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Chapter 1: The Study of American Government

There are two major questions about politics: who governs? To what ends?
Four answers have traditionally been given to the question of who governs
- The Marxist—those who control the economic system will control the political one
- The elitist—a few top leaders, not all of them drawn from business, make the key decisions without
reference to popular desires
- The bureaucratic – appointed civil servants run things
- The pluralist – competition among affected interests shapes public policy
To choose among these theories or to develop new ones requires more than describing governmental institutions
and processes. In addition one must examine the kinds of issues that do get taken up by the political system and
how that system resolves them
The distinction between different types of democracies is important. The Framers of the Constitution intended that
America be a representative democracy in which the power to make decisions is determined by means of a free
and competitive struggle for citizens’ votes.

Key Terms
Direct or participatory democracy
Representative democracy

Chapter 2: The Constitution

The Framers of the Constitution sought to create a government capable of protecting both liberty and order. The
solution they chose—one without precedent at that time—was a government that was based on a written
constitution that combined the principles of popular consent, the separation of powers, and federalism.
Popular consent was embodied in the procedure for choosing the House of Representatives but limited by the
indirect election of senators and the electoral college system for selecting the president. Political authority was to
be shared by three branches of government in a manner deliberately intended to produce conflict among these
branches. This conflict, motivated by the self-interest of people occupying each branch, would, it was hoped,
prevent tyranny, even by a popular majority.
Federalism came to mean a system in which both the national and state governments had independent authority.
Allocating powers between the two levels of government and devising means to ensure that neither large nor small
states would dominate the national government required the most delicate compromises at the Philadelphia
convention. The decision to do nothing about slavery was another such compromise.
In the drafting of the Constitution and the struggle over its ratification in the states, the positions people took were
chiefly determined not by their economic interests but by a variety of factors. Among these were profound
differences of opinion over whether the state governments or the national government would be the best protector
of personal liberty.

Key Terms
Articles of Confederation
Constitutional Convention
Shay’s Rebellion
Great Compromise
Judicial Review
Checks and balances
Separation of powers
Federalist papers
Writ of habeas corpus
Bill of attainder
Ex post facto law
Bill of rights
Line-item veto

Chapter 3: Congress and Federalism

States participate actively both in determining national policy and in administering national programs. Moreover,
they reserve to themselves or the localities within them important powers over public services, such as schooling
and law enforcement, and public decisions, such as land-use control, that in unitary systems are dominated by the
national government.
How one evaluates federalism depends in large part on the value one attaches to the competing criteria of equality
and participation. Federalism means that citizens living in different parts of the country will be treated differently,
not only in spending programs, such as welfare, but in legal systems that assign in different places different
penalties to similar offenses or that differentially enforce civil rights laws. But federalism also means that there are
more opportunities for participation in making decisions—in influencing what is taught in the schools and in
deciding where highways and government projects are to be built. Indeed, differences in public policy—that is,
unequal treatment—are in large part the result of participation in decision-making. It is difficult, perhaps impossible,
to have more of one of these values without having less of the other.

Key Terms
Block grants
Unitary system
Confederation or confederal system
Federal system
Federal regime
“necessary and proper” clause
Dual federalism
Municipal corporation or municipality
Special-act charter
Dillon’s rule
Home-rule charter
Special-district governments or authorities
School districts
Police power
Categorical grants
Revenue sharing
Conditions of aid
Second-order devolution
Third-order devolution

Chapter 4: American Political Culture

The American system of government is supported by a political culture that fosters a sense of civic duty, takes
pride in the nation’s constitutional arrangements, and provides support for the exercise of essential civil liberties. In
recent decades mistrust of government officials has increased, and confidence in their responsiveness to popular
feelings has declined.
Although Americans value liberty in both the political system and the economy, they believe equality is important in
the political realm. In economic affairs they wish to see equality of opportunity but accept inequality of results.
Not only is our culture generally supportive of democratic rule, it also has certain distinctive features that make our
way of governing different from what one finds in other democracies. Americans are preoccupied with their rights,
and this fact, combined with a political system that encourages the vigorous exercise of rights and claims, gives to
our political life an adversarial style. We generally do not reach political decisions by consensus, and we often do
not defer to the authority of administrative agencies. American politics, more than that of many other nations, is
shot through at every stage with protracted conflict.

