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Political Terms

A Continuously Updated and Modern Dictionary of U.S. Politics


The following political terms are commonly used, and occasionally misunderstood, in American campaigns and elections.

  • Page 1: 11th Commandment - Executive Privelege
  • Page 2: Filibuster - Super Tuesday
  • 11th Commandment

    The 11th commandment is an unwritten rule in Republican Party politics discouraging public attacks on other Republican political candidates. It reads: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican." Read more ...

    Balanced Budget Amendment

    The proposed balanced budget amendment is a widely debated and elusive attempt to force Congress to limit federal spending to the amount the government takes in every year by amending the U.S. Constitution. The concept is fairly simple. The debate is anything but. Read more ...

    Blue Dog Democrat

    A Blue Dog Democrat is one who is moderate or more conservative in their voting record and political philosophy than other, more liberal, members of their party. The term is said to have originated in the mid-1990s from Democrats in Congress who felt "choked blue by the extremes in both parties." Read more ...

    Brokered Convention

    A brokered convention is a rare event in modern politics in which none of the presidential candidates enters their party’s national convention having won enough delegates secure the nomination on the first ballot. No presidential nominating convention has gone beyond the first round of balloting since 1952. Read more ...

    Buffett Rule

    The Buffett Rule was President Barack Obama's controversial proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, defined by his administration as those who earned more than $1 million a year. The policy would have applied to millionaires who paid a smaller portion of their earnings to the government than did middle-class workers. Read more ...

    Citizens United

    Citizens United is a conservative advocacy group that successfully sued the Federal Election Commission in 2008. The group's name is also commonly used to refer to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the federal government cannot limit corporations from spending money to influence the outcome of elections. Read more ...


    This U.S. Senate rule is used to break a filibuster. Cloture, or Rule 22, is the only formal procedure in Senate parliamentary rules, in fact, that can force an end to the stalling tactic. It allows the Senate to limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours of debate. Read more ...

    Debt Limit

    The federal debt limit is the statutory limit on amount the United States can borrow to fund government operations. The debt limit has been in place since 1917 with the passage of the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917. Read more ...

    Early Voting

    Early voting allows voters to cast their ballots in person before Election Day. The practice is legal in about two-thirds of the United States. Voters in most states that allow early voting do not need to provide a reason to exercise their right to vote. Read more ...


    The term earmark is a derogatory word used to describe an appropriation of taxpayer money for a pet project in a lawmaker's district that does not go through the normal appropriations process. Earmarks are often for research projects, parks, laboratories, academic grants and business contracts. Read more ...

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