The United States is a federal constitutional Republic with a presidential government. It's based in Washington DC.

The President lives in the White House. He is the Head of State and the Head of the Executive.

The American political system is federal, it is based on the principle of sovereignty of each state within a union of all.

Federalism means that:

  • powers like foreign policy, national defence, citizenship and finance, belong to the Federal Government;
  • powers such as education, welfare, health care, transport, police belong to each single State Government;
  • other powers (levying taxes and building roads) are shared by both federal government and state government.
Within each states there are counties, townships, cities and villages. Each with its own elected Local Government which provides local services.

The Costitution

It has been written in 1787 by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and officially adopted by the 13 states which formed the country in 1790.

It's the oldest written constitution still in use.

It'i the supreme law of the United States of America.

It consists of:

  • the preamble: is a brief introductiory statement of the Constitution's fundamental purposes and guiding principles.
  • the seven articles divide government into three separate branches: the legislative branche (bicameral Congress), the executive branch ( led by the President) and the judicial branch (headed by the Supreme Court). They specify the powers and duties of each branch declaring that no institution is dominant.
  • the first 10 amendments (1791) - Bill of Rights: guarantee the specific rights of the individual (freedom of religion, of speech, of the press and of assembly, right to personal liberty, of any person charged with breaking the law to have a speedy public trial with a jury of fellow citizens , to possess and carry arms, protection against excessive or cruel punishment).
  • other amendments: the abolition of slavery (1865); the prohibition of denial of rights because of race (1870); women's suffrage (1920); suffrage for 18 year-olds (1971).
The American Constitution is called "a living document" because amendments can be added to adapt to changing situations.

The Executive power - The President

The white house

The United States have as Head of State and Head of Government a President.

His role is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and he is assisted by a vice-president that assume the responsibility when the president can not fulfill his duties.

He has other responsibilities that he can handle by 4 different powers:

  • Executive powers: with this power the president is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws passed by congress, and after, appoints the head of federal agencies and members of the cabinet. He also has to preparing the USA budget, and he has to control the armed forces.
  • Powers of state: with this power he represents the nation at home and abroad. He can make affairs with other states or appoint ambassadors.
  • Powers related to legislation: in this case the power permits the president to play a major role in initiating legislation, and he has the control of the congress.
  • Judicial powers: the president with this power has some judicial powers and he works with the majority of senate, Supreme Court justices and federal judges.
The president also have an enormous independent agencies, the most famous are: CIA, NASA, Federal Reserves and EPA.

The presidential elections

The requirements to be the President of USA are: natural birth in the United state territory, 14 years lived in the country and 35 years old man/women.

He is elected by the citizens, and his power ends after 4 years unless he gets a re-election and he takes other 4 years of power, but after 2 elections he is out.

Presidential candidates are chosen by their political parties in the month before the general elections, the people choose the elector who will vote for one or other of the presidential candidates (electoral college). Each state has a number of votes in proportion to the population.

To be president a candidate must obtain 270 votes at least. The US president cannot be removed from office before his term, unless particularly case.

The Legislative power - The Congress

The u.s. capitol

The official seat of the Congress is the Capitol, it is composed by the Senate and House of Representatives, both elected by popular vote.

The Senate's power are: to write new laws, to set federal taxes. It is composed by 100 members with a 6 year term, each state elect two senatores. The Senate is presided over by the Vice-president.

Senate Chamber in US Capitol

The House of Representatives is composed by 435 members, assigned on a certain population ratio, in order to serve for a 2 years terms. Their powers are : to overrule presidential vote, approving treaties, declaring war and to impeach The president. The House of Representatives is presided by the Speaker, an elected member.

House of Representatives Chamber in US Capitol

The Judiciary power - The Supreme Court

The supreme court Building

The judicial branch is headed by the US Supreme Court, it's based in Washington DC.

Members of the Court are 9: a president, Chief Justice of the United States, and eight justices, appointed by the President for life with the approval of the Senate.

It interpretes laws according to the Constitution and makes final decisions in legal cases between central and state governments.

The lower Federal Courts hear cases arising out of the Constitution , federal laws, maritime cases, cases involving foreign citizens. Cases come to the Supreme Court on appeal from lower courts.

In the United State since 1800 there have been two major political parties Democratic Party and Republican Party.

They are in deep contrast.

In US is so difficult for a third or a fourth party to make any significant gains and to play on the political scene. However the main reason is to be found in the US electoral system in which the winner takes all without proportional representation.

The Democratic Party was established in 1972. It' s a central left party. Usually they receive support by the working class , african americans and etnic minorities. There are voted especially in the big cities , particularly in the industrial states in north-east and mid-West and the Pacific coast states.

In the 1930s D. President F. D. Roosevelt created the New Deal: a plan to help the poor and to support the economy.

In the 1960s D. President J. F. Kennedy supported the civil rights movement for blacks Americans.

In 2010 D. President B. Obama signed a Bill which improved the health care and extended health insurance.

The Repubblic Party was created in 1854. It is a conservative centre right party Repubblic favour low taxation and polities and promote private business. They support strong military defence and they are against abortion and gay rights. It receives the support with most successful in the West and in the South.

In the 1980s R. President R. Regan reduced taxation and cut many social programmes.

Created By
Sara Giannini

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