Key Terms
Political culture
Political subculture
Political ideology
Civic duty
Civic competence
Work ethic
Class consciousness
Political efficacy
Internal efficacy
External efficacy

Chapter 5: Public Opinion

“Public opinion” is a slippery notion, partly because there are many publics, with many different opinions, and
partly because opinion on all but relatively simple matters tends to be uninformed, unstable, and sensitive to
different ways of asking poll questions.
Americans are divided by their political ideologies but not along a single liberal-conservative dimension. There are
several kinds of issues on which people may take “liberal” or “conservative” positions, and they often do not take
the same position on all issues.
Political elites are much more likely to display a consistently liberal or consistently conservative ideology. Elites are
important because they have a disproportionate influence on public policy and even an influence on mass opinion
through the dissemination of information and the evocation of political norms.

Key Terms
John Q. Public
Middle America
Silent majority
Social status
Religious tradition
Gender gap
Random sample
Political ideology
Sampling error
Political elite

Chapter 6: Political Participation

The popular view that Americans don’t vote as a result of apathy is not quite right. It is nearer to the truth to say
that we don’t all register to vote and don’t always show up when registered. There are many factors having nothing
to do with apathy that shape our participation rates—age, race, party organization, the barriers of registration, and
popular views about the significance of elections.
Compared to other nations, Americans vote at lower rates but more frequently and for many more offices, so
elections make a bigger difference in the conduct of public affairs here than abroad. We also engage somewhat
more frequently than do persons abroad in various nonelectoral forms of participation.

Key Terms
Voting-age population
Registered voters
Motor-voter law
Literacy test
Poll tax
Grandfather clause
White primary
Australian ballot

Chapter 7: Political Parties

A political party exists in three arenas: among the voters who psychologically identify it, as a grassroots
organization staffed and led by activists, and as a group of elected officials who follow its lead in lawmaking. In this
chapter we have looked at the party primarily as an organization and seen the various forms it takes at the local
level—the machine, the ideological party, the solidary group, the sponsored party, and the personal following.
The spread of the direct primary has made it harder for parties to control who is nominated for elective office, thus
making it harder for the parties to influence the behavior of these people once elected. Delegate selection rules,
especially in the Democratic Delegate selection rules, have helped shift the center of power in the national
nominating convention. Because of the changes in rules, power has moved away from office-holders and party
regulars and toward the move ideological wings of the party.
Minor parties have arisen from time to time, but the only ones that have affected the outcome of presidential
elections have been those that represented a splinter group within one of the major parties. The two-party system
is maintained, and minor parties are discouraged by an election system (winner-take-all, plurality elections) that
makes voters reluctant to waste a vote on a minor party and by the ability of potential minor parties to wield
influence within a major party by means of the primary system.

Key Terms
Political party
Mugwumps or progressives
Critical or realigning periods
Split ticket
Straight ticket
Office-bloc ballot
Party-column ballot
National convention
Congressional campaign committee
National chairman
Political machine
Ideological party
Solidary incentive
Sponsored party
Personal following
Two-party system

Chapter 8: Elections and Campaigns

Today’s political candidates face the problem of creating a temporary organization that can raise money from large
numbers of small donors, mobilize enthusiastic supporters, and win a nomination in a way that will not harm their
ability to appeal to a broader, more diverse constituency in the general election. Campaigning has an uncertain
effect on election outcomes, but election outcomes can have important effects on public policy, especially at those
times—during critical or “realigning” elections, when new voters are coming into the electorate in large numbers,
old party loyalties are weakening, or a major issue is splitting the majority party. Most people vote retrospectively
rather than prospectively.

Key Terms
Political action committee
Sophomore surge
Position issue
Valence issue
General election
Primary election
Closed primary
Open primary
Blanket primary
Runoff primary
Presidential primary
Independent expenditure
Soft money
Prospective voting
Retrospective voting

Chapter 9: Interest Groups

Interest groups in the US are more numerous and more fragmented than those in nations such as Great Britain,
where the political system is more centralized. The goals and tactics of interest groups effect not only the interests
of their members but also the size of the groups, the incentives with which they attract supporters, and the role of
their professional staffs. The chief source of interest group influence is information: public support, money, and the
ability to create “trouble” are also important. The right to lobby is protected by the Constitution, but the tax and
campaign finance laws impose significant restrictions on how money may be used.

