Terms Glossary

GoodParty.org's Terms Glossary is a list of definitions of words from the political and elections world. These terms are from an independent's perspective with an eye toward reform. If you have a suggestion for a new definition, send it to ask@goodparty.org.

Dark Money

Definition and meaning of Dark Money: Dark Money refers to political spending made by organizations that do not have to disclose their donors. This is a form of campaign finance that allows individuals, corporations, and other entities to influence the outcome of elections by providing financial support to candidates and causes without the public ever knowing who contributed the money. Dark Money is a controversial issue, as it allows for unaccountable spending that could potentially undermine the principles of democracy. The lack of disclosure also makes it difficult to identify any conflicts of interest or any other improper activities. Examples of Dark Money include the use of 501(c)(4)s, Super PACs, and LLCs to anonymously donate to political candidates and causes. These organizations are not required to publicly disclose their donors, making it difficult to track who is behind the spending.

Deep Canvassing

Meaning and definition of deep canvassing: Deep canvassing is an innovative and impactful approach to political campaigning and grassroots activism, distinguished by its depth and quality of voter engagement. Deep canvassing extends beyond the scope of conventional canvassing, which often involves brief interactions with voters that are primarily focused on disseminating campaign information or soliciting voter support. Deep canvassing, in contrast, is characterized by its emphasis on open-ended, empathetic conversations. The primary goal is to foster understanding and meaningful connections between canvassers and voters.

At its core, deep canvassing is about engaging individuals in substantive dialogues that go beyond the typical script of political persuasion. Canvassers trained in this method approach voters with the intent to listen actively and understand their perspectives, rather than to immediately advocate for a candidate or policy. This approach is grounded in the belief that personal stories and empathetic listening are powerful tools for bridging divides and altering deeply held beliefs.

The process of deep canvassing typically involves several key elements:

  1. Personal Storytelling: Canvassers share their own experiences and stories related to the campaign's issues, creating a personal connection and establishing trust.

  2. Active Listening: Canvassers listen attentively to voters' concerns, beliefs, and experiences, showing genuine interest and empathy.

  3. Questioning and Reflection: Thoughtful questions are posed to encourage voters to reflect on their own views and consider new perspectives.

  4. Respectful Dialogue: Conversations are conducted in a non-confrontational manner, respecting differing opinions and avoiding argumentation.

  5. Empowerment: The aim is to empower voters by making them feel heard and valued, fostering a sense of community involvement and personal agency in the political process.

Deep canvassing has been shown to be particularly effective in addressing polarizing issues and reaching voters who may be skeptical or indifferent to traditional campaigning methods. By creating a space for personal connection and mutual understanding, deep canvassing can lead to more profound shifts in attitudes and beliefs than conventional canvassing.


Definition and meaning of delegate: In American politics, a delegate is a person who is elected or appointed to represent a specific group of people, typically in a political party's nominating convention. These conventions are held to choose the party's official candidate for a general election. Delegates play a crucial role in the nomination process by casting votes for the candidate they support.

In the past, the delegate system has been criticized for being ineffective, particularly with the use of superdelegates in the Democratic Party. Superdelegates are high-level party officials, such as elected officials and members of the Democratic National Committee, who are given the power to cast a vote for the candidate of their choice regardless of how their constituents voted in primary elections. This system was criticized in 2016, as many felt it gave too much power to party elites and did not accurately reflect the will of the voters.

In response to this criticism, the Democratic Party has made changes to the delegate system, reducing the number of superdelegates and making it more democratic. Despite these changes, the delegate system remains a crucial aspect of the American political process, serving as a way for parties to nominate their candidates and shape the direction of the country.


Definition and meaning of democracy: Democracy is a form of government in which the power is held by the people, either directly or through their elected representatives. It is based on the idea that all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives, and that the government is accountable to the people it serves.

