Describe how public opinion is measured. What is sampling and what is it meant to accomplish?


Describe how public opinion is measured. What is sampling and what is it meant to accomplish?

Describe some of the problems and biases of polling, such as push polling and question wording. How do the social desirability effect and the bandwagon effect each distort the measurement of opinion?

Describe some of the different strategies that interest group representatives may employ to gain influence on public policy. Describe the different approaches taken by various interest group officials in pursuit of their policy agenda.

Describe the different types of electoral systems. What are the differences between the plurality, majority, and proportional representation systems? Where are these different systems used? What is the electoral college, and how does it function?

Describe the process by which a bill becomes a law. What are the major steps in the process?

Describe third parties in American politics. Why has there never been a party system of three or more parties in the United States? How do third parties arise? Describe some notable third-party candidates for president.

How are political views formed? Describe some of the key processes and factors through which individuals become politically socialized. How do institutions such as families and groups, as well as personal experiences, come to shape individual opinions?

Political parties are perhaps the most important organizations affecting governance. How do parties differ from interest groups? What are some of the important roles that parties play within the political process? How do parties shape and aid in policy making? Provide examples.

Some contend that while Americans may be divided by ideology or opinion, they are united by fundamental political values. Describe these core values. How do they serve to unite American public opinion?

What are some of the formal barriers to suffrage that have existed in American politics over the years to prevent the poor, women, and racial minorities from exercising the franchise? What specifically were the remedies that expanded the right to vote for American citizens?

What are some of the ways in which Americans have been mobilized into political participation? What are some of the groups that have been mobilizing? What are some of the conditions under which citizens are more likely to participate in political life?

What are the goals of affirmative action? Why has it been so controversial? Where has affirmative action been practiced? Describe some of the prominent Supreme Court decisions associated with affirmative action.

What is the right to privacy? How and under what circumstances have the Supreme Court justices articulated this right? Describe some of the forms that the right to privacy has taken.

An Introduction to American Politics

We the People

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An Introduction to American Politics

We the People

n W. W. N O R T O N & C O M PA N Y N E W Y O R K L O N D O N

121212 edition


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W. W. Norton & Company has been independent since its founding in 1923, when William Warder Norton and Mary D. Herter Norton first published lectures delivered at the People’s Institute, the adult education division of New York City’s Cooper Union. The firm soon expanded its program beyond the Institute, publishing books by celebrated academics from America and abroad. By mid-century, the two major pillars of Norton’s publishing program—trade books and college texts—were firmly established. In the 1950s, the Norton family transferred control of the company to its employees, and today—with a staff of four hundred and a com- parable number of trade, college, and professional titles published each year—W. W. Norton & Company stands as the largest and oldest publishing house owned wholly by its employees.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Ginsberg, Benjamin, author. Title: We the people : an introduction to American politics / Benjamin Ginsberg, The Johns Hopkins University, Theodore J. Lowi, Cornell University, Margaret Weir, Brown University, Caroline J. Tolbert, University of Iowa, Andrea L. Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Description: Twelfth Edition. | New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2018] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018046033 | ISBN 9780393644326 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: United States–Politics and government–Textbooks. Classification: LCC JK276 .G55 2018 | DDC 320.473–dc23 L C r ecord av ailable at https://lccn.loc. gov/2018046033

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To: Teresa Spitzer Sandy, Cindy, and Alex Ginsberg David, Jackie, Eveline, and Ed Dowling Dave, Marcella, Logan, and Kennah Campbell

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Preface xxi Acknowledgments xxiii


1 ★ Introduction: The Citizen and Government 2

Government 5 Different Forms of Government Are Defined by Power

and Freedom 5 Limits on Governments Encouraged Freedom 6 Expansion of Participation in America Changed the

Political Balance 7 The Goal of Politics Is Having a Say in What Happens 7

Citizenship Is Based on Political Knowledge and Participation 8

Political Efficacy Means People Can Make a Difference 9

The Identity of Americans Has Changed over Time 10 Immigration and Increasing Ethnic Diversity Have

Long Caused Intense Debate 10 Who Are Americans Today? 12

America Is Built on the Ideas of Liberty, Equality, and Democracy 16 Liberty Means Freedom 16

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Global Diversity 17

Equality Means Treating People Fairly 18 Democracy Means That What the People Want Matters 19

Government Affects Our Lives Every Day 20 Trust in Government Has Declined 21

American Political Culture: What Do We Want? 23 WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Voted in 2016? 25

Key Terms 28 For Further Reading 29


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2 ★ The Founding and the Constitution 30

The First Founding: Ideals, Interests, and Conflicts 33 Narrow Interests and Political Conflicts Shaped the First

Founding 34 British Taxes Hurt Colonial Economic Interests 34 Political Strife Radicalized the Colonists 35 The Declaration of Independence Explained Why the Colonists

Wanted to Break with Great Britain 36 The Articles of Confederation Created America’s First National

Government 37

The Failure of the Articles of Confederation Made the “Second Founding” Necessary 38

The Annapolis Convention Was Key to Calling a National Convention 39

Shays’s Rebellion Showed How Weak the Government Was 39 The Constitutional Convention Didn’t Start Out to Write

a New Constitution 40

The Constitution Created Both Bold Powers and Sharp Limits on Power 43

The Legislative Branch Was Designed to Be the Most Powerful 44 The Executive Branch Created a Brand New Office 46 The Judicial Branch Was a Check on Too Much Democracy 47 National Unity and Power Set the New Constitution Apart

from the Old Articles 48 The Constitution Establishes the Process for Amendment 48 The Constitution Sets Forth Rules for Its Own Ratification 48 The Constitution Limits the National Government’s Power 48

Ratification of the Constitution Was Difficult 51 Federalists and Antifederalists Fought Bitterly over the Wisdom

of the New Constitution 52

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Comparing Systems of Government 55

Both Federalists and Antifederalists Contributed to the Success of the New System 56

Changing the Constitution 56 Amendments: Many Are Called; Few Are Chosen 56 The Amendment Process Reflects “Higher Law” 57

The Constitution: What Do We Want? 60 WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Gained the Right to Vote through

Amendments? 61

Key Terms 64 For Further Reading 65


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3 ★ Federalism 66

Federalism Shapes American Politics 69 Federalism Comes from the Constitution 69

The Definition of Federalism Has Changed Radically over Time 73

Federalism under the “Traditional System” Gave Most Powers to the States 73

The Supreme Court Paved the Way for the End of the Early Federal System 75

FDR’s New Deal Remade the Government 77 Changing Court Interpretations of Federalism Helped the

New Deal While Preserving States’ Rights 78 Cooperative Federalism Pushes States to Achieve

National Goals 80 National Standards Have Been Advanced through

Federal Programs 81

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Cooperative Federalism: Competition or a Check on Power? 83

New Federalism Means More State Control 85 There Is No Simple Answer to Finding the Right National–State Balance 86

Federalism: What Do We Want? 90 WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Participates in State and Local Politics? 91

Key Terms 94 For Further Reading 95

4 ★ Civil Liberties and Civil Rights 96

The Origin of the Bill of Rights Lies in Those Who Opposed the Constitution 99

The Fourteenth Amendment Nationalized the Bill of Rights through Incorporation 101

The First Amendment Guarantees Freedom of Religion, Speech, and the Press 103

Freedom of Religion 103 The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech and of the

Press Ensure the Free Exchange of Ideas 105 Political Speech Is Consistently Protected 106 Symbolic Speech, Speech Plus, Assembly, and Petition Are Highly Protected 106 Freedom of the Press Is Broad 108 Some Speech Has Only Limited Protection 109

The Second Amendment Now Protects an Individual’s Right to Own a Gun 112

Rights of the Criminally Accused Are Based on Due Process of Law 113 The Fourth Amendment Protects against Unlawful Searches and Seizures 114 The Fifth Amendment Covers Court-Related Rights 115


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The Sixth Amendment’s Right to Counsel Is Crucial for a Fair Trial 117

The Eighth Amendment Bars Cruel and Unusual Punishment 118

The Right to Privacy Means the Right to Be Left Alone 119

Civil Rights Are Protections by the Government 120 Plessy v. Ferguson Established “Separate but Equal” 121 Lawsuits to Fight for Equality Came after World War II 122 The Civil Rights Struggle Escalated after Brown v. Board

of Education 123 The Civil Rights Acts Made Equal Protection a Reality 125 Affirmative Action Attempts to Right Past Wrongs 128

The Civil Rights Struggle Was Extended to Other Disadvantaged Groups 130

Americans Have Fought Gender Discrimination 130 Latinos and Asian Americans Fight for Rights 132 Native Americans Have Sovereignty but Still Lack Rights 134

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Civil Liberties around the World 135

Disabled Americans Won a Great Victory in 1990 136 LGBTQ Americans 136

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: What Do We Want? 137 WHO PARTICIPATES? Religious Affiliation and Freedom of Religion 139

Key Terms 142 For Further Reading 143


5 ★ Public Opinion 144

Public Opinion Represents Attitudes about Politics 147 Americans Share Common Political Values 148 America’s Dominant Political Ideologies Are Liberalism

and Conservatism 149 Americans Exhibit Low Trust in Government 152

Political Socialization Shapes Public Opinion 152

Political Knowledge Is Important in Shaping Public Opinion 157

The Media and Government Mold Opinion 160 The Government Leads Public Opinion 160 Private Groups Also Shape Public Opinion 161 The News Media’s Message Affects Public Opinion 161 Government Policies Also Respond to Public Opinion 162


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Measuring Public Opinion Is Crucial to Understanding What It Is 163 Public-Opinion Surveys Are Accurate If Done Properly 163

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Confidence in Democratic Institutions 164

Why Are Some Polls Wrong? 166

Public Opinion: What Do We Want? 169 WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Expresses Their Political Opinions? 171

Key Terms 174 For Further Reading 175

6 ★ The Media 176

Media Have Always Mattered in a Democracy 179 Journalists Are News-Gathering Professionals 179 The Profit Motive Drives the News Business 180 More Media Outlets Are Owned by Fewer

Companies 180

The Media Today 182 Newspapers Still Set the Standard for News

Reporting 183 Broadcast Media Are Still Popular 184 Radio Has Adapted to Modern Habits 185 Digital Media Have Transformed Media Habits 186 Citizen Journalism Gives People News Power 189 Concerns about Online News 190

The Media Affect Power Relations in American Politics 191 The Media Influence Public Opinion through Agenda-Setting,

Framing, and Priming 191 Leaked Information Can Come from Government Officials

or Independent Sources 193 Adversarial Journalism Has Risen in Recent Years 194 Broadcast Media Are Regulated but Not Print Media 194

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE The Internet and Global Democracy 196

The Media: What Do We Want? 197 WHO PARTICIPATES? Civic Engagement in the Digital Age 199

Key Terms 202 For Further Reading 203


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7 ★ Political Parties, Participation, and Elections 204

Parties and Elections Have Been Vital to American Politics and Government 207

Political Parties Arose from the Electoral Process 207 Parties Recruit Candidates 208 Parties Organize Nominations 208 Parties Help Get Out the Vote 209 Parties Organize Power in Congress 210

America Is One of the Few Nations with a Two-Party System 210 Parties Have Internal Disagreements 217 Electoral Realignments Define Party Systems in American

History 217 American Third Parties Sometimes Change the Major Parties

and Election Outcomes 218 Group Affiliations Are Based on Voters’ Psychological Ties

to One of the Parties 220

Political Participation Takes Both Traditional and Digital Forms 220

Voting Is the Most Important Form of Traditional Participation 220 Digital Political Participation Is Surging 221 Voter Turnout in America Is Low 223 Why Do People Vote? 224

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Voter Turnout in Comparison 226

Voters Decide Based on Party, Issues, and Candidate 227 Party Loyalty Is Important 227 Issues Can Shape an Election 228 Candidate Characteristics Are More Important in the Media

Age 229

The Electoral Process Has Many Levels and Rules 229 The Electoral College Still Organizes Presidential Elections 231

The 2016 and 2018 Elections 232 The 2016 Elections 232 Understanding the 2016 Results 233 The 2018 Election: A Blue Wave Meets a Red Wall 235 The 2018 Election and America’s Future 236

Money Is Critical to Campaigns 237 Campaign Funds Come from Direct Appeals, the Rich, PACs, and

Parties 237

Political Parties, Elections, and Participation: What Do We Want? 240

WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Participated in the 2016 Presidential Election? 241

Key Terms 244 For Further Reading 245


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8 ★ Interest Groups 246

Interest Groups Form to Advocate for Different Interests 249

What Interests Are Represented? 250

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Civil Society around the World 252

Some Interests Are Not Represented 253 Group Membership Has an Upper-Class Bias 253

The Organizational Components of Groups Include Money, Offices, and Members 254

The Internet Has Changed the Way Interest Groups Foster Participation 257

The Number of Groups Has Increased in Recent Decades 258 The Expansion of Government Has Spurred the Growth of Groups 259 Public Interest Groups Grew in the 1960s and ’70s 259

Interest Groups Use Different Strategies to Gain Influence 259 Direct Lobbying Combines Education, Persuasion, and Pressure 261 Cultivating Access Means Getting the Attention of Decision Makers 262 Using the Courts (Litigation) Can Be Highly Effective 263 Mobilizing Public Opinion Brings Wider Attention to an Issue 264 Groups Often Use Electoral Politics 266

Groups and Interests: What Do We Want? 267 WHO PARTICIPATES? How Much Do Major Groups Spend? 269

Key Terms 272 For Further Reading 273


9 ★ Congress 274

Congress Represents the American People 277 The House and Senate Offer Differences

in Representation 277 Representation Can Be Sociological or Agency 278 The Electoral Connection Hinges on Incumbency 281 Direct Patronage Means Bringing Home the Bacon 286

