Politics, simply put, are used by communities to make decisions on how the community should be run. Politics are about making agreements, and dealing with the ways that our governments make and uphold laws.
The reason we should care about politics is because the decisions that politicians make affect our lives, and the lives of those around us. The decisions made touch upon everything important to us as people - from basic human rights such as freedom of thought and religion, to our environment, our security, and war.
With so much hanging in the balance, it's worth caring about!
The United States is a federal republic, meaning that it is a federation of states with a republican form of government. It has no king, queen or other monarch, and the people are sovereign, or able to choose leaders to represent them.
As a citizen of the United States (or any other free country), by voting you are exercising your right to express your opinion on issues that matter to you and the rest of your country.
How the Electoral College Works
While it's true that the President is elected formally by the Electoral College, it is still important to vote in elections other than presidential elections because local governments affect how larger governments act.
The first and most obvious step in voting is to make sure that you are registered to vote.
To be eligible to vote, you must be a US citizen and be over 18 years old (17 in some states). You can register to vote by mail, in person, or online if your state offers online voter registration. Click here to contact your state election office.
Nearly every state has a registration deadline, so it's important to check what your state's deadline is before an election.
For example: Washington State's registration deadline is 30 days before the election or 15 days before the election if delivered in person to the local voter registration office.
Click here to learn more about Registering to Vote and Voting!
In the United States, the two main political parties are the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. There are many more political parties, such as the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party, but I'll cover the basics of just the main two here:
Most Democrats (but not all) support:
Many support a progressive Income taxes (meaning rich people pay taxes at higher rates than poor people)
Many are Pro-Choice, meaning that they believe women have the right to have an abortion
Many support stem-cell research to cure sickness
Many support same-sex marriage
Many support withdrawing US troops out of Afghanistan
Many support increasing government funding for education and infrastructure
Many support affirmative action to redress discrimination
Many believe that racial and religious profiling is wrong
Many support gun control (meaning that there should be strict rules about who can own guns and where they can use them)
Many support Keynesian Economics
Many believe in global warming/climate change, and want the government to do something about it
Many believe in health care reform, such as universal health care
Many believe that the US should seek energy independence to avoid dealing with repressive regimes
Many believe that the US should be developing renewable energy and efficient vehicles, instead of depending on oil
Many support making college tuition tax deductible.
Many support standardized testing.
Many support free, fair and balanced trade.
Many support a limited missile defense system.
Many support a path for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship
Most Republicans (but not all) support:
Many believe that abortion should be illegal, and that adoption and abstinence are the best alternatives
Many are against gun control laws and support the 2nd Amendment
Many support the death penalty, rather than a life sentence
Many support the United States having a strong military
Many support(ed) the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
Many are against illegal immigration
Many want the government to have less control over the economy
Many want the government to spend less money
Many want taxes to be lowered
Many oppose health care which is run by the government
Many support a school voucher system (the government giving money to parents who send their kids to a private school).
Many support Supply-Side or Trickle-Down Economics.
Many feel that the federal government should have less power over the states.
Many feel that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.
Many support the advancement of women in the military.
Many believe that states should not recognize gay marriages from other states.
Many support voluntary, student-initiated prayer
Many do not support mandatory carbon emissions controls
Many do not support gun licensing.
Many support the United States dominating trade.
I know this is just very basic stuff - and that there are a lot more complex points and issues that I haven't covered -- but that's where you come in. As a voter, it's your duty to know who you're voting for, why you're voting, and what you believe. Part of this is doing some research - learning more about what your favoured politicians are doing and how they're representing themselves - especially because they are meant to be representing you. So if you don't agree with who is representing you, then it's your job to let them know that you aren't happy with the way they've been acting.
Being able to vote is something that not everyone in the world has the chance to do. People have died, and continue to die, fighting for the right to vote - and I'm not just saying that to "guilt trip" you into doing it. Voting is a part of being a free person, so why throw away that right? Especially when there are so many people out there who do not have that right.
I hope that this little journal has been at least somewhat helpful to you, and that you continue to learn more about what politics means for the United States. The presidential election for 2012 is coming up in November, and whoever we pick will represent our country for 4 years. Keep that in mind and do some research on both candidates. Find out what they support, and what they do not support. It's your right, and your duty, to educate yourself and make informed decisions when it comes to politics.
Please, let me know if there is anything that I can add here by leaving a comment and link below!
Political Parties in the United States - Wikipedia Simple
Learn about Elections and Voting
Voting and Elections
Top 5 Reasons YOUth Should Vote
Vote Help: Nonpartisan 2012 Presidential candidate quiz that compares your political opinions with candidates