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
Without comparisons to make, the mind does not
know how to proceed.
Alexis de Tocqueville
This book has considered USpolitics. Nonetheless, there are potentially major pitfalls if a single
country is considered in isolation, particularly within a single or
limited time period. It is too easy to draw unfounded assumptions.
We can only test claims (or if we wish to operate in a
more formalised way, posit hypotheses) by comparing political processes
in a number of settings. If we just
23 October 2019.
7 R. Sutter and S. Limaye , ‘ America’s 2016 Election Debate on Asia Policy and Asian Reactions ’, East-West Center ( 2016 ), pp. 6 – 7 .
8 Ibid ., p. 7.
9 J. Martin and A. Burns , ‘ Donald Trump’s Slip in Polls has GOP Worried About Congress ’, New York Times (5 October 2016 ), www.nytimes.com/2016/10/06/us/politics/donald-trump-campaign.html , accessed 12 March 2019.
10 Sutter and Limaye, ‘America’s 2016 Election Debate’, pp. 7–8.
11 White House, ‘National Security Strategy of the United States’ (December 2017), www
(accessed 5 August 2018) .
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Populism has a particular place within the USpolitical tradition. In the post-war period alone, there have been recurrent right-wing populist insurgencies. In the 1950s, McCarthyism went well beyond anti-communism, lambasted the East Coast elites, and drew upon fears of modernity, cosmopolitanism and non-conformity. In the 1960s and 1970s, Alabama Governor George Wallace not only proclaimed ‘segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever’, but in his presidential bids made a pitch for white working votes in both the South and North by drawing upon
did a candidate who broke with almost every single norm governing candidate behaviour, appeared to eschew the professionalised forms of campaigning that have been adopted in recent years, and who had been more or less disowned by Republican elites, prove victorious?
This book seeks to answer that question. It argues that the Trump campaign, like earlier populist insurgencies, can be explained in part by considering some defining features of USpolitical culture and, in particular, attitudes towards government. Having said that, ‘culture’ is a term that must
narrow. In this chapter, we lay out the ways in which a neoliberalizing USpolitical system deprives people of political power, discuss how this has been an aspect of class warfare from the top, and outline how we see the US working class having responded to neoliberalism as a political project.
The subversion of electoral power
Political struggles have been amazingly successful over the past century at extending democratic rights to those formerly excluded. As Göran Therborn ( 2013 ) relates, there has been an uneven
The election of Barack Obama was a milestone in US history with tremendous symbolic importance for the black community. But was this symbolism backed up by substance? Did ordinary black people really benefit under the first black president? This is the question that Andra Gillespie sets out to answer in Race and the Obama Administration. Using a variety of methodological techniques—from content analysis of executive orders to comparisons of key indicators, such as homeownership and employment rates under Clinton, Bush, and Obama— the book charts the progress of black causes and provides valuable perspective on the limitations of presidential power in addressing issues of racial inequality. Gillespie uses public opinion data to investigate the purported disconnect between Obama’s performance and his consistently high ratings among black voters, asking how far the symbolic power of the first black family in the White House was able to compensate for the compromises of political office. Scholarly but accessible, Race and the Obama Administration will be of interest to students and lecturers in US politics and race studies, as well as to general readers who want to better understand the situation of the black community in the US today and the prospects for its improvement.
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.