issue and sank to its death after the overwhelming electoral defeat by Franklin Pierce in the presidential election.
While the Know Nothing party was short-lived, Republicans would survive the intense politics leading up to the Civil War.
The primary Republican policy was that slavery be excluded from all the territories. Just six years later, this new party captured the presidency when Abraham Lincoln won the election of By then, parties were well established as the country's dominant political organizations, and party allegiance had become an important part of most people's consciousness.
Party loyalty was passed from fathers to sons, and party activities, including spectacular campaign events, complete with uniformed marching groups and torchlight parades, were a part of the social life of many communities.
By the s, however, this boisterous folksiness had diminished. Municipal reforms, civil service reform, corrupt practices acts, and presidential primaries to replace the power of politicians at national conventions had all helped to clean up politics.
Since the s, the country has been run by two major parties. Many minor or third political parties appear from time to time.
They tend to serve a means to advocate policies that eventually are adopted by the two major political parties. At various times the Socialist Party , the Farmer-Labor Party and the Populist Party for a few years had considerable local strength, and then faded away—although in Minnesota , the Farmer—Labor Party merged into the state's Democratic Party, which is now officially known as the Democratic—Farmer—Labor Party.