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American Government

Myths and Realities, 2016 Election Edition

Alan R. Gitelson, Robert L. Dudley, and Melvin J. Dubnick

Publication Date - 27 January 2017

ISBN: 9780190299903

600 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Uses the myths of American Government to introduce students to its realities


We just experienced a historic election--driven more by common political myths and less by its realities--that will impact our political and personal lives for years to come. Rather than dismissing those myths as outright falsehoods, American Government: Myths and Realities, 2016 Election Edition, encourages students to confront their preconceived notions in order to think critically about government and politics. Clearly and distinctively woven into each chapter, the myths-and-realities theme provides a pedagogical framework that engages students with interesting questions while effectively covering the core concepts of American government. Priced at only $79.95, this affordable best seller provides students with definitive coverage of American government while laying out the foundation for today's generation to have a more sophisticated appreciation for our complex, yet exciting, system of governance.

New to this Edition

  • Two distinct chapters cover civil liberties (Chapter 4) and civil rights (Chapter 5)
  • Coverage of the 2016 Presidential and Congressional elections
  • Updated coverage concerning media and politics and the impact of social media


  • Encourages students to confront their preconceived notions and think critically about government and politics
  • "Policy Connection" features at the end of each chapter incorporate domestic and foreign policy content
  • Incorporates policy content directly into each chapter capitalizing on student interest regarding what government does while also allowing professors to bring the material into the course in a more contextualized fashion

About the Author(s)

Alan R. Gitelson is Professor, former Assistant Provost, and former chair of the department of Political Science at Loyola University.

Robert L. Dudley is a Professor and past chair of the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University.

Melvin J. Dubnick is Professor of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire and has taught in a variety of Political Science departments across the country, including UC Boulder, Emporia State, Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Kansas, Baruch College/CUNY, and Rutgers University.


"The primary strengths of this text are the thoroughness, imagination, good cases, good discussions, and good organization. I am impressed with the text in general and found it a good read." --Daniel Hummel, Idaho State University

"This text does a great job of challenging myths that lead to a lack of efficacy in the American public. It brings in a healthy mix of political science and other material that introductory students can easily relate to. I think it is much better than many books that are more expensive." --Matthew Placek, University of South Carolina Upstate

"This is a good, competitive text. It offers a nice, overarching theme that can be used to frame the course and engage students." --Matthew Eshbaugh-Sosa, University of North Texas

