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Differences and divisions

At the time of its founding two centuries ago, the US was – despite some significant regional differences – a relatively homogeneous society dominated by White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or WASPs. They were the descendants of settlers from the British Isles who had established colonies along the eastern seaboard of the American continent from the early seventeenth century onwards.

The contemporary US is very different. On 1 April 2000, the Census Bureau recorded a population of 281,421,906. The nation not only occupies a far greater land mass – stretching across the continent – but is also much more diverse. There are significant fissures based upon race, ethnicity, and region. Some observers assert that the divisions are such that they will lead to Balkanisation and the eventual break-up of the US. Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a distinguished historian and former adviser to President Kennedy, has for example warned of ‘the fragmentation of the national community into a quarrelsome spatter of enclaves, ghettos, tribes’ (1992: 137–8). This chapter assesses the character of American society and considers the basis for these claims.


Race

About 12.1 per cent of the US population is black or African-American. Over half still live in the southern states, where their ancestors worked as slaves until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Others are the grandchildren and greatgrandchildren of those who migrated – from the First World War onwards – to the northern cities. They were drawn by the promise of industrial employment and the chance to escape the rural poverty and the ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws of the south. Blacks now constitute 39 per cent and 75 per cent of those living in Chicago and Detroit respectively.

Since the ending of segregation and the extension of the franchise in the 1960s, African-Americans have made sustained economic progress. A substantial black middle class has emerged. There are also growing numbers

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US Politics Today
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables vii
  • List of Boxes ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgements xi
  • 1 - Differences and Divisions 1
  • 2 - A Shared Culture 20
  • 3 - The Us Constitution 33
  • 4 - The Us Supreme Court 52
  • 5 - Congress 79
  • 6 - The President 102
  • 7 - The President and the Executive Branch 135
  • 8 - Federalism- The Role of the States 157
  • 9 - Political Parties 177
  • 10 - Elections and Campaigns 209
  • 11 - Interest Groups and Lobbying 249
  • 12 - Ideologies, Issues and Controversies 271
  • Appendix I- A Brief Chronology of the United States since 1789 289
  • Appendix II- The Us Constitution 293
  • Index 309
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