USA elections

The ABC of Americaai??i??s political scene: the Trump days

Narek Mirzoyan

Narek Mirzoyan is from Armenia. He has a Master's degree in Economics. Narek participates actively in trainings and seminars on topics such as migration, conflict transformation, social democracy, peace building, public health, journalism, human rights, etc. His hobbies are travelling, reading, music, cartoons. He enjoys making wine by himself and hopes to own a winery in the future.


The role of youth is vital in politics and it is, therefore, important for youth to have a strong knowledge of politics and this is an ever more important topic when it comes to recent developments, looking ai???across the pondai??? to American politics!

The nature of political parties

A bit of context, familiar to many not involved in the American system: the two major American political parties are the Republicans and the Democrats, each have gone through periods of popularity. The Democratic and Republican parties have dominated for over 150 years. Compared to the 1970s, party organisations today are larger, farther reaching and better financed. American political parties have a number of distinctive characteristics. The parties are permeable, meaning that people are able to join or leave the party ranks freely. Many people consider the two-party system as a uniquely American phenomenon. Some academics argue that this acceptance of the two-party norm is a desire to maintain a stable democratic political system. Having too many parties can destabilise the system by confusing voters and allowing parties who take extreme ideological positions to become more prominent in government. American parties are not mass membership organisations that require people to pay dues if they want to belong to them, which is the case in many European democracies. Instead, party membership is very loosely defined, often by state laws. Parties are umbrella organisations that accommodate labour and business federations, interest groups, racial and ethnic constituencies, and religious organisations. Traditionally, the Democratic Party has been home to trade unions, and the Republican Party has accommodated business interests, although these relationships are not set in stone. The president is the official and symbolic leader of his party. Since the 1990s, presidents have assumed a major responsibility for party fundraising.

Youth engagement in political parties

Parties offer opportunities for youth to take part in political campaigns, advocating on behalf of a policy issue, and even running for office. The experience of involvement with a political party can help people hone their organisational skills, develop as public speakers, and learn how to use media for outreach. Young people traditionally have been somewhat resistant to participation in political parties. They often feel that political parties are targeted more toward older citizens. Yet, active party organisations aimed at young people exist at the national, state, and local levels. The College Democrats and College Republicans have national organisations with local affiliates on campuses. These organisations are integral to the partiesai??i?? voter registration and campaign efforts. They host conferences to give young people a voice in the party. They provide training in campaign techniques, including the use of social media, which instructs young people in how to reach out to their peers so that they can make a difference in elections.

Campaigns and elections

ai???Money is the motherai??i??s milk of politics,ai??? observed the longtime and powerful Californian politician Jesse Unruh. There are six main sources of funding for federal elections. These sources include individuals, political action committees, public funding, candidatesai??i?? contributions to their own campaigns, political party committees and advocacy organisations. Individuals contribute the most to election campaigns (individual donations amounted to $1,330,861 for the 2008 U.S. presidential election cycle). Most campaigns have a strategy to win an election by raising funds, recruiting volunteers, and gaining votes. Campaign strategies take into account votersai??i?? party identification, the candidateai??i??s image, and issues. A candidateai??i??s image consists of their background, experiences, and personal qualities. Campaigns strive to present an image of their candidate that fits the publicai??i??s expectations of the office sought, especially, in comparison with the opponent, who is portrayed as less qualified. Candidates take positions on issues that are designed to increase their chances of elections and, therefore, issues raised during campaigns are often based on votersai??i?? concerns that are identified by polls. The media can make issues a prominent part of the election agenda, which can work for or against a candidate.

Presidential elections

The presidential election is the most prominent American campaign. It lasts the longest and receives far more attention from the media than any other election.

The Constitution requires the president to be a:

  • natural-born US citizen
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  • at least thirty-five years old when taking office
  • resident of the United States for at least fourteen years.

The president and vice president are chosen by the Electoral College, as specified in the Constitution. Voters do not directly elect the president but choose electorsai??i??representatives from their state who meet to select the president and vice president. To win the presidency, a candidate must obtain a majority of the electors, at least 270 out of the total 538. It is possible to win the election without winning the popular vote, as Donald Trump did even though he won fewer votes than Hillary Clinton.

Young people taking part in campaigns and elections

One of the primary goals of American civic education is to prepare young people to take part in elections. Traditionally, this involves studying the democratic principles underlying elections, learning how the electoral process works, registering to vote and locating a polling place, and acquiring the basic skills necessary to follow campaigns through mainstream media. All of these things are fundamental precursors to exercising the right to vote. In the current era, civic education also needs to take into account the new ways that people are engaging in elections. The next generation of voters should be schooled in how social media and other digital tools can be used in campaigns.Ai??. Young people have been effective in developing new media election applications. They have innovated with established formats, such as campaign websites and blogs, to produce content that is more appealing to younger voters.

50% of eligible young people ai??i?? about 24 million youth, aged 18-29 – voted in the 2016 general election. 55% of young people voted for Hillary Clinton, while 37% supported Donald Trump. The remaining 8% of youth voted for a third-party candidate or did not cast a ballot for president.

Turnout rates: Age

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So, youth voting matters because of the following points:

  • Voting is habit-forming ai??i?? when young people vote, they are more likely to do so when they are older
  • Young people are a major subset of the electorate and their voices matter
  • Young peopleai??i??s participation can influence election results
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  • Election results have impact on the young peopleai??i??s household.

Narek Mirzoyan

Narek Mirzoyan is from Armenia. He has a Master's degree in Economics. Narek participates actively in trainings and seminars on topics such as migration, conflict transformation, social democracy, peace building, public health, journalism, human rights, etc. His hobbies are travelling, reading, music, cartoons. He enjoys making wine by himself and hopes to own a winery in the future.

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