Table of Contents


    About the authors

    Chapter 1: Making Sense of American Politics
    Myths and Realities: What are the roles of reason, myth, and belief in American government?
    "It Just Makes No Sense!"
    The Nature and Role of Government and Politics
    --What is Government?
    --What is Politics?
    --The Role of Government in American History
    What are the Fundamental Issues of Government and Politics?
    --Who Should Govern?
    --Where Should Government Authority Be Vested?
    Understanding American Government and Politics
    --Power of Myths
    --Power of Reason
    --Beliefs and Ideologies
    Asked and Answered: How Knowledgeable are U.S. Students about their government?
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 1
    How Do We Make Sense of Public Policies and Programs?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Legal Label
    The Pervasiveness of Policies
    Public Policies Dealing with Public Problems
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 2: Constitutional Foundations
    Myths and Realities: Is the Constitution a living document?
    The Constitutional Trade-Off
    An Imperfect Document
    --The Setting for Constitutional Change
    --The Framers
    The Roots of the Constitution
    --The Colonial Heritage
    --The Intellectual Background
    --The Onset of Revolution
    What the Framers Did
    --Establishing Legitimacy
    --Structuring Authority
    ----Balancing National and State Authority
    ----Structuring Authority Within the National Government
    ----The Case of the Electoral College
    --Distributing and Describing Governmental Powers
    ----Powers in the Federal System
    ----Powers Within the National Government
    ----Limiting Governmental Powers
    --Allowing for Change
    ----Interpretations and Constructions
    Asked and Answered So you Want to Change the Constitution?
    --Adaptability and Endurance
    The Five Principles
    --Principle 1: The Rule of Law
    --Principle 2: Republicanism
    --Principle 3: Separation of Powers
    --Principle 4: Checks and Balances
    --Principle 5: National Supremacy
    --Applying the Five Principles
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 2: How Can We Use Models to Make Sense of American Policymaking?
    Policy Challenge
    Making Sausage
    The Process Models
    --The Lawmaking Model
    --The Policymaking Stages Model
    --The Multiple Stream Model
    The Decision Models
    --Rational Choice
    --Bargaining and Compromise
    The Who Factor
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 3: Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations
    Myths and Realities: Do the Individual States Retain Constitutional Sovereignty?
    The Importance of Federalism
    The Evolution of American Federalism
    --Battles of Meaning (1790's-1860's)
    --From Separation to Cooperation (1860's-1920's)
    --Toward Cooperation and Local Participation (1930's-1950's)
    --The Urban Focus (1960's-1970's)
    --Reforming and Devolving (1970's-1990's)
    --Twenty-First Century Challenges (2001 and Beyond?)
    The Actors of American Federalism
    --National Government Actors
    ----The Supreme Court
    ----The White House
    ----The Federal Bureaucracy
    --States in the Federal System
    --Local Governments
    --Nongovernmental Actors
    ----Intergovernmental Lobby
    Asked and Answered Who is Responsible for America's Elaborate Systems of Roads and Highways?
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 3: How are Education Policies and Aid to the Poor Affected by American Federalism?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Constitutional Setting
    Education Policy
    --Access to Education
    --Funding of Education
    --Educational Curriculum
    --Educational Quality and Accountability
    Aid to the Poor
    --Old and New Welfare
    --Other Program Changes
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 4: Civil Liberties
    Myths and Realities: Do Civil Liberties Mean that We Can Do Anything We Want?
    Defining and Preserving Liberty
    Applying the Bill of Rights to the States
    The First Amendment Freedoms
    --Freedom of Speech
    ----Changing Standards
    ----Symbolic Speech
    ----Technology and Free Speech
    --Freedom of the Press
    ----Prior Restraint
    --Freedom of Religion
    ----Establishment of Religion
    ----Free Exercise of Religion
    The Second Amendment and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
    Due Process and Crime
    --Right to Counsel
    --Searches and Seizures
    --Cruel and Unusual Punishment
    Asked and Answered: Do Police Officers Who are Conducting a Search have to Knock and Announce their Presence before Entering Your Home?
    --Doctor-Assisted Suicide
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 4: How Can the Government Maintain its Commitment to Civil Liberties while Minimizing the Nation's Vulnerability to Attack?
    The Policy Challenge
    "We Are Going to War"
    The Myth of Vulnerability
    Repsonses to Vulnerability
    --The Garrison-State Approach
    --The Temporary-State-of-War Approach
    --The Glass-Firewall Approach
    --The Enemy-Within Approach
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 5:Civil Rights
    Myths and Realities:Does Everyone have the Opportunity to Participate Equally in the American Political and Social System?
    The Crime of "Driving or Shopping while Black"
    The Continuing Struggle Against Racism
    Asked and Answered: What Do We Mean by Jim Crow?
    --Public Education
    --Public Accomodations
    --Voting Rights
    Sex Discrimination
    --Paternalism and Discrimination
    --Women in the Workforce
    --Women and Educational Achievement
    --Sexual Harassment
    Sexual Orientation
    --Equal Protection and Sexual Orientation
    --Same-Sex Marriage
    --Changing Views
    Equality and Citizenship Status
    --Affirmative Action
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 5: What is the Relationship between American Domestic Policies and U.S. Foreign Policy?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Whole World Was Watching
