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President Richard Nixon seated at his Oval Office desk during a meeting with Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, and Gerald Ford.jpg
Politicians (Kissinger, Nixon, Ford, Haig) in the Oval Office discussing Representative Ford's nomination as the Vice President
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A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected seat in government. Politicians propose, support, and create laws that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in the government.



Nineteenth-century painting by Philipp Foltz depicting the Athenian politician Pericles delivering his famous funeral oration in front of the Assembly. Discurso funebre pericles.PNG
Nineteenth-century painting by Philipp Foltz depicting the Athenian politician Pericles delivering his famous funeral oration in front of the Assembly.

Politicians are people who are politically active, especially in party politics. Political positions range from local governments to state governments to federal governments to international governments. [1] [2] All elected representatives are considered politicians. [3] [4]

Media and rhetoric

Politicians are known for their rhetoric, as in speeches or campaign advertisements. They are especially known for using common themes that allow them to develop their political positions in terms familiar to the voters. [5] Politicians of necessity become expert users of the media. [6] Politicians in the 19th century made heavy use of newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets, as well as posters. [7] In the 20th century, they branched into radio and television, making television commercials the single most expensive part of an election campaign. [8] In the 21st century, they have become increasingly involved with the social media based on the Internet and smartphones. [9]

Rumor has always played a major role in politics, with negative rumors about an opponent typically more effective than positive rumors about one's own side. [10]

Government job and spoils

Once elected, the politician has to deal with government officials and government employees working for him/her. Historically, there has been a subtle conflict between the long-term goals of each side. [11] In patronage-based systems, such as the United States in the 19th century, winning politicians replace the government officials and government employees not protected under the government job rules with their supporters. It was the "spoils system". Government job reform was initiated to eliminate the corruption of government jobs. [12] However, in many less developed countries, the spoils system is in full-scale operation today. [13]

Careers and biographies

Mattozzi and Merlo argue that two main career paths are typically followed by politicians in modern democracies. First, come the career politicians. They are politicians who rule the government sector until retirement. Second, are the "political careerists". These are politicians who gain a reputation for expertise in ruling certain levels of government such as International Governments , Federal Governments, State Governments and Local Governments, then leave politics and start a new business venture making use of their political contacts. [14]

The personal histories of politicians have been frequently studied, as it is presumed that their experiences and characteristics shape their beliefs and behaviors. There are four pathways by which a politician's biography could influence their leadership style and abilities. The first is that biography may influence one's core beliefs, which are used to shape a worldview. The second is that politicians' skills and competence are influenced by personal experience. The areas of skill and competence can define where they devote resources and attention as a leader. The third pathway is that biographical attributes may define and shape political incentives. A leader's previous profession, for example, could be viewed as of higher importance, causing a disproportionate investment of leadership resources to ensure the growth and health of that profession, including former colleagues. Other examples besides profession include the politician's innate characteristics, such as race or gender. The fourth pathway is how a politician's biography affects their public perception, which can, in turn, affect their leadership style. Female politicians, for example, may use different strategies to attract the same level of respect given to male politicians. [15]


Numerous scholars have studied the characteristics of politicians, comparing those at the local and national levels, and comparing the more liberal or the more conservative ones, and comparing the more successful and less successful in terms of elections. [16] In recent years, special attention has focused on the distinctive career path of women politicians. [17] For example, there are studies of the "Supermadre" model in Latin American politics. [18]

Many politicians have the knack to remember thousands of names and faces and recall personal anecdotes about their constituents—it is an advantage in the job, rather like being seven-foot tall for a basketball player. United States Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were renowned for their memories. [19] [20]


Many critics attack politicians for being out of touch with the public. Areas of friction include how politicians speak, which has been described as being overly formal and filled with many euphemistic and metaphorical expressions and commonly perceived as an attempt to "obscure, mislead, and confuse". [21]

In the popular image, politicians are thought of as clueless, selfish, manipulators, liars, incompetents, and corrupt, taking money in exchange for goods or services, rather than working for the general public good. [22] Politicians in many countries are regarded as the "most hated professionals". [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act

The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act is a United States federal law passed by the 47th United States Congress and signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur on January 16, 1883. The act mandates that most positions within the federal government should be awarded on the basis of merit instead of political patronage.

Spoils system Practice where a newly elected political party gives civil service jobs to supporters and cronies

In politics and government, a spoils system is a practice in which a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its supporters, friends (cronyism), and relatives (nepotism) as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a merit system, where offices are awarded on the basis of some measure of merit, independent of political activity.

Political corruption Use of power by government officials for illegitimate private gain

Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials or their network contacts for illegitimate private gain.

