• two main political parties: the democrats and the republicans.

    democrats tend to favor less government restrictions on social issues (gay rights, abortion) and more government restrictions on economic issues (more social programs, environmental protection, higher taxes on the wealthy).

    republicans tend to favor more government restrictions on social issues, generally with a religious mindset, and less government restrictions on economic issues (less government programs, low taxes for the wealthy). there is a large segment of the republican party that leans libertarian which wants "government out of people's lives" in all aspects, including social issues.

    our government is split into three branches: legislative, executive, judicial. the framers of the constitution divided power among these branches because they believed power could corrupt, so the branches have checks and balances against each other. this prevents any one branch from gaining too much power.

    the legislative is the united states congress, divided among the house of representatives and the senate. the congress writes the laws and votes on them.

    the executive is the us president and all federal agencies. the president signs the laws and is in charge of making sure they are carried out.

    the judicial is the court system, headed by the us supreme court. the supreme court resolves constitutional issues. every law passed by congress has to point to a specific section in the constitution to be legal. if a law is challenged, the supreme court determines if the law is constitutional or not. they have the final say.