    Vulnerability and Exceptionalism
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 6: Public Opinion and Political Participation
    Myths and Realities: Is There Such a Thing as Majority Opinion?
    Witches, Ghosts, and Public Opinion
    What is Public Opinion?
    How We Develop Our Beliefs and Opinions
    --Agents of Political Socialization
    ----Family and Friends
    ----The Media
    ----Political Culture
    --Adult Socialization
    How Polls Work
    The Paradox of Public Opinion
    Group Opinion: Diversity and Uniformity
    --Age Groups: College Students and Twentysomethings
    --Race and Ethnicity
    Asked and Answered: Are Young People in the United States and in Other Nations Inattentive and Inactive in the Political Process?
    Avenues of Political Participation
    --Acting on Opinions
    --What Influences Participation?
    --A Closer Look at Women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans
    ----African Americans
    ----Asian Americans
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 6:How Do Public Opinion and Public Attitudes Affect Environemental Policies?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Public and Climate Change
    Linking Opinions to the Environment
    Policy Developments
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 7: Political Parties
    Myths and Realities: How Much do the Democratic and Republican Parties Differ from Each Other?
    Sorting Out the Puzzle of Political Parties
    What Parties Are and What They Do
    --Parties in the United States
    --The Three-Headed Political Giant
    Who Belongs to Major Parties and Why?
    --In the Driver's Seat: Democrats and Republicans
    --Independents: Taking a Back Seat in Politics?
    --If Parties Are So Important, What Do They Do?
    ----Simplifying Voting
    ----Building Electoral Coalitions
    ----Developing Public Policy
    ----Winning Elections
    ----Organizing Government
    ----Mitigating Conflict
    American-Style Politics: The Two Party System
    --The Winners: The Democrats and the Republicans
    --Realignment of Parties
    --Why Two Parties?
    ----Winner Takes All
    ----A Division of Interests
    ----A Similarity of Goals
    ----State Laws
    --The Hidden Actors: Third Parties in the United States
    Asked and Answered:Shouldn't We Have More than Just Two Party Options on the Ballot?
    Party Structure from the Bottom Up
    --Local Parties
    --State Parties
    --National Parties
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 7: Do the Two Major Parties Really Offer Different Approaches to Managing the American Economic System?
    The Policy Challenge
    Images and Realities
    The Role of Government in the Economy
    Macroeconomic Policy Tools
    Economic Development Policies
    Trade Policies and Globalization
    Tax Incentives
    Industrial and Supply-Side Policies
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 8: Campaigns and Elections
    Myths and Realities: Do Politicians Always Break Their Campaign Promises?
    Campaigns and the American Public
    Nominations: The Selection Process
    --Why Do People Run for Office?
    --The Caucus: Old-Fashioned Politics
    --Primaries: The New Kid on the Block
    --The Changing Role of Nominating Conventions
    --Who Gets Nominated?
    The Race for Office
    --Financing Campaigns: The Buying and Selling of Offices?
    ----Act I: The Federal Election Campaign Act
    ----Act II: The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act
    Asked and Answered: Why can't We Reduce the Role of Money in Elections as Other Nations Do?
    ----Act III: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commision
    ----Does Money Buy Victory?
    --Organizing Campaigns: The Old and the New
    ----Campaign Organization
    ----Campaign Strategy
    ----The New Campaign Style
    The Media and Campaigns: Are We Brainwashed?
    Campaigns and Political Parties
    Voting and Elections
    --Who is Allowed to Vote?
    --Who Votes?
    ----Demographics and Voter Turnout
    ----The Disappointed Electorate
    --Why Do People Vote the Way They Do?
    ----Candidate Image
    ----Party Identification
    ----Retrospective Voting
    ----Group Influences
    --The Other Elections: Referenda and Initiatives
    The 2014 Elections
    The Electoral College
    Promises, Promises: The Link Between Campaigns and Public Policy
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 8: Are Elections an Effective Way to Make Public Policies?
    The Policy Challenge
    Electing a Public Policy
    A Brief History of Referenda and Initiatives
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 9: Interest Groups
    Myths and Realities: Are All Interest Groups Corrupt and Self-Serving?
    Interest Groups, Lobbying, and Congress
    Movers and Shakers: Interest and Other Advocacy Groups
    --Interest Groups
    Asked and Answered: Are College Students Represented by Interest Groups?
    ----Economic Interest Groups
    ----Citizen Activist Interest Groups
    ----Public-Sector Interest Groups
    ----Foreign Nation Interest Groups
    --PACs and Super PACs
    What Makes an Interest Group Powerful?
    --Information and Expertise
    --Countervailing Forces
    Interest-Group Tactics: "You Don't Lobby with Hundred-Dollar Bills and Wild Parties"
    --Electioneering and Policymaking
    --Building Coalitions
    --Grassroots Pressure: Power to the People
    --Hard-Line Tactics
    Interest Groups and Democracy
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection: How Have Some Interest Groups Been Able to Shape American Public Policies?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Hundred Years War
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 10: Media and Politics
    Myths and Realities: Do the Media have the Power to Influence Public Opinion?
    The Tangled Trail of the Day Radio Panicked the Nation
    The Rise of the Media
    --The Early Days
    --The Broadcast Media
    --Diversity and Concentration
    --Government Regulation
    ----Government Licensing
    ----Equal Time