Key Terms
Interest group
Solidary incentive
Material incentive
Purposive incentive
Ideological interest groups
Public-interest lobby
Social movement
Political cue

Chapter 10: The Media

Changes in the nature of American politics have been accompanied by—and influenced by—changes in the nature
of the mass media. The rise of strong national political party organizations was facilitated by the emergence of
mass-circulation daily newspapers. Political reform movements depended in part of the development of national
magazines catering to middle-class opinion. The weakening of political parties was accelerated by the ability of
candidates to speak directly to constituents by radio and television.
The role of journalists in a democratic society poses an inevitable dilemma: if they are to serve well their functions
as information gatherer, gatekeeper, scorekeeper, and watchdog, they must be free of government controls. But to
the extent that they are free of such controls, they are also free to act in their own interests, whether political or
economic. In the US a competitive press largely free of government controls has produced both a substantial
diversity of opinion and a general commitment to the goal of fairness in news reporting. The national media are in
general more liberal than local media, but the extent to which a reporter’s beliefs affect reporting varies greatly
with the kind of story—routine, feature, or insider.

Key terms
Sound bite
Equal time rule
Right-of-reply rule
Political editorializing rule
Fairness doctrine
Trial balloon
Loaded language
Selective attention
Routine stories
Feature stories
Insider stories
Adversarial press
Background story

Chapter 11: Congress

Over the last half century or so Congress, especially the House, has evolved through three stages. During the first
stage, lasting from the end of WWI until the early 1960s, the House was dominated by powerful committee
chairmen who controlled the agenda, decided which members would get what services for their constituents, and
tended to follow the leadership of the Speaker. Newer members were expected to be seen but not heard; power
and prominence came only after a long apprenticeship. Congressional staffs were small, and so members dealt with
each other face to face.
The second stage emerged in the early 1970s, in part as the result of trends already under way and in part as a
result of changes in procedures and organization brought about by younger, especially northern, members.
Dissatisfied with southern resistance to civil rights bills and emboldened by a sharp increase in the number of
liberals who had been elected in the Johnson landslide of 1964, the House Democratic caucus adopted rules that
allowed the caucus to select committee chairmen without regard to seniority, dramatically increased the number
and staffs of subcommittees, authorized individual committee members to chose the chairmen of these
subcommittees, ended the ability of chairmen to refuse to call meetings, and made it much harder for those
meetings to be closed to the public. The installation of electronic voting made it easier to require recorded votes,
and so the number of times each member had to go on record rose sharply. The Rules Committee was instructed to
issue more rules that would allow floor amendments.
At the same time, the number of southern Democrats in leadership positions began to decline, and the
conservatism of the remaining ones began to lessen. Moreover, northern and southern Democrats began to vote
together a bit more frequently.
These changes created a House ideally suited to serve the reelection needs of its members. Each representative
could be an individual political entrepreneur, seeking publicity, claiming credit, introducing bills, holding
subcommittee hearings, and assigning staffers to work on constituents’ problems. There was no need to defer to
powerful party leaders or committee chairmen. But because representatives in each party were becoming more
alike ideologically, there was a rise in party voting. Congress became a career attractive to men and women skilled
in these techniques, and these people entered Congress in large numbers. Their skill was manifest in the growth of
the sophomore surge—the increase in their winning percentage during their first reelection campaign.
Even junior members could now make their mark on legislation. In the House more floor amendments were offered
and passed: in the Senate filibusters became more commonplace. Owing to multiple referrals and overlapping
subcommittee jurisdictions, more members could participate in writing bills and overseeing government agencies.
But lurking within the changes that defined the second stage were others, less noticed at the time, that created the
beginnings of a new phase. The third stage was an effort in the House to strengthen and centralize party
leadership. The Speaker acquired the power to appoint a majority of the members of the Rules Committee. That
body, worried by the flood of floor amendments, began issuing more restrictive rules. By the mid-1980s, this had
reached the point where Republicans were complaining that they were being gagged. The Speaker also got control
of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and was given the power to refer bills to several committees
The evolution of the House remains an incomplete story: it is not yet clear whether it will remain in stage two or
find some way of moving decisively into stage three. For now it has elements of both.
Meanwhile the Senate remains as individualistic and decentralized as ever—a place where it has always been
difficult to exercise strong leadership.
Through its members may complain that Congress is collectively weak, to any visitor from abroad it seems
extraordinarily powerful, probably the most powerful legislative body in the world. Congress has always been
jealous of its constitutional independence and authority. Three compelling events led to Congress’s reasserting its
authority: the increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam; the Watergate scandals, which revealed a White House
meddling illegally in the electoral process; and the advent of divided governments—with one party in control of the
presidency and the other in control of Congress.
Claims that Congress became weak as the president grew stronger are a bit overdrawn.

