IDEOLOGY is a set of interrelated values and beliefs about the nature of man and society held by an individual, group, or society. An ideology helps to interpret reality and is often a guide to action. The ideology of the United States is often referred to as capitalism. This ideology places an emphasis on free markets and individualism. The ideology of the delegates to the Republican National Convention is determined by the delegates' overall position on issues. Some delegates are more conservative than others, determined by their positions on social issues such as abortion and prayer in school. Throughout their history American political parties have not been very ideological when compared to European parties. See:CONSERVATISM; LIBERALISM.
References: Roy C. Macrides, Contemporary Political Ideologies: Movements and Regimes, 2nd ed. ( Boston: Little, Brown, 1983); Iain McLean, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).
INCUMBENT is an individual who holds an office. Incumbents enjoy an electoral advantage because they are able to provide services to constituents. Incumbents are also able to receive press and media attention, which builds up their name identification with the voters. Their opponents are usually less well-known and are unable to seriously challenge the incumbent. Incumbents are able to raise more campaign money, usually from PACs, which prefer to restrict their contributions to incumbents. Incumbent members of the House of Representatives are reelected at the rate of 90%. Incumbents who hold the highest offices, such as governors and U.S. Senators, are slightly more vulnerable because their challengers are often well-known, and are able to raise campaign funds and gain media attention. In some states the incumbent is given the top position on the