Elections in America: Control and Influence in Democratic Politics

Elections in America: Control and Influence in Democratic Politics

Elections in America: Control and Influence in Democratic Politics

Elections in America: Control and Influence in Democratic Politics

Excerpt

To write a second edition of a book is to visit a scene from your youth. The landscape is familiar, but now there are buildings in remembered vacant lots. Thoughts of former acquaintances are jostled by new persons. The anxieties of a former time have quieted, but novel concerns await resolution.

Revising Elections in America has required a new visit to the American political scene. In 1968, when the book first appeared, the nation was tormented by Vietnam, race conflict, and assassination. Yet it was also prosperous, democratically involved, and apparently able--if it had the will--to solve its problems. In 1980 the immediate problems of the earlier time have been either resolved or repressed, but there is less confidence in the future. The economy is stagnant, and hostage to foreign energy producers. Public allegiance to leaders and political institutions has steadily declined. Political parties, earlier presented as the critical link between the electorate and the government, have been enfeebled.

Intellectually, too, the vistas have changed. In the first edition I attempted to argue on behalf of the competence of the average voter, to assert the significance of party platforms, to show an association between voting and the protection of racial minorities, and to bridge methodological divisions in political science. Whatever the originality of these views in 1968, they are now widespread in the discipline. Through the independent research of many scholars, political science has developed a fuller understanding of the character and impact of elections on public policy and has discarded its previous intramural debate on methodology. One purpose of this new publication, therefore, is to acknowledge and incorporate these many contributions.

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