The Organization of Congress Is Shaped by Party 288 Party Leadership in the House and the Senate Organizes Power 289 The Committee System Is the Core of Congress 289 The Staff System Is the Power behind the Power 291


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AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Women’s Parliamentary Representation Worldwide 292

Rules of Lawmaking Explain How a Bill Becomes a Law 293 The First Step Is Committee Deliberation 293 Debate Is Less Restricted in the Senate Than in the House 295 Conference Committees Reconcile House and Senate Versions

of Legislation 296 The President’s Veto Controls the Flow of Legislation 297

Several Factors Influence How Congress Decides 297 Constituents Matter 297 Interest Groups Influence Constituents and Congress 298 Party Leaders Rely on Party Discipline 299 Partisanship Has Thwarted the Ability of Congress to Decide 303

Much Congressional Energy Goes to Tasks Other Than Lawmaking 303

Congress Oversees How Legislation Is Implemented 304 Special Senate Powers Include Advice and Consent 305 Impeachment Is the Power to Remove Top Officials 305

Congress: What Do We Want? 306 WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Elects Congress? 307

Key Terms 310 For Further Reading 313

10 ★ The Presidency 314

Presidential Power Is Rooted in the Constitution 317 Expressed Powers Come Directly from the Words

of the Constitution 318 Implied Powers Derive from Expressed Powers 323 Delegated Powers Come from Congress 324 Modern Presidents Have Claimed Inherent Powers 324

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Executive Branches in Comparison 325

Institutional Resources of Presidential Power Are Numerous 327

The Cabinet Is Often Distant from the President 327 The White House Staff Constitutes the President’s Eyes and

Ears 327 The Executive Office of the President Is a Visible Sign of the

Modern Strong Presidency 328 The Vice Presidency Has Become More Important since the

1970s 329 The First Spouse Has Become Important to Policy 330


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Party, Popular Mobilization, and Administration Make Presidents Stronger 331

Going Public Means Trying to Whip Up the People 332 The Administrative Strategy Increases Presidential Control 334 Presidential Power Has Limits 339

The Presidency: What Do We Want? 340 WHO PARTICIPATES? Who Voted for Donald Trump in 2016? 341

Key Terms 344 For Further Reading 345

11 ★ Bureaucracy 346

Bureaucracy Exists to Improve Efficiency 349 Bureaucrats Fulfill Important Roles 349 The Size of the Federal Service Has Actually

Declined 352 The Executive Branch Is Organized Hierarchically 352

Federal Bureaucracies Promote Welfare and Security 355

Federal Bureaucracies Promote Public Well-Being 356

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Bureaucracy in Comparison 357

Federal Agencies Provide for National Security 358 Federal Bureaucracies Help to Maintain a Strong National Economy 362

Several Forces Control Bureaucracy 363 The President as Chief Executive Can Direct Agencies 363 Congress Promotes Responsible Bureaucracy 365 Can the Bureaucracy Be Reformed? 366

Bureaucracy and Democracy: What Do We Want? 367 WHO PARTICIPATES? Waiting for a Veterans Affairs Health Care Appointment 369

Key Terms 372 For Further Reading 373

12 ★ The Federal Courts 374

The Legal System Settles Disputes 377 Court Cases Proceed under Criminal and Civil Law 377 Types of Courts Include Trial, Appellate, and Supreme 378

The Federal Courts Hear a Small Percentage of All Cases 381

The Lower Federal Courts Handle Most Cases 381 The Appellate Courts Hear 20 Percent of Lower-Court Cases 382 The Supreme Court Is the Court of Final Appeal 383 Judges Are Appointed by the President and Approved by the Senate 384


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The Power of the Supreme Court Is Judicial Review 385 Judicial Review Covers Acts of Congress 386

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Term Limits for High Court Justices 387

Judicial Review Applies to Presidential Actions 388 Judicial Review Also Applies to State Actions 389

Most Cases Reach the Supreme Court by Appeal 390 The Solicitor General, Law Clerks, and Interest Groups Also

Influence the Flow of Cases 392 The Supreme Court’s Procedures Mean Cases May Take

Months or Years 394

Supreme Court Decisions Are Influenced by Activism and Ideology 397

The Federal Courts: What Do We Want? 400 WHO PARTICIPATES? Influencing the Supreme Court? 401

Key Terms 404 For Further Reading 405


13 ★ Domestic Policy 406

The Tools for Making Policy Are Techniques of Control 409 Promotional Policies Get People to Do Things by Giving

Them Rewards 409 Regulatory Policies Are Rules Backed by Penalties 411 Redistributive Policies Affect Broad Classes of People 413 Should the Government Intervene in the Economy? 415

Social Policy and the Welfare System Buttress Equality 416 The History of the Government Welfare System Dates Only

to the 1930s 416 The Modern Welfare System Has Three Parts 417 Welfare Reform Has Dominated the Welfare Agenda in

Recent Years 421

The Cycle of Poverty Can Be Broken by Education, Health, and Housing Policies 423

Education Policies Provide Life Tools 423 Health Policies Mean Fewer Sick Days 425

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE U.S. Healthcare: High Cost, Poor Outcomes 427

Housing Policies Provide Residential Stability 431

Social Policy Spending Benefits the Middle Class More Than the Poor 432

Senior Citizens Receive over a Third of All Federal Dollars 433 The Middle and Upper Classes Benefit from Social Policies 434


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The Working Poor Receive Fewer Benefits 434 Spending for the Nonworking Poor Is Declining 435 Minorities, Women, and Children Are Most Likely to Face Poverty 435

Domestic Policy: What Do We Want? 437 WHO PARTICIPATES? Growing Student Debt Burden 439

Key Terms 442 For Further Reading 443

14 ★ Foreign Policy 444

Foreign Policy Goals Are Related 447 Security Is Based on Military Strength 447 Economic Prosperity Helps All Nations 451 America Seeks a More Humane World 451

AMERICA SIDE BY SIDE Building Influence through International Connections 452

American Foreign Policy Is Shaped by Government and Nongovernment Actors 453

The President Leads Foreign Policy 454 The Bureaucracy Implements and Informs Policy Decisions 455 Congress’s Legal Authority Can Be Decisive 456 Interest Groups Pressure Foreign Policy Decision Makers 457

Tools of American Foreign Policy Include Diplomacy, Force, and Money 458 Diplomacy 459 The United Nations Is the World’s Congress 459 The International Monetary Structure Helps Provide Economic Stability 460 Economic Aid Has Two Sides 460 Collective Security Is Designed to Deter War 461 Military Force Is “Politics by Other Means” 462 Soft Power Uses Persuasion 463 Arbitration Resolves Disputes 463

Current Foreign Policy Issues Facing the United States 464 A Powerful China and a Resurgent Russia 464 Nuclear Proliferation in Iran and North Korea 466 Trade Policy 467 Global Environmental Policy 467

Foreign Policy and Democracy: What Do We Want? 468 WHO PARTICIPATES? Public Opinion on Security Issues 469

Key Terms 472 For Further Reading 473


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The Declaration of Independence A1

The Articles of Confederation A5

The Constitution of the United States of America A11

Amendments to the Constitution A21

The Federalist Papers A30

The Anti-Federalist Papers A38

Presidents and Vice Presidents A45

Endnotes A49 Answer Key A81 Credits A83 Glossary/Index A85


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This book has been and continues to be dedicated to dev eloping a satisfactor y response to the question more and more Americans are asking: Why should we be engaged with go vernment and politics? Through the first 11 editions, we sought to answ er this question b y making the text dir ectly relevant to the liv es of the students who would be r eading it. As a r esult, w e tried to make politics inter est- ing by demonstrating that students ’ interests are at stake and that they ther efore need to take a personal, ev en selfish, interest in the outcomes of go vernment. A t the same time, we realized that students needed guidance in how to become politically engaged. Beyond providing students with a core of political knowledge, we needed to show them how they could apply that knowledge as participants in the political process. The “Who Participates?” and “What You Can Do” sections in each chapter help achieve that goal.

As events from the last several years have reminded us, “what government does” inevitably raises questions about political par ticipation and political equality . The size and composition of the electorate, for example, affect who is elected to public office and what policy dir ections the go vernment will pursue. H ence, the issue of v oter ID laws became impor tant in the 2016 election, with some arguing that these laws r e- duce v oter fraud and others contending that they decr ease par ticipation b y poor and minority voters. Charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 election have raised questions about the integrity of the voting process. Fierce debates about the policies of the Trump administration have heightened students’ interest in politics. O ther recent events have underscored how Americans from different backgrounds experience politics. Arguments about immigration became contentious during the 2016 election as the nation once again debated the question of who is entitled to be an American a nd have a voice in determin- ing what the government does. And charges that the police often use ex cessive violence against members of minority gr oups have raised questions about whether the go vern- ment treats all Americans equally. Reflecting all of these trends, this new Twelfth Edition shows more than any other book on the market (1) how students are connected to gov- ernment, (2) why students should think critically about go vernment and politics, and (3) how Americans fr om different backgrounds experience and shape politics. To help us explore these themes, P rofessor Andrea Campbell has joined us as the most r ecent in a gr oup of distinguished coauthors. P rofessor Campbell’s scholarly wor k focuses on the ways in which go vernment and politics affect the lives of ordinary citizens. Among her contributions are new chapter introductions that focus on stories of individuals and how government has affected them. Many Americans, particularly the young, can have difficulty seeing the role of go vernment in their ev eryday liv es. I ndeed, that ’s a chief explanation of low voter participation among younger citizens. The new chapter openers profile various individuals and illustrate their interactions with government, from a rock


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band that gets its controversial name approved by the Supreme Court (Chapter 4), to a young mother who realizes the tap water in her Flint, Michigan, home is poisoning her children after local officials switched the source (Chapter 11), to teenagers pr otesting the end of net neutrality and the internet as they hav e known it (Chapter 6). The goal of these stories is to show students in a vivid way how government and politics mean something to their daily lives.

Several other elements of the book also help show students why politics and govern- ment should matter to them. These include:

• A twenty-first-century perspective on demographic change moves beyond the book’s strong coverage of traditional civil rights content with expanded coverage of contemporary group politics.

• “Who Participates?” infographics at the end of every chapter show students how different groups of Americans participate in key aspects of politics and government. Each concludes with a “What You Can Do” section that provides students with specific, realistic steps they can take to act on what they’ve learned and get involved in politics.

• “America Side by Side” boxes in every chapter use data figures and tables to provide a comparative perspective. By comparing political institutions and behavior across countries, students gain a better understanding of how specific features of the American system shape politics.

• Up-to-date coverage, with more than 10 pages and numerous graphics on the 2016 and 2018 elections, including a five-page section devoted to analysis of these momentous elections in Chapter 8, as well as updated data, examples, and other information throughout the book.

• “What Do We Want” chapter conclusions step back and provide perspective on how the chapter content connects to fundamental questions about the American political system. The conclusions also reprise the important point made in the personal profiles that begin each chapter that government matters to the lives of individuals.

• This Twelfth Edition is accompanied by InQuizitive, Norton’s award-winning formative, adaptive online quizzing program. The InQuizitive course for We the People, Essentials Edition, guides students through questions organized around the text’s chapter learning objectives to ensure mastery of the core information and to help with assessment. More information and a demonstration are available at

We note with r egret the passing of Theodore Lowi as w ell as M argaret Weir’s decision to step do wn fr om the book. We miss them but continue to hear their v oices and to benefit from their wisdom in the pages of our book. We also continue to hope that our book will itself be accepted as a form of enlightened political action. This Twelfth Edition is another chance. It is an advancement toward our goal. We promise to keep trying.


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We ar e especially pleased to ackno wledge the many colleagues who had a dir ect and active role in criticism and preparation of the manuscript. Our thanks go to:

First Edition Reviewers

Sarah Binder, Brookings Institution Kathleen Gille, Office of Representative David

Bonior Rodney Hero, University of Colorado

at Boulder Robert Katzmann, Brookings Institution Kathleen Knight, University of Houston Robin Kolodny, Temple University Nancy Kral, Tomball College Robert C. Lieberman, Columbia University David A. Marcum, University of Wyoming Laura R. Winsky Mattei, State University

of New York at Buffalo Marilyn S. Mertens, Midwestern State

University Barbara Suhay, Henry Ford Community

College Carolyn Wong, Stanford University Julian Zelizer, State University of New York

at Albany

Second Edition Reviewers

Lydia Andrade, University of North Texas John Coleman, University of Wisconsin

at Madison Daphne Eastman, Odessa College Otto Feinstein, Wayne State University Elizabeth Flores, Delmar College James Gimpel, University of Maryland

at College Park Jill Glaathar, Southwest Missouri State

University Shaun Herness, University of Florida

William Lyons, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Andrew Polsky, Hunter College, City University of New York

Grant Reeher, Syracuse University Richard Rich, Virginia Polytechnic Bartholomew Sparrow, University

of Texas at Austin

Third Edition Reviewers

Bruce R. Drury, Lamar University Andrew I. E. Ewoh, Prairie View A&M

University Amy Jasperson, University of Texas

at San Antonio Loch Johnson, University of Georgia Mark Kann, University of Southern California Robert L. Perry, University of Texas

of the Permian Basin Wayne Pryor, Brazosport College Elizabeth A. Rexford, Wharton County Junior

College Andrea Simpson, University of Washington Brian Smentkowski, Southeast Missouri State

University Nelson Wikstrom, Virginia Commonwealth


Fourth Edition Reviewers

M. E. Banks, Virginia Commonwealth University

Lynn Brink, North Lake College Mark Cichock, University of Texas

at Arlington


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Del Fields, St. Petersburg College Nancy Kinney, Washtenaw Community

