American Government and Policy Systems

American Interest Groups

It is evident that one person is unlikely to make any difference to the U.S. government processes and politics. Since people’s power is in numbers, political institutions usually respond to a collective voice. That is why there are special organizations called American interest groups, also known as advocacy groups. People who share common interests and concerns unite and try to bring some issues to a broad audience and influence government policies that are able to affect those concerns.

There are two main functions of American interest groups: education and representation. The groups perform the first function by educating both the public and their own members. They have special publications with information about all the latest developments and changes in the problems they try to solve. For example, the League of Women Voters organizes issue forums and debates and provides available information on the positions that candidates take and some ballot measures. This is rather helpful for those who need to stay informed and wants to find all reliable data in one place. The second function is representation; it stems from the reason for creating American interest groups because the most effective way of influencing the public’s opinion and policymaking is collective action.

There are thousands of interest groups, and they may be divided into several types; below are two of them. The largest category includes economic interest groups; they represent big business and labor; for example, the National Association of Manufacturers and Congress of Industrial Organization. Another type is government interest groups, and one of their purposes is to help local and state governments get federal grants. This category includes, for instance, the National Governors Association and the National Conference of Mayors.

The U.S. Dual Court System

The dual court system is a unique judicial structure that employs two independent and separately operating court systems. One of them includes the state courts and operates at the local level, and the other is the federal courts and works at the national level. Both of them are independent of the legislative and executive branches and have different jurisdictions, which define cases that they are constitutionally allowed to consider. The operational structure of the federal court system consists of the U.S. Supreme Court, Federal Courts of Appeals, Federal Bankruptcy Appellate Panels, Federal District Trial Courts, and Special Federal and Military Courts. Structure of the state court system includes State Supreme Courts, State Courts of Appeals, and State Circuit and Municipal Courts.

The cases that fall under the jurisdiction of federal courts have to deal with the interpretation of the American Constitution and some federal laws enacted by Congress. Moreover, the cases that can affect multiple states or involve significant crimes like counterfeiting federal courts, drug smuggling, and human trafficking are handled by federal courts. In addition, those cases that involve disputes between several countries and the U.S. or foreign states or citizens are the responsibility of the federal courts.

As for the state courts, they have to deal with those cases that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the federal courts. For instance, almost all violations of local and state laws, lawsuits that involve parties from the same state, and cases that involve probate disputes, contract law, and family law. Divorces and child custody cases are dealt with by the state courts. This dual court system is rather convenient and smart since the federal laws are free from minor cases and may concentrate on more critical issues.

Agencies Formed by the Federal Government

Federal agencies are particular government organizations created by legislative action or presidential order to take care of practices or industries that require specialized expertise or closer control. The purposes of federal agencies include controlling national security issues, managing the resources, and performing financial oversight of industries. Some of these organizations issue securities like bonds and stocks. For instance, federal agencies that are a real part of the government have bonds that are backed by the full U.S. government’s credit and faith. Those agencies that are set up by Congress but are not quite part of the government issue the government-sponsored enterprise bonds that operate on their own. They include the Federal Home Loan Bank, Federal Farm Credit Banks Funding Corporation, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage. Since these bonds have default and credit risks, their yield is usually higher.

One of the federal agencies is the U.S. Department of State that oversees and implements foreign policy and helps some other American agencies in advancing and protecting the interests of the U.S. throughout the world. Moreover, it provides a number of services to the Americans and foreigners that want to enter the country. These services include overseeing the visa applications’ denial or approval. Another federal agency is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is the Department of Homeland Security’s most substantial law enforcement part. It has to control the performance of the U.S. regulations related to trade customs and immigration, focusing on not letting terrorist weapons and terrorists enter the country.

Political Parties in the U.S.

A political party is a group of people who have the same political positions or share common ideas, interests, and ideology. They field candidates for elections, and their purpose is to get them elected and implement the agenda of the party. There are only two major and powerful political parties in the United States – the Republicans and the Democrats. Among them, there are also smaller ones like the Libertarian, Socialist, the Reform, Constitution, Natural Law, and Green Parties that can field candidates for presidential elections. The influence of the American political parties on the elections is rather significant.

The Democratic Party was created in 1828, and Andrew Jackson became its first President. It was a pro-slavery party, but because of the 1960’s civil rights movement, it started promoting racial equality. The U.S. past presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt were the representatives of the Democratic Party. Generally, it promotes liberalism and is classified as a left-wing party. Its modern liberalism philosophy advocates the welfare state and economic and social equality. It also tries to support government economy’s regulation and interventions like the moves toward equal opportunity and universal health care, affordable college tuitions, support for labor unions, and introduction of social programs.

The Republican Party was created in 1854, and Abraham Lincoln became its first President. It was an anti-slavery party and is identified as conservative. Donald Trump, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Theodore Roosevelt, and some others represented this party. Republicans’ philosophy centers around a capitalist economic system and economic and social independence. Moreover, this party is known for supporting privatized health care, reduction of government intervention in the economy, anti-regulatory policy, and pro-life efforts. Having a multi-party system is important for a country and beneficial for its citizens since they may choose between their candidates and principles.