Series: Politics Today
Author: Edward Ashbee

The book introduces the principles underpinning the US Constitution and, on the basis of this, surveys core federal institutions: Congress, the presidency, and the US Supreme Court and lower courts. The different chapters outline the defining features of each and introduce some of the core scholarly debates about their powers and performance. The book also considers processes of political participation through elections, parties, and organised interests. It looks, in particular, at the changing nature of voting behaviour, the reasons why electoral turnout levels are comparatively low, and the different reasons why Donald Trump secured the presidency in the 2016 contest. It also considers the character of the party system and claims that organised interests, particularly groups representing those at the highest ends of the income and wealth scales, play a disproportionate role in the US system. The book thereby offers a guide to debates about the democratic ‘health’ of the contemporary US. The final chapter places the study of US politics in a comparative and theoretical context. It suggests that comparative approaches are essential if political developments and processes are to be fully understood. It then considers the value of employing theoretical frameworks in the study of politics and explores the ways in which structural theories, approaches drawing upon representations of political culture, and rational choice perspectives can explain political outcomes.

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Series: Pocket Politics
Author: Edward Ashbee

This book explores how a candidate who broke with almost every single norm governing candidate behaviour, appeared to eschew the professionalised forms of campaigning, and who had been more or less disowned by Republican elites, prove victorious? The focus is on Trump and his campaign; the account does not go beyond the November election and its immediate aftermath. The book argues that the Trump campaign, like earlier populist insurgencies, can be explained in part by considering some defining features of US political culture and, in particular, attitudes towards government. It explains the right-wing populism that has been a recurrent and ingrained feature of the political process over a long period. The book discusses structural characteristics of the American state that appear to be of particular significance in shaping attitudes, as well as some other ideas and frames brought to the forefront by the Trump campaign during the course of 2015 and 2016. It also considers the shifts and swings amongst voters and suggests that these, alongside ideas about the state and the 'entrepreneurial' efforts of the campaign, form part of the explanation for Trump's eventual victory. The book assesses Trump's ascendancy as a function of, and reaction to, the strategies and discourses pursued in the years preceding 2016 by Republican Party elites. 'Trumpism' and European forms of populism are still in some ways weakly embedded but they may intensify the battles and processes of group competition between different constituencies.

Author: Edward Ashbee

This book considers the policy of the George W. Bush administration towards issues such as abortion, sex education, obscenity and same-sex marriage. It suggests that, although accounts have often emphasised the ties between George W. Bush and the Christian right, the administration's strategy was, at least until early 2005, largely directed towards the courting of middle-ground opinion. The study offers a detailed and comprehensive survey of policy making; assesses the political significance of moral concerns; evaluates the role of the Christian Right; and throws new light on George W. Bush's years in office and the character of his thinking.

Author: Edward Ashbee

The Right and the Recession considers the ways in which conservative activists, groupings, parties and interests in the US and Britain responded to the financial crisis and the “Great Recession” that followed in its wake. The book looks at the tensions and stresses between different ideas, interests and institutions and the ways in which they shaped the character of political outcomes. In Britain, these processes opened the way for leading Conservatives to redefine their commitment to fiscal retrenchment and austerity. Whereas public expenditure reductions had been portrayed as a necessary response to earlier “overspending” they were increasingly represented as a way of securing a permanently “leaner” state. The book assesses the character of this shift in thinking as well as the viability of these efforts to shrink the state and the parallel attempts in the US to cut federal government spending through mechanisms such as the budget sequester.

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The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda
Edward Ashbee

This introduction discusses the theme of this book, which is about the sex and moral agenda of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. It argues against the claim that Bush's faith and his connection with the Christian right were key factors in the formulation of his policies towards moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality and sex education, contending that Bush's policies were also influenced by middle-ground opinion. The book explains that, as both Texas Governor and President, Bush not only grasped the different niches of median opinion, but built upon them with unparalleled skill and precision.

in The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda
Edward Ashbee

This chapter traces the emergence of the moral agenda as a key issue in American public opinion and in U.S. politics. It explains that moral and cultural concerns became frontline political issues from the late 1960s onwards, as a result of the sexual revolution and the loosening of established moral codes, particularly among the Woodstock generation. The chapter also highlights the role of the Christian right, which had established itself as an important constituency that could exert significant political leverage, in reshaping judicial politics, interest group activity and the character of the party system. It also investigates the variables that might account for the growing tolerance of premarital sexual relationships and homosexuality in the 1960s and 1970s, and discusses George W. Bush's electoral strategy and his handling of moral issues in his campaign.

in The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda
Edward Ashbee

This chapter considers the development of George W. Bush's thinking, the ways in which it has been shaped by the need to capture the votes of those with moderate attitudes and the electoral strategies that flow from this. It suggests that, while faith undoubtedly played a role in moulding Bush's public image, the character of his electoral strategy, the nature of the domestic policy initiatives pursued by the administration and the president's approach to moral and cultural issues were shaped by other processes. In particular, ‘W-ism’ was informed and structured by events and developments during the latter half of the 1990s. It was based on close reading of public opinion, particularly of those groupings and constituencies that were pivotal to election victory.

in The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda
Edward Ashbee

This chapter examines the views and policies of George W. Bush on the issues of same-sex marriage, AIDS and gay rights, discussing the support of gay rights campaigners to the structure and style of the Bush 2000 presidential campaign and highlighting the role of the Log Cabin Republicans in his election victory. It comments on Bush's views about the Federal Marriage Amendment. The chapter argues that Bush's endorsement of civil unions may well be representative of a developing trend, and that the momentum and pace of same-sex marriage as an issue may depend upon the courts and the process of judicial adjudication rather than on the course of popular opinion or the actions of campaigning organizations.

in The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda
Sex education, abstinence and contraception
Edward Ashbee

This chapter analyses the views of George W. Bush on the issues of sex education, contraception and abstinence, and considers how his election campaign was influenced by these issues. It suggests that the Christian right secured much from the Bush administration's sex education policy and explains that the dramatic expansion of funding for abstinence-only programmes not only fulfilled the moral agenda advanced by social conservatives, but also created an influential and vocal constituency which had a direct interest in the maintenance and development of abstinence projects. The chapter argues that the character of public opinion influenced the decision of the Bush administration to give a great deal of political ground to the Christian right on the issue of sex education.

in The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda
Edward Ashbee

This chapter discusses the policies of George W. Bush against indecency and obscenity. It explains the impact of the appointment of John Ashcroft as Attorney-General on these policies, and cites data indicating that the application of the law and the pursuit of the pornography industry appear to have had widespread backing that extended well beyond the ranks of the Christian right. The chapter suggests that the vigour with which the indecency issue was pursued by the administration and many Congressional Republicans, and the lack of action against obscenity, are tied together. It also discusses the administration's focus on television and radio indecency to compensate for their inability to curb obscenity in any sustained way.

in The Bush administration, sex and the moral agenda