Popular distrust and the entrenchment of government by professionals lie at the root of America's most pressing political problems. How did U.S. politics get to this point? Contemporary American politics got much of its shape from the transformations brought about from the 1950s to the 1980s. Presidential and congressional behavior, voting behavior, public opinion, public policy and federalism were all reconfigured during that time and many of those changes persist to this day and structure the political environment in the early twenty-first century.
Throughout American history, parties have been a reliable instrument for translating majority preferences into public policy. From the 1950s to the 1980s, a gradual antiparty realignment, alongside the growth of professional government, produced a new American political system of remarkable durability - and remarkable dysfunction. It is a system that is paradoxically stable despite witnessing frequent shifts in party control of the institutions of government at the state and national level. Schier and Eberly's system-level view of American politics demonstrates the disconnect between an increasingly polarized and partisan elite and an increasingly disaffected mass public.
Steven E. Schier is Dorothy H. and Edward C. Congdon Professor of Political Science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He is the author or editor of fourteen books, most recently A Transformative Presidency? Barack Obama in the White House (2011) and numerous scholarly articles. His analysis has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Atlantic Magazine and other publications. Todd E. Eberly is an assistant professor of Political Science and coordinator of Public Policy Studies at St. Mary's College of Maryland. He specializes in the policy and political legacies of the Great Society and published numerous scholarly articles. His analysis and commentary has been featured in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and Public Radio.
Preface. 1. The New American Political System: An Overview 2. The Current Stable System: A Data Portrait 3. Popular Discontent and Professional Government 4. The Puzzle of Contemporary Party Politics. 5. Congress: Professionalization, Polarization and Competition. 6. The Presidency: Uncertain Leadership. 7. Public Policy and Bureaucracy: Delegated Authority and Divided Priorities. 8. The Federal Courts: The Rise of Judicial Policymaking. 9. The Road From Here: An Unsustainable Path and an Uncertain Future. Afterword: Stability and the 2012 Election