American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction

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Oxford University Press, 2007 M08 10 - 192 pages
Few Americans and even fewer citizens of other nations understand the electoral process in the United States. Still fewer understand the role played by political parties in the electoral process or the ironies within the system. Participation in elections in the United States is much lower than in the vast majority of mature democracies. Perhaps this is because of the lack of competition in a country where only two parties have a true chance of winning, despite the fact that a large number of citizens claim allegiance to neither and think badly of both. Or perhaps it is because in the U.S. campaign contributions disproportionately favor incumbents in most legislative elections, or that largely unregulated groups such as the now notorious 527s have as much impact on the outcome of a campaign as do the parties or the candidates' campaign organizations. Studying these factors, you begin to get a very clear picture indeed of the problems that underlay our much trumpeted electoral system. This Very Short Introduction introduces the reader to these issues and more, providing an insider's view of how the system actually works while shining a light on some of its flaws. As we enter what is sure to be yet another highly contested election year, it is more important than ever that Americans take the time to learn the system that puts so many in power. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.

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Review: American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #214)

User Review  - Jesse - Goodreads

A thoughtful overview of what's right and what's wrong in American democracy. Americans who know a bit about politics will find that much of the material is already familiar, however. Read full review

Review: American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #169)

User Review  - Goodreads

1. Is not "very short." 2. Only a few useful sections. Learned some new stuff on the history of the parties, how our democracy could be more democratic, and the nuances of the electoral college. Would ... Read full review


1 The context of American elections and political parties
2 A brief history of American political parties
What do they look like? What do they do?
4 Who are Republicans? Who are Democrats? Who are the others?
Nominating campaigns and general elections
6 Subnational nominations and elections
7 Far from the perfect democracy
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Page 37 - You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.
Page 29 - Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
Page 81 - Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?
Page 27 - We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Page 30 - Party is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.
Page 34 - But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.
Page 10 - Roosevelt, took the oath of office as President of the United States, in the home of Mr.
Page 65 - DNC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
Page 40 - The choices this year are not just between two different personalities, or between two political parties. They are between two different visions of the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing — their government of pessimism, fear, and limits, or ours of hope, confidence, and growth.

About the author (2007)

Sandy Maisel is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government and Director of the Goldfarb Center of Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College. A former candidate for Congress, Maisel is the author or editor of 15 books on political parties and elections and is a frequent commentator on contemporary politics.

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