YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
What to know exactly how to pronounce the most important election-related vocabulary? I’ve got you covered!
What’s a flip flopper? A swing state? November 3rd, we have a presidential election here in the United States. The incumbent T rump versus the challenger Biden. Today we’re going to go over vocabulary relating to the United States election and politics, and talk a little bit about how the process works in America. You’ll learn some acronyms, idioms, and terms to help you understand news stories and conversation on this momentous event. As always, if you like this video or you learn something new, please give it a thumbs up and subscribe with notifications, it really helps.
I recently posted to Instagram, what are the vocabulary words you want to know around this topic? Thank you so much to those who posted suggestions!
To start, let’s talk about our two main parties. Now, I don’t mean party like ‘let’s celebrate’, like ‘woohoo!’, a birthday party, or something like that. A party in politics means a formal group of people who identify broadly with the same political beliefs. Party, with a Flap T. Ra– Party. Party.
When you register to vote, in some states, you can register as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Register to vote. What does this mean? Not all countries require you to register to vote but in the US, you can’t just show up and vote without having first registered. It’s a separate process and has to be done days, sometimes weeks before the election, depending on the state. Once you register, you don’t need to register again unless you move, then you’ll have to update your voter registration.
I registered when I was seventeen so I could be ready to vote – the presidential election in 1996 fell on my 18th birthday. 18 is the age at which you can legally vote in the US.
Now, if you’re a citizen of the US, and you’re eligible, I hope you’ve registered to vote. If you haven’t, you may still have time depending on where you live. I will link below to a page that lays it all out by state. And I really encourage everyone, young and old, red and blue, to vote in this election.
We might as well take a minute to talk about the word ‘vote’, that V can be difficult for Spanish speakers. The right position is vvvvvvvv. You want to make sure you can still see some teeth, and you should be able to hold that out. vvvvvvv, vote.
Vote. The two main parties in the US are the Republican party, which is sometimes referred to as the, which stands for Grand Old Party.
We always put stress on the last letter of an acronym. GOP. GOP.
The color red and the elephant represent this party. The color blue and the donkey represent the Democrats.
We do have other parties in the US, and sometimes candidates will run as an independent, that means, not with a party. Independent. Candidate.
We do have other parties in the US. And sometimes, candidates will run as an independent. That means not with the party. Independent. Candidate.
A candidate is the person running for office. Running is the verb we use when you’ve declared, you want to hold a political office, you want to be the mayor or the president, you’re entering the race as they call it. You’re running for president.
The word ‘candidate’ can be pronounced two different ways, it can end in ‘it’, or ‘ate’. Candidate. Candidate.
Now, at the beginning of this video, I said Trump was the incumbent. That means he won last time. He currently holds the office. But he has to run for re-election. He has to win a second term. In the US, the office of the president is a 4-year term, and you can run again, to serve a total of two terms or eight years. Sometimes the incumbent wins, and sometimes, not. In that case, the challenger, the person who is not the incumbent, wins.
The election is what will happen November third. This period before the election is called the campaign. Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase the campaign trail. That means all the trips and visit a candidates will make across the country as they’re campaigning. They hold rallies for supporters where they talk about their vision for the future. They probably hope some people who are still undecided will show up so they can convince them to vote for them.
You’ll also hear the term canvassing. This means people go out, volunteers for the campaign, maybe going door-to-door, that means visiting people’s homes, to talk to them about the issues and the candidates, hoping to convince some of them to vote for a particular candidate.
Also during the campaign, there will be debates with the candidates and moderators, that is, the people who will ask the questions and keep track of things like how long someone has been talking, that kind of thing. And in the debates, they answer questions, they defend their positions, and sometimes, argue over whose ideas are better for America. A candidate might get accused of being a flip-flopper, and no, that has nothing to do with the shoe, if means you’ve changed your position on something, you’ve changed your mind on something, to appeal to voters.
For example, let’s say you were in favor of tax breaks, then later you said you were not in favor, your opponent, the other candidate, might call you a flip-flopper. Now, I myself have sometimes wondered why this is a bad thing? I’ve changed my mind before, and as you grow and experience and research something, learn more about it, it seems natural to me and okay that your views might change and evolve. But this is generally a negative term. A flip flopper.
During the campaigns there are lots of polls. There are reports, ahead of time, of samples of voters. A pollster might call someone and say, “I’m an official pollster, who do you plan on voting for in the election. Polls shows how a candidate is doing and can predict who will win. They can show that there’s a really close race, and it’s hard to tell who’s winning, or, they may show that there is a clear front-runner. This term, again, relating to running and racing. The front-runner is the person who seems to be in the lead, who the polls implied will win. The frontrunner.
How are we doing in the polls? You can see over time how well a candidate is polling. But, we learned in the 2016 election that polls might be less reliable than we think. They often showed Hillary Clinton easily winning, and, of course, she didn’t.
Polls also refer to the places where you vote. “Heading to the polls” means going to vote. We also use the phrase ‘cast your ballot’. This just means vote. Going to the polling station, which is often a school in the US, waiting in line, going into the voting booth, using the voting machine, and casting your ballot.
After you’ve cast your vote, and you’re leaving, someone might ask you how you voted. This is called an exit poll, and it’s used to get an understanding of what will likely happen before all the votes are counted.