College William Klein, St. Petersburg College Dana Morales, Montgomery College Christopher Muste, Louisiana State University Larry Norris, South Plains College David Rankin, State University of New York

at Fredonia Paul Roesler, St. Charles Community College J. Philip Rogers, San Antonio College Greg Shaw, Illinois Wesleyan University Tracy Skopek, Stephen F. Austin State

University Don Smith, University of North Texas Terri Wright, Cal State, Fullerton

Fifth Edition Reviewers

Annie Benifield, Tomball College Denise Dutton, Southwest Missouri State

University Rick Kurtz, Central Michigan University Kelly McDaniel, Three Rivers Community

College Eric Plutzer, Pennsylvania State University Daniel Smith, Northwest Missouri State

University Dara Strolovitch, University of Minnesota Dennis Toombs, San Jacinto College–North Stacy Ulbig, Southwest Missouri State


Sixth Edition Reviewers

Janet Adamski, University of Mary Hardin–Baylor

Greg Andrews, St. Petersburg College Louis Bolce, Baruch College Darin Combs, Tulsa Community College Sean Conroy, University of New Orleans Paul Cooke, Cy Fair College Vida Davoudi, Kingwood College Robert DiClerico, West Virginia University Corey Ditslear, University of North Texas Kathy Dolan, University of Wisconsin,

Milwaukee Randy Glean, Midwestern State University Nancy Kral, Tomball College Mark Logas, Valencia Community College

Scott MacDougall, Diablo Valley College David Mann, College of Charleston Christopher Muste, University of Montana Richard Pacelle, Georgia Southern University Sarah Poggione, Florida International

University Richard Rich, Virginia Tech Thomas Schmeling, Rhode Island College Scott Spitzer, California State

University–Fullerton Robert Wood, University of North Dakota

Seventh Edition Reviewers

Molly Andolina, DePaul University Nancy Bednar, Antelope Valley College Paul Blakelock, Kingwood College Amy Brandon, San Jacinto College Jim Cauthen, John Jay College Kevin Davis, North Central Texas College Louis DeSipio, University of California–Irvine Brandon Franke, Blinn College Steve Garrison, Midwestern State University Joseph Howard, University of Central Arkansas Aaron Knight, Houston Community

College Paul Labedz, Valencia Community College Elise Langan, John Jay College Mark Logas, Valencia Community College Eric Miller, Blinn College Anthony O’Regan, Los Angeles Valley College David Putz, Kingwood College Chis Soper, Pepperdine University Kevin Wagner, Florida Atlantic University Laura Wood, Tarrant County College

Eighth Edition Reviewers

Brian Arbour, John Jay College, CUNY Ellen Baik, University of Texas–Pan

American David Birch, Lone Star College–Tomball Bill Carroll, Sam Houston State University Ed Chervenak, University of New Orleans Gary Church, Mountain View College Adrian Stefan Clark, Del Mar College Annie Cole, Los Angeles City College Greg Combs, University of Texas at Dallas Cassandra Cookson, Lee College Brian Cravens, Blinn College


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John Crosby, California State University–Chico

Scott Crosby, Valencia Community College Courtenay Daum, Colorado State

University, Fort Collins Peter Doas, University of Texas–Pan American John Domino, Sam Houston State University Doug Dow, University of Texas–Dallas Jeremy Duff, Midwestern State University Heather Evans, Sam Houston State University Hyacinth Ezeamii, Albany State University Bob Fitrakis, Columbus State Community

College Brian Fletcher, Truckee Meadows

Community College Paul Foote, Eastern Kentucky University Frank Garrahan, Austin Community College Jimmy Gleason, Purdue University Steven Greene, North Carolina State

University Jeannie Grussendorf, Georgia State University M. Ahad Hayaud-Din, Brookhaven College Alexander Hogan, Lone Star College–CyFair Glen Hunt, Austin Community College Mark Jendrysik, University of North Dakota Krista Jenkins, Fairleigh Dickinson

University Carlos Juárez, Hawaii Pacific University Melinda Kovács, Sam Houston State

University Boyd Lanier, Lamar University Jeff Lazarus, Georgia State University Jeffrey Lee, Blinn College Alan Lehmann, Blinn College Julie Lester, Macon State College Steven Lichtman, Shippensburg University Fred Lokken, Truckee Meadows

Community College Shari MacLachlan, Palm Beach

Community College Guy Martin, Winston-Salem State University Fred Monardi, College of Southern Nevada Vincent Moscardelli, University of

Connecticut Jason Mycoff, University of Delaware Sugumaran Narayanan, Midwestern State

University Anthony Nownes, University of Tennessee,

Knoxville Elizabeth Oldmixon, University of North Texas

John Osterman, San Jacinto College–Central Mark Peplowski, College of Southern Nevada Maria Victoria Perez-Rios, John Jay

College, CUNY Sara Rinfret, University of Wisconsin, Green

Bay Andre Robinson, Pulaski Technical College Susan Roomberg, University of Texas at San

Antonio Ryan Rynbrandt, Collin County Community

College Mario Salas, Northwest Vista College Michael Sanchez, San Antonio College Mary Schander, Pasadena City College Laura Schneider, Grand Valley State

University Subash Shah, Winston-Salem

State University Mark Shomaker, Blinn College Roy Slater, St. Petersburg College Debra St. John, Collin College Eric Whitaker, Western Washington

University Clay Wiegand, Cisco College Walter Wilson, University of Texas at

San Antonio Kevan Yenerall, Clarion University Rogerio Zapata, South Texas College

Ninth Edition Reviewers Amy Acord, Lone Star College–CyFair Milan Andrejevich, Ivy Tech Community

College Steve Anthony, Georgia State University Phillip Ardoin, Appalachian State

University Gregory Arey, Cape Fear Community College Joan Babcock, Northwest Vista College Evelyn Ballard, Houston Community College Robert Ballinger, South Texas College Mary Barnes-Tilley, Blinn College Robert Bartels, Evangel University Nancy Bednar, Antelope Valley College Annie Benifield, Lone Star College–Tomball Donna Bennett, Trinity Valley Community

College Amy Brandon, El Paso Community College Mark Brewer, The University of Maine Gary Brown, Lone Star College–Montgomery


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Joe Campbell, Johnson County Community College

Dewey Clayton, University of Louisville Jeff Colbert, Elon University Amanda Cook-Fesperman, Illinois Valley

Community College Kevin Corder, Western Michigan University Kevin Davis, North Central Texas College Paul Davis, Truckee Meadows Community

College Terri Davis, Lamar University Jennifer De Maio, California State

University, Northridge Christopher Durso, Valencia College Ryan Emenaker, College of the Redwoods Leslie Feldman, Hofstra University Glen Findley, Odessa College Michael Gattis, Gulf Coast State College Donna Godwin, Trinity Valley Community

College Precious Hall, Truckee Meadows

Community College Sally Hansen, Daytona State College Tiffany Harper, Collin College Todd Hartman, Appalachian State University Virginia Haysley, Lone Star College–Tomball David Head, John Tyler Community College Rick Henderson, Texas State University–San

Marcos Richard Herrera, Arizona State University Thaddaus Hill, Blinn College Steven Holmes, Bakersfield College Kevin Holton, South Texas College Robin Jacobson, University of Puget Sound Joseph Jozwiak, Texas A & M–Corpus Christi Casey Klofstad, University of Miami Samuel Lingrosso, Los Angeles Valley College Mark Logas, Valencia College Christopher Marshall, South Texas College Larry McElvain, South Texas College Elizabeth McLane, Wharton County Junior

College Eddie Meaders, University of North Texas Rob Mellen, Mississippi State University Jalal Nejad, Northwest Vista College Adam Newmark, Appalachian State University Stephen Nicholson, University of

California, Merced Cissie Owen, Lamar University Suzanne Preston, St. Petersburg College David Putz, Lone Star College–Kingwood

Auksuole Rubavichute, Mountain View College

Ronnee Schreiber, San Diego State University Ronald Schurin, University of Connecticut Jason Seitz, Georgia Perimeter College Jennifer Seitz, Georgia Perimeter College Shannon Sinegal,The University of New

Orleans John Sides, George Washington University Thomas Sowers, Lamar University Jim Startin, University of Texas at San Antonio Robert Sterken, University of Texas at Tyler Bobby Summers, Harper College John Theis, Lone Star College–Kingwood John Todd, University of North Texas Delaina Toothman, The University of Maine David Trussell, Cisco College Ronald Vardy, University of Houston Linda Veazey, Midwestern State University John Vento, Antelope Valley Community

College Clif Wilkinson, Georgia College John Wood, Rose State College Michael Young, Trinity Valley Community

College Tyler Young, Collin College

Tenth Edition Reviewers

Stephen P. Amberg, University of Texas at San Antonio

Juan F. Arzola, College of the Sequoias Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes University Christina Bejarano, University of Kansas Paul T. Bellinger, Jr., University of Missouri Melanie J. Blumberg, California University of

Pennsylvania Matthew T. Bradley, Indiana University

Kokomo Jeffrey W. Christiansen, Seminole State

College McKinzie Craig, Marietta College Christopher Cronin, Methodist University Jenna Duke, Lehigh Carbon Community

College Francisco Durand, University of Texas at San

Antonio Carrie Eaves, Elon University Paul M. Flor, El Camino College Compton

Center Adam Fuller, Youngstown State University


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Christi Gramling, Charleston Southern University

Sally Hansen, Daytona State College Mary Jane Hatton, Hawai’i Pacific University David Helpap, University of

Wisconsin–Green Bay Theresa L. Hutchins, Georgia Highlands College Cryshanna A. Jackson Leftwich, Youngstown

State University Ashlyn Kuersten, Western Michigan University Kara Lindaman, Winona State University Timothy Lynch, University of

Wisconsin–Milwaukee Larry McElvain, South Texas College Corinna R. McKoy, Ventura College Eddie L. Meaders, University of North Texas Don D. Mirjanian, College of Southern

Nevada R. Shea Mize, Georgia Highlands College Nicholas Morgan, Collin College Matthew Murray, Dutchess Community

College Harold “Trey” Orndorff III, Daytona State

College Randall Parish, University of North Georgia Michelle Pautz, University of Dayton Michael Pickering, University of New Orleans Donald Ranish, Antelope Valley College Glenn W. Richardson, Jr., Kutztown

University of Pennsylvania Jason Robles, Colorado State University Ionas Aurelian Rus, University of Cincinnati–

Blue Ash Robert Sahr, Oregon State University Kelly B. Shaw, Iowa State University Captain Michael Slattery, Campbell University Michael Smith, Sam Houston State University Maryam T. Stevenson, University of

Indianapolis Elizabeth Trentanelli, Gulf Coast State

College Ronald W. Vardy, University of Houston Timothy Weaver, University of Louisville Christina Wolbrecht, University of Notre


Eleventh Edition Reviewers

Maria J. Albo, University of North Georgia Andrea Aleman, University of Texas at San


Juan Arzola, College of the Sequoias Ross K. Baker, Rutgers University Lauren Balasco, Pittsburg State University Daniel Birdsong, University of Dayton Phil Branyon, University of North Georgia Camille D. Burge, Villanova University Matthew DeSantis, Guilford Technical

Community College Sheryl Edwards, University of

Michigan–Dearborn Lauren Elliott-Dorans, University of

Toledo Heather Evans, Sam Houston State

University William Feagin, Jr., Wharton County Junior

College Glen Findley, Odessa College Heather Frederick, Slipper Rock University Jason Ghibesi, Ocean County College Patrick Gilbert, Lone Star–Tomball Rebecca Herzog, American River College Steven Horn, Everett Community College Demetra Kasimis, California State

University, Long Beach Eric T. Kasper, University of Wisconsin–Eau

Claire Jill Kirkham, Brigham Young University–

Idaho Mary Linder, Grayson County College Johnson Louie, California State University,

Stanislaus Phil McCall, Portland State University Patrick Novotny, Georgia Southern

University Carolyn Myers, Southwestern Illinois

College–Belleville Gerhard Peters, Citrus College Michael A. Powell, Frederick Community

College Robert Proctor, Santa Rosa Junior College Allen K. Settle, California Polytechnic State

University Laurie Sprankle, Community College of

Allegheny County Ryan Lee Teten, University of Louisiana

at Lafayette Justin Vaughn, Boise State University John Vento, Antelope Valley College Aaron Weinschenk, University of

Wisconsin–Green Bay Tyler Young, Collin College


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Twelfth Edition Reviewers

Craig Albert, Augusta University Alexa Bankert, University of Georgia Nathan Barrick, University of South Florida Jeff Birdsong, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M

College Sara Butler, College of the Desert Cory Colby, Lone Star College Anthony Daniels, University of Toledo Dennis Falcon, Cerritos College Kathleen Ferraiolo, James Madison University Patrick Gilbert, Lone Star College, Tomball Matthew Green, Catholic University

of America Matt Guardino, Providence College Barbara Headrick, Minnesota State University,

Moorhead Justin Hoggard, Three Rivers Community

College John Patrick Ifedi, Howard University Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, Youngstown

State University Douglas Kriner, Boston University Thom Kuehls, Weber State University

Jennifer Lawless, American University LaDella Levy, College of Southern Nevada Timothy Lim, California State University, Los

Angeles Sam Lingrosso, Los Angeles Valley College Mandy May, College of Southern Maryland Suzanne Mettler, Cornell University Michael Miller, Barnard College Joseph Njoroge, Abraham Baldwin

Agricultural College Michael Petri, Santa Ana College Christopher Poulios, Nassau Community

College Andrew Rudalevige, Bowdoin College Amanda Sanford, Louisiana Tech University Elizabeth Saunders, George Washington

University Kathleen Searles, Louisiana State University Matthew Snyder, Delgado Community College Steven Sylvester, Utah Valley University Linda Trautman, Ohio University Lancaster Donald Williams, Western New England

University Peter Yacobucci, Buffalo State College

We ar e also grateful to M elissa M ichelson, of M enlo College, who contributed to the “ Who P articipates?” infographics for this edition; H olley H ansen, of O klahoma State University, who contributed to the “America Side by Side” boxes.

