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American Politics

The United States is a federal constitutional republic. There are three branches of government in federal government of the United States: (1) The executive, (2) the legislative and (3) the judiciary.

(1)This diagram illustrates the functions, roles and limitations of the different branches of government. There is also information on their electoral timetables

The executive branch is headed by the President of the United States (POTUS) and the administration. The POTUS acts as both head of state and head of government.

The legislative branch consists of the United States Congress. This is a bicameral legislature consisting of an elected House of Representatives (lower house) and Senate (upper house).

The judicial branch consists of the United States Supreme Court. Their function is to interpret the United States Constitution and uphold Federal law as constitutionally sound

A theme in the United States current political system is separation and decentralization of powers. This means a separation of both the individuals in power and the responsibilities of power. This fundamental idea of keeping the power of all three branches equal is the basis for US system of checks and balances. No member any of the branches can be members of another. The President cannot govern or spend money without approval of Congress and the Congress cannot legislate without approval of the President. The President appoints Supreme Court justices, but Congress approves them. All congressional action is subject to approval of the Supreme Court by means of judicial review. The fact that no branch can act without acquiescence of the other two branches, along with different electoral timetables illustrates that this is a system designed as an invitation to struggle.

The dominant ideology in the United States consists of classic ‘big L’ liberalism and republicanism. The historical documents that outline the United States’ supposedly timeless principles are the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Constitution (1787), the Bill of Rights (1791) and Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ (1863).The core tenets of the American ideology are the following:

  • Civic duty
  • Democracy
  • Equality before the law
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • Federalism
  • Separation of powers
  • Popular sovereignty

Despite America’s history of political tension with the Revolutionary War, Civil War and secessionists, these are values that have been universally shared by all major American political actors in history.

 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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