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U.S. Political System

Wikipedia’s Politics of the United States

Federal presidential constitutional republic

Head of State: Barack Obama

Head of Government: Barack Obama

Two political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, have dominated American politics since the American Civil War, although smaller parties like the Libertarian Party, Green Party, and the Tea Party movement also exist and achieve minor amounts of representation.

There are major differences between the political system of the United States and that of most other developed democracies. These include greater power in the upper house of the legislature, a wider scope of power held by the Supreme Court, the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive, and the dominance of only two main parties.

Third parties have less political influence in the United States than in other developed country democracies.

The modern American political spectrum and the usage of the terms “left–right politics“, “liberalism”, and “conservatism” in the United States differs from the rest of the world. According to American historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (writing in 1956),

“Liberalism in the American usage has little in common with the word as used in the politics of any European country, save possibly Britain”.  (Arthur Schlesinger, 1956)

“What Americans now call conservatism much of the world calls liberalism or neoliberalism.” (Leo Ribuffo, 2011)

Voting system in the U.S.

Wikipedia’s First-past-the-post voting

A first-past-the-post voting system is one in which voters are required to indicate on the ballot the candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives more votes than any other candidate wins.

Wikipedia’s Electoral College of the United States

The United States Electoral College is the institution that elects the President and Vice President of the United States every four years. Citizens of the United States do not directly elect the president or the vice president; instead they elect representatives called “electors”, who usually pledge to vote for particular presidential and vice presidential candidates.

There are currently 538 electors, corresponding to the 435 Representatives and 100 Senators, plus three additional electors from the District of Columbia. The Constitution bars any federal official, elected or appointed, from being an elector.

Except for Maine and Nebraska, all states have chosen electors on a “winner-take-all” basis since the 1880s. That is, each state has all of its electors pledged to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in that state.