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.


Definition and meaning of paleoconservatism: Paleoconservatism is a political ideology that emerged in the mid-1980s in response to what was perceived as the dominance of the Republican and Democratic parties in American politics. It is a branch of conservatism that is based on the principles of states' rights, traditional values, and an aversion to foreign entanglements. Paleoconservatism emphasizes the preservation of the nation's traditional culture and values, which are seen as being threatened by an increasingly globalized and cosmopolitan world. It is often associated with a more isolationist foreign policy, and a distrust of international organizations.


Definition and meaning of parish: The term “parish” is sometimes used to describe ecclesiastical divisions, due to its association with church territories. However, in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, the term “parish” can also refer to secular municipal entities. 

In the United States, the term "parish" is usually associated with the state of Louisiana. Unlike other states that use "counties" as their primary administrative divisions, Louisiana uses the term "parishes," a legacy of its French and Spanish colonial history. Functionally, parishes in Louisiana serve a similar role as counties elsewhere, being responsible for local governance, law enforcement, and other administrative duties.

Parliamentary Democracy

Definition and meaning of Parliamentary Democracy: Parliamentary democracy is a form of government in which representatives are elected by the people to make decisions on their behalf. This type of democracy is based on the principle of majority rule, meaning that the majority of voters will determine the outcome of policy decisions. Parliamentary democracy also allows for minority representation, as each elected representative represents a constituency and is accountable to their constituents. This type of democracy includes both the executive and legislative branches, which work together to ensure the will of the people is respected. Examples of parliamentary democracies include the United Kingdom and Canada. Parliamentary democracy allows the people to have a say in the decisions which will affect their lives, and ensures minority representation. It also provides a platform for debate and encourages compromise, thus allowing for the creation of strong, lasting policies. By providing a forum for debate and discussion, parliamentary democracy allows for the consideration of multiple perspectives and encourages the development of creative solutions. This form of government is designed to ensure that the needs of all individuals are met, regardless of their political affiliation.

Partisan Journalism

Definition and meaning of partisan journalism: Partisan journalism is an approach to reporting news, events and stories that is biased and driven by a political viewpoint. It is often characterized by an adherence to a certain ideology or party line and the presentation of information in a way that favors one political opinion over another. Examples of partisan journalism can range from news outlets that only present stories from a single perspective to publications that present stories from multiple perspectives, but with a clear bias towards one political viewpoint. Reform-minded journalists strive to present a balanced and fair view of the news while avoiding partisan journalism, which can lead to decreased public trust in media outlets.

Party Platform

Definition and meaning of party platform: A party platform is an official statement of a political party's values, principles, and proposed policies. It is a document that outlines the party's stance on various issues, from economic and social policy to foreign affairs and defense policy. Party platforms are subject to change over time, and are typically created and ratified at the political party's national convention. The primary purpose of a party platform is to provide a point of reference for voters to understand the party's positions and values. Generally, party platforms are quite detailed, often containing specific language regarding the party's positions on matters such as taxation, immigration, education, healthcare, and civil rights.

For example, the platforms of the Democratic Party and Libertarian Party reveal the key differences and similarities between the two parties' policy priorities and political philosophies. The two parties' platforms differ in their approaches to the role of government, economic policy, and foreign policy. They are more closely aligned in their approach to certain social and cultural issues. Click here to read a more in-depth analysis of these two parties' platforms.

Two other significant purposes of party platforms are:

  • Policy Direction: Party platforms give elected officials a policy framework to guide their executive and legislative decisions. This sets partisan politicians apart from independent politicians, who are free to build their own campaign platforms.

  • Party Identity: Party platforms help to distinguish one political party from another. These documents give parties an opportunity to highlight the positions and values that make them stand out from their competitors.

Party platforms are a vital component of political discourse, offering a window into the values and policies that guide political parties. By understanding party platforms, voters can make informed decisions that shape the direction of their communities and country.

Party Polarization

Definition and meaning of party polarization: Party polarization, also called partisan polarization, refers to the growing ideological distance and political divergence between major political parties. This phrase typically surfaces in the context of a two-party system like that of the United States. This phenomenon manifests in increasingly distinct and opposing political stances, leading to a marked division in policy and ideology between political parties.

Historically, party polarization has ebbed and flowed. In the United States, the post-World War II era saw relatively moderate levels of polarization. However, since the late 20th century, there has been a significant increase in polarization, with the Republican and Democratic parties becoming more ideologically homogenous and distinct from one another.