The word ‘electorate’ refers to everyone who is eligible to vote. For example, children under 18 are not part of the electorate. But, when it comes to voting, not everyone in the electorate will vote. Some choose not to, some want to but can’t make it, for example, they have to be at work, or they’re needed by their family and they can’t get away. So when we talk about how many people voted, that’s called voter turnout. Did a lot of the electorate vote in this election? That’s high voter turnout. Or maybe not many voted … that’s low voter turnout.
Some states have something called early voting, where some of the polling stations are open weeks in advance of the election and you can go cast your ballot early; you don’t have to wait election day, in this case, November 3rd.
Now, something new is happening this year with the coronavirus. I live in Pennsylvania and before this year, I could not vote by mail unless I was out of state, and that was called an absentee ballot. You could only vote by absentee ballot if you could show you couldn’t be present at the polls to vote in-person. So you would fill it out, turn in the absentee ballot before the election.
But because of the virus, and wanting to avoid contact between people as much as possible, we now have the option for a mail-in ballot. So you can vote by mail-in ballot even if you could potentially go vote in person.
Now, if you show up at the poll to vote on election day, and there is a question about your eligibility, maybe something’s not right with your voter registration, or something like that, then you’ll fill out a provisional ballot, and that just means that vote will only get counted if they can confirm you are allowed to vote.
On November 3rd, we’ll have what’s called the general election. Whoever wins this race will be president. This is different from the primary election, where we voted to choose who would run for each party. For example, Biden won the democratic primary in 2020. And some states have something called a caucus instead of a primary election. So instead of voting and casting a ballot, you go to a big room and you stand somewhere. You stand in the Biden area, or the Warren area, that’s to show that that’s the candidate you choose. A caucus.
After the primary elections, there is a convention held by each party to officially nominate the winner. Each state sends delegates, these are people chosen to vote according to how the people of their state voted. So if Biden won the primary in a particular state, that state’s delegates would vote for Biden at the convention. The Democrats have one called the Democratic National Convention, also called the DNC, and the Republicans have the Republican National Convention, more commonly referred to as the RNC. They name the nominee, and then the real campaigning starts for the general election.
During this time, candidates choose running mates. That is, who will be the vice president? You’ll hear the word ‘ticket’ used here. Ticket means, one vote, but more than one office. That is, with one vote, you vote for the president and vice president. You don’t vote for a vice president separately. So the ticket is whoever is running for president and vice president together.
Now there’s something funky about the general election for the Presidency in the US. We have something called the Electoral College. This has nothing to do with college or university. Basically, each state has a number of votes. That number is determined by the population of the state. For example, Florida has a population of 21.48 people, gets 29 votes in the electoral college.
Idaho, by contrast, has a population of 1.79 million people and 4 votes in the electoral college.
State by state, whichever candidate wins for that state gets all the votes for that state in the electoral college. This is called ‘winner take all’. Let’s say in Florida 10 million people vote. If 5,000,001 people vote for Trump and 4,999,999 vote for Biden, Trump gets all 29 votes for the electoral college. Winner take all. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, will split their votes according to how the people voted.
Now, some states are very reliably red, or republican, and others blue. Those are ‘safe states’. For example, the southern states are generally safe for republicans, they will win there. California is generally safe for democratic presidential nominees, they generally win there.
But there are some states that can go either way. How will they vote in this election? Will they re-elect Trump? Will the elect Biden? These are called battleground states or swing states, and it’s really important to win them because, remember, winner takes all. Whoever wins that state, no matter how many people voted for the other guy, will get all the votes for the electoral college.
So in the final weeks leading up to the election, there will be a lot of campaigning in those states, those battleground or swing states.
And when all the votes come in, and the electoral college votes are distributed, the winner is declared. And because of the electoral college, the winner might not be the person who got the most votes. That’s called the popular vote. And in 2016, Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump. But because of how they were distributed by state, because of the electoral college, Trump won the election.
The same thing happened in 2000. Al Gore got about 500,000 more votes and won the popular vote. But because of how they were distributed by state, and because of the electoral college, Bush won the election and was president for 8 years.
This election will be very interesting to follow because the number of mail-in votes will be higher than in years past, and likely a winner will not be declared on the night of November 3rd. Instead there will be a lot of waiting as all those votes are counted, maybe recounted. The winner may win by a narrow victory, or it might be a landslide. A landslide means win by a lot, and that D will be dropped since it comes after an N before a consonant. Landslide.
I have one last term to go over today and that’s the verb to concede and the noun, a concession speech. Whoever loses the election will concede when he has determined it was fair, all the votes were counted, and he lost. He says, you win. And he’ll give a concession speech, where he’ll thank his supporters, everyone who worked for him, and volunteered, and voted. To see an example of what a concession speech is like, I’ll link to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech from 2016.
I’m very excited to vote in this election, I’ve decided to vote in person here in Philadelphia. And no, I won’t be sharing on social media who I vote for, but I just hope everyone out there who is eligible does make a plan to vote. Know where your polling station is, or if you’re going to vote by mail, know the deadlines. Send it off way in advance. Check with your friends and family, make sure everyone you know has a plan to vote.
If you’re new to Rachel’s English, I make videos on the English language every Tuesday, primarily to help non-native speakers of American English feel more comfortable with, confident, and knowledgeable speaking American English. I also have a bunch of courses in my online school, Rachel’s English Academy, where you can train to take your English communication skills to the next levels, check it out, at Rachel’s English Academy.com. That’s it, thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.