Fact Sheet - US Political System

1. The US System of Government

Separation of power

Executive = The President (government)

Legislature = Congress which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives

Judiciary = The Supreme Court

- All three powers are equally important = balance; all three powers control (= check) one another that is why the whole system is called a System of Checks and Balances.

The President is Head of State and Head of the Executive; he is not a member of Congress. He holds a very strong position; it is difficult to remove him (impeachment).

Legislative Power: divided between Congress and the individual states. Power of Congress restricted to 18 subjects. Controls the President's policies (finances!).

Judiciary: Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional (= controls Congress)


2. Stages of the US election Campaign

A presidential election takes place every four years.

a) primaries - March to June; The parties test their candidates to find the man with the best appeal to the electorate.

b) national party conventions; The two parties (Republicans and Democrats) nominate their candidates for the presidency. In 1992: Democratic National Convention: New York; July; Republican National Convention: Houston, Texas, August.

c) Election Day (popular vote): in November

d) Electoral College meets in December and officially "elects" the new president according to the results of the November elections (= only a formality)

e) Inauguration - January 20; The new President takes the oath of office. He is sworn in by the highest judge of the Supreme Court. The new President delivers a speech: The Inaugural Address (= an outline of his general policy).

 4. Presidential Election results

In 1992: Bill Clinton (Democrat): 42 %; George Bush (Republican): 38 %; Ross Perot (Reform): 17 %

In 1996: Bill Clinton (Democrat): 49 %; Bob Dole (Republican): 41 %; Ross Perot (Reform): 8 %