Perhaps abo ve all, w e thank those at W. W. N orton. F or its first five editions, editor Steve Dunn helped us shape the book in countless ways. Lisa McKay contrib- uted smart ideas and a keen editorial eye to the Tenth Edition. Ann Shin carried on the Norton tradition of splendid editorial wor k on the S ixth through Ninth and E leventh Editions. Peter Lesser br ought intelligence and dedication to the dev elopment of this Twelfth E dition. F or our I nQuizitive course and other instr uctor r esources, S pencer Richardson-Jones has been an energetic and visionar y editor. Ashley H orna, M ichael Jaoui, Tricia Vuong, and Anna Olcott also kept the production of the Eleventh Edition and its accompanying resources coherent and in focus. Lynne Cannon copyedited the manuscript, and our superb project editor Christine D’Antonio devoted countless hours to keeping on top of myriad details. We thank Elyse Rieder for finding new photos and our photo editor Stephanie Romeo for managing the image program. Finally, we thank Roby Harrington, the head of Norton’s college department.

Benjamin Ginsberg Caroline J. Tolbert Andrea L. Campbell

October 2018


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An Introduction to American Politics

We the People

121212 edition


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010101 chapter

Introduction: The Citizen and Government WHAT GOVERNMENT DOES AND WHY IT MATTERS Meet two of the nation’s youngest elected officials. Saira Blair became the young-

est member of West Virginia’s House of Delegates when she won election as

an 18-year-old college freshman. The day after her victory party in November

2014, she was back in class at West Virginia University. In May 2017, Prairie

View A&M senior Kendric D. Jones similarly achieved electoral victory, becom-

ing the youngest city council member in the state of Texas. What got Blair

and Jones involved in politics? Both had sources of political inspiration. Blair

followed in the footsteps of her father, a West Virginia state senator, who she

had accompanied to political events since childhood. Jones was inspired by

the long history of activism at Prairie View, which was founded in 1876 during

Reconstruction by some of the first African American members of the Texas

state legislature. A further spur to action was President Obama’s call in his

2017 farewell address to “grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for

office yourself.” Both also had strong commitments to issues. Blair believes

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Introduction: The Citizen and Government

While Americans share a belief in the values of liberty, equality, and democracy, debates rage about how to live up to those values. To advocate for their beliefs, Republican Saira Blair (left) and Democrat Kendric Jones (right)—both college students—ran for office and won. What is the citizen’s role in America’s democratic system?

in limited government, lower taxes, and Second Amendment gun rights. Jones

has a long history of working in the community, serving in student government,

and founding a mentoring program for middle-school boys.

Both Blair and Jones also believe deeply in political participation, espe-

cially that of young people. As Jones said, “The students of Prairie View A&M

University’s voices have not been heard. Since I have been here, the city has

been stagnant and has not made any progression—outside of the university.

I feel as though a young, innovative mind can push this city forward.” After

participating in a mock government program in high school, Blair saw that

young people were just as capable as lawmakers decades older: “When I saw

how capable the students were of creating . . . legislation and really getting

work done, it really made me realize that we really didn’t need to wait.”1

Blair and Jones’s experiences show that citizens are at the center of

democratic government. They ran for office because they care about public

issues and want to have a hand in shaping policy outcomes. What are you

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passionate about? How does government affect your everyday life and that

of your family, friends, and community? And how are differences in political

views resolved in politics? Americans hold certain values dear, including lib-

erty, equality, and democracy. In fact, if you asked Blair and Jones, they would

almost certainly agree that these are critical values to uphold. However, Blair

and Jones might emphasize one more than the other. And they might have

major disagreements about what those values mean and what the government

should do to shape and uphold them. What are your values? Do you see them

reflected in government today? What do you want government to do?

★ Define government and forms of government (pp. 5–7)

★ Describe the role of the citizen in politics (pp. 8–9)

★ Show how the social composition of the American population has changed over time (pp. 10–16)

★ Analyze whether the U.S. system of government upholds American political values (pp. 16–20)

★ Explore Americans’ attitudes toward government (pp. 20–23)


4 C H A P T E R 1 I N T R O D U c T I O N : T H e c I T I z e N A N D G OV e R N M e N T

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Government Government refers to the formal in- stitutions and pr ocedures thr ough which a territor y and its people ar e ruled. To govern is to r ule. A govern-

ment may be as simple as a to wn meeting in which community members make policy and determine budgets together or as complex as the vast establishments found in many large countries today, with their extensive procedures, laws, and bureaucracies. In the history of civilization, governments have not been difficult to establish. There have been thousands of them. The hard part is establishing a govern- ment that lasts. Even more difficult is developing a stable government that promotes liberty, equality, and democracy.


Governments vary in their structure, in their size, and in the way they operate. Two questions are of special importance in determining how governments differ: Who governs? And how much government control is permitted?

In some nations, government power is held by a single individual, such as a king or dictator, or by a small gr oup of powerful individuals, such as militar y leaders or wealthy landowners. Such a system of government normally pays little attention to popular preferences; it tends to hold power by violence or the threat of violence and is referred to as an authoritarian system, meaning that the go vernment recognizes no formal limit but may nev ertheless be r estrained by the po wer of other social insti – tutions. A system of go vernment in which the degr ee of control is even greater is a totalitarian system, where the government recognizes no formal limits on its power and seeks to absorb or eliminate other social institutions that might challenge it. Nazi G ermany under A dolf H itler and the S oviet Union under J oseph S talin ar e classic examples of totalitarian rule.

In contrast, a democracy is a political system that permits citiz ens to play a significant part in the governmental process, where they are vested with the power to r ule themselv es, usually thr ough the election of key public officials. Under such a system, constitutional government is the norm, in that formal and effective limits are placed on the powers of the government. At times, an author- itarian government might bend to popular wishes, and democratic go vernments do not automatically follo w the wishes of the majority . The point, however, is that these contrasting systems of go vernment ar e based on v ery different assumptions and practices.

Americans have the good for tune to liv e in a nation in which limits ar e placed on what governments can do and how they can do it. By one measure, just 40 per- cent of the global population (those living in 86 countries) enjoy sufficient levels of political and personal freedom to be classified as living in a constitutional democracy.2 And constitutional democracies w ere unhear d of befor e the modern era. P rior to

Define government and forms of government

5G OV e R N M e N T

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the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, go vernments seldom sought (and rar ely received) the support of their ordinary subjects.3

Beginning in the sev enteenth centur y, in a handful of Western nations, two important changes began to take place in the character and conduct of go vern- ment. F irst, go vernments began to ackno wledge formal limits on their po wer. Second, a small number of governments began to provide the ordinary citizen with a formal v oice in public affairs—through the v ote. O bviously, the desirability of limits on go vernment and the expansion of popular influence were at the hear t of the Ameri can R evolution in 1776. “N o taxation without r epresentation” was hotly debated fr om the beginning of the R evolution through the adoption of the modern Constitution in 1789. But even before the Revolution, a tradition of limi- ting government and expanding citiz en par ticipation in the political pr ocess had developed throughout western Europe. Thus, to understand how the r elationship between rulers and the ruled was transformed, we must broaden our focus to take into account events in Europe as well as in America. We will divide the transforma- tion into its two separate parts. The first is the effort to put limits on government. The second is the effort to expand the influence of the people through access to government and politics.


The key force behind the imposition of limits on government power was a new social class, the bourgeoisie. Bourgeoisie is a F rench wor d for “ freeman of the city,” or bourg. Being part of the bourgeoisie later became associated with being “middle class” and with involvement in commerce or industry. In order to gain a share of control of government, joining or even displacing the kings, aristocrats, and gentry who had dominated government for centuries, the bourgeoisie sought to change existing institutions—especially parliaments—into instruments of real political par ticipation. Parliaments had existed for centuries but w ere generally controlled b y the aristocrats. The bourgeoisie embraced parliaments as means by which they could ex ert the w eight of their superior numbers and gr ow- ing economic adv antage against their aristocratic riv als. A t the same time, the bourgeoisie sought to r estrain the capacity of go vernments to thr eaten these economic and political inter ests b y placing formal or constitutional limits on governmental power.

Although motivated primarily b y the need to pr otect and defend their o wn in- terests, the bourgeoisie adv anced many of the principles that became the central underpinnings of individual liber ty for all citiz ens—freedom of speech, fr eedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, and freedom from arbitrary search and seizure. It is important to note here that the bourgeoisie generally did not fav or democracy as we know it. They were advocates of electoral and r epresentative institutions, but they fav ored pr operty r equirements and other r estrictions so as to limit political participation to the middle and upper classes. Yet once these institutions of politics and the protection of the right to engage in politics were established, it was difficult to limit them to the bourgeoisie.

6 C H A P T E R 1 I N T R O D U c T I O N : T H e c I T I z e N A N D G OV e R N M e N T

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In America, the expansion of participation to ever-larger segments of society, seen mostly in the expansion of voting rights, occurred because competing segments of the bour- geoisie sought to gain political advantage by reaching out and mobilizing the support of working- and lower-class groups that craved the opportunity to take part in politics. To be sure, excluded groups often agitated for gr eater participation. But seldom was such agitation, by itself, enough to secure the right to participate. Usually, expansion of voting rights resulted from a combination of pressure from below and help from above.

This pattern of suffrage expansion by gr oups hoping to deriv e some political advantage has been typical in American history. After the Civil War, one of the chief reasons that the Republican Party moved to enfranchise newly freed slaves was to use the support of the former slav es to maintain R epublican control over the defeated southern states. S imilarly, in the early tw entieth centur y, upper -middle-class Pro- gressives advocated women’s suffrage because they believed that women w ere likely to support the reforms espoused by the Progressive movement.


Expansion of par ticipation means that mor e and more people have a legal right to take part in politics. Politics is an impor tant term. In its broadest sense, it r efers to conflicts over the character, membership, and policies of any organization to which people belong. As Harold Lasswell, a famous political scientist, once put it, politics is the str uggle over “who gets what, when, ho w.”4 Although politics is a phenom – enon that can be found in any organization, our concern in this book is narrower. Here, politics will be used to refer only to conflicts and struggles over the leadership, structure, and policies of governments. The goal of politics, as we define it, is to have a share or a say in the composition of the government’s leadership, how the govern- ment is organized, or what its policies are going to be. Having a share is called power or influence.

Participation in politics can take many forms, including blogging and posting opinion pieces online, v oting, sending emails to go vernment officials, lobbying legis lators on behalf of particular programs, and participating in protest marches and even violent demonstrations. A system of government in which the populace selects representatives, who play a significant role in governmental decision mak- ing, is usually called a representative democracy, or republic. A system that permits citizens to vote directly on laws and policies is often called a direct democracy. At the national level, America is a representative democracy in which citizens select government officials but do not vote on legislation. Some states and cities, how- ever, have provisions for dir ect legislation thr ough ballot initiativ e and popular referendum. In 2017, for example, v oters in M aine approved by state wide vote to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act after the governor had vetoed expansion multiple times.5

7G OV e R N M e N T

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Citizenship Is Based on Political Knowledge and Participation

Citizen par ticipation is the hallmar k of the democratic form of go vern- ment. “G overnment b y the people ” depends on liv ely citiz en inv olve-

ment in public discussion, debate, and activity designed to impr ove the w elfare of one’s community. The very legitimacy of democratic government depends on political par ticipation, which takes a v ariety of forms, fr om the conv entional— voting, contacting elected officials, working on campaigns, making political dona – tions, attending political meetings—to the unconv entional—protesting, bo ycott- ing, and signing petitions.

One key ingr edient for political par ticipation is political knowledge and informa – tion. Democracy functions best when citizens are informed and have the knowledge needed to participate in political debate. Indeed, our definition of citizenship derives from the ideal put forth by the ancient Greeks: enlightened political engagement.6

Citizens need political knowledge, which includes knowing the rules and strate- gies that govern political institutions and the principles on which they are based, to figure out how best to act in their own interests. For example, during the debate in 2017 about whether to repeal the Obama health care reform, one-third of Americans

Protests are a form of direct action citizens can take to influence policy outcomes. The Black Lives Matter movement used peaceful protests and marches to educate fellow citizens and lawmakers on the impact of police brutality on the African American community.

Describe the role of the citizen in politics

8 C H A P T E R 1 I N T R O D U c T I O N : T H e c I T I z e N A N D G OV e R N M e N T

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did not know that “Obamacare” and the “Affordable Care Act” are the same thing.7 That meant that some Americans who had enrolled in “Obamacare” did not realize their access to health insurance would be affected if the ACA were repealed. Citizens need knowledge in order to assess their interests and to know when to act on them.

Effective participation requires knowledge. (It should come as no surprise, then, that people who have less knowledge of politics vote at lower rates than those with more kno wledge.) Kno wledge is the first prerequisite for achieving an incr eased sense of political efficacy.

As mor e and mor e of our social, wor kplace, and educational activities hav e migrated online, so too hav e oppor tunities for political kno wledge and par ticipa- tion, creating a ne w concept of “ digital citizenship.” Digital citizenship is the abil – ity to par ticipate in society online, and it is incr easingly impor tant in politics. A 2015 sur vey found that o ver the pr evious year, 65 per cent of Americans had used the internet—including visiting local, state, or federal go vernment w ebsites—to find data or information about government.8 Digital citizens are more likely to be interested in politics and to discuss politics with friends, family, and coworkers than individuals who do not use online political information. They are also more likely to vote and par ticipate in other ways in elections. I ndividuals without internet access or the skills to par ticipate in politics and the economy online ar e being left fur ther behind. E xclusion fr om par ticipation online is r eferred to as the “ digital divide.” Lower-income and less educated Americans, racial and ethnic minorities, those living in rural areas, and the elderly are all less likely to have internet access.


