Politics in the USA

Politics in the USA

Politics in the USA

Politics in the USA

Synopsis

This introductory text has been thoroughly up-dated to take account of the considerable developments in American politics over the last ten years. The book provides students with: essential background and history of the American political system; an insight into the nature of American politics including the rise of multiculturalism and the influence of the media and religion; an accessible account of issues such as the two-party system and the nature of democracy in the USA; appendices containing the Constitution of the United States with highlighted amendments; chronologies of the US presidents; and other useful information.

Excerpt

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The Constitution of the United States is little more than two hundred years old. It has survived civil war and the territorial expansion from thirteen largely agricultural former colonies on the eastern seaboard to an industrial nation of fifty states that stretch across the continent to Alaska and to Hawaii. It has overseen the emergence of the most powerful democracy in the world. The American political system has been subjected to severe strains in the twentieth century, including the need to mobilise for two world wars, the depression of the 1930s, the changing role of government since the Second World War, the challenge of the civil rights movement, the impact of the Vietnam War, and the shock of the Watergate affair which resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The major challenge to American society, has, however, developed since the end of the war in Vietnam. That war jolted the faith of Americans in the inevitability of progress, and in the superiority of their system of government. It also brought to an end the era of the ‘melting pot’, the assumption that all Americans, whatever their origin, would assimilate to American values, adopt English as their first language, and necessarily revere the institutions embodied in the Constitution of the United States. In other words, America has had to face the fact that it is a multicultural society.

In spite of these challenges, superficially the most striking characteristic of the American Constitution is its continuity and stability, the unchanging shape of its major structures. Within this apparently stable framework, however, deep and significant changes in the nature and working of the American political system have taken place, including the changing character of the system of federalism, the continuously fluctuating relationship between Congress and the Presidency, the ‘disintegration’ of the system of political parties, the rise of the mass media and their impact upon the political system, and the changing role of the Supreme Court. These and many other factors affect the working of politics in the United States at the end of the twentieth century. It will be our task to explore the building blocks that make up this complex pattern, to try to bring out the rich variety of American political life, and to assess the direction in which it is moving.

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