Key characteristics of party polarization include:

  1. Ideological Homogeneity: Within each party, members share increasingly similar beliefs and policy preferences, leaving less room for moderates or cross-party collaboration.

  2. Increased Partisan Antagonism: Heightened antagonism and distrust between parties often result in political gridlock, as compromise becomes less politically palatable.

  3. Policy Implications: Polarization can lead to more extreme policy positions, as parties cater to their base rather than seeking middle ground.

  4. Voter Alignment: Voters often align more strictly with their party's platform, reducing the number of swing voters and increasing the predictability of voting patterns based on party affiliation.

Several factors contribute to party polarization, including:

  1. Media Influence: The rise of partisan media outlets and social media echo chambers amplifies ideological divisions, reinforcing and exacerbating polarization.

  2. Gerrymandering: Redistricting to create safe seats for particular political parties can reduce the incentive for moderation, as politicians cater to their base rather than a broader constituency.

  3. Primary Elections: Primary elections often favor more extreme candidates, as they tend to mobilize the most ideologically committed voters of each party.

  4. Cultural and Demographic Changes: Shifts in societal values and demographic composition can deepen divisions on issues like immigration, race, and climate change.

The impact of party polarization is multifaceted, affecting governance, policy-making, and the fabric of society. Increased polarization can lead to legislative gridlock, the erosion of democratic norms and institutions, and worsening social divisions.

Overall, party polarization presents a significant challenge to democratic governance, requiring a multi-faceted approach to foster a more collaborative and less divided political landscape. Recognizing and addressing the underlying causes of polarization is crucial for ensuring effective governance and maintaining the health of democratic institutions.


Definition and meaning of patronage: Patronage in politics refers to the practice of rewarding loyal supporters of a political party or candidate with government jobs, appointments, contracts, or other favors. While patronage can sometimes be seen as a way to ensure that competent, trustworthy individuals come to occupy positions of power, it can often lead to nepotism, cronyism, and corruption.

Patronage differs from merit-based systems, where appointments and promotions are based on skills, experience, and performance. The patronage system can undermine the principles of fair play and equal opportunity by creating an environment where public positions are seen as rewards for political support rather than as responsibilities to serve the public.

Traditionally, patronage has played a significant role in the political landscape. Throughout American history, political victories have often resulted in the distribution of government positions to supporters, friends, and allies of the winning candidate. The Constitution, in Article 2, vests the President with the power of appointment, an ability that has been both celebrated and criticized over the centuries.

During the era of "Jacksonian Democracy" in the early 19th century, President Andrew Jackson championed the spoils system. He argued that government positions should rotate among the people to prevent the establishment of a disconnected bureaucratic class. This period marked the proliferation of patronage, emphasizing loyalty over expertise.

However, the assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881 by a disgruntled office seeker catalyzed the push for reform, culminating in the Pendleton Act of 1883. This act marked the beginning of the current merit-based system. It significantly reduced the scope of patronage by instituting competitive exams and promoting appointments based on competence, not loyalty or favoritism.

Overall, patronage can lead to a cyclical pattern of corruption and inefficiency, as it creates a political culture where positions of power and influence are traded for political support, often sidelining the actual needs and concerns of the people.

Efforts to combat the negative aspects of political patronage involve several key strategies:

  1. Implementing Merit-based Systems: Advocating for and establishing systems where public sector jobs and promotions are awarded based on merit, qualifications, and experience rather than political affiliations.

  2. Transparency and Accountability: Promoting transparency in the appointment process and holding public officials accountable for their decisions in appointing individuals to government positions.

  3. Strengthening Institutions: Building robust institutions that can withstand political pressure and maintain independence in their operations and decision-making processes.

  4. Public Awareness and Civic Engagement: Educating the public about the implications of patronage on governance and encouraging civic engagement to demand greater accountability from elected officials.

  5. Legal and Policy Reforms: Introducing and enforcing laws and policies that limit the scope of patronage and ensure fair and equal access to government jobs and resources.

In summary, while patronage is a deeply rooted aspect of traditional political practices, its propensity to encourage corruption and inefficiency makes it a target for reform in the pursuit of transparent, accountable, and equitable governance.