Key Terms
Bicameral legislature
Marginal districts
Safe districts
Conservative coalition
Majority leader
Minority leader
Party polarization
Standing committees
Select committees
Joint committees
Conference committee
Public bill
Private bill
Simple resolution
Concurrent resolution
Joint resolution
Multiple referral
Sequential referral
Discharge petition
Closed rule
Open rule
Restrictive rule
Christmas tree bill
Quorum call
Cloture rule
Voice vote
Division vote
Teller vote
Roll-call vote
Pork-barrel legislation
Franking privilege

Chapter 12: The Presidency

A US president, chosen by the people and with powers derived from a written constitution, has less power than
does a British prime minister, even though the latter depends entirely on the support of his or her party in
Parliament. The separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, the distinguishing feature of
the American system, means that the president must deal with a competitor—Congress—in setting policy and even
in managing executive agencies.
Presidential power, though still sharply limited, has grown from its constitutional origins as a result of congressional
delegation, the increased importance of foreign affairs, and public expectations. But if the president today has more
power, more is also demanded of him. As a result how effective he is depends not on any general grant of authority
but on the nature of the issue that he confronts and the extent to which he can mobilize informal sources of power.
Though the president seemingly controls a vast executive-branch apparatus, in fact he appoints but a small portion
of the officials, and the behavior of even these is often beyond his easy control. Moreover, public support, high at
the beginning of any new presidency, usually declines as the term proceeds. Consequently, each president must
conserve his power, concentrating these scarce resources to deal with a few matters of major importance. Virtually
every president since Franklin Roosevelt has tried to enlarge his ability to manage the executive branch—by
reorganization, by appointing White House aides, by creating specialized staff agencies—but no president has been
satisfied with the results.
The extent to which a president will be weak or powerful will vary with the kind of issue and the circumstances of
the moment.

Key Terms
Divided government
Unified government
Representative democracy
Direct democracy
Pyramid structure
Circular structure
Ad hoc structure
Veto message
Pocket veto
Line-item veto
Trustee approach
Delegate approach
Legislative veto
Lame duck

Chapter 13: The Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is characteristic of almost all aspects of modern life, not simply the government. Government
bureaucracies, however, pose special problems because they are subject to competing sources of political
authority, must function in a constitutional system of divided powers and federalism, have vague goals, and lack
incentive systems that will encourage efficiency. The power of the bureaucracy should be measured by its
discretionary authority, not by the number of its employees or the size of its budget.
War and depression have been the principal sources of bureaucratic growth, aided by important changes in
constitutional interpretation. In the 1930s that permitted Congress to delegate broad grants of authority to
administrative agencies. With only partial success Congress seeks to check or recover those grants by controlling
budgets, personnel, and policy decisions and by the exercise of legislative vetoes. The uses to which bureaucrats
put their authority can be explained in part by their recruitment and security, their personal political views, and the
nature of the tasks that their agencies perform.
Many of the popular solutions for the problems of bureaucratic rule—red tape, duplication, conflict, agency
imperialism, and waste—fail to take into account that these problems are to a degree inherent in any government
that serves competing goals and is supervised by rival elected officials. Nevertheless, some reform efforts have
succeeded in making government work better and cost less to operate.

Key Terms
Spoils system
Discretionary authority
Competitive service
Name-request job
Iron triangle
Issue network
Authorization legislation
Trust funds
Annual authorization
Committee clearance
Legislative veto
Red tape