    Making News
    The Effects of the Mass Media
    --Setting the Agenda
    --Conducting Politics in the Media: Old and New
    The Uneasy Alliance Between Government and the Media
    --Covering the President
    ----Press Conferences
    ----Going Public
    Asked and Answered:
    What are Leaks, and Where Do They Come From?
    --Covering Congress
    --Covering the Courts
    Key Terms
    Focus Question Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 10:
    How Do Government Policies Shape the Media Landscape?
    The Policy Challenge
    How Government Created Corporations
    Antitrust Enforcement as Policy
    That's Entertainment!
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 11:
    Myths and Realities: Is Congress Ineffective and Buried Under Partisan Bickering?
    Filibustering One's Own Bill
    A Portrait of Congress
    --Stability and Change in the Make-up of Congress
    ----Education and Occupation
    ----Race and Sex

    Asked and Answered: Why are there so few women serving in legislative bodies?
    --Getting Elected
    The Work of Congress
    --Making Laws
    --The Power to Tax
    --Producing the Budget
    --Congressional Oversight
    The Organization of Congress
    --Congressional Leadership
    ----Leadership in the House
    ----Leadership in the Senate
    --The Committee System
    ----Types of Committees
    ----Committee Size and Membership
    ----Committee Assignments
    ----Committee Leadership
    The Congressional Staff
    How a Bill Becomes a Law
    --Committee Consideration
    --Floor Action
    ----The House Floor
    ----The Senate Floor
    --Conference Work
    Congressional Voting
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 11:
    What Policies are Responsible for the National Debt?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Debt Itself
    Tax Expenditures
    Mandatory Spending and Entitlements
    Discretionary Spending
    It's Complicated...
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 12:
    The Presidency
    Myths and Realities: Is the President all-powerful?
    They Are All Mine
    The Growth of the Presidency
    --First Presidents
    --The Modern Presidency
    Presidential Roles
    --Chief of State
    --Chief Executive
    ----Powers to Appoint and Remove
    ----Power to Pardon
    ----Executive Privilege
    Chief Diplomat
    ----Executive Agreements
    ----Congressional-Executive Agreements
    ----Power of Recognition
    ----Diplomatic Appointments
    --Chief Legislator
    ----Recommending Legislation
    ----The Veto
    ----The Line-Item Veto
    Asked and Answered:
    What is a Signing Statement?
    --The Seamless Web
    The Institutional Presidency
    --The Cabinet
    --The Executive Office of the President
    ----The Office of Management and Budget
    ----The Council of Economic Advisors
    ----The National Security Council
    The White House Office: Two Management Styles
    --The Vice President
    Presidential Influence
    --Persuading Congress
    ----Party Loyalty
    ----Staffy Lobbyists
    ----Personal Appeal
    --Public Opinion
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 12:
    Does the President Really Control American Foreign Policy?
    Policy Challenge
    Containment Approaches
    Postcontainment Approaches
    The Myth of the Grand Strategy
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 13: Bureaucracy
    Myths and Realities: Are Washington Bureaucrats Unresponsive and Incompetent?
    Cries for Help--and Shattered Expectations
    A Profile of Federal Bureaucracy
    --Who Are the Bureaucrats?
    ----Political Appointees
    Asked and Answered:
    What are the Plum Jobs in the Federal Government?
    ----Merit Systems
    ----Wage Systems
    --What Do Federal Bureaucrats Do?
    --Where Do Civil Servants Work?
    ----Executive Office of the President
    ----The Cabinet Departments
    ----Independent Executive Branch Agencies
    ----Regulatory Commissions
    ----Government Corporations
    ----Other Agencies
    A Diverse Institution
    The Growth of American Bureaucracy
    --Overview of Bureaucratic Growth
    --Explaining the Growth of the Bureaucracy
    Bureaucratic Power
    --The Sources of Bureaucratic Power
    ----External Support
    ----Administrative Discretion
    ----Longevity in Office
    ----Skill and Leadership
    The Limits on Bureaucratic Power
    ----Self-Restraint and Limited Resources
    ----The White House
    ----The Courts
    ----Limits and Responsiveness
    Bureaucratic Problems and Reforms
    --Bureaucratic Pathologies
    ----Pathological Incrementalism
    Calls for Reform
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 13:
    Have Poilcymakers addressed the Problems of Incompetent and Unresponsive Government?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Progressive Obsession
    A Call for Economy and Efficiency
    Toward Executive Empowerment
    Post-Watergate Retreat from Bureaucracy
    Emphasis on Performance
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 14:
    Courts, Judges, and the Law
    Myths and Realities: Are Judicial Decisions Completely Objective and Final?
    The Supreme Court Chooses a President
    The Origins and Types of American Law
    The Structure of the Court Systems
    The Federal and State Court Systems
    --Lower Courts
    ----U.S. District Courts
    ----Courts of Appeals
    --The Supreme Court
    --Specialized Courts
    --State Court Systems
    --Interactions Among Court Systems
    Recruiting and Removing Federal Judges
    Asked and Answered: Are All Judges Selected the Same Way?
    ----Appointments to the District Courts
    ----Appointments to the Courts of Appeals
    ----Appointments to the Supreme Court
    Who Becomes a Federal Judge?
    --Removing Judges
    The Supreme Court at Work
    --Oral Argument
    --Conference Work
    --Writing and Announcing the Opinion
    --Interpreting the Constitution
    The Implementation of Court Decisions
    --Compliance by Other Courts
    --The Role of Congress and the President in Implementing Court Decisions
    Key Terms
    Focus Questions Review
    Review Questions

    Policy Connection 14: What Role Does Discretion
    Play in Our Criminal Justice System?
    The Policy Challenge
    The Four Stages of Discretion in Criminal Justice
    The Aaron Swartz Case
    The Necessary Evil (?) of Discretion
    Questions for Discussion

    Chapter 15: Domestic Policy and Policymaking (available online at www.oup.com/us/gitelson)
    Chapter 16: Foreign and Defense Policy (available online at www.oup.com/us/gitelson)
    Appendix I: The Declaration of Independence

    Appendix II: The Constitution of the United States of America

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