Let’s learn about the USA political system

The United States is a democracy. But what do Americans mean when they use this word?

Abraham Lincoln, one of the best-loved and most respected American presidents, said that the United States had a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. No one has formulated a better way of describing the principles of the USA political system as Americans understand it. The Constitution, laws and traditions of the United States give the people the right to determine who will be the leader of their nation, who will make the laws, and what the laws will be. The Constitution guarantees individual freedom to all.

The Constitution sets the basic form of government: it has three branches – legislative, executive and judiciary. Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government, is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Congress makes all laws, and each house of Congress has the power to support or reject a bill offered by the other. When they both pass a bill on which they agree, it is sent to the president for his signature. Only after that  bill becomes a law.

The members of the House of Representatives are elected for two years, and one-third of the Senate are elected every two years for six-year terms of office. Each state, regardless of the population, has two senators, while the House of Representatives has more members from more populated states.

The House of Representatives

The president of the USA is elected every four years to a four-year term of office, with no more than two-full terms allowed. The President is the chief executive of the United States and also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The judiciary branch is represented by the Supreme Court and federal courts at the national level.

There is one more very important part of the American political scene – the political parties. Today the United States has two major political parties: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Both these parties have supporters among a wide variety of Americans. There are other smaller parties in the US, but none of them has enough popular support to win a presidential election.

For most Americans, for most of the time, life is peaceful. They do their jobs and enjoy their homes and families, though most of them remain interested in politics. They keep up with the news of what the President or Congress is doing. Some at times may write letters to congressmen or to newspapers expressing their views. Others may be very involved in politics at the local, state or national level. But on the average, however, unless something unusual is taking place, Americans quietly let their political system work.

American parties: the Democratic Party (donkey) and the Republican Party (elephant)

Read the following statements and decide if they are true or false.

  1. Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the USA.
  2. The law-making body of the American government is called the Congress.
  3. The Congress consists of two chambers.
  4. The US President is the head of its military forces.
  5. A bill becomes a law only after it is approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  6. There is equal number of Senators representing each state in the USA.
  7. Presidential elections in the USA are held every five years.
  8. The elected President can serve as long as he wins elections.
  9. The USA nowadays has a two-party political system.
  10. Most Americans trust their government.