AP Government

Unit 1 & 2: Vocabulary and Review

Chapter 1 Vocabulary

  • democracy: government by the people, both directly or indirectly, with free and frequent elections

  • direct democracy: government in which citizens vote on laws and select officials directly

  • direct primary: an election in which voters choose party nominees

  • initiative: a procedure whereby a certain number of voters may, by petition, propose a law or constitutional amendment and have it submitted to the voters

  • referendum: procedure for submitting to popular vote measures passed by the legislature or proposed amendments to a state constitution

  • recall: a procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term

  • representative democracy: government in which the people elect those who govern and pass laws; also called a republic

  • constitutional democracy: government that enforces recognized limits on those who govern and allows the voice of the people to be heard through free, fair, and relatively frequent elections

  • constitutionalism: the set of arrangements, including checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, due process, and a bill of rights, that requires our leaders to listen, think, bargain, and explain before they act or make laws. we then hold them politically and legally accountable for how they exercise their powers

  • natural rights: the rights of all people to dignity and worth

  • political culture: the widely shared beliefs, values, and norms citizens hold about their relationship to government and to one another

  • statism: the idea that the rights of the nation are supreme over the rights of the individuals who make up the nation

  • American dream: a complex set of ideas that holds that the United States is a land of opportunity where individual initiative and hard work can bring economic success

  • capitalism: an economic system based on private property, competitive markets, economic incentives, and limited government involvement in the production, pricing, and distribution of goods and services

  • popular consent: the idea that a just government must derive its powers from the consent of the people it governs

  • majority rule: governance according to the expressed preferences of the majority

  • majority: the candidate or party that wins more than half the votes cast in an election

  • plurality: the candidate or party with the most votes cast in an election, not necessarily more than half

  • democratic consensus: a condition for democracy is that the people widely share a set of attitudes and beliefs about governmental procedures, institutions, core documents and fundamental values

  • theocracy: government by religious leaders, who claim divine guidance

  • Articles of Confederation: the first governing document of the confederated states, drafted in 1777, ratified in 1781, and replaced by the present Constitution in 1789

  • Annapolis Convention: a convention held in september 1786 to consider problems of trade and navigation, attended by five states and important because it issued the call to Congress and the states for what became the Constitutional Convention

  • Constitutional Convention: the convention in philadelphia, from may 25 to september 17, 1787, that debated and agreed on the constitution of the united states

  • Shays’ Rebellion: a rebellion led by Daniel Shays of farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787 protesting mortgage foreclosures. it highlighted the need for a strong national government just as the call for the Constitutional Convention went out

  • bicameralism: the principle of a two-house legislature

  • Virginia Plan: the initial proposal at the Constitutional Convention made by the Virginia delegation for a strong central government with a bicameral legislature dominated by the big states

  • New Jersey Plan: the proposal at the Constitutional Convention made by William Paterson of New Jersey for a central government with a single-house legislature in which each state would be represented equally

  • Connecticut Compromise: the compromise agreement by states at the Constitutional Convention for a bicameral legislature with a lower house in which representation would be based on population and an upper house in which each state would have two senators

  • three-fifths compromise: the compromise between northern and southern states at the Constitutional Convention that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for determining direct taxation and representation in the House of Representatives

  • Electoral College: the electoral system used in electing the president and vice president, in which voters vote for electors pledged to cast their ballots for a particular party’s candidates

  • Federalists: supporters of ratification of the Constitution and of a strong central government

  • Antifederalists: opponents of ratification of the Constitution and of a strong central government generally

  • The Federalist: essays promoting ratification of the Constitution, published anonymously by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in 1787 and 1788

Chapter 2 Vocabulary

  1. natural law: god’s or nature’s law that defines right from wrong and is higher than human law

  2. separation of powers: Constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making law, and the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judiciary interpreting the law

  3. checks and balances: a constitutional grant of powers that enables each of the three branches of government to check some acts of the others and therefore ensures that no branch can dominate

