Who am I, and what do I value most? And why?
How can I engage as a member of my local, national, and global community?
This year, millions of people will go to the polls to choose the president. In this module, you will explore the ins and outs of the 2020 presidential election and campaigns by taking on the roles of voter, candidate, and constitutional designer.
By the end of this module, you will be able to...
Identify the candidates for president and where they and their parties stand on important issues
Track the parts of a presidential hopeful's campaign for the White House
Explain the United States' system for electing the president and the reasons behind it
Some useful vocabulary:
Candidate: someone who attempts to win an office through an election.
Representative Democracy: a system of government where ultimate power belongs to the people, who vote for the leaders who make and enforce laws.
Elected official: someone who is voted into office.
Elections: an event where people vote to make a decision, particularly about who will hold a public office.
Office: the role or position of someone who is elected.
Party: an organization of like-minded individuals who work together to make decisions and win elections.
Policy: rules adopted by a government body, like laws or regulation.
Politics: activities related to the government and the power it holds, including running for office, passing laws, and fighting for change.
Presidency: the highest office in the federal government, oversees the functioning of the government and military. The president is also known as the "chief executive" or the "commander in chief."
Transfer of Power: The moment when an elected official hands over an office to another elected official.
Why Elect Our Leaders?
Some leaders are born into a hereditary monarchy. Others are chosen based on their skills or expertise. In representative democracies, leaders are elected. To start, it's helpful to think through why we elect our leaders. Here are three reasons:
- Elections are a means of holding governments accountable.
Elections allow us voters to evaluate the representatives who act on our behalf. If they are governing poorly or ignoring the public, we can vote them out.
- Elections are a way to shape policies.
Because candidates need us voters on their side to win elections, they'll often pursue policies their voters want. Elections can serve as a means to influence politicians' actions.
- Elections help solve disagreements and share power.
In a healthy democracy, no one political party always gets its way. Instead, positions turn over on a regular basis, giving winners a reason to exercise their power carefully and losers a reason to stick around.
There are many other reasons for why we elect our leaders. What other reasons can you think of?
Peaceful Transfers of Power
Defining democracy can be tricky. A central feature of healthy democracies is the peaceful transfer of power between leaders and parties - where one person gives up their office as a result of an election. The transition may be to the opposing party, but the respect for the democratic process results in a peaceful transfer. It is much easier to give up power to an opposing party when you know your party can win power back at another time in the future.