Another important trend in American views about government has been a declining sense of political efficacy, the belief that ordinary citizens can affect what government does. In 2015, 74 per cent of Americans said that elected officials do not care what people like them think; in 1960, only 25 per cent felt so shut out of go vernment.9 Accompanying this sense that or dinary people cannot be hear d is a gr owing belief that government is not run for the benefit of all the people. In 2015, 76 percent of the public disagreed with the idea that the “government is really run for the benefit of all the people.”10 These views are widely shared across the age spectrum.

This widely felt loss of political efficacy is bad news for American democracy. Why bother to participate if you believe it makes no difference? Yet the belief that you can be effective is the first step needed to influence government. Research shows that the relationship between efficacy and participation is two-way: a feeling that one can make a difference leads to participation, but in addition, joining in can increase one’s feeling of efficacy. Not every effort of ordinary citizens to influence government will succeed, but without any such efforts, go vernment decisions will be made b y a smaller and smaller circle of po werful people. S uch loss of br oad popular influence over govern- ment actions undermines the key feature of American democracy: government by the people. Most people do not want to be politically activ e every day of their liv es, but it is essential to American political ideals that all citizens be informed and able to act.

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The Identity of Americans Has Changed over Time

While American democracy aims to give the people a v oice in go vern- ment, the meaning of “we the people” has changed o ver time. Who are Americans? Ov er the course of

Ameri can histor y, politicians, r eligious leaders, pr ominent scholars, and or dinary Americans hav e puzzled o ver and fought about the answ er to this fundamental question. It is not surprising that such a simple question could pr ovoke so much conflict: the American population has increased over eighty-fold, from 3.9 million in 1790, the year of the first official census, to 327 million in 2018.11 As the American population has grown, it has become more diverse in nearly every dimen- sion imaginable.12

At the time of the F ounding, when the U nited S tates consisted of 13 states arrayed along the Eastern seaboard, 81 percent of Americans counted by the census traced their roots to Europe, mostly England and northern Europe; nearly one in five were of African origin, the v ast majority of whom w ere slaves.13 There was also an unknown number of N ative Americans, not counted b y the census because the government did not consider them Americans.14

Fast-forward to 1900. The country, now stretched out across the continent, had a sharply altered racial and ethnic composition. Waves of immigrants, mainly from Europe, had boosted the population to 76 million. The black population stood at 12 per cent. R esidents who traced their origins to Latin America or Asia each accounted for less than 1 per cent of the entir e population. 15 Although principally of European origin, the American population had become much more ethnically diverse as immigrants, first from G ermany, then fr om Ireland, and finally from southern and eastern Europe, made their way to the United States. The foreign-born population of the United States reached its height at 14.7 percent in 1910.16


As the population gr ew mor e div erse, anxiety about Americans ’ ethnic identity mounted, and much as today, politicians and scholars argued about whether the country could absorb such large numbers of immigrants. The debate encompassed such issues as whether immigrants’ political and social values were compatible with American democracy, whether they would learn E nglish, and what diseases they might bring into the United States.

Immigrants’ r eligious affiliations also ar oused concern. The first immigrants to the United States were overwhelmingly Protestant, many of them fleeing religious persecution. The arrival of G ermans and I rish in the mid -1800s meant incr easing numbers of Catholics, and the large -scale immigration of the early tw entieth cen- tury threatened to r educe the per centage of Protestants significantly: many eastern

Show how the social composition of the American population has changed over time

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European immigrants pouring into the countr y w ere J ewish, while the southern Europeans were mostly Catholic. A more religiously diverse country challenged the implicit Protestantism embedded in many aspects of American public life.

After World War I, Congress responded to the fears swirling around immigration with new laws that sharply limited the number of immigrants who could enter the country each year. Congress also established a new National Origins Quota System based on the nation’s population in 1890 before the wave of immigrants from eastern and southern E urope arriv ed.17 The new system set up a hierar chy of admissions: northern E uropean countries r eceived gener ous quotas for ne w immigrants, whereas eastern and southern E uropean countries w ere granted v ery small quotas. These restrictions ratcheted do wn the numbers of immigrants so that b y 1970 the foreign-born population in the United States reached an all-time low of 5 percent.

Official efforts to use racial and ethnic criteria to restrict the American population were not ne w. The very first census, as we have seen, did not count N ative Ameri- cans; in fact, Native Americans were not granted the right to vote until 1924. Most people of African descent w ere not officially citizens until 1868, when the F our- teenth Amendment to the Constitution conferred citizenship on the freed slaves.

In 1790 the federal go vernment had sought to limit the nonwhite population with a law stipulating that only fr ee whites could become naturaliz ed citizens. Not until 1870 did Congr ess lift the ban on the naturalization of nonwhites. R estric- tions applied to Asians as w ell. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 outlaw ed the entry of Chinese laborers to the United States, and additional barriers enacted after World War I meant that vir tually no Asians enter ed the countr y as immigrants until 1943, when China became our ally in World War II and these provisions were

In the 1900s many immigrants entered the United States through New York’s Ellis Island, where they were checked for disease before being admitted.

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lifted. People of Hispanic origin do not fit simply into the American system of racial classification. In 1930, for example, the census counted people of Mexican origin as nonwhite, but it r eversed this decision a decade later . Not until 1970 did the cen – sus officially begin counting persons of Hispanic origin, noting that they could be any race. 18 As this histor y suggests, American citiz enship has always been tied to “whiteness” even as the meaning of “white” shifted over time.


Race and Ethnicity B y 2000 immigration had pr ofoundly transformed the nation’s racial and ethnic pr ofile once again. The primary cause was Congr ess’s decision in 1965 to lift the tight immigration r estrictions of the 1920s, a decision that r esulted, among other things, in the gr owth of the Latino population (see Figure 1.1). Census figures for 2016 sho w that the total H ispanic pr oportion of the population, who can be of any race, is now 17.8 percent, while the black, or African American, population is 12.7 percent of the total population. Asians make up 5.4 per cent of the population. N on-Hispanic white Americans account for 61 percent of the population—their lowest share ever. Moreover, about 3.2 percent of the population now identifies itself as of “two or mor e races.”19 Although it is only a small per centage of the population, the multiracial categor y points to ward a future in which the lines separating the traditional labels of racial identification may be blurring.

In 2016, 13.5 per cent of the population was born outside the U nited S tates, a figure comparable to the rates of for eign-born at the turn of the pr evious cen – tury. About half of the foreign-born population came from Latin America and the Caribbean, with just o ver one -third fr om Central America (including M exico). Those born in Asia constituted the next largest group, making up 31 per cent of for eign-born r esidents. B y 2016 just 10.9 per cent of those born outside the United States came fr om Europe.20 These figures represent only legally authoriz ed immigrants, while estimates put the number of undocumented immigrants at 11.4 million, the majority of whom are from Mexico and Central America.21

Religion The new patterns of immigration combined with a number of other factors to alter the r eligious affiliations of Americans. In 1900, 80 per cent of the population was Protestant; b y 2016 only 44 per cent of Americans identi- fied themselves as Protestants.22 Catholics made up 20 per cent of the population, and Jews accounted for 2 per cent. A small Muslim population had also gr own, to nearly 1 percent of the population. One of the most important changes in religious affiliation during the latter half of the twentieth centur y was the per centage of people who professed no organized religion. In 2016, 23 percent of the population was not affiliated with an organized church. These changes suggest an important shift in American r eligious identity: although the U nited States thinks of itself as a “Judeo-Christian” nation—and indeed was 95 per cent Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish from 1900 to 1968—by 2016 the numbers had fallen to under 70 percent of the adult population.23

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Age As America gr ew and its population expanded and div ersified, the country’s age profile shifted with it. In 1900 only 4 percent of the population was over 65. As life expectancy increased, the number of older Americans grew with it: by 2016 nearly 15.2 percent of the population was over 65. The number of children under the age of 18 also changed; in 1900 this gr oup comprised 40.5 per cent of the American population; b y 2016 it had fallen to 22.8 per cent of the population. 24 An aging


Immigration by Continent of Origin* Where did most immigrants come from at the start of the twentieth century? How does that compare with immigration in the twenty-first century?

*Less than 1 percent not shown.

SOURCE: Department of Homeland Security 2016 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics Table 2, November 2017, (accessed 2/16/18). Figure shows those who have obtained “lawful permanent resident status” by continent of origin.


0 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s












AfricaOceaniaNot speci�ed

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population poses challenges to the U nited States. As the elderly population grows and the working-age population shrinks, ques- tions arise about ho w we will fund pr ograms for the elderly such as Social Security.

Geography Ov er the nation ’s histor y, Americans hav e changed in other ways as well, moving from mostly rural settings and small to wns to large urban ar eas. B efore 1920 less than half the population liv ed in urban ar eas; today 82 per cent of Ameri – cans do.25 Critics charge that the American political system, cr eated when America was a largely rural society, underrepresents urban areas. The constitutional provision allocat – ing each state two senators, for example, overrepresents sparsely populated rural states and underr epresents urban states, wher e the population is far mor e concentrated. The American population has also shifted regionally. In the past 50 years, especially, many Americans hav e left the Northeast and Midwest and moved to the South and Southwest. As congressional seats have been reapportioned to reflect the population shift, many pr oblems that par ticularly plague the Midwest and Northeast, such as the decline of manufacturing jobs, receive less attention in national politics.

Socioeconomic Status Americans hav e fallen into div erse economic gr oups throughout American histor y. F or much of American histor y most people w ere relatively poor working people, many of them farmers. A small wealthy elite, how- ever, grew larger in the 1890s, in a period called “ the gilded age.” By 1928 nearly 25 percent of the total annual income went to the top 1 percent of earners; the top 10 percent took home 46 per cent of total annual income. After the N ew Deal in the 1930s, a large middle class took shape, and the shar e going to those at the top dropped sharply. By 1976 the top 1 percent took home only 9 percent of the national annual income. S ince then, ho wever, economic inequality has once again wide- ned as a tiny gr oup of super -rich has emerged. B y 2015 the top 1 per cent earned 20.3 per cent of annual income, and the top 10 per cent took home almost 50 percent of the total national income.26 At the same time, the incomes of the broad middle class hav e largely stagnated (see F igure 1.2). 27 And 12.7 per cent of the population r emains belo w the official poverty line. As the middle class has

Immigration remains a controversial issue in the United States. While many believe we should do more to protect our borders, others call for comprehensive immigration reform, including an easier pathway to citizenship.

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frayed around the edges, the numbers of poor and near poor have swelled to nearly one-third of the population.28

Population and Politics The shifting contours of the American people have regu- larly raised challenging questions about our politics and go verning arrangements. Population growth has spurr ed politically charged debates about ho w the popula – tion should be appor tioned among congressional districts and ho w they should be drawn. These conflicts have major implications for the representation of different regions of the countr y—for the balance of r epresentation between urban and r ural areas. The representation of v arious demographic and political gr oups may also be affected, as there is substantial evidence of growing geographic sorting of citizens by education, income, marriage rates, and party voting.29 In addition, immigration and the cultural and r eligious changes it entails pr ovoked heated debates 100 y ears ago and still do today. The different languages and customs that immigrants bring to the


Income in the United States This figure shows that while the income of most Americans has risen only slightly since 1975, the income of the richest Americans (the top 5 percent) has increased dramatically. What are some of the ways that this shift might matter for American politics? Does the growing economic gap between the richest groups and most other Americans conflict with the political value of equality?

*Dollar values are given in constant 2016 dollars, which are adjusted for inflation so that we can compare a person’s income in 1975 with a person’s income today.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016,” Table A-2, content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/demo/P60-259.pdf (accessed 4/16/18).

Lowest fifth

Fourth fifth

Second fifth

Highest fifth

Third fifth

Top 5 percent


1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2015201020052000









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United States trigger fears among some that the countr y is changing in ways that may undermine American v alues and alter fundamental identities. Yet a changing population has been one of the constants of American history.

America Is Built on the Ideas of Liberty, Equality, and Democracy

A fe w fundamental v alues underlie the American system. These values are reflected in such Founding docu – ments as the D eclaration of I nde- pendence, the Constitution, and

the Bill of Rights. The three v alues on which the American system of go vern- ment is based ar e liberty, equality, and democracy. Most Americans find it easy to affirm all three values in principle. I n practice, ho wever, matters ar e not always so clear. Americans, moreover, are sometimes willing to subordinate liberty to security and have frequently tolerated significant departures from the principles of equality and democracy.


No idea is mor e central to American values than liber ty. The Declaration of Independence defined three inalienable rights: “Life, Liber ty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The preamble to the Constitution likewise identified the need to secure “the Blessings of Liberty” as one of the key r easons for which the Constitution was drawn up. For Americans, liberty means freedom from government control as well as economic freedom. Both are closely linked to the idea of limited government, meaning that powers are defined and limited by a constitution.

The Constitution’s first 10 amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, above all preserve individual personal liber ties and rights. I n fact, liber ty has come to mean many of the fr eedoms guaranteed in the B ill of Rights: freedom of speech and writing, the right to assemble fr eely, and the right to practice r eligious beliefs without interference from the government. Over the course of American history, the scope of personal liber ties has expanded as laws hav e become more tolerant and as individuals have successfully used the cour ts to challenge restrictions on their indi- vidual freedoms. Far fewer restrictions exist today on the press, political speech, and individual moral behavior than in the early y ears of the nation. E ven so, conflicts persist over how personal liber ties should be extended and when personal liber ties violate community norms.