However, democracy is not always perfect, and there are often challenges to ensuring that it is truly representative and accountable. One of the main problems is that the two major political parties in the United States often dominate the political process, which can limit the choices available to voters and exclude alternative viewpoints.

This is especially true for independent and third-party candidates, who often struggle to get their voices heard and their ideas taken seriously. Despite the fact that many Americans are dissatisfied with the two major parties and want more choices, these candidates often face significant barriers to participating in the democratic process.

It's time for a change! We need a democracy that is more open, inclusive, and responsive to the needs and concerns of all citizens. This means creating a more diverse and representative political system that allows for a wider range of candidates and viewpoints. By doing so, we can create a stronger and more vibrant democracy that works for everyone, not just the powerful few.


Definition and meaning of Democrat: A Democrat is someone who has a political affiliation with the Democratic Party in the United States. The Democratic Party is a liberal democratic political party that is in diametric opposition to the Republican Party. Democrats come in different forms of policy views, but they tend to promise social and economic policies that are aimed at improving the lives of all Americans, from providing universal healthcare and education to advocating for civil rights and environmental justice. However, the Democrats have achieved little of these objectives and govern more as a center-right party in comparison to other western democracies. Democrats also generally support progressive taxation, government spending, and the regulation of businesses - these areas are the key differentiators of the Republican and Democrat parties outside of culture war issues.

Democratic Socialism

Definition and meaning of Democratic Socialism: Democratic Socialism is a political ideology that combines the principles of democracy with the economic theory of socialism. Democratic Socialism aims to create an egalitarian society where workers own, manage, and control the means of production; while at the same time maintaining political democracy, civil liberties, and social justice. Democratic socialists believe that by implementing a democratically-run, planned economy, we can ensure that all citizens have access to the basic necessities of life, such as healthcare, education, housing, and transportation. In practice, Democratic Socialism advocates using the power of the state to create a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources, while also promoting individual autonomy and freedom. This can include progressive taxation, public ownership of industries, and government regulation of markets. Additionally, programs such as universal healthcare, a minimum wage, and subsidized housing are often championed by democratic socialists. Democratic Socialism is often contrasted with authoritarian socialism, which seeks to impose a more rigid control over the economy and society. Democratic socialism is more reform-minded, favoring democratic processes and the rule of law, while also seeking to reduce economic inequality and promote social justice. By embracing both the principles of democracy and the economic theory of socialism, democratic socialists strive to create a more equitable and just society.


Definition and meaning of DINO: DINO stands for “Democrat in Name Only.” It is a term used to describe a politician who affiliates with the Democratic Party, but whose policy positions and voting record often align more closely with those of the Republican Party. Examples of DINO politicians include those who oppose abortion rights, advocate for deregulation of businesses, and vote in favor of tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy. The term “DINO” is often used pejoratively to describe politicians who are seen as not authentically representing Democratic values and principles. This term is especially relevant in the current political climate, as the Democratic Party is increasingly advocating for progressive reforms, such as universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, and strong climate action. DINO politicians are often seen as a barrier to implementing much-needed reforms, as they are unwilling to support progressive legislation. As a result, these politicians are often criticized by progressive activists and organizations, who argue that they do not reflect the values of the Democratic Party.

Direct Democracy

Definition and meaning of direct democracy: Direct democracy is a political system in which citizens have the ability to make policy decisions and laws directly, rather than through elected representatives. This can take the form of citizen-initiated referendums, where citizens can propose and vote on laws, or citizen-initiated recalls, where citizens can vote to remove elected officials from office. Direct democracy is based on the principle of giving citizens a direct say in the decision-making process and allowing them to hold their elected officials accountable.

In some states and municipalities, direct democracy is utilized through the use of citizen initiatives and referendums. For example, in California, citizens can gather signatures to put a proposed law on the ballot for a public vote, and in Colorado, citizens can petition to recall a state official.

