The political realm can be confusing. These days people are becoming more aware of politics. Activists are taking a stand. The 2016 Presidential election had a polarizing effect on America. It turned heads in other countries as well. As a powerful country, people around the world are interested in the United States as a country and our government. Choices we make can have profound effects on this nation as well as others. It is important to understand U.S. politics whether you are a citizen or not.

Many people claim to hate politics. It seems politicians are always fighting and telling half-truths or flat out lies. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know something about politics and how the United States government works.

Overview of the Federal Government

There are three branches of government. The legislative branch consists of Congress. It is responsible for making federal laws. The Senate and the House of Representatives are the two houses of Congress. The United States President is head of the executive branch. The government and laws are enforced, executed, and administered by the executive branch. The Supreme Court and federal courts make up the judicial branch. They interpret and apply U.S. laws. They do this by hearing cases brought before them. They also have the power to rule laws unconstitutional.

The Constitution is built on six basic principles.

  1. Popular sovereignty states that the people are the source of governmental power. It stems from the belief that the government should exist for the benefit of the people.
  2. The people give the government power. The government is limited by its own laws and the power given it by the people.
  3. The principle of the separation of power is why the United States has a three-branch system of government. No one branch has all the power.
  4. The Constitution set up a system of checks and balances. Each branch has a number of checks it can use to keep the other branches from becoming too powerful. The President has the power to veto legislation. The Supreme Court can rule laws unconstitutional. The Senate must approve any treaty and presidential appointment.
  5. The case Marbury vs. Madison established judicial review. This means the Supreme Court can review laws and determine their constitutionality.
  6. The principle of federalism is rather complicated. It is the idea that the central government does not control all the power in the nation. States have powers reserved to them.

Political Process and Elections

The American political system is what determines the way in which offices of Congress and the Presidency are filled. The Constitution simply set up the system. The United States currently exists under a two-party system. The two major parties are the Democratic and Republican party. This system was established through historical and traditional precedent as well as the electoral system itself.  That does not mean that third parties do not occasionally show up on the scene. Although, their candidates rarely win. There are some political games on the market that capitalize on the divisiveness of this system. Emotions run strong during election periods.

Elections occur at all levels of government: local, state, and federal. Elections can differ from locality to locality and state to state. How the electoral college is determined can even vary from state to state. Before elections big or small, you should know where candidates stand on the issues. Elections are an important aspect of American government. Participation in society and political matters. One simple way to be involved is voting. Believe it or not, every vote does matter.

Things You Should Know About Politics

To be an informed citizen, you should make some small efforts to know some things about politics. You should know who represents you in Congress. You should know who the leaders of this country are by name. This includes the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader. It never hurts to also know the minority leaders, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and the Supreme Court Justices. You should know who the governor of your state is. It is much easier to make a difference in local government and have your voice heard.

American politics and government can be confusing at times. That is no excuse to be uninformed. Learn something about your government, have informed discussions, or go play a political game. You will be a better citizen for it.

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