In addition to personal fr eedom, the American concept of liber ty means economic freedom. Since the Founding, economic freedom has been linked to capitalism, free markets, and the pr otection of priv ate pr operty. Free competition, the unfetter ed movement of goods, and the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor are all essential aspects of economic freedom and American capitalism. 30 In the first century of the Republic, support for capitalism often meant support for the doctrine of laissez-faire

Analyze whether the U.S. system of government upholds American political values

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Global Diversity How does the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States compare to that of other countries around the world, and why are some countries more diverse than others?

As a “nation of immigrants,” the United States is more diverse than many Western countries, but some former colonies are even more diverse than the United States. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa were colonized by empires whose governments often drew borders that encompassed multiple ethnic groups in the region. State- building and nationalism are new to these regions, meaning that local identities often remain stronger than national ones.

In contrast, many western european and Asian countries have histories of past conflict and strong state-building efforts, resulting

in less diversity either by eliminating rival groups or forcibly assimilating them. Japan’s geographic isolation has created a racially homogeneous society, which was reinforced by the government’s use of isolationism as a means to consolidate power.a Modern policies limiting immigration continue these historic trends. france has historically pursued both political and cultural assimilation, using its schools to socialize its citizens into a com- mon identity. Recent immigration, however, has highlighted potential problems with this policy.b

How might the degree of diversity shape political values in specific countries? What types of values and policies would we expect to see in countries with a high degree of diversity versus those with less diversity?

Most diverse

No data available


Most homogeneous

aBenedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006), 94–99. bJohn R. Bowen, Why the French Don’t Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).

SOURCE: Alberto Alesina, Arnaud Devleeschauwer, William Easterly, Sergio Kurlat, and Romain Wacziarg, “Fractionalization,” Journal of Economic Growth, 8 (2003): 155–94.

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(literally, “let do ” in F rench), an economic system in which the means of pr oduc- tion and distribution ar e privately owned and operated for pr ofit with minimal or no government inter ference. Laissez-faire capitalism allowed very little r oom for the national government to regulate trade or restrict the use of private property, even in the public interest. Americans still strongly support capitalism and economic liberty, but they no w also endorse some r estrictions on economic fr eedoms to pr otect the public. Today, federal and state go vernments deploy a wide array of r egulations in the name of public protection. These include health and safety laws, environmental rules, and workplace regulations.

Not surprisingly, fierce disagreements often erupt over what the proper scope of government regulation should be. What some people regard as protecting the pub- lic, others see as an infringement of their o wn freedom to run their businesses and use their property as they see fit.


The Declaration of I ndependence declar es as its first “self-evident” tr uth that “ all men ar e cr eated equal.” As central as it is to the American political cr eed, ho w- ever, equality has been a less well-defined ideal than liberty because people interpret “equality” in different ways. Most Americans share the ideal of equality of opportunity wherein all people should have the freedom to use whatever talents and wealth they have to reach their fullest potential. Yet it is har d for Americans to r each an agree- ment on what constitutes equality of oppor tunity. Must a gr oup’s past inequalities

Economic freedom lies at the heart of many conflicts in American life. While supporters of the Tea Party movement protest against economic regulation and higher taxes and support smaller government, many Americans feel it is the government’s responsibility to regulate economic activity to benefit the majority of Americans.

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be remedied in order to ensure equal opportunity in the present? Should inequalities in the legal, political, and economic spheres be given the same weight? In contrast to liberty, which requires limits on the role of government, equality implies an obliga- tion of the government to the people.31

Americans do make clear distinctions betw een political equality and social or economic equality . Political equality r efers to the right to par ticipate in poli – tics equally, based on the principle of “ one person, one v ote.” Beginning from a very restricted definition of political community, which originally included only propertied white men, the United States has moved much closer to an ideal of political equality. Broad suppor t for this ideal has helped expand the American political community and extend the right to par ticipate to all. Although consi- derable conflict remains o ver whether the political system makes it har der for some people to par ticipate and easier for others, and about whether the r ole of money in politics has drowned out the public voice, Americans agree that all citizens should hav e an equal oppor tunity to par ticipate and that go vernment should enforce that right.

In part because Americans believe that individuals are free to work as hard as they choose, they hav e always been less concerned about social or economic inequality . Many Americans r egard economic differences as the consequence of individual choices, vir tues, or failur es. B ecause of this, Americans tend to be less suppor tive than most Europeans of government action to ensure economic equality. Since the recession of 2008, ho wever, income inequality has risen on the political agenda. In 2015 two -thirds of Americans said the distribution of w ealth and money is not fair and should be mor e evenly distributed; in 2017, 63 per cent of Americans said upper-income people pay too little in tax es, and 67 per cent said corporations pay too little.32


The essence of democracy is the participation of the people in choosing their r ulers and the people ’s ability to influence what those rulers do . I n a democracy, political po wer ultimately comes fr om the people. The principle of democracy in which political authority r ests ultimately in the hands of the people is kno wn as popular sovereignty. I n the U nited S tates, popular so ver- eignty and political equality make politicians accountable to the people. I deally, democracy envisions an engaged citiz enry pr epared to ex ercise its po wer o ver rulers. As w e noted earlier , the U nited S tates is a r epresentative democracy , meaning that the people do not rule directly but instead exercise power through elected representatives. Forms of participation in a democracy vary greatly, but v oting is a key element of the r epresentative democracy that the American Founders established.

American democracy r ests on the principle of majority rule with minority rights, the democratic principle that a go vernment follows the preferences of the major- ity of v oters but pr otects the inter ests of the minority . Majority r ule means that

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the wishes of the majority determine what government does. The House of Representatives—a large body elected dir ectly b y the people—was designed in particular to ensur e majority r ule. But the F ounders feared that popular majori – ties could turn government into a “tyranny of the majority” in which individual liberties would be violated. Concern for individual rights has thus been a par t of American democracy fr om the beginning. The rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and enforced through the courts provide an important check on the power of the majority.

Government Affects Our Lives Every Day Since the U nited S tates was estab – lished as a nation, Americans hav e been r eluctant to grant go vernment too much power, and they have often

been suspicious of politicians. But over the course of the nation’s history, Americans have also turned to government for assistance in times of need and hav e str ongly supported the go vernment in periods of war . In 1933 the po wer of the go vern- ment began to expand to meet the crises cr eated b y the stock mar ket crash of 1929, the G reat D epression, and the r un on banks. Congr ess passed legislation that brought the government into the businesses of home mor tgages, farm mort- gages, credit, and relief of personal distress. More recently, when the economy fell

The federal government maintains a large number of websites that provide useful information to citizens on such topics as loans for education, civil service job applications, the inflation rate, and how the weather will affect farming. These sites are just one way in which the government serves its citizens.

Explore Americans’ attitudes toward government

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into a r ecession in 2008 and 2009, the federal go vernment took action to shor e up the financial system, oversee the r estructuring of the ailing auto companies, and inject hundr eds of billions of dollars into the faltering economy . Today, the national government is an enormous institution with programs and policies reach- ing into ev ery corner of American life. I t oversees the nation’s economy, it is the nation’s largest employer, it provides citizens with a host of services, it controls the world’s most formidable militar y establishment, and it r egulates a wide range of social and commercial activities.

Much of what citizens have come to depend on and take for granted—as, somehow, par t of the natural envir onment—is in fact cr eated b y go vernment. Take the example of a typical college student’s day, throughout which that student relies on a host of ser vices and activities organiz ed b y national, state, and local government agencies. The extent of this dependence on government is illustrated by Table 1.1.


Ironically, ev en as popular dependence on government has gr own, the American public’s vie w of go vernment has turned mor e sour . P ublic tr ust in go vernment has declined, and Americans ar e now more likely to feel that they can do little to influence the government’s actions. Different groups vary somewhat in their levels of tr ust: African Americans and Latinos express more confidence in the federal go vernment than do whites. But even among the most supportive groups, mor e than half do not tr ust the government.33 These developments are impor tant because politically en- gaged citiz ens and public confidence in government are vital for the health of a democracy . I n the early 1960s three-quarters of Americans said they trusted go vernment most of the time or always. B y 2017 only 18 per cent of Americans expr essed such tr ust in government.34 Trust hit a high point after the S eptember 11, 2001, terr or- ist attacks, but fell to pre-attack levels within three years, and the tr end con- tinued its do wnward path. D istrust of government greatly influenced the pr esidential primar y elections in 2015 and 2016, when a number of “outsider” candidates—most notably

While levels of participation in politics are relatively low for young Americans, the presidential primary campaigns of 2008 and 2016 saw the highest levels of youth turnout—to volunteer and to vote—in decades. What factors might have energized young people to become involved in these campaigns?

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7:00 a.m. Wake up. Standard time set by the national government.

7:10 a.m. Shower. Water courtesy of local government, either a public entity or a regulated private company. Brush your teeth with toothpaste whose cavity-fighting claims have been verified by a federal agency.

7:30 a.m. Have a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast. “Nutrition facts” on food labels are a federal requirement, pasteurization of milk required by state law, recycling the empty cereal box and milk carton enabled by state or local laws.

8:30 a.m. Drive or take public transportation to campus. Air bags and seat belts required by federal and state laws. Roads and bridges paid for by state and local governments, speed and traffic laws set by state and local governments, public transportation subsidized by all levels of government.

8:45 a.m. Arrive on campus of large public university. Buildings are 70 percent financed by state taxpayers.

9:00 a.m. first class: chemistry 101. Tuition partially paid by a federal loan (more than half the cost of university instruction is paid for by taxpayers), chemistry lab paid for with grants from the National Science foundation (a federal agency).

Noon eat lunch. college cafeteria financed by state dormitory authority on land grant from federal Department of Agriculture.

2:00 p.m. Second class: American Government 101 (your favorite class!). you may be taking this class because it is required by the state legislature or because it fulfills a university requirement.

4:00 p.m. Third class: computer Science 101. free computers, software, and internet access courtesy of state subsidies plus grants and discounts from IBM and Microsoft, the costs of which are deducted from their corporate income taxes; internet built in part by federal government.

6:00 p.m. eat hamburger for dinner. Meat inspected by federal agencies.

7:00 p.m. Work at part-time job at the campus library. Minimum wage set by federal, state, or local government; books and journals in library paid for by state taxpayers.

8:15 p.m. check the status of your application for a federal student loan (fAfSA) on the Department of education’s website at

10:00 p.m. Go home. Street lighting paid for by county and city governments, police patrols by city government.

10:15 p.m. Watch TV. Networks regulated by federal government, cable public- access channels required by city law. Weather forecast provided to broadcasters by a federal agency.


The Presence of Government in the Daily Life of a Student at “State University”

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Donald Trump and B ernie Sanders, who w ere critical of go vernment and eager to depart from business as usual in Washington—attracted wide support.

Does it matter if Americans tr ust their go vernment? F or the most par t, the answer is yes. Most Americans rely on government for a wide range of ser vices and laws that they simply take for granted. B ut long-term distr ust in go vernment can result in public r efusal to pay the tax es necessary to suppor t such widely appr oved public activities. Lo w lev els of confidence may also make it difficult for govern- ment to attract talented and effective workers to public service.35 The weakening of government as a r esult of pr olonged lev els of distr ust may ultimately harm the capacity of the U nited States to defend its national inter est in the world economy and may jeopardize its national security. Likewise, a weak government can do little to assist citiz ens who need help in w eathering periods of sharp economic or technological change.

American Political Culture WHAT DO WE WANT? Americans express mixed views about government. Almost everyone complains about

government, and general trust in government has declined significantly. Despite mount-

ing distrust, when asked about particular government activities or programs, a majority

of Americans generally support the activities that government undertakes. These con-

flicting views reflect the tensions in American political culture: there is no perfect

balance between liberty, equality, and democracy. In recent years, finding the right mix

of government actions to achieve these different goals has become especially trouble-

some. Some charge that government initiatives designed to promote equality infringe

on individual liberty, while others point to the need for government to take action in

the face of growing inequality. Sharp political debate over competing goals alienates

many citizens, who react by withdrawing from politics. yet, in contrast to totalitarian

and authoritarian forms of government, democracy rests on the principle of popular

sovereignty. No true democracy can function properly without knowledgeable and

engaged citizens. The stories of Saira Blair and Kendric Jones at the beginning of this

chapter show that people often turn frustration with government into political action.

But running for office is only one way to participate in politics. The “Who Participates?”

feature on page 25 shows who voted in the 2016 presidential election.

The remarkable diversity of the American people represents a great strength for

American democracy as well as a formidable challenge. The shifting religious, racial,

ethnic, and immigration statuses of Americans throughout history have always pro-

voked fears about whether American values could withstand such dramatic shifts.

The changing face of America also sparks hopes for an America that embodies its

fundamental values more fully.

23A M e R I c A N P O l I T I c A l c U lT U R e : W H AT D O W e W A N T ?

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Demographic changes will continue to raise tough new questions. for example,

as the American population grows older, programs for the elderly will take up an

increasing share of the federal budget. yet, to be successful, a nation must invest

in its young people. And, as any college student knows, the cost of college has risen

in recent years. Many students drop out as they discover that the cost of college is

too high. Or they graduate and find themselves saddled with loans that will take

decades to pay back. yet, in a world of ever-sharper economic competition, higher

education has become increasingly important for individuals seeking economic secu-

rity. Moreover, an educated population is critical to the future prosperity of the country

as a whole. Are there ways to support the elderly and the young at the same time? Is it

fair to cut back assistance to the elderly, who have worked a lifetime for their benefits?