However, not all states and municipalities have such systems in place. In some places, the process of citizen initiatives and referendums can be difficult and costly, and may not be available to all citizens. Furthermore, some states and municipalities may have laws and regulations in place that limit citizens' ability to participate in direct democracy.

While direct democracy can be a powerful tool for holding elected officials accountable, it is important to consider the potential impact of this system on the political process. It is essential to ensure that the process of citizen initiatives and referendums is accessible and fair for all citizens, and that the system is not used to undermine the rights and representation of marginalized groups. Furthermore, the use of direct democracy can increase the participation of citizens in the decision-making process, and also support the rise of independent and third party candidates for office, as they are not bounded by party lines and can present their views to the public through a direct vote.

Direct Primary

Definition and meaning of direct primary: A direct primary is a part of the election process where the voters select their party's nominees for public office directly, rather than through the traditional party-controlled nominating process. The direct primary is widely seen as a way to give more power to the voters and to reduce the influence of political parties. This system has been used in many states in the United States, and has been especially successful in promoting independent candidates and challenging the power of the two-party system. The direct primary system allows voters to select their party's nominees without interference from party leaders. This allows candidates to be chosen based on their individual merits, rather than on their ability to win the support of political party insiders. It also gives voters the opportunity to support candidates aligned with their own beliefs, rather than those supported by their party. This has been used to great effect in states such as California, where independent candidates have been able to win elections and gain a foothold in the political process. In conclusion, the direct primary system is a powerful tool for empowering voters and increasing competition in the political system. It has been used to great effect in some states, and is increasingly seen as a way to challenge the power of the two-party system.


Definition and meaning of disenfranchise: To disenfranchise is to take away the rights of citizens to vote, participate in government decisions and exercise their constitutional rights. This can occur in a variety of ways, including through direct legislation that prevents individuals from voting, or through poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures that create barriers to voting. Disenfranchisement is a form of political suppression and inequality, and it is often used to prevent minority communities, particularly those of people of color, from having an equal voice in government. Examples of disenfranchisement include the passage of voter ID laws in multiple states that have been found to disproportionately affect communities of color, or the passing of laws that limit early or absentee voting in the middle of a pandemic. Disenfranchisement is an issue that reform-minded individuals and organizations are working to address and eliminate.

District Attorney

Definition and meaning of district attorney: A district attorney is an elected or appointed public official who is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases brought by a local government entity. The district attorney is typically the highest-ranking law enforcement official at the county or state level, and is the only person who has the legal authority to prosecute criminal acts in the area of their jurisdiction.

District attorneys are typically elected in partisan elections. However, reformers are advocating for more independent candidates and an end to the two-party system. District attorneys are independent public officials whose goal is to ensure that justice is served by prosecuting those who have committed criminal acts. They are responsible for making sure that all evidence is collected, that proper procedures are followed, and that justice is served in a fair and impartial manner. District attorneys are also responsible for providing legal advice to law enforcement officials, victims, witnesses, and other parties involved in criminal cases. District attorneys may also be called upon to provide legal advice to local governments and community organizations.

District Lines

Definition and meaning of district lines: District lines refer to the boundaries that are drawn to divide a state or municipality into electoral districts. These districts are used to determine the areas in which candidates will run for office, and the voters who will be represented by those candidates. District lines are often drawn by state legislatures or independent commissions, and are used to determine the number of representatives a state or municipality will have in the United States House of Representatives, as well as the boundaries of state legislative districts.

In some states and municipalities, district lines are drawn in a way that is intended to be fair and impartial. For example, in California, a 14-member commission is responsible for drawing the district lines, with the goal of creating districts that are geographically compact, respect communities of interest, and avoid diluting the voting power of any particular group.

However, in other states and municipalities, district lines may be drawn in a way that is intended to benefit one political party or group over another. This process is known as gerrymandering, and it can be used to create districts that are heavily skewed in favor of one party, making it difficult for candidates from other parties to win elections.