Peace and Freedom Party

Definition and meaning of Peace and Freedom Party: The Peace and Freedom Party is a left-wing political party in the United States that was founded in 1967. It is focused on non-interventionism, civil liberties, economic justice, and social justice. The Peace and Freedom Party advocates for independent candidates, works to eliminate the two-party system, and seeks to create a new system of government based on the principles of equality, justice, and democracy.

The Peace and Freedom Party is committed to emancipating all people from all forms of oppression, whether that oppression is based on race, gender, class, or sexual orientation. The Party works to achieve these goals through the promotion of peace, freedom, and social justice. The Peace and Freedom Party also seeks to end war and militarism, promote a living wage, end poverty, protect the environment, and create a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural society. The Party works in coalition with other left-wing and progressive political parties, organizations, and movements to advance these goals.

People's Party

Definition and meaning of People's Party: The People's Party is an American political party that was founded in 2017 by Nick Brana. The People's Party advocates for single-payer healthcare, economic revitalization, environmental protection, and an end to political corruption and corporate lobbying. The party also supports the expansion of civil liberties and a reduction in military spending. In 2023, Cornel West initially announced his run for presidency under the banner of the People's Party.

Other American political parties have also been called the People's Party over the past two centuries. Perhaps the most well-known of these parties was the People's Party or Populist Party that existed from 1892 to 1909. This party was a left-wing, agrarian populist party.

Petition Signature Gathering

Definition and meaning of petition signature gathering: Petition signature gathering is the process of collecting signatures from registered voters in order to qualify a candidate or initiative for the ballot. This process is often used by third-party candidates or groups to get their names on the ballot without having to go through the traditional party primary process. It's also used to qualify ballot initiatives, like a state constitutional amendment or a referendum, for a vote of the people.

In the United States, petition signature gathering requirements vary from state to state. Some states require a certain number of signatures, while others have different requirements based on the office or initiative being sought. For example, California requires 6% of the total number of voters from the last election for a candidate to qualify for the ballot, while in Arizona, the requirement is 4% of the total number of registered voters.

The process of petition signature gathering can be both time-consuming and costly. Third-party candidates and groups often have to pay for professional signature gatherers, which can add up quickly. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the average cost of gathering enough signatures to qualify for the ballot is around $1 per signature. This means that it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to qualify for the ballot in some states.

Despite the challenges, petition signature gathering is an important tool for ensuring a more representative democracy. It gives voters more choice, and allows candidates and groups who may not have the support of the major parties to still have a chance to be on the ballot. It also gives voters more direct control over the political process, as they are able to vote on initiatives that would not have otherwise qualified for the ballot.

In summary, petition signature gathering is the process of collecting signatures from registered voters in order to qualify a candidate or initiative for the ballot. It's used by third-party candidates or groups to get their names on the ballot without having to go through the traditional party primary process. It's also used to qualify ballot initiatives, like a state constitutional amendment or a referendum, for a vote of the people. It's an important tool for ensuring a more representative democracy, giving voters more choice and direct control over the political process.

Phone Banking

Definition and meaning of phone banking: Phone banking is a political outreach technique that involves volunteers or campaign staff making direct phone calls to potential voters, donors, or other targeted individuals. Its roots can be traced back to the days before the digital era when face-to-face canvassing and direct mail were the primary modes of reaching voters. In this way, phone banking can be considered a traditional voter outreach strategy. The advent of digital communication expanded the campaigners’ toolkits, offering a personal, efficient, and cost-effective method of connecting. However, phone banking still remains a valuable tactic.

The purposes of phone banking are manifold. At its core, phone banking seeks to achieve human-to-human connection. Calls might aim to:

  • Educate and Inform: Sharing details about a candidate's platform, sharing their positions on critical issues, or clarifying any misconceptions about the campaign.

  • Mobilize: Encouraging citizens to vote and express their political opinions.

  • Gauge Voter Sentiment: Collecting data on which issues matter most to voters or determining levels of support for a candidate.

  • Fundraise: Soliciting donations for political campaigns or causes.

Traditionally, phone banking took place in campaign offices with rows of volunteers using landlines and paper lists. Since then, it has evolved. Automated dialing systems can now quickly connect volunteers to potential voters, cloud-based software can manage call lists, and virtual phone banks allow volunteers to participate from anywhere.

