AP Gov – Political Jargon

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“Inside the Beltway”
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A term that describes something that is more important to those involved in the government than it is to the general population.
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“Above Politics”
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A term used to describe the work of the supreme court, which makes decisions based only on the Constitution and not on the justices’ own political interests.
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pundit
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An expert in some field who is asked to give the people opinions about it through the media.
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Soundbite
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A short clip of an interview or speech that is used in the news that is used to summarize the politician’s opinion, often selected based on the reporter’s bias.
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“rank and file”
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A term used to describe the members of a group or political party that are not the leaders, and just go along with what the group’s opinion.
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Maverick
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someone who often has independent and unorthodox opinions that don’t always align with those of his or her party.
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Partisan
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A term that describes a situation where Democrats and Republicans hold their own opposing ideas and are not open to compromise with their opponents.
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Bipartisan
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A term that describes a situation where the Democrats and Republicans, who usually oppose each other, agree on an issue or piece of legislation.
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Plurality
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In an election with more than two candidates, the plurality is the highest number of votes received by a single candidate, but it is not necessarily the majority of the voters.
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“Swing state”
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A state that does not have a substantial majority of either Republican or Democratic voters, and is often a key state in a Presidential election.
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“Dirty tricks”
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A campaign strategy that is either illegal or unethical that is used to disturb or hurt an opponent’s campaign.
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“Stump speech”
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A speech that is delivered by a political candidate while on the campaign trail.
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Lobbyist
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an intermediary who takes the issues of people or corporations who are complaining about an issue or a specific piece of legislation and communicates them to the relevant official or politician.
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Bandwagon
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the phenomenon where a party, candidate, or movement that has a large following continues to attract more followers based solely on its already substantial popularity.
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Spin
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A method of turning a bad situation around by manipulating the appearance of the situation to create a better image.
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“Boondoggle”
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Something that is financed by the government that appears to have political value, but in reality has a cost that outweighs its benefit and is therefore a waste of money.
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“Red tape”
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the excessive amount of redundant formal rules that must be followed before any official action can actually be implemented.
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Gerrymander
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when the division of a state into districts is manipulated so that the voters of one party are spread out across many districts to achieve a majority while the voters of the other party are concentrated in as few districts as possible.
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Polarization
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the division of opinions on a certain issue between the two extremes, with a very faint moderate voice.
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Lameduck
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a politician, often a President, who is approaching the end of his or her time in office because of term limits, loss of an election, or plans for retirement who is less influential in the political scene but can exercise his or her powers more freely without the fear of losing an election.
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“pork barrel spending”
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the use of government funds for local projects that is used for the purpose of bringing more money to a legislator’s district.
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“Earmarks”
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provisions in a piece of legislation that direct federal funds to specific projects or organizations.
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“Coat tails effect”
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Occurs when a popular candidate is able to win votes not only for himself, but also for other candidates in his party.
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Grassroots
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a political movement that originates on a local level with community activists.
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“on the fence”
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a term describing someone’s neutrality or inability to choose between two sides of an issue.
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Platform
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A candidate’s or a party’s political or legislative plan or agenda.
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“The Hill”
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An informal term for Capitol Hill that is often used to refer to Congress, which works out of the Capitol Building.
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“Bully pulpit”
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a political position visible enough to the public that it allows the holder to advocate his or her political views and be heard, such as the presidency.
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“Logrolling”
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the trade of favors in politics, often seen with members of Congress agreeing to vote for each other’s bills.
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“Bailout”
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A situation when a government or a creditor provides financial assistance to a struggling country or company in the form of a loan.

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