If we decrease assistance to the elderly, will they stay in the labor market and make

the job hunt for young people even more difficult? As these trade-offs suggest, there

are no easy answers to these demographic changes.

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Who Voted in 2016?


College graduate Postgraduate study

Some high school Some collegeHigh school graduate


Race / Ethnicity

Income Sex


18−29 30−44 45−64 65+

46% 59% 67%








White BlackHispanic Asian





65% 59% 48% 49%

35% 63% 74%52%

*Highest level attained SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey November 2016, (accessed 11/20/17).


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Practice Quiz

1. What is the difference between a totalitarian government and an authoritarian government? (p. 5) a) Authoritarian governments require

popular participation while totalitar- ian governments do not.

b) Totalitarian governments are generally based on religion, while authoritarian governments are not.

c) Authoritarian governments are often restrained by the power of social institutions, while totalitarian governments are not.

d) Totalitarian governments acknowledge strict limits on their power, while authoritarian governments do not.

e) There is no difference between these two kinds of government.

2. In a constitutional government (p. 5) a) the government recognizes no

formal limits on its power. b) presidential elections are held

every four years. c) governmental power is held by a

single individual. d) formal and effective limits

are placed on the powers of government.

e) the government follows the wishes of the majority.

Register to vote. See page 242.

Cast your vote on Election Day. Consider encouraging others to vote too. Research shows that people are more likely to turn out to vote if a friend or family member asks them to.


Find out what’s on the ballot in upcoming elections in your state and district by entering your address at (a website from the League of Women Voters).


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3. A state that permits its citizens to vote directly on laws and policies is practicing a form of (p. 7) a) representative democracy b) direct democracy c) pluralism d) laissez-faire capitalism e) republicanism

4. Political efficacy is the belief that (p. 9) a) government operates efficiently. b) government has grown too large. c) government cannot be trusted. d) ordinary citizens can influence what

government does. e) government is wasteful and corrupt.

5. What is digital citizenship? (p. 9) a) a new government initiative to

expand online voter registration b) the ability to vote online c) an online certification program

that allows immigrants to become American citizens

d) the ability to participate in society online

e) a new government initiative to pro- vide daily legislative updates online

6. The percentage of foreign-born individuals living in the United States (pp. 11–12) a) has increased significantly since

reaching its low point in 1970. b) has decreased significantly since

reaching its high point in 1970. c) has remained the same since 1970. d) has never been less than the per-

centage of native-born individuals living in the United States.

e) has not been studied since 1970.

7. In 2016, latinos were approximately what percent of the American public? (p. 13) a) 67 percent b) 52 percent c) 31 percent d) 18 percent e) 6 percent

8. Which of the following statements best describes the changes in America’s age profile since 1900? (p. 13) a) The percentage of adults over the

age of 65 has declined dramatically.

b) The percentage of adults over the age of 65 has increased dramatically.

c) The percentage of adults over the age of 65 has remained constant.

d) The percentage of children under the age of 18 has increased dramatically.

e) The percentage of children under the age of 18 has remained constant.

9. What percent of Americans live in urban areas today? (p. 14) a) less than 10 percent b) about 20 percent c) about 40 percent d) about 60 percent e) about 80 percent

10. Which of the following statements best describes the history of income inequality in the United States? (p. 14) a) The top 1 percent has never

earned more than 10 percent of the nation’s annual income.

b) The top 1 percent has never earned less than 10 percent of the nation’s annual income.

c) Income inequality has remained fairly constant since the late 1970s.

d) Income inequality has increased considerably since the late 1970s.

e) Income inequality has decreased considerably since the late 1970s.

11. The phrase “life, liberty and the pur- suit of Happiness” appears in (p. 16) a) the preamble to the constitution. b) the Bill of Rights. c) the Declaration of Independence. d) the Magna carta. e) the Gettysburg Address.

12. An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit with minimal or no government interference is referred to as (p. 18) a) socialism. b) communism. c) laissez-faire capitalism. d) corporatism. e) feudalism.

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13. The principle of political equality can be best summed up as (p. 19) a) “equality of results.” b) “equality of opportunity.” c) “one person, one vote.” d) “equality between the sexes.” e) “leave everyone alone.”

14. Americans’ trust in their government (p. 21) a) has risen steadily since the

1960s. b) has remained relatively constant

since the 1960s. c) increased between 1960 and

2008 but has declined since.

d) increased after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but has declined since.

e) declined after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but has increased since.

Key Terms

authoritarian government (p. 5) a system of rule in which the government recognizes no formal limit but may nevertheless be restrained by the power of other social institutions

citizenship (p. 8) informed and active membership in a political community

constitutional government (p. 5) a system of rule in which formal and effective limits are placed on the powers of the government

democracy (p. 5) a system of rule that permits citizens to play a significant part in the governmental process, usually through the election of key public officials

direct democracy (p. 7) a system of rule that permits citizens to vote directly on laws and policies

equality of opportunity (p. 18) a widely shared American ideal that all people should have the freedom to use whatever talents and wealth they have to reach their fullest potential

government (p. 5) institutions and proce- dures through which a territory and its people are ruled

laissez-faire capitalism (p. 18) an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned and operated for profit with minimal or no government interference

liberty (p. 16) freedom from government control

limited government (p. 16) a principle of constitutional government; a government whose powers are defined and limited by a constitution

majority rule/minority rights (p. 19) the democratic principle that a government follows the preferences of the majority of voters but protects the interests of the minority

political efficacy (p. 9) the ability to influence government and politics

political equality (p. 19) the right to participate in politics equally, based on the principle of “one person, one vote”

political knowledge (p. 8) possessing information about the formal institutions of government, political actors, and political issues

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politics (p. 7) conflict over the leadership, structure, and policies of governments

popular sovereignty (p. 19) a principle of democracy in which political authority rests ultimately in the hands of the people

power (p. 7) influence over a government’s leadership, organization, or policies

Dahl, Robert. How Democratic Is the American Constitution? New Haven, cT: yale University Press, 2002.

Dalton, Russell. The Good Citizen: How a Younger Generation Is Reshaping American Politics. 2nd ed. Washington, Dc: cq Press, 2015.

Delli carpini, Michael X., and Scott Keeter. What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters. New Haven, cT: yale University Press, 1996.

Hochschild, Jennifer l. Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

lasswell, Harold. Politics: Who Gets What, When, How. New york: Meridian Books, 1958.

Mccarty, Nolan, Keith T. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal. Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008.

Mettler, Suzanne. The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy. chicago: University of chicago Press, 2011.

Nye, Joseph S., Jr., Philip D. zelikow, and David c. King, eds. Why People Don’t Trust Government. cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Page, Benjamin I., and lawrence R. Jacobs. Class War? What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality. chicago: University of chicago Press, 2009.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Translated by Phillips Bradley. New york: Knopf, Vintage Books, 1945. first published 1835.

representative democracy (republic) (p. 7) a system of government in which the populace selects representatives, who play a significant role in governmental decision making

totalitarian government (p. 5) a system of rule in which the government recognizes no formal limits on its power and seeks to absorb or eliminate other social institutions that might challenge it

For Further Reading

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020202 chapter

The Founding and the Constitution WHAT GOVERNMENT DOES AND WHY IT MATTERS One of the worries of the framers of the U.S. Constitution was the concentration

of government powers and the possible infringement on individual liberties.

One solution was to divide the executive, legislative, and judicial powers of

government across different institutions with separate powers, each checking

the other. Governmental power was further divided between the national and

state governments. Sometimes this constitutional system and its effect on

average Americans comes vividly to life.

Jim Obergefell was a real estate agent and IT consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio,

in 1992 when he met and fell in love with John Arthur.1 Although their relation-

ship would last for decades, they were unable to marry. In 1996, Congress

passed and President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a

federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. States

could still permit same-sex marriage, but the marriages would not be recognized

for fede ral purposes such as filing taxes or earning Social Security survivor bene-

fits. The law also permitted states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages

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The Founding and the Constitution

From America’s founding to today, debates over the role of the United States government in citizens’ lives have persisted. After the historic decision to rule same-sex marriage a right guaranteed by the Constitution, Jim Obergefell holds a photo of his late husband on the steps of the Supreme Court to celebrate his bittersweet victory.


performed in other states. Then the state of Ohio enacted its own DOMA in

2004, prohibiting same-sex marriage and refusing to recognize those per-

formed elsewhere.

Thus Obergefell and Arthur were unable to marry due to the actions of two

branches of the federal government—the executive and legislative—and their

state. The issue became more acute when Arthur was diagnosed with ALS, or

Lou Gehrig’s disease—a progressive, debilitating disease. Obergefell served

as Arthur’s primary caregiver, and the couple traveled to Maryland in 2013

and wed on the airport tarmac. Then they filed a lawsuit with the state of Ohio

for Obergefell to be recognized as the surviving spouse on Arthur’s imminent

death certificate. Arthur passed away three months later.

The case made it to the Supreme Court. In 2015 the Court ruled in Obergefell

v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex

couples by the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth

Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.2 Thus the Court secured a civil right that

the executive and legislative branches and a number of states had denied.

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The U.S. Constitution lays out the purpose of government: to promote justice,

to maintain peace at home, to defend the nation from foreign foes, to provide for

the welfare of the citizenry, and, above all, to secure the “blessings of liberty” for

Americans. It also spells out a plan for achieving these objectives, including provi-

sions for the exercise of legislative, executive, and judicial powers and a recipe

for the division of powers among the federal government’s branches and between

the national and state governments. Jim Obergefell’s quest to marry the love of

his life intersected with all three branches and both levels of government.

His story also shows that although many Americans believe strongly in the

long-standing values of liberty, equality, and democracy, how those values are

defined and implemented by the political institutions that the Constitution

created are a source of considerable controversy. The framers believed that a

good constitution created a government with the capacity to act forcefully. But

they also believed that government should be compelled to take a variety of

interests and viewpoints into account when it formulates policies. Sometimes

the deliberation and compromise encouraged by the constitutional arrange-

ments of “separated institutions sharing powers” can result in policymaking

that is slow or even gridlocked.3 Public policy is always a product of political

bargaining. But so was the Constitution itself. As this chapter will show, the

Constitution reflects high principle as well as political self-interest and defines

the relationship between American citizens and their government.

★ Describe the events that led to the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation (pp. 33–38)

★ Analyze the reasons many Americans thought a new Constitution was needed, and assess the obstacles to a new Constitution (pp. 38–43)

★ Explain how the Constitution attempted to improve America’s governance, and outline the major institutions established by the Constitution (pp. 43–51)

★ Present the controversies involved in the struggle for ratification (pp. 51–56)

★ Trace how the Constitution has changed over time through the amendment process (pp. 56–60)


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The First Founding: Ideals, Interests, and Conflicts

The government created by the coun- try’s Founders was the product of British legal and political traditions, colonial experience, and ne w ideas about governance that gained currency

in the centur y befor e America br oke with B ritain. While America’s leaders w ere first and foremost practical politicians, they also read political philosophy and were influenced by the impor tant thinkers of their day , including H obbes, Locke, and Montesquieu.

The seventeenth-century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was no adv ocate of democratic go vernment, but he wr ote persuasiv ely in Leviathan about the necessity of a government authority as an antidote to human existence in a government-less state of natur e, where life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” He also believ ed that go vernments should hav e limits on the po wers they exercised and that political systems ar e based on the idea of “ contract theor y”— that the people of a countr y voluntarily give up some fr eedom in ex change for an ordered society. The monarchs who rule that society derive their legitimacy from this contract, not from a God-given right to rule.

Another British political thinker, John Locke (1632–1704), advanced the prin- ciples of republican government by arguing not only that monar chical power was not absolute, but that such po wer was dangerous and should therefore be limited. In a break with Hobbes, Locke argued that the people retain rights despite the social contract they make with the monar ch. P reserving safety in society is not enough; people’s lives, liberty, and property also require protection. Further, Locke wrote in his Second Treatise of Civil Government that the people of a countr y have a right to overthrow a government they believe to be unjust or tyrannical. This key idea shaped the thinking of the Founders, including Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, who said that the document was “pure Locke.” Locke adv anced the impor tant ideas of limited go vernment and consent of the governed.

Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu (1689–1755) was a French political thinker who advocated the idea that po wer needed to be balanced b y power as a bulwar k against tyranny. The way in which this could be achieved was through the separation of governing powers. This idea was already in practice in B ritain, where legislative and ex ecutive po wers w ere divided betw een Parliament and the monar ch. I n The Spirit of the Laws , Montesquieu argued for the separation and elev ation of judicial power, which in Britain was still held b y the monarch. Montesquieu did not argue for a pur e separation of po wers; rather , basic functions would be separated, but there would also be some o verlap of functions. These ideas were central in shaping the thr ee-branch system of go vernment that America ’s F ounders outlined in the Constitution of 1787.

Describe the events that led to the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation

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The American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution were outgrowths of a struggle among competing economic and political for ces within the colonies. F ive sectors of society had inter ests that w ere important in colonial politics: (1) N ew England merchants; (2) southern planters; (3) “royalists”—holders of royal lands, offices, and patents (licenses to engage in a pr ofession or business activity); (4) shopkeepers, artisans, and labor ers; and (5) small farmers. Throughout the eighteenth centur y, these groups were in conflict over issues of taxation, trade, and commer ce. For the most part, ho wever, the southern planters, the New England mer chants, and the royal office and patent holders—groups that together made up the colonial elite— were able to maintain a political alliance that held in check the mor e radical forces representing shopkeepers, labor ers, and small farmers. After 1760, ho wever, b y seriously threatening the inter ests of New England merchants and southern plant – ers, British tax and trade policies split the colonial elite, permitting radical forces to expand their political influence, and set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the American Revolution.4


During the first half of the eighteenth century, Britain ruled its American colonies with a light hand. Evidence of British rule was hardly to be found outside the largest towns, and the enterprising colonists had found ways of ev ading most of the tax es levied by the distant B ritish government. Beginning in the 1760s, however, debts and other financial problems faced by the British government forced it to search for new revenue sources. This search rather quickly led to the Crown’s North American colonies, which, on the whole, paid remarkably little in taxes to their parent country. Much of Britain’s debt arose from the expenses it had incurr ed in defense of the colonies during the recent French and Indian War (1756–63), as well as from the continuing protection that British forces were giving the colonists fr om Indian attacks and that the British navy was providing for colonial shipping. Thus, during the 1760s, Great Britain sought to impose new, though relatively modest, taxes on the colonists.

