Political party – An organization that seeks political power by electing people to office so that its positions and philosophy become public policy.
Nonpartisan election – A local or judicial election in which candidates are not selected or endorsed by political parties and party affiliation is not listed on ballots.
Patronage – The dispensing of government jobs to persons who belong to the winning political party.
Soft money – Money raised in unlimited amounts by political parties for party-building purposes. Now largely illegal except for limited contributions to state or local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Hard money – Political contributions given to a party, candidate, or interest group that are limited in amounts and fully disclosed. Raising such limited funds is harder than raising unlimited funds, hence the term “hard money.”
Independent expenditure – The Supreme Court has ruled that individuals, groups, and parties can spend unlimited amounts in campaigns for or against candidates as long as they operate independently from the candidates. When an individual, group, or party does so, they are making an independent expenditure.
Honeymoon – Period at the beginning of the new president’s term during which the president enjoys generally positive relations with the press and Congress, usually lasting about six months.
Caucus – A meeting of local party members to choose party officials or candidates for public office and to decide the platform.
Party convention – A meeting of party delegates to vote on matters of policy and in some cases to select party candidates for public office.
Direct primary – Election in which voters choose party nominees.
Open primary – Primary election in which any voter, regardless of party, may vote.
Crossover voting – Voting by member of one party for a candidate of another party.
Closed primary – Primary election in which only persons registered in the party holding the primary may vote.
Proportional representation – An election system in which each party running receives the proportion of legislative seats corresponding to its proportion of the vote.
Winner-take-all system – Election system in which the candidate with the most votes wins.
Minor party – A small political party that rises and falls with a charismatic candidate or, if composed of ideologies on the right or left, usually persists over time; also called a third party.
Libertarian party – A minor party that believes in extremely limited government. Libertarians call for a free market system, expanded individual liberties such as drug legalization, and a foreign policy of nonintervention, free trade, and open immigration.
Green party – A minor party dedicated to the environment, social justice, nonviolence, and the foreign policy of nonintervention. Ralph Nader ran as the Green party’s nominee in 2000.
Reform party – A minor party founded by Ross Perot in 1995. It focuses on national government reform, fiscal responsibility, and political accountability. It has recently struggled with internal strife and criticism that it lacks an identity.
Realigning election – An election during periods of expanded suffrage and change in the economy and society that proves to be a turning point, redefining the agenda of politics and the alignment of voters within parties.
Laissez-faire economics – Theory that opposes governmental interference in economic affairs beyond what is necessary to protect life and property.
Keynesian economics – Theory based on the principles of John Maynard Keynes, stating that government spending should increase during business slumps and the curve during booms.
Divided government – Governance divided between the parties, as when one holds the presidency and the other controls one or both houses of Congress.
National party convention – A national meeting of delegates elected in primaries, caucuses, or state conventions who assemble once every four years to nominate candidates for president and vice president, ratify the party platform, elect officers, and adopt rules.
Party registration – The act of declaring party affiliation; required by some states when one registers to vote.
Party identification – An informal and subjective affiliation with a political party that most people acquire in childhood.
Dealignment – Weakening of partisan preferences that points to a rejection of both major parties and a rise in the number of independents.