However, phone banking is not without challenges. With the rise of telemarketing and robo-calls, there is increased skepticism, and many people are reluctant to engage in unsolicited calls. Caller ID and the declining use of landlines have also made it harder to connect with potential voters.

Yet, in the broader spectrum of campaign strategies, phone banking remains a testament to the power of personal connection. When done authentically and respectfully, phone banking can bridge gaps, foster understanding, and play a pivotal role in the democratic process.


Definition and meaning of pluralism: Pluralism is a political system that recognizes the co-existence of diverse, overlapping, and sometimes competing interests and values. Pluralism emphasizes the idea that individuals and groups from different backgrounds, beliefs, and identities should be able to both voice their opinions, and have their interests represented in the decision-making process. Pluralism allows for differences of opinion and political expression, and values the contributions of multiple viewpoints in decision-making. Examples of pluralism in action include the multi-party system in the United States, which allows different parties to both voice their opinions, and to vie for public office. This system is based on the idea that a diversity of beliefs and values can be represented in a democracy. Another example of pluralism is the concept of minority rights, which recognizes the rights of individuals and groups who may be in the minority in terms of their beliefs, values, or identities. This concept of pluralism allows for the representation of minority viewpoints in the decision-making process, while also allowing for majority rule in certain circumstances. In conclusion, pluralism is a political system or society that recognizes the co-existence of diverse, overlapping, and sometimes competing interests and values. It allows for differences of opinion and political expression, and values the contributions of multiple viewpoints in decision-making. Pluralism is a key component of a reform-minded society, as it allows for the representation of diverse interests and values.


Definition and meaning of plurality: The term plurality refers to the greatest number of votes cast for a single candidate. Plurality is a system of voting that has long been used in the American political system. This system can lead to two-party dominance, as the candidate with the most votes is always the one that wins, regardless of who else may have been running. This system also marginalizes independent candidates, as their vote is spread out and they are unlikely to receive a majority of votes. Plurality is a system that rewards candidates from the two major parties and discourages independent candidates from entering the political process.

Pocket Veto

Definition and meaning of pocket veto: The term pocket veto refers to a situation in which a president, as a means of exercising their power, refuses to sign a bill passed by Congress, preventing the bill from becoming law. The pocket veto is an example of the power of the executive branch, and is an effective way to prevent laws from passing without the president's approval. However, it can be seen as a way that the executive branch can override the authority of Congress and the will of the people.

Policy Laundering

Definition and meaning of policy laundering: Policy laundering describes a situation where a government or a group of governments create or implement policy under the guise of international consensus or as part of an agreement with other nations, thereby bypassing the usual democratic processes. This practice often occurs in contexts where the policy in question might face significant opposition or scrutiny if attempted directly in a domestic setting. It represents a serious challenge to democratic accountability and transparency.

The process of policy laundering typically involves a government introducing or advocating for a policy at an international level – often through international organizations, treaties, or agreements. Once these policies gain international acceptance or become part of an international agreement, the same government then adopts the policy domestically, citing international obligations as the rationale. This strategy can effectively 'launder' the policy through the international system, thereby avoiding the usual public debate, legislative scrutiny, and political processes that would normally accompany significant policy changes at the national level.

One common area where policy laundering occurs is in the realm of internet regulation and surveillance. Governments may advocate for certain standards or regulations at an international level, which, once adopted internationally, are then introduced domestically with the argument that they are necessary to comply with international standards. This allows governments to implement policies that might be unpopular or controversial domestically, under the pretext of adhering to international norms.

Policy laundering has significant implications for democratic governance. It undermines the principles of transparency and accountability, as policies are enacted without proper public debate or legislative scrutiny. This lack of openness can lead to policies that do not reflect the will or the best interests of the populace. It also erodes public trust in government, as citizens see decisions being made in international forums rather than through their elected representatives.

Policy Wonk

Definition and meaning of policy wonk: A policy wonk is a person who takes an excessive interest in the minutiae of political policies and processes. They are often characterized by a deep and passionate engagement with the specifics and technical details of public policy, legislation, and political strategies. Unlike general political enthusiasts or activists, policy wonks are known for their detailed understanding and analysis of policy issues.

Policy wonks can be found in various settings, including in government, think tanks, advocacy groups, and academic institutions. They are typically highly knowledgeable about the intricacies of public policy and are often sought after for their expertise in specific areas such as healthcare, education, or environmental policy. Policy wonks are distinguished by their focus on the specifics of policy, rather than the broader ideological or political aspects of policy.