  4. autocracy: a type of government in which one person with unlimited power rules

  5. partisanship: strong allegiance to one’s own political party, often leading to unwillingness to compromise with members of the opposing party

  6. divided government: governance divided between the parties, especially when one holds the presidency and the other controls one or both houses of Congress

  7. unified government: governance in which one party controls both the White House and both houses of Congress

  8. Electoral College: the electoral system used in electing the president and vice president , in which voters vote for electors pledged to cast their ballots for a particular party’s candidates

  9. judicial review: the power of a court to review laws or governmental regulations to determine whether they are consistent with the US Constitution, or in a state court, the state constitution

  10. Federalists: a group that argued for ratification of the Constitution, including a stronger national government at the expense of states’ power. They controlled the new federal government until Thomas Jefferson’s election in 1800

  11. writ of mandamus: a court order directing an official to perform an official duty

  12. congressional elaboration: congressional legislation that gives further meaning to the Constitution based on sometimes vague constitutional authority, such as the necessary and proper clause

  13. impeachment: a formal accusation by the lower house of a legislature against a public official; the first step in removal from office

  14. executive order: a directive issued by a president or governor that has the force of law

  15. executive privilege: the power to keep executive communications confidential, especially if they relate to national security

  16. impoundment: presidential refusal to allow an agency to spend funds that Congress authorized and appropriated

  17. originalist approach: an approach to constitutional interpretation that envisions the document as having a fixed meaning that might be determined by a strict reading of the text or the Framer’s intent

  18. adaptive approach: a method used to interpret the Constitution that understands the document to be flexible and responsive to the changing of the times

Chapter 3 Vocabulary

  • federalism: a constitutional arrangement in which power is distributed between a central government and the states, which are sometimes called provinces in other nations. the national and states exercise direct authority over individuals

  • unitary system: a constitutional arrangement that concentrates power in a central government

  • confederation: a constitutional arrangement in which sovereign nations or states, by compact, create a central government but carefully limit its power and do not give it direct authority over individuals

  • delegated (express) powers: powers given explicitly to the national government and listed in the Constitution

  • implied powers: powers inferred from the express powers that allow Congress to carry out its functions

  • necessary and proper clause: the clause in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) setting forth the implied powers of Congress. it states that Congress, in addition to its express powers, has the right to make all laws necessary and proper to carry out all powers the Constitution vests in the national government

  • inherent powers: the powers of the national government in foreign affairs that the Supreme Court has declared do not depend on constitutional grants but rather grow out of the national government’s obligation to protect the nation from domestic and foreign threats

  • supremacy clause: contained in the Article IV of the Constitution, the clause gives national laws the absolute power even when states have enacted a competing law

  • commerce clause: the clause in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1) that gives Congress the power to regulate all business activities that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations

  • federal mandate: a requirement the national government imposes as a condition for receiving federal funds

  • reserve powers: all powers not specifically delegated to the national government by the Constitution. the reserve power can be found in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution

  • concurrent powers: powers that the Constitution gives to both the national and state governments, such as the power to levy taxes

  • full faith and credit clause: the clause in the Constitution (Article IV, Section 1) requiring each state to recognize the civil judgments rendered by the courts of the other states and to accept their public records and acts as valid

  • extradition: the legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officials of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed

  • interstate compact: an agreement among two or more states. congress must approve most such agreements

  • preemption: the right of a national law or regulation to preclude enforcement of a state or local law or regulation

  • national supremacy: a constitutional doctrine that whenever conflict occurs between the constitutionally authorized actions of the national government and those of a state or local government, the actions of the national government prevail

  • centralists: people who favor national action over action at the state and local levels

  • decentralists: people who favor state or local action rather than national action

  • states’ rights: powers expressly or implicitly reserved to the states

  • devolution revolution: the effort to slow the growth of the national government by retuening many function to the states

Chapter 4 Vocabulary

  • ethnocentrism: belief in the superiority of one’s nation or ethnic group

  • demography: the study of the characteristics of populations

  • reinforcing cleavages: divisions within society that reinforce one another, making groups more homogenous or similar