Gerrymandering can have a significant impact on the political process and representation, as it can lead to a system where a small number of voters hold disproportionate power and representation while others are left marginalized. Therefore, it is essential to consider the need for redistricting reform in order to ensure fair and transparent political process. Furthermore, the use of independent commissions or mathematical algorithms in drawing district lines may prevent gerrymandering, and therefore help to increase the competition and representation of different political views in the government.

Divided Government

Definition and meaning of divided government: Divided government refers to a situation where different political parties control different branches of government. For example, if one party controls the White House and another party controls Congress, then the government is considered to be "divided."

Divided government can lead to gridlock and political stagnation, as the two parties may be unable to agree on key issues and pass legislation. It can also create a situation where one party is able to block the initiatives of the other, which can make it difficult for the government to effectively address the needs and concerns of the public.

Divided government could be an opportunity to break the stranglehold of the two major parties and create a more open and inclusive political system. By providing more choices and competition, independent and third party candidates can help to bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the table and challenge the status quo.

According to the Congressional Research Service, divided government has been relatively common in the United States over the past several decades. For example, between 1981 and 2012, the President and Congress were from different parties for a total of 26 years. This suggests that there is a significant demand for alternative viewpoints and that the two major parties do not always have a monopoly on power.

By encouraging independent and third party candidates to run for office and by supporting their efforts to participate in the political process, we can create a more diverse and representative democracy that works for everyone.


Definition and meaning of dog-whistle: A dog-whistle is a type of coded language that is used in political discourse in order to appeal to a specific demographic or group of people. It is often used by politicians to send a message to a certain group without being obvious to the general public. Dog-whistling is a form of subtle manipulation that exploits certain emotions and fears in order to gain support among certain demographics. An example of dog-whistling is when a politician speaks about “law and order” in a way that implies that certain members of a marginalized group are more likely to commit crimes. This type of language can be used to not only gain support from a certain demographic, but also to encourage animosity and tension between different groups. Dog-whistling is a form of coded language that is used to exploit certain divisions in society in order to gain political support. It is an insidious form of manipulation and can be damaging to social cohesion and progress. Therefore, it is important for reform-minded citizens to be aware of the tactics used by politicians in order to promote positive social change.


Definition and meaning of donation: A donation is the voluntary transfer of money, goods, or services from one individual or group to another, without expecting anything in return. In a political context, donations are given by individuals or groups to individual political candidates, political action committees (PACs), and other entities to support elections. Donations in US politics have increasingly skewed toward the wealthy coalescing around individual candidates, resulting in wealthy donors having an outsized influence on the priorities of candidates and representatives if elected. Donations are an important part of the political process in the US, as it does take money to run a strong political campaign. However, limits on donations and dark money, or donations to PACs or candidates without knowing where they came form, leave the door open to corruption.

Down Ballot

Definition and meaning of down ballot: Down ballot is the term used to refer to local, state, and national elected offices below the office of the President of the United States. This term is often used to refer to races for congressional and state legislatures, governor races, judicial elections, and other state and local offices. Down-ballot voting is often seen as a critical way for citizens to shape their local and state government, as these races are often less visible than national races. Down-ballot voting is an important way for citizens to express their preferences in terms of local policy, and it also reflects how our democracy works. By voting down-ballot, citizens can express their opinion on issues such as education, healthcare, taxation, and transportation, as well as on the individuals running for office. Additionally, voting down-ballot can help to ensure a more balanced representation in politics, as the two-party system often fails to adequately represent the diverse range of voices that make up our society. By voting down-ballot, citizens can help to ensure that more voices are heard in the political process.


Definition and meaning of duopoly: A duopoly is an oligopoly in which two firms dominate the entire market. It is a situation in which two large political parties, or two powerful individual candidates, have near-total control over the political system, leaving little room for independent candidates or dissenting voices. This type of two-party system is unrepresentative of the diversity of political opinion in a society and can lead to policies that don't reflect the needs of the people.