The role of a policy wonk can vary. In government, they may be involved in drafting legislation, conducting policy analysis, or advising elected officials on policy matters. In academia, they often engage in research and teaching, delving into the complexities of policy formulation and implementation. In think tanks and advocacy groups, policy wonks play a key role in developing policy positions and strategies to influence public policy.

Policy wonks often possess a unique set of skills, including analytical thinking, a keen eye for detail, and the ability to synthesize complex information. They are typically well-versed in data analysis, economics, and the legal aspects of political policy. This expertise enables them to understand the potential impacts of policy decisions and to identify unintended consequences before they arise.

One of the key contributions of policy wonks is their ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice. They can help translate complex policy ideas into actionable plans and provide the necessary detail and depth that policymakers need to make informed decisions. Their work often involves a mix of research, analysis, and advocacy, and they play a crucial role in shaping policies that affect the lives of citizens.

However, policy wonks can also face criticism for being overly focused on minute details at the expense of the bigger picture. Their deep dive into policy minutiae can sometimes lead to a disconnect from the broader political context or public sentiment. Despite this, their contributions remain vital to the formulation of effective and informed public policy.

In conclusion, a policy wonk is not just someone who is interested in politics; they are deeply immersed in the specifics of policy, with a focus on the technical and analytical aspects of political decision-making. Their expertise and analysis are essential in developing policies that are both effective and responsive to the needs of society.

Political Action Committee (PAC)

Definition and meaning of political action committee (PAC): A political action committee is a legal entity organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to influence the outcome of elections, ballot initiatives, or legislation. PACs can be created by individuals, companies, trade unions, and other organizations. They are subject to regulation by the Federal Election Commission.

PACs differ from traditional political parties in that they are not bound to a single candidate or political party, and often promote multiple causes or candidates in a single election. PACs are also different from Super PACs, which are organizations that are not subject to the same regulations and have much more lenient campaign finance rules. PACs are typically used to support a particular candidate or issue by providing independent financial support to their campaigns. Common examples of PACs include independent expenditure-only committees, leadership PACs, and corporate PACs. The proliferation of PACs has led to a shift in the political landscape, allowing for more independent candidates and more independent voices outside of the traditional two-party system.

Political Affiliation

Definition and meaning of political affiliation: A person's political affiliation refers to the political party or organization they identify with or support. Political affiliation can have a powerful effect on a person's political views and behavior. Those who identify with a political party or organization often share similar values and beliefs, and their opinions and decisions are often in line with those of the organization. Political affiliation can also influence the way individuals vote and engage in political activities. For example, someone who identifies as a Republican may be more likely to support policies that are in line with the Republican platform, such as tax cuts, deregulation, and gun rights. Similarly, someone who identifies as a Democrat may be more likely to support policies such as universal healthcare, increased taxes on the wealthy, and gun control. It is important to recognize the power of political affiliation and to consider the potential for independent or third-party candidates to challenge the two-party system. This could open up the political process to a wider range of perspectives and create opportunities for those who may not necessarily agree with the views of the two major parties.

Political Appointees

Definition and meaning of political appointees: Political appointees are the individuals selected by elected officials to serve in positions of public trust based on their political views and beliefs. These appointees are typically chosen to fill high-ranking positions in government, such as cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and directors of federal agencies. Political appointees are often chosen in order to ensure that government policy reflects the interests of the political party in power. Political appointees can be both a positive and a negative influence on government. On the positive side, they can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to policymaking, as well as a commitment to the ideals of their political party. On the other hand, they can lead to partisan politics and favoritism, creating a lack of transparency and accountability. For a more progressive approach, it is important to ensure that political appointees are selected for their qualifications and their commitment to the public good, rather than their political views. This can help to ensure that government policy is based on evidence and facts, rather than on political ideologies. It can also help to ensure that government decisions are made in the best interests of the public, rather than in the interests of the political party in power.