  • cross-cutting cleavages: divisions within society that cut across demographic categories to produce groups that are more heterogenous or different

  • American exceptionalism: the view that due to circumstances of history, the Constitution, and liberty, the United States is different from other nations

  • manifest destiny: a notion held by nineteenth-century Americans that the United States was destined to rule the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific

  • Sun Belt: the region of the United States in the South and Southwest that has seen population growth relative to the rest of the country and which, because of its climate, has attracted retirees

  • Bible Belt: the region of states in the South and states bordering the South with a large number of strongly committed Protestants who see a public role for religion

  • Rust Belt: states in the Midwest once known for their industrial output, which have seen factories close and have experienced relatively high unemployment

  • urban: a densely settled territory that is often the central part of a city of metropolitan area

  • suburban: an area that typically surrounds the central city, is often residential, and is not as densely populated

  • rural: sparsely populated territory and small towns, often associated with farming

  • race: a grouping of human beings with distinctive characteristics determined by genetic inheritance

  • ethnicity: a social division based on national origin, religion, language, and often race

  • fundamentalists: conservative Christians who, as a group, have become more active in politics in the last two decades and were especially influential in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections

  • gender gap: the difference between the political opinions or political behavior of men and of women

  • gross domestic product (GDP): the total output of all economic activity in the nation, including goods and services

  • socioeconomic status (SES): a division of population based on occupation, income, and education

Chapter 5 Vocabulary

  • collective bargaining: the process in which a union represents a group of employees in negotiations with the employer about wages, benefits, and workplace safety

  • recall: a procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term

  • faction: a term the founders used to refer to political parties and special interests or interest groups

  • pluralism: a theory of government that holds that open, multiple, and competing groups can check the asserted power by any one group

  • interest group: a collection of people who share a common interest or attitude seek to influence government for specific ends. interest groups usually work within the framework of government and try to achieve their goals through tactics such as lobbying

  • social movement: a large body of people interested in a common issue, idea, or concern that is of continuing significance and who are willing to take action. movements seek to change attitudes or institutions, not just policies

  • open shop: a company with a labor agreement under which union membership cannot be required as a condition of employment

  • closed shop: a company with a labor agreement under which union membership can be a condition of employment

  • free rider: an individual who does not join a group representing his or her interests yet receives the benefit of the group’s influence

  • professional associations: groups of individuals who share a common profession and are often organized for common political purposes related to that profession

  • nongovernmental organization (ngo): a nonprofit association or group operating outside government that advocates and pursues policy objectives

  • collective action: how groups form and organize to pursue their goals or objectives, including how to get individuals and groups to participate and cooperate. the term has many applications in the various social sciences such as political science, sociology, and economics

  • public choice: synonymous with “collective action,” specifically studies how government officials, politicians, and voters respond to positive and negative incentives

  • lobbying: engaging in activities aimed at influencing public officials, especially legislators, and the policies they enact

  • federal register: an official document, published every weekday, that lists the new and proposed regulations of executive department and regulatory agencies

  • amicus curiae brief: literally, a “friend of the court” brief, filed by an individual or organization urging the supreme court to hear a case (or discouraging it from doing so) or, at the merits stage, to present arguments in addition to those presented by the immediate parties to a case

  • super PACs: independent expenditure-only PACs are known as super PACs because they may accept donations of any size and can endorse candidates. their contributions and expenditures must be periodically reported to the FEC

  • bundling: a tactic in which PACs collect contributions from like-minded individuals (each limited to $2,000) and present them to a candidate or political party as a “bundle,” thus increasing the PAC’s influence

  • lobbyist: a person who is employed by and acts for an organized interest group or corporation to try to influence policy decisions and positions in the executive and legislative branches

  • revolving door: an employment cycle in which individuals who work for government agencies that regulate interests eventually end up working for interest groups or businesses with the same policy concern