Accountability, in terms of ethics and governance, is equated with answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. As in an aspect of governance, it has been central to discussions related to problems in the public sector, nonprofit and private (corporate) and individual contexts. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration, governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences.

Populism Political philosophy that supports needs and desires of "the people" over those of "the elite"

Populism refers to a range of political stances that emphasize the idea of "the people" and often juxtapose this group against "the elite" or "the establishment". The term developed in the late 19th century in connection to the Populist Party and has been applied to various politicians, parties and movements since that time, often derisively by opponents. Within political science and other social sciences, several different definitions of populism have been employed, with some scholars proposing that the term be rejected altogether.

Campaign finance Political vote advocacy funding

Campaign finance, also known as election finance or political donations, refers to the funds raised to promote candidates, political parties, or policy initiatives and referenda. Political parties, charitable organizations, and political action committees are vehicles used for fundraising for political purposes. "Political finance" is also popular terminology, and is used internationally for its comprehensiveness. Political donations can also refer to funds received by political parties from private sources for general administrative purposes.

Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in other social contexts, is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability.

Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations. For instance, this includes appointing "cronies" to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications; this is in contrast to meritocracy, in which appointments are made purely on qualification.

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Second Party System Phase in the development of US electoral politics (1828–1852)

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Third Party System Third phase in the development of electoral politics in the United States, 1856–1892

The Third Party System is a term of periodization used by historians and political scientists to describe the history of political parties in the United States from the 1850s until the 1890s, which featured profound developments in issues of American nationalism, modernization, and race. This period, the later part of which is often termed the Gilded Age, is defined by its contrast with the eras of the Second Party System and the Fourth Party System.

These are the references for further information regarding the history of the Republican Party in the U.S. since 1854.

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This bibliography of Bill Clinton is a selected list of generally available published works about Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States. Further reading is available on Bill Clinton, his presidency and his foreign policy, as well as in the footnotes in those articles.


  1. "politician – Webster's New World College Dictionary". Yourdictionary.com. 21 May 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  2. "politician – Princeton Wordnet dictionary". wordfind.com.
  3. Gaines, Miller, Larry, Roger LeRoy (2012). Criminal Justice in Action. Wadsworth Publishing. p. 152. ISBN   978-1111835576.
  4. Grant, Grant, Donald Lee, Jonathan (2001). The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia. University of Georgia Press. p. 449. ISBN   978-0820323299.
  5. Jonathan Charteris-Black, Politicians and rhetoric: The persuasive power of metaphor (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2005)
  6. Ofer Feldman, Beyond public speech and symbols: Explorations in the rhetoric of politicians and the media (2000).
  7. Robert J. Dinkin, Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices (1989) online
  8. Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Keith Spillett, The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories that Shape the Political World (2014)
  9. Nathaniel G. Pearlman, Margin of Victory: How Technologists Help Politicians Win Elections (2012) online
  10. David Coast and Jo Fox, "Rumour and Politics" History Compass (2015), 13#5 pp. 222–234.
  11. Joel D. Aberbach, Robert D. Putnam, and Bert A. Rockman, eds., Bureaucrats and politicians in western democracies (Harvard University Press, 1981)
  12. David A. Schultz, and Robert Maranto, eds., The politics of civil service reform (1998).
  13. Morris Szeftel, "Political graft and the spoils system in Zambia—the state as a resource in itself." Review of African Political Economy 9.24 (1982): 4–21.
  14. Andrea Mattozzi and Antonio Merlo, "Political careers or career politicians?." Journal of Public Economics 92#3 (2008): 597–608.
  15. Krcmaric, Daniel; Nelson, Stephen C.; Roberts, Andrew (2020). "Studying Leaders and Elites: The Personal Biography Approach". Annual Review of Political Science. 23: 133–151. doi: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-050718-032801 .
  16. Timothy S. Prinz, "The career paths of elected politicians: a review and prospectus." in Shirley Williams and Edward L. Lascher, eds. Ambition and beyond: career paths of American politicians (1993) pp: 11–63.
  17. Elina Haavio-Mannila and Torild Skard, eds. Unfinished Democracy: women in Nordic politics (2013)
  18. Elsa M. Chaney, Supermadre: Women in Politics in Latin America (University of Texas Press, 2014).
  19. Iwan W. Morgan (2010). Assessing George W. Bush's Legacy: The Right Man?. p. 45. ISBN   9780230114333.
  20. James E. Mueller (2008). Tag Teaming the Press: How Bill and Hillary Clinton Work Together to Handle the Media. p. 32. ISBN   9780742563926.
  21. Invitation to Critical Thinking – Page 319, Vincent E. Barry – 2007
  22. 1 2 Arnold J. Heidenheimer and Michael Johnston, eds. Political corruption: Concepts and contexts (2011).

Further reading