Political Efficacy

Definition and meaning of political efficacy: Political efficacy refers to an individual's belief in their ability to influence the political process. Rooted in the core of democratic values, political efficacy is the confidence a citizen has that their actions—like voting, protesting, or engaging in civic dialogues—can bring about change. This belief can be broken down into two components: internal efficacy, which is a person’s confidence in their personal understanding and abilities to engage in politics; and external efficacy, the belief that the broader system will respond to their efforts. When political efficacy is high, citizens are more likely to participate actively in their democracy. Conversely, a lack of political efficacy, perhaps stemming from perceived corruption, unresponsive representatives, or other barriers, can lead to apathy and disengagement. Efforts to boost political efficacy might include education campaigns, community engagement initiatives, or reforms to make the political process more transparent and accessible.

In the United States, the dysfunction of the two-party system can lead to low political efficacy. Voters may feel that even if they show up to vote on election days, their opinion will not make a real difference in the outcome of the election. Citizens may also feel that they have no effective way to influence the decisions of their representatives. A 2022 study by the Pew Research Center found that 71% of Americans said the political system allows people like them to have no or not much influence on politics. Only 27% of respondents said the political system allows people like them to have a great deal or a fair amount of influence on politics. This low rate of political efficacy can feed into Americans’ disillusionment with politics.

Political Philosophy

Definition and meaning of political philosophy: Political philosophy is a branch of philosophy that deals with questions such as the origin and purpose of the state, the nature of rights, justice, law and liberty. It is a broad field of study that encompasses a range of approaches, including political theory, normative political thought and moral philosophy. In a broad sense, it is concerned with the understanding of how power is distributed and exercised in society, and how it affects the lives of individuals. Political philosophy is the study of how individuals, groups and governments interact with each other, and how their decisions and actions influence the wider society. It seeks to understand the meaning of justice, liberty, equality, and other values that are central to political life.

Political Socialization

Definition and meaning of political socialization: Political socialization is the process by which individuals acquire their political beliefs, values, and opinions. It is a process of learning and internalizing values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with political systems, institutions, and figures. Political socialization is an ongoing process that shapes a person's view of the world, their political opinions, and even their voting behavior.

In the United States, political socialization is often thought of in terms of the two-party system and the way in which individuals are exposed to partisan rhetoric and messaging. However, political socialization is not limited to only the two-party system. It includes a range of experiences, such as family, media, school, religion, and other civic and cultural influences, which shape an individual's view of politics. In an effort to create more independent and informed citizens, it is important to emphasize the importance of political socialization. It is essential for citizens to learn about different political systems, institutions, and figures, and to be exposed to a range of ideas and perspectives. Encouraging the exploration of alternative forms of political expression, such as third-party candidates, and allowing citizens to engage in meaningful dialogue and debate can help to promote a more open and informed political system. Furthermore, it is essential for citizens to be aware of the impact of their political decisions, so that they can be active and engaged in the political process.

Poll Tax

Definition and meaning of poll tax: A poll tax is a monetary fee or a tax levied on individuals in order to be eligible to vote in an election. This practice has been in existence since the 19th century and was disproportionately used to disenfranchise African Americans from voting in the United States. It was only outlawed in 1964, when the 24th amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Poll taxes are seen as a discriminatory measure, as it prevents many low-income citizens from being able to exercise their right to vote. This limits the voices of those who are most likely to be in favor of more progressive policies. As such, the practice of poll taxes is seen as a severe barrier to democracy and should be abolished in order to ensure free and fair elections.


Definition and meaning of polling: Polling is an important tool for reforms and progressive change in American politics. By understanding where the public stands on certain issues and policies, reformers can better understand how to craft messages and design campaigns that will appeal to the public. Additionally, polling can be used to measure the effectiveness of a reformer's efforts, allowing them to adjust their strategy as necessary. Finally, polling can also be used to measure the public's sentiment of a particular political figure or party, providing valuable insight into voting patterns and trends.

Polling Place

Definition and meaning of polling place: A polling place is a location where individuals can cast their votes for candidates in an election. Polling places are often associated with the two-party system, as they are traditionally the only avenues for citizens to express their political preferences. However, as the independent movement continues to grow, more and more polling places are being set up to accommodate independent and third-party candidates. Furthermore, reforms have been made to strengthen the voting process, such as early voting, mail-in ballots, and absentee ballots, to make voting more accessible and secure. Polling places are crucial in upholding democracy and allowing citizens to exercise their right to vote. They provide a safe and confidential space for citizens to make their voice heard on election day.

Popular Sovereignty

Definition and meaning of popular sovereignty: Popular sovereignty is the principle that the authority of a state and its government is created and sustained by the consent of its people, through their elected representatives. Popular sovereignty means that the ultimate source of government power lies with the people.

