• there are three branches - executive (president), legislative (senate and house), and judicial (supreme court).

    the house has 435 districts, and you vote for one representative for your district. each state gets the number of districts based on its population compared to the country as a whole - some states only have one, and california has the most - around 50. representatives get 2-year terms.

    the senate every state gets exactly 2 senators, for 100 total. population doesn't matter. senators get 6-year terms, and each state's senators are elected in different years.

    when you vote for the presidency, each state has "electoral votes" equal to the total number of representatives and senators that state has. whoever gets the most votes in your state wins all of the state's electoral votes, and whoever gets the most electoral votes becomes the president. the president gets a 4-year term, and the maximum is two terms.

    laws are passed as follows: the house has to pass it, then it goes to the senate. if the senate passes it, it goes to the president. if the senate doesn't pass it, it goes back to the house for changes, until there is something both houses pass.

    the senate has an unusual rule called the filibuster, where one or more senators who want to block a bill being discussed can just keep talking and talking and not stop to allow a vote on the bill - it takes 60% of the senate to vote to stop a filibuster. so if you have 41% of the senate opposed to a bill, you can effectively block it - this gives the minority party a lot more power than it would normally have.

    once the president gets a bill that has been approved by the house and senate, he can sign it, and it becomes law, or he can veto it, which means that it goes back to the house and senate and it fails unless they both pass it by a 2/3 vote (called "overriding a veto").

    even if the house, senate, and president agree to pass a law, the supreme court can strike the law down if the law violates the constitution.

  • 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.