A Crash Course on American Politics

Politics is something that affects everyone no matter how much anyone believes that simply not participating shields them from the political process. It’s important to know what is happening on the political side of society, especially with so many elections quickly piling up on the plates of Americans this season. So here’s a basic crash course on politics with today’s relevant players.

We can credit the American political system to the Constitution. It was created in 1787 after the Articles of Confederation failed in terms of representation for all the states as well as taking in revenue for the country which, at the time, was made up of thirteen different colonies-turned-states. But what does this have to do with the political system? The answer to that is simple yet complex at the same time; it outlines the way that the political system should work. The Constitution itself calls for three separate branches of government - The Executive (Presidential), The Judicial (Supreme Court), and the Legislative Branch (Congress/The Senate) - which all check and balance each other to ensure that one branch doesn’t get too powerful. Now that we have the history down, we can go into what actually goes on in the political side of America.

As we can all see just walking around, different faces of many different candidates are splashed across magazines covers and newspapers as well as the media. But who are they, actually? Well, we can start by dividing them into two parties - Democrats and Republicans. These parties have a long history behind them, transforming from Federalists and Anti-Federalists (even switching names at one point) to what they are today which can be a little bit confusing. In simple terms, Democrats believe in change and reform whereas Republicans believe that things should stay the way they have been, instigating change and reform to ensure that things go back to where they were (hence the terms liberal, meaning “open to new behavior and opinions” and conservative, meaning, “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation.”), and, of course, over the course of time these values have changed as the American people and party leaders often do. In most elections there is often a third party who runs as an independent candidate and they can be from a range of parties (popular third parties candidates have often run for parties such as the Green Party, The Bull Moose Party, The Communist Party, etc.).

The next national election is the Presidential Election, but how do we get there? Well, candidates go through a series of smaller elections known as caucuses (local polls for candidates that anyone who is a member of a particular party can vote in), primaries (statewide polls for candidates; there are open primaries in which people can submit their ballots even if they are not affiliated with a particular party and closed primaries in which only people affiliated with the party can submit a ballot for a certain candidate), and national televised debates like the Republican Debate that just recently passed and the Democratic Debate which was on Tuesday Oct. 13th. These are all important in the political process because the candidates get to pitch their ideas for the direction they would like to take America and share their views and Americans across the country get to vote on who they would like to see representing the country even before big elections come around which is one of the many reasons why it’s incredibly important that young people stay up to date on the politics of the country and register to vote so they can vote in such polls as caucuses and primaries as well as national elections.

In the next national election (the Presidential Election of 2016) there are 21 candidates running, 6 Democrats and 15 Republicans, and each of them have merit in their campaigns. To stay up to date on the political race, I recommend reading through the news consistently on websites such as the Huffington Post, the NY Times, Reuters, and CNN or Fox News (but beware and take each article with a grain of salt as those websites are incredibly biased) or even through television news.

A final yet incredibly important note to all of this is that it is vital that each person participates in the political process. Every voice counts, even if you don’t feel as though yours does. It is your country just as much as it is anyone else’s! Make sure that you register to vote and be vigilant of opportunities to exercise that right, be it through local elections for representatives for not only local but national government, as well as national elections!