This principle is enshrined in many democratic constitutions and is a key element in the political philosophy of republicanism. It contrasts sharply with the political systems of monarchies or oligarchies, where power is held by a single ruler or a small group of individuals.

The term "popular sovereignty" comes from the Enlightenment period, and gained prominence in the late 18th century as philosophers and political theorists debated the origins and legitimacy of governmental authority. It played a significant role in the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. In fact, the idea of popular sovereignty was immortalized in the preamble to the Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

In practice, popular sovereignty is exercised through voting and the electoral process, where citizens have the right to choose their representatives and voice their opinions on public policy. It also relates to the concept of majority rule.

In contemporary politics, popular sovereignty underscores the importance of engaging citizens in the political process, advocating for transparent and fair elections, and ensuring that the government's actions reflect the will of the people.

Popular Vote

Definition and meaning of popular vote: The popular vote is a method of selecting political representatives where the choice rests directly in the hands of the citizens. It embodies the principle that the electorate should have the ultimate say in who represents their interests in government.

In the United States, the popular vote is used to decide many local and state-level elections, while the Electoral College is used to determine the outcome of presidential elections. The winner of the Electoral College is not always the same as the winner of the popular vote. For example, in the 2016 general election, Donald Trump became president even though his main opponent Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Donald Trump earned 45.9% of the popular vote, while Hillary Clinton came away with 48% of the popular vote.

There is ongoing debate about whether American presidential elections should be decided by the popular vote. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is one example of a movement to let the popular vote determine the outcome of presidential elections. Supporters of using the popular vote argue that it better reflects the will of the people.

Outside of the United States, many countries use the popular vote to elect national leaders. Here are a few examples:

  • France: France uses a direct popular vote in a two-round electoral system to elect its president.

  • Mexico: Mexico elects its president through a direct popular vote.

  • South Korea: South Korea uses the popular vote to elect its president for a single five-year term.

Note that like France, many countries around the world that use the popular vote to elect national leaders also use a two-round voting system.


Definition and meaning of populism: Populism is a political ideology that emphasizes the rights and interests of the common people. It is often characterized by anti-establishment and anti-elite sentiments, and is often associated with advocating for more independent candidates and the end of the two-party system.

Populism typically manifests through the promotion of policies that benefit the people, such as healthcare reform, increased regulation of corporations, progressive taxation, and the protection of civil rights. Populists also tend to advocate for more direct democracy, such as through initiatives and referendums, as well as greater engagement in the political process by ordinary citizens. Populism has been a powerful force in both the United States and around the world, with movements such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street having a major impact on politics in recent years. In the United States, populism has been a powerful tool for both the Democratic and Republican parties, with both sides using it to advocate for their respective causes. However, populism can also be used to push for more independent candidates and to challenge the two-party system.

Pork Legislation

Definition and meaning of Pork Legislation: Pork legislation is a form of legislation that is funded through government spending but is of dubious public benefit. It is often used to secure political favors from constituents or to reward those who contribute to campaigns. Examples of pork legislation include earmarks, which are amendments to legislation that provide funding for specific projects, and "bridges to nowhere," which are projects that are funded without a clear purpose. Pork legislation is often criticized for being wasteful and for diverting resources away from more pressing needs. Reform-minded individuals and organizations argue that pork legislation should be eliminated, and that government funds should be used for programs that can benefit the public.


Definition and meaning of precinct: A precinct is a geographically defined area in which citizens are allowed to vote in an election. It is used to designate which district or county an individual will be voting in. Precincts help to ensure that government representatives are elected by the people who live in the area, and that everyone’s vote is counted fairly. In addition, precincts can be used to draw boundaries for legislative and congressional districts, and for local government offices. Reform-minded individuals emphasize the importance of precincts in promoting fair elections and a representative government. Precincts allow for a localized approach to elections and government, meaning that citizens can directly participate in their local government and directly elect representatives who understand their needs. This is especially important in areas with a diverse population, as precincts allow for a more equitable distribution of power and resources. Reform-minded individuals also recognize the importance of fair and accurate voting, and believe that precincts are an essential part of ensuring that every citizen's vote is counted.

