Basics of American Politics / Edition 14

Paperback (Print)
Rent from
(Save 75%)
Est. Return Date: 06/26/2015
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 35%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 96%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $1.99   
  • New (1) from $61.50   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   


This brief, nuts-and-bolts introduction to American government has been a student favorite and a bestseller for over 30 years because of its lively, straight-forward approach to the basics, its brevity, and its always inexpensive price.

This text uses a dynamic game metaphor to engage students in the basics of the American political system and the contact sport of politics. Beginning with a clear definition of politics, it introduces four governmental and four nongovernmental “players” who must abide by the “rules of the game” established by the Constitution and civil liberties. It ends by examining rival theories of who wins and who loses in American politics. Written to engage students, and kept short to provide a flexible foundation for instructors, The Basics of American Politics covers all the terms and topics a student will need to understand the nuts-and-bolts of American government and poltics.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Chapter 1 What Is Politics? 1

The First Day of Class 2

Politics and Power 3

Elites 4

Authority: Legitimate Power 4

The Need for Government 6

What is Government? 8

Making and Supporting Decisions 9

The Study of Politics 9

Political Science and Microsoft 10

Why Give a Damn About Politics? 11

What Is This Book About? 13

Thought Questions 14

Suggested Readings 15

Chapter 2 The Constitution: Rules of the Game 17

The Second Day of Class 18

Background to the Constitution 19

The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789) 20

The Constitutional Convention 21

The Framers 22

Motives Behind the Constitution 23

Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists 25

Ratification and the Bill of Rights 26

Four Major Constitutional Principles 27

Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances 28

Federalism 30

The Debate over Modern Federalism 32

Limited Government 34

Judicial Review 36

How Is the Constitution Changed? 36

Amendments 37

Judicial Interpretation 38

Legislation 38

Custom 39

Why Has the Constitution Survived? 39

Case Study: Federalism Caught in a Storm: The Katrina Disaster 41

Wrap-Up 44

Thought Questions 45

Suggested Readings 46

Chapter 3 The Executive Branch: The Presidency and Bureaucracy 47

The President and die Constitution 50

The Electoral College 51

Vice President 52

History of the Presidency 53

Types of Presidents 56

Modern Presidents 57

The Obama Presidency 61

Presidential Hats 62

Chief of State 62

Chief Executive 63

Chief Diplomat 63

Commander-in-Chief 64

Chief Legislator 65

Party Leader 67

The Public Presidency 68

The Federal Bureaucracy 70

Executive Office of the President 70

The Cabinet Departments 75

The Executive Agencies 77

The Regulatory Commissions 77

Problems of Bureaucracy 78

Rise of the Civil Service 80

Bureaucrats as Policymakers 80

The President and the Bureaucracy 81

Case Study: 9/11: A President's Trial By Fire 84

Wrap-Up 87

Thought Questions 88

Suggested Readings 88

Chapter 4 The Legislative Branch: Congress 91

Makeup of the Senate and House 93

Role of the Legislator 93

Who Are the Legislators? 94

Malapportionment and Reapportionment 97

Organization of the House of Representatives 98

Organization of the Senate 101

How Congress Works 102

The Committee System 104

How Committees Work 104

Committee Chairs and the Seniority System 106

Specialization and Reciprocity 108

Major Committees in the House 108

Major Committees in the Senate 109

On the Floor, and Beyond 111

Filibuster 114

Presidential Veto 114

The Budget Process 116

Other Powers of Congress 118

Case Study: Controlling Global Warming-The House Climate Bill 120

Wrap-Up 125

Thought Questions 126

Suggested Readings 126

Chapter 5 The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court and the Federal Court System 129

Federal Court System 130

U.S. District Courts 130

Courts of Appeals 131

Special Federal Courts 131

The Judges 132

Jurisdiction 134

U.S. Supreme Court 135

The Final Authority? 136

Early Years of the Court 137

Judicial Review and National Supremacy 137

The Court after the Civil War 139

Modern Courts 140

The Rehnquist Court (1986-2005) 141

The Roberts Court (2005-) 144

"The Least Dangerous Branch of Government?" 146

Internal Limits on the Court 146

External Limits on the Court 148

Strengths of the Court 149

The Court as a Political Player 151

Judicial Activism vs. Judicial Restraint 151

Case Study: Separate but Equal? 154

Wrap-Up 157

Thought Questions 158

Suggested Readings 158

Chapter 6 Civil Rights and Liberties: Protecting the Players 161

What Are Civil Liberties and Rights? 162

Expanding the Bill of Rights 164

Civil Liberties: Protecting People from Government 165

Freedom of Speech 167

Freedom of Religion 170

Right of Privacy 171

Due Process Rights 173

Civil Rights: Protecting People from People 174

Which People Need Protection? Suspect Classifications 175

Race as a Suspect Classification 175

Is Sex Suspect? 178

The Politics of Civil Liberties and Rights 179

Judges 179

The Justice Department 180

"Private Attorneys General" 180

Legal Strategies 181

Obeying the Courts 182

Public Opinion and Civil Liberties 183

Case Study: Fighting Terror, Guarding Liberties 185

Wrap-Up 188

Thought Questions 189

Suggested Readings 190

Chapter 7 Voters and Political Parties 191

Voters 192

Who Votes? 192

Political Socialization 194

Class and Voting 195

Who Doesn't Vote? 196

Explanations 200

Political Parties 202

Party Functions 203

The Rise of Today's Parties 204

Maintaining, Deviating, and Realigning Elections 205

2004 and 2008: Whose Realignment? 207

Polarizing the Parties: The Growth of Partisans 208

View from the Inside: Party Organizations 210

Machines-Old and New 211

American Party Structure 212

National Party Organization 214

Fundraising 215

The National Convention 216

View from the Outside: The Two-Party System 219

Causes of the Two-Party System 219

But do the Two Parties Have a Future? 220

Case Study: Triple O-Obarm's Online Operation 222

Wrap-Up 225

Thought Questions 226

Suggested. Readings 226

Chapter 8 Interest Groups and the Media 229

Interest Groups 230

Types of Interest Groups 231

Lobbying 233

Campaign Contributions 237

Do Group Interests Overwhelm the Public Interest? 241

Media 243

What Are the Media? 244

What Do the Media Do? 248

Media and the Marketplace of Ideas 250

Media and Government 253

Media and the Public 254

Case Study: The Candidate: A Day in the Life... 257

Wrap-Up 260

Thought Questions 261

Suggested Readings 262

Chapter 9 Who Wins, Who Loses: Pluralism versus Elitism 263

Pluralism 264

Examples of Pluralism 265

Criticisms of Pluralist Theory 266

Elite 266

Elite Examples 268

Criticisms of the Elite View 269

The Debate 270

Newer Views 271

Wrap-Up 273

Thought Questions 274

Suggested Readings 274

Appendix 275

The Declaration of Independence 275

The Constitution of the United States 278

Glossary 293

Index 300

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 1, 2013

    Good book

    I am reading this book for my political science class. its good and not boring at all!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)