Left Wing : Political jargon for liberal, progressive viewpoint
Right Wing : Jargon meaning a conservative viewpoint
Big Government: A negative term, used mainly by conservatives to describe government programs in areas where they believe government shouldn’t be involved, especially those that spend money on social problems.
Bipartisan: A cooperative effort by two political parties.
Bleeding Heart: A term describing people whose hearts “bleed” with sympathy for the downtrodden; used to criticize liberals who favor government spending for social programs.
Bully Pulpit: The Presidency, when used by the President to inspire or moralize. Whenever the President seeks to rouse the American people, he is said to be speaking from the bully pulpit. When the term first came into use, “bully” was slang for “first rate” or “admirable.”
Campaign: (noun) An organized effort to win an election. (verb) To strive for elected office.
Checks and Balances: The system of dividing power among the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) to prevent any one from having too much power. Each branch has some authority to check the power of the others, thereby maintaining a balance among the three.
Coattails: The power of a popular candidate to gather support for other candidates in his or her party. Winning candidates are said to have coattails when they drag candidates for lower office along with them to victory.
Convention: A national meeting of a political party, where delegates formally elect a party’s nominee.
Dark Horse: A long-shot candidate.
Demagogue: A leader whose impassioned rhetoric appeals to greed, fear, and hatred, and who often spreads lies. Former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (see McCarthyism) is often cited as a classic demagogue.
Fence Mending: What politicians do when they visit their electoral districts to explain an unpopular action. The term originated in 1879, when Ohio Senator John Sherman made a trip home that most people considered a political visit. Sherman insisted, however, that he was home “only to repair my fences.”
Filibuster: An attempt by a Senator or group of Senators to obstruct the passage of a bill, favored by the majority, by talking continuously. Because there is no rule in the Senate over how long a member can speak, a Senator can prevent a bill from coming up for a vote by talking endlessly. Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina set the record in 1957 by speaking for more than 24 hours without stopping.
Fishing Expedition: An investigation with no defined purpose, often by one party seeking damaging information about another. Such inquiries are likened to fishing because they pull up whatever they happen to catch.
Front Burner: Where an issue is placed when it must be dealt with immediately.
Gerrymander: The reorganization of voting districts by the party in power to insure more votes for their candidates. The term originated in 1811, when Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts signed a bill that changed districts to favor the Democrats. The shape of one new district supposedly resembled a salamander, provoking a Boston newspaper editor to say, “Salamander? Call it a Gerrymander!”
Lobby: A group seeking to influence an elected official, or the act of doing so. The term originated in the 17th century, when people waiting to speak with legislators at the English House of Commons waited in a large atrium outside the legislators’ hall, called the lobby.
McCarthyism: The practice of smearing people with baseless accusations. Refers to the tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy, who in the 1950s destroyed the careers of many prominent Americans by branding them Communists.
Pundit: A political analyst, commentator, or columnist who usually works for a newspaper or magazine, or in broadcasting. Derived from a Hindi phrase meaning “learned one.”
Platform: The positions that a party adopts, and stands on, at the beginning of an election campaign.
Political Party: An organization that seeks to achieve political power by electing its members to public office.
Political Suicide: A vote or action that is likely to be so unpopular with voters as to cause a politician’s probable loss in the next election.
Nomination: When a political party chooses its official candidate for a particular office.
Nominee: The candidate chosen by a political party to run for a particular office.
Machine Politics: Politics controlled by a tightly-run organization that stresses discipline and rewards its supporters. Machines are usually found in large cities and are frequently accused of corruption.