Primary Election

Definition and meaning of primary election: A primary election is a type of election that determines which candidates will be put forward to represent a political party in a general election. It is a key component of the two-party system, wherein the two major parties in the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties, select candidates to stand in the general election. Primary elections are used to narrow down the field of candidates and allow for a more focused and efficient election process. In most cases, primary elections are open to all registered voters, regardless of their party affiliation. However, some states have closed primary elections, which means that only registered members of a particular party can vote in the primary. As the two-party system has come to dominate American politics, primary elections have become an important part of the electoral process. Primary elections can often determine the outcome of a general election. Reformers have argued that primary elections can be used to open up the political process and increase competition. Open primaries, which allow independent candidates to participate, can give a greater voice to those outside the two-party system. Additionally, by reducing the influence of political parties in the selection of candidates, primary elections can help to create a more representative and competitive electoral system.


Definition and meaning of progressivism: Progressivism is a political ideology that promotes reform. Progressivism is based on the belief that the government should be active in addressing social, economic, and political issues, promoting reform and progress in the public good, rather than relying on the status quo. It supports policies that emphasize economic growth and social justice, such as environmental protection, labor rights, and equal rights for all citizens.

Examples of progressivism include the progressive income tax, minimum wage, Social Security, and Medicare. Progressivism seeks to create a society of greater economic and social equality, with access to education, health care, and other resources for all. It also seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics and to foster a more open and democratic political system. By supporting candidates who are willing to challenge existing power structures and break down the two-party system, progressivism seeks to ensure that all citizens have a fair and equal chance to participate in the political process.

Proportional Representation

Definition and meaning of proportional representation: Proportional representation is a voting system in which the number of seats a political party or group holds in an elected body is roughly proportional to the number of votes they receive. This means that if a party receives 30% of the votes, they will hold roughly 30% of the seats in the elected body. This contrasts with systems such as plurality voting, where the candidate or party with the most votes wins, regardless of whether they have a majority.

Proportional representation is often seen as a way to ensure that all voices are heard and that all voters have a say in the election. This is because it allows for smaller parties and groups to gain representation in an elected body, even if they do not have a majority of the votes. This can lead to a more diverse and representative government.

Examples of proportional representation can be found in countries such as Germany, Italy and Israel. In Germany, for example, the Bundestag (the German parliament) is elected using a mixed system of proportional representation and first-past-the-post. This means that voters cast two votes: one for a candidate in their local constituency and one for a party list. This ensures that small parties and groups are represented in the Bundestag.

In the United States, however, proportional representation is not widely used. The main reason is that the electoral system is based on the winner-takes-all principle, where the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of whether they have a majority. This system tends to favor the two major parties, making it difficult for smaller parties and independent candidates to gain representation.


Definition and meaning of protectionism: Protectionism is an economic policy that seeks to protect domestic industries and businesses from foreign competition. It is often implemented through tariffs, subsidies, or quotas, which are measures that raise the prices of imported goods, provide direct financial assistance to domestic producers, or limit the total quantity of imported goods entering a particular market. Protectionism is often advocated for by politicians and special interest groups in order to protect American jobs and provide economic security.

However, it is widely understood that protectionism can also lead to economic inefficiency, reduce consumer choice, and result in higher prices for goods and services. As such, many reform-minded individuals are advocating for policies that promote economic freedom.

Public Servant

Definition and meaning of public servant: A public servant is an individual employed by government agencies or organizations to perform duties that serve the interests of the general public. Public servants work across various levels of government — local, state, and federal. Their roles can range from elected officials like mayors and senators to career civil servants like teachers, firefighters, social workers, and law enforcement officers. Their primary obligation is to uphold the public's trust by working impartially and diligently to improve the welfare of the community or nation they serve.

Career civil servants are the backbone of government operations, ensuring continuity and the effective delivery of essential services. They bring technical expertise and institutional knowledge to their roles, often working behind the scenes to maintain the social fabric of a functioning democracy.

Elected officials, on the other hand, serve a dual role as policy-makers and representatives of their constituents. They are expected to make decisions that align with the best interests of the public and, ideally, work toward bipartisan solutions for complex problems. They are directly accountable to the citizens who have the power to vote them in or out of office.

In the United States, the concept of public service is deeply rooted in democratic ideals. It's grounded in the belief that governance should be "of the people, by the people, for the people.” Whether they are making laws, responding to emergencies, educating future generations, or administering public programs, public servants play a vital role in sustaining the democratic principles upon which the United States was built.