  • issue network: relationships among interest groups, congressional committees and subcommittees, and the government agencies that share a common policy concern

  • political action committee (pac): the political arm of an interest group that is legally entitled to raise funds on a voluntary basis from members, stockholders, or employees to contribute funds to candidates or political parties

  • leadership PAC: a PAC formed by an officeholder that collects contributions from individuals and other PACs and then makes contributions to other candidates and political parties

  • bipartisan campaign reform act (bcra): largely banned party soft money, restored long-standing prohibition on corporations and labor unions use of general treasury funds for electoral purposes, and narrowed the definition of issue advocacy

  • soft money: money raised in unlimited amounts by political parties for party-building purposes. now largely illegal except for limited contributions to state or local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts

  • independent expenditures: the supreme court has ruled that individuals, groups, and parties can spend unlimited amounts in campaigns for or against candidates as long as they operate independently from the candidates. when an individual, group, or party does so, they are making an independent expenditure

  • issue advocacy: unlimited and undisclosed spending by an individual or group on communications that do not use words like “vote for” or “vote against,” although much of this activity is actually about electing or defeating candidates

  • 527 organization: a political group organized under section 527 of the IRS code that may accept and spend unlimited amounts of money on election activities so long as they are not spent on broadcast ads run in the last 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election in which a clearly identified candidate is referred to and a relevant electorate is targeted

Chapter 8 Vocabulary

  • winner-take-all system: an election system in which the candidate with the most votes wins

  • single-member district: an electoral district in which voters choose one representative or official

  • proportional representation: an election system in which each party running receives the proportion of legislative seats corresponding to its proportion of the vote

  • electoral college: the electoral system used in electing the president and vice president, in which voters vote for electors pledged to cast their ballots for a particular party’s candidates

  • safe seat: an elected office that is predictably won by one party or the other, so the success of that party’s candidate is almost taken for granted

  • the boost that candidates may get in an election because of the popularity of candidates above them on the ballot, especially the president

  • candidate appeal: the tendency in elections to focus on the personal attributes of a candidate, such as his or her strengths, weaknesses, background, experience, and visibility

  • national tide: the inclination to focus on national issues, rather than local issues, in an election campaign. the impact of a national tide can be reduced by the nature of the candidates on the ballot who may have differentiated themselves from their party or its leader if the tide is negative, as well as competition in the election

  • name recognition: incumbents have an advantage over challengers in election campaigns because voters are more familiar with them, and incumbents are more recognizable

  • caucus: a meeting of local party members to choose party officials or candidates for public office and to decide the platform

  • national party convention: a national meeting of delegates elected in primaries, caucuses, or state conventions who assemble once every four years to nominate candidates for president and vice president, ratify the party platform, elect officers, and adopt rules

  • federal election commission (fec): a commission created by the 1974 amendments to the federal election campaign act to administer election reform laws. it consists of six commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate. its duties include overseeing disclosure of campaign finance information, public funding of presidential elections, and enforcing contribution limits

  • bipartisan campaign reform act (bcra): largely banned party soft money, restored a long-standing prohibition on corporations and labor unions for using general treasury funds for electoral purposes, and narrowed the definition of issue advocacy

  • soft money: money raised in unlimited amounts by political parties for party-building purposes. now largely illegal except for limited contributions to state or local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts

  • hard money: political contributions given to a party, candidate, or interest group that are limited in amount and fully disclosed. raising such limited funds is harder than raising unlimited funds, hence the term “hard money”

  • issue advocacy: promoting a particular position or an issue paid for by interest groups or individuals but not candidates. much issue advocacy is often electioneering for or against a candidate, avoiding words like “vote for,” until 2004 had not been subject to any regulation

  • independent expenditures: money spent by individuals or groups not associated with candidates to elect or defeat candidates for office

  • super PACs: an independent expenditure only committee allowed in 2010 after court decisions allowing unlimited contributions to such PACs. super PACs were important in the 2010 and 2012 elections