On today’s episode, we will continue our series focusing on vocabulary to help you understand the US election! With less than two weeks left, there is no better time to learn some new political words!
To compromise (v) – to accept that you will reduce your demands or change your opinion in order to reach an agreement with someone
Well, you want $400 and i say $300, so lets compromise on $350
Psychological (adj) – relating to the human mind and feelings
We are concerned with the physical and psychological well-being of our employees
uncompromisingly (adv) – in a way that is fixed and not changing, even when this may cause difficulties
She was uncompromisingly hostile to him
To drift (v) – to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction
No one notices that the boat had begun to drift out to sea
irrelevant (adj) – not related to what is being discussed or considered and therefore not important
These documents are largely irrelevant to the present investigation
To bear (v) – to have or continue to have something
The stone plaque bearing his name was smashed to pieces
interpretation (n) – an explanation or opinion of what something means
The rules are vague and open to interpretation
To opt (v) – to make a choice, especially of one thing or possibly instead of others
Mike opted for early retirement
To funnel (v) – to send something directly and intentionally
No one knows who has been funneling weapons to the rebels
In today’s episode we will continue our series on American political vocabulary! With less than two weeks to go until the US election, there are now more and more newspaper articles, TV reports, and social media posts focusing on Trump vs Biden. I’d really really encourage all of you to go back and listen to episodes 6 and 9 of Thinking in English if you haven’t already. Even if you have already, it might be useful to review some of the vocabulary we practiced! On this episode we will look at vocabulary which describes people who strongly support political parties (and those who don’t), some of the key issues during US elections, and a few terms surrounding how Presidential candidates pay for their campaigns!
The term partisan is used for politicians who strongly support their party’s policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents. The key word here is strongly. In fact, some people may argue that partisan politics results in supporters and politicians who often offer blind, prejudiced, and unreasoned support for their chosen group. Over the last 50 to sixty years, the meaning of partisan has changed dramatically. While in the past, partisan politicians and voters were measured from their voting behaviour, more recently partisanship is related to voters’ psychological identification with a party, tribe, faction, or ideology. So what does it mean to be partisan? Well, there are a few common traits. For instance always voting for the same party regardless of policies. Or supporting every single policy your chosen party decides on. Especially in the USA, partisan media is increasingly common. You only have to watch 5 or 10 minutes of Fox news or MSNBC to realise that they uncompromisingly support their party, while disagreeing with the other side at all times. Partisan politics is not necessarily bad. But in the USA, a country that only has 2 major political parties, the more partisan the politics becomes, the more difficult it becomes for the Republicans and Democrats to work together.
The opposite of partisan is, unsurprisingly, nonpartisan. Nonpartisan simply means not associated with a particular political party or ideology. Example of a non-partisan democracy is Ancient Athens (the home of democracy). There were no political parties, and instead of voting in line with a party or idea, voters instead voted for what they felt was the most important issue.
So if partisan refers to strong adherence to a political party, and non-partisan refers to non allegiance to a political party, what is Bipartisan? Bipartisan can refer to any political act in which both of the two major political parties agree about all or many parts of a political choice. There have been periods of bipartisanship in American politics, such as when the Republicans supported legislation by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in the early 1960s, and when Democrats worked with Republican President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. However, over the last 4 years there has been little bipartisan cooperation in US politics. The Republicans, and the Democrats have drifted further and further apart in their opinions on important issues such as immigration, tax, healthcare and much more.
A political party platform or program is the formal set of goals which are supported by a political party or individual candidate, in order to appeal to the general public and gain their support and votes about complicated topics or issues. A party platform is sometimes referred to as a manifesto or a political platform. Some famous historical examples of platforms include Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx’s 1848 Communist Manifesto and Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 New Deal. HOwever, Political parties’ platforms get little respect. They are often ignored by both voters and candidates, and sometimes considered irrelevant in modern politics.
Independent voters are voters who do not belong to a political party. They might vote for candidates on issues rather than on the basis of a political ideology or partisanship; they might not have long-standing loyalty to, or identification with, a political party; maybe they do not usually vote for the same political party from election to election; or they self-describe as an independent. According to Gallup, in September 2020 around 40% of American consider themselves to be independent voters. However, the number of independent voters is likely to be inaccurate. This is because many of the people who consider themselves to be independent are not actually nonpartisan. independent in name only but regularly vote with one party.
The key issues in elections change from year to year, and election to election. For instance, this year the current pandemic is a major topic of debate between Biden and Trump. However, there are some key issues which appear every year. While I was studying American politics as a high school student, my school textbook said that the important issues in American politics can be simply stated in the phrase “God, Guns and Gays”. And while the political landscape has changed over the last 10 years, these issues are still very important.
The Second Amendment of the US constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms.
The text reads: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the protection of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Essentially, American’s are allowed by their constitution to own and carry weapons, especially guns. However, the wording is open to interpretation and as a result it has become the focus of debate between supporters and opponents of gun control. Gun control opponents such as the National Rifle Association argue that the amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms free from any form of government control. But supporters of gun control argue the amendment is outdated and only refers to members of a militia (or an armed group of citizens), and say states and municipalities should be able to restrict gun ownership and use.
Abortion rights are always an important issue in US election. The term pro-choice is used for those who support a woman’s right to choose abortion if she so wishes. Supporters argue that the government has no place interfering in what should be a private decision.The Democratic Party has been broadly supportive of the pro-choice movement. President Bill Clinton summed up his party’s stance by saying abortions should be “safe, legal and rare”.
Pro-life is used to describe politicians and pressure groups opposed to abortion or allowing women to opt for abortion. Some American advocates of the pro-life position believe abortion should only be allowed in cases. Others believe that abortion should be ruled out altogether. Abortion is once again a major issue in the 2020 election. In fact, last week President Trump signed an international anti-abortion declaration with group of largely authoritarian governments.
Political Action Committee (Pac):
A Political Action Committee, or PAC, is an organisation formed to promote its members’ views on selected issues, usually by raising money that is used to fund candidates who support the group’s position. Pacs monitor candidates’ voting records and question them on their beliefs on issues of interest to their membership. Because US law restricts the amount of money an individual, corporation or union can give to candidates, Pacs have become an important way of funnelling large funds into the political process and influencing elections. Money is incredibly important in the US election. Compared to a country like the UK where elections last only 6 weeks and funding rules are tightly regulated, in the USA campaigns can last over 2 years. Therefore, PACS have a very important role in US elections!
A SuperPac is a category of independent political action group established by a US Supreme Court decision that is allowed to accept and spend unlimited amounts of corporate, individual or union cash on behalf of a candidate, often without disclosing its sources.
SuperPacs are banned from coordinating their spending – usually on advertising – with the candidates they support, but some say they in essence operate as shadow campaign committees.
Today’s episode has focused on the vocabulary surrounding political support, some key issues, and election money! Is partisan politics common in your country? What are the key issues in your country’s politics? How much money can politicians spend where you live?