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Political Terms Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 20, 2011

Political Terms

In this study guide, you'll learn words about politics. At first, you may consider yourself too young to care about politics if you are too young to vote. However, as you learn the words in this lesson, you'll see that many of these words are useful in your life right now—in school and at home.

Politics. Politics. Politics. No doubt you've gotten tired of hearing people talk politics enthusiastically, sometimes angrily, and always endlessly. What's the big deal? Well, when you stop to think about it, politics is one of the most important topics anyone can discuss. Even you.

Politics is defined as the art or science of governing, especially the activities engaged in by a government, politician, or political party. Simply put, politics is how our country, city, or neighborhood works and what our rights and responsibilities are as citizens. All those details are determined by political decisions within our government.

One of the most famous comments about politics was made by Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., a long-serving congressman from Massachusetts. He said, All politics is local. What he meant is that the big ideas that politicians often talk about aren't what really matters to most people. Instead, the local, right-here-in-our-neighborhood issues are what matter to voters, and therefore should matter to their elected officials.

Even if you're not old enough to vote, are there local issues that matter to you? Are there conditions at your school that you'd like to change? Are local parks open when you and your friends want to use them? Do you wish your neighborhood had a dog park? Do parks need to be cleaned up? These are local issues about which you may have a political opinion.

The following list of words, many used frequently in political conversations, will help you build word power, and maybe even help you influence local political decisions.

Words About Politics

1. caucus. A meeting organized in support of a particular interest, group, or cause. Members of the Green Party met in caucus last month to nominate their candidates.
2. constituent. A part of a whole; a resident in a place represented by an elected official. The congresswoman's constituents demanded that she listen to their complaints.
3. facilitate. To make something happen easily. When groups disagree, they may need a go-between to facilitate an understanding about the differences between them.
4. federal. The central government of a country. The federal government oversees the maintenance of the highways that connect all the states.
5. hierarchy. The arrangement of anything, usually people, in order of rank or importance. The Congress of the United States assigns its members office space based on a hierarchy of seniority; those who have served longest get the nicest offices.
6. ideology. A set of ideas or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or philosophical system. Our country's ideology demands that we treat all people equally; in practice, we don't always live up to our ideals.
7. implement. As a noun, describes an instrument or tool used to perform an activity; as a verb, describes the act of making something happen. As a nation, we often fail to implement the goals we set for ourselves.
8. incentive. Something that motivates or encourages someone to do something, often a reward. During election season, candidates running for office have a strong incentive to please the voters.
9. infrastructure. The basic facilities and services needed for a community or system to function. We depend on the infrastructure of our city, including clean water, electricity, and streets in good condition.
10. legislate. To pass laws or modify existing laws. Women in the United States struggled for decades until finally, in 1920, the federal government passed legislation that gave all women the right to vote.
11. mediate. To resolve differences or to bring about a settlement between conflicting parties. The committee chair often had to mediate between warring groups who refused to modify their opinions.
12. protocol. The customs, regulations, and etiquette that govern a particular situation; or a document or treaty between states. The proper protocol when being introduced to royalty is to bow or curtsy; when meeting elected officials, one waits for the official to extend his or her hand.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Political Terms Practice Exercises

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