The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic comprising forty-eight states, two organized incorporated territories and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The territory of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. The territory of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses several territories and Commonwealths (unincorporated territories) in the Caribbean and Pacific.
The United States is the world's oldest surviving federation. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law". The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.
In the American federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. There is no proportional representation at the federal level, and it is very rare at lower levels.
Local governments directly serve the needs of the people, providing everything from police and fire protection to sanitary codes, health regulations, education, public transportation, and housing. There are three general types of city government: the mayor-council, the commission, and the council-manager. These are the pure forms; many cities have developed a combination of two or three of them.
The federal government is composed of three branches:
- Legislative: The bicameral Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse, and has the power of impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the government. Regardless of population, each of the 50 states has two senators; the 96 senators each serve a six-year term. The terms are staggered so every two years approximately one-third of the Senate is up for election. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms representing the people of a district.
- Executive: The president is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law (subject to Congressional override), and appoints the members of the Cabinet (subject to Senate approval) and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies. The president is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term, and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers, the other being the Vice President of the United States.
- Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the president with Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find unconstitutional. It consists of a chief justice] and eight associate justices who once appointed, have life tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed after.
- Woodrow Wilson (Democratic, 1913-1921)
- Leonard Wood (Republican, 1921-1925)
- Herbert Hoover (Republican, 1925-1933)
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Democratic-Farmer-Labor, 1933-1941)
- Alfred Landon (Democratic-Farmer-Labor, 1941-1945)
- Thomas Dewey (Progressive Conservative, 1945-1949)
- Harry Truman (Democratic-Farmer-Labor, 1949-1953)
- Richard Nixon (Progressive Conservative, 1953-1957)
- Hubert Humphrey (Democratic-Farmer-Labor, 1957-1961)
- Nelson Rockefeller (Progressive Conservative, 1961-1965)
Political parties US
From about 1896 to 1932 the Fourth Party System, was dominated by the Republican and Democratic parties. The economic crisis of 1930, new interest groups, the division of democrats, dissatisfaction of left republicans with the Hoover administration, realignment and chance of voting pattern led to the current Fifth Party System, whose main parties are:
- Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, created by populist, and New Deal Democrats, along progressive republicans. It also had former members of the Farmer-Labor Party, Nonpartisan League and right wing of the Socialist Party.
- Democratic Union Party, formed by Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats), it mainly campaigns and has its stronghold in the Southern states.
- American Liberty League, integrated by the main republican party and anti-New Deal and pro business democrats. It briefly existed between 1936 and 1938 before splitting in the Progressive Conservatives and Libertarians (Freedom and Democracy Party).
- Progressive Conservative Party, it supports center-right (limited state control, healthcare and higher education, social security and labor policies, and budgetary constraints) economic policies, and are culturally liberal.
- Freedom and Democracy Party, more commonly know as Libertarians, are fiscally conservative and socially liberal and against government intervention in economic affairs, and for expansion of personal freedoms.
Minor party, but with some relevance at state and local level are the Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP, 1876), Socialist Party of America (SPA, 1901), National Woman's Party (NWP, 1916), Communist Party USA (CPUSA, 1919) and Hawaiian Freedom Party.