Like most go vernments of the period, the B ritish r egime had limited ways in which to collect revenues. In the mid-eighteenth century, governments relied mainly on tariffs, duties, and other taxes on commerce; and it was to such taxes, including the Stamp Act, that the British turned during the 1760s.

The Stamp A ct and other tax es on commer ce, such as the S ugar A ct of 1764, which tax ed sugar , molasses, and other commodities, most heavily affected the two groups in colonial society whose commercial interests and activities were most extensive—the New England merchants and the southern planters. U nited under the famous slogan “No taxation without representation,” the merchants and plant- ers sought to organize opposition to these new taxes. In the course of the struggle against British tax measures, the planters and mer chants broke with their r oyalist

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allies and turned to their former adv ersaries—the shopkeepers, labor ers, ar tisans, and small farmers—for help. With the assistance of these groups, the merchants and planters organiz ed demonstrations and a bo ycott of B ritish goods that ultimately forced the Crown to rescind most of its hated new taxes.

From the perspective of the merchants and planters, this was a victorious con- clusion to their struggle with the parent country. They were anxious to end the un- rest they had helped to arouse, and they supported the British government’s efforts to restore order. Indeed, most r espectable Bostonians suppor ted the actions of the British soldiers involved in the Boston M assacre (1770), when those soldiers killed five colonists while attempting to repel an angry mob moving against a government building. In their subsequent trial, the soldiers were defended by John Adams, a pillar of Boston society and a future president of the United States. Adams asserted that the soldiers’ actions were entirely justified, provoked as they were by “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and mulattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish Jack tars.” All but two of the soldiers were acquitted.5

Yet political strife persisted. The more radical for ces r epresenting shopkeepers, artisans, laborers, and small farmers, who had been mobilized and energized by the struggle over taxes, continued to agitate for political and social change. These radi- cals, whose leaders included S amuel Adams, a cousin of J ohn Adams, asserted that British power supported an unjust political and social structure within the colonies and began to advocate an end to British rule.6


The political strife within the colonies was the background for the events of 1773–74. I n 1773 the B ritish go vernment granted the politically po werful but ailing East I ndia Company a monopoly on the expor t of tea fr om Britain, elimi – nating a lucrative form of trade for colonial mer chants. To add insult to injur y, the East India Company sought to sell the tea directly in the colonies instead of working through the colonial mer chants. Tea was an extr emely impor tant commodity in the 1770s, and these B ritish actions posed a serious thr eat to the N ew E ngland merchants. Together with their southern allies, the mer chants once again called upon the radicals for support. The most dramatic result was the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when anti-British radicals, led b y Samuel Adams (some of them “ disguised” as Mohawk Indians), boarded three vessels anchored in Boston Harbor and threw the entire cargo of 342 chests of tea into the harbor.

This event was of decisiv e importance in American histor y. The merchants had hoped to for ce the B ritish go vernment to r escind the Tea A ct, but they did not support any demands beyond this one. They certainly did not seek independence from Britain. Samuel Adams and the other radicals, however, hoped to provoke the British government to take actions that would alienate its colonial suppor ters and pave the way for a rebellion. This was precisely the purpose of the Boston Tea Party, and it succeeded. B y dumping the East I ndia Company’s tea into Boston H arbor, Adams and his follo wers goaded the B ritish into enacting a number of harsh reprisals that closed the por t of Boston to commer ce, changed the pr ovincial

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government of M assachusetts, pr ovided for the r emoval of accused persons to Britain for trial, and, most impor tant, r estricted mo vement to the West—further alienating the southern planters, who depended upon access to ne w western lands. These acts of retaliation confirmed the worst criticisms of British r ule and helped radicalize Americans. Radicals such as Samuel Adams had been agitating for mor e violent measures against the B ritish. But ultimately it was B ritain’s political repres- sion that fanned support for independence.

Thus, the Boston Tea Party set in motion a cy cle of pr ovocation and r etaliation that in 1774 r esulted in the conv ening of the F irst Continental Congr ess—an assembly of delegates from all parts of the colonies that called for a total bo ycott of British goods and, under the pr odding of the radicals, began to consider the possi – bility of independence fr om B ritish r ule. The eventual r esult was the D eclaration of Independence.


In 1776, mor e than a y ear after open war fare had commenced in M assachusetts, the S econd Continental Congr ess appointed a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, B enjamin F ranklin of P ennsylvania, R oger S herman of Connecticut, John A dams of M assachusetts, and R obert Livingston of N ew York to draft a statement of American independence fr om British rule. The Declaration

The British helped radicalize colonists through policy decisions in the years before the Revolution. For example, Britain gave the East India Company a monopoly on the tea trade in the American colonies, which colonists feared would hurt colonial merchants’ business.

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of I ndependence, written b y J efferson and adopted b y the S econd Conti – nental Congr ess, was an extraor dinary philosophical and political document. Philosophically, the D eclaration was remarkable for its assertion that certain rights, called “ unalienable rights ”— including life, liber ty, and the pursuit of happiness—could not be abridged by governments. In the world of 1776, a world in which some kings still claimed to rule by divine right, this was a dramatic statement.

Politically, the D eclaration was r e- markable because it focused on griev – ances, aspirations, and principles that might unify the v arious colonial groups that w ere other wise divided economi – cally, philosophically , and b y r egion. The Declaration was an attempt to identify and ar ticulate a histor y and set of principles that might help to forge national unity.7 It also explained to the rest of the world why American colo – nists w ere attempting to br eak away from Great Britain.


Having declar ed their independence, the colonies needed to establish a go vern- mental structure. In November 1777 the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, the U nited States’ first written constitution. Although it was not ratified by all the states until 1781, it was the countr y’s operative constitution until the final months of 1788.

The Articles of Confederation were concerned primarily with limiting the powers of the central go vernment. The central government, first of all, was based entirely in a Congress. Since it was not intended to be a po werful government, it was giv en no executive branch. Execution of its laws was to be left to the individual states. S econd, the Congr ess had little po wer. Its members w ere not much mor e than delegates or messengers from the state legislatures. They were chosen by the state legislatures, their salaries were paid out of the state treasuries, and they were subject to immediate recall by state authorities. In addition, each state, regardless of its size, had only a single vote.

The Congress was giv en the po wer to declar e war and make peace, to make treaties and alliances, to coin or borr ow money, and to r egulate trade with the

The purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to explain to the world why the colonists had rebelled against the British and sought self-government. Every year, Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration on the Fourth of July.

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Native Americans. It could also appoint the senior officers of the U.S. Army. But it could not levy taxes or regulate commerce among the states. Moreover, the army officers it appointed had no army to serve in because the nation ’s armed forces were composed of the state militias. And in or der to amend the Ar ticles, all 13 states had to agree—a virtual impossibility. Probably the most unfortunate part of the Articles of Confederation was that the central go vernment could not prevent one state from discriminating against other states in the quest for foreign commerce.

The relationship between the Congress and the states under the Articles of Con- federation was one in which the states r etained vir tually all go vernmental powers. It was properly called a confederation (a system of government in which states retain sovereign authority ex cept for the po wers expressly delegated to the national go v- ernment) because, as pr ovided under Ar ticle II, “ each state r etains its so vereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” Not only was ther e no executive, there also was no judicial authority and no other means of enforcing the Congress’s will. If there was to be any enforcement at all, the states would do it for the Congress.8

The Failure of the Articles of Confederation Made the “Second Founding” Necessary

The Declaration of Independence and the Ar ticles of Confederation were not sufficient to hold the new nation together as an independent and effective nation-state. From almost the moment of armistice

with the B ritish in 1783, mo ves were afoot to r eform and str engthen the Ar ticles of Confederation.

Competition among the states for foreign commerce posed a special prob- lem to the ne w countr y because it allo wed the E uropean po wers to play the states against one another , which not only made America seem w eak and vul – nerable abroad but also cr eated confusion on both sides of the A tlantic. At one point during the winter of 1786–87, J ohn Adams of M assachusetts, a leader in the independence str uggle, was sent to negotiate a ne w treaty with the B ritish, one that would co ver disputes left o ver fr om the war . The British go vernment responded that, because the U nited S tates under the Ar ticles of Confedera – tion was unable to enfor ce existing tr eaties, it would negotiate with each of the 13 states separately.

At the same time, w ell-to-do Americans—in par ticular the N ew E ngland merchants and southern planters—w ere tr oubled b y the influence that “radical” forces ex ercised in the Continental Congr ess and in the go vernments of sev er- al of the states. As a r esult of the R evolution, one key segment of the colonial

Analyze the reasons many Americans thought a new Constitution was needed, and assess the obstacles to a new Constitution

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elite—the royal land office, and patent holders—was stripped of its economic and political privileges. And while the pre-Revolutionary elite were weakened, the pre- Revolutionary radicals w ere better organiz ed than ev er and no w contr olled such states as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, wher e they pursued economic and political policies that str uck terr or into the hear ts of the pr e-Revolutionary political establishment. O f course, the central go vernment under the Ar ticles of Confederation was powerless to intervene.


The continuation of international weakness and domestic economic turmoil led many Americans to consider whether their ne wly adopted form of go vern- ment might not alr eady r equire r evision. I n the fall of 1786, many state lead – ers accepted an invitation fr om the Virginia legislatur e for a confer ence of representatives of all the states, to be held in Annapolis, Maryland. Delegates from only five states actually attended, so nothing substantiv e could be accom – plished. Still, this conference was the first step toward what is now known as the second founding. The one positive thing that came out of the Annapolis convention was a car efully wor ded r esolution calling on the Congr ess to send commissioners to P hiladelphia at a later time “ to devise such fur ther provisions as shall appear to them necessar y to r ender the Constitution of the F ederal Government adequate to the exigencies of the U nion.”9 B ut the r esolution did not necessarily imply any desire to do more than improve and reform the Articles of Confederation.

The government under the Ar ticles did enact some impor tant measur es, including the Land O rdinance of 1785 and the N orthwest Ordinance of 1787. The Land Ordinance established the principles of land surveying and landowner- ship that go verned America ’s w estward expansion, and under the N orthwest Ordinance the states agreed to surrender their western land claims, which opened the way for the admission of ne w states to the U nion. Still, the y oung nation’s political and economic position deteriorated during the 1780s, and something had to be done.


It is quite possible that the Constitutional Conv ention of 1787 in P hiladelphia would never have taken place at all except for a single event that occurred during the winter following the Annapolis convention: Shays’s Rebellion.

Daniel Shays, a former army captain, led a mob of farmers in a r ebellion against the government of M assachusetts, which had levied heavy tax es against them. The purpose of the rebellion was to prevent foreclosures on farmers’ debt-ridden land by keeping the county courts of western Massachusetts from sitting until after the next election. A militia force, organized by the Governor of Massachusetts and privately

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funded by a group of prominent merchants, dispersed the mob, but for several days in February 1787, Shays and his followers terrified the state government b y attempting to captur e the federal arsenal at S pring- field, provoking an appeal to the Congr ess to help restore order. Within a few days, the state government regained contr ol and captur ed 14 of the r ebels. (All were eventually pardoned.) Later that year, a ne wly elected Massachusetts legislature granted some of the farmers’ demands.

George Washington summed up the effects of this incident: “I am mor tified beyond expr ession that in the moment of our acknowledged independence we should b y our conduct v erify the pr edictions of our transatlantic foe, and r ender ourselves ridiculous and contemptible in the eyes of all Europe.”10

The Congress under the Confederation had been unable to act decisively in a time of crisis. This provided critics of the Ar ticles of Confederation with precisely the evidence they needed to push the Annapolis r esolution thr ough the Congr ess. Thus, the states w ere asked to send r epresentatives to Philadelphia to discuss constitutional r evision. Delegates were eventually sent by every state except Rhode Island.


The delegates who convened in Philadelphia in May 1787 had political strife, inter- national embarrassment, national weakness, and local rebellion fixed in their minds. Recognizing that these issues were symptoms of fundamental flaws in the Articles of Confederation, the delegates soon abandoned the plan to r evise the Articles and committed themselves to a second founding—a second, and ultimately successful, attempt to cr eate a legitimate and effective national system of government. This effort would occupy the convention for the next five months.

A Marriage of Interest and Principle For y ears, scholars hav e disagr eed about the motives of the F ounders in P hiladelphia. Among the most contr oversial views of the framers ’ motiv es is the “ economic interpr etation” put for ward b y historian Charles Beard and his disciples.11 According to Beard’s account, America’s Founders were a collection of securities speculators and pr operty owners whose only aim was personal enrichment. F rom this perspectiv e, the Constitution’s lofty principles ar e little more than sophisticated masks behind which the most v enal interests sought to enrich themselves.

In 1787, Daniel Shays led a makeshift army against the federal arsenal at Springfield to protest heavy taxes levied by the Massachusetts legislature. The rebellion proved the Articles of Confederation were too weak to protect the fledgling nation.

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The opposing view is that the framers of the Constitution were concerned with philosophical and ethical principles. Indeed, the framers did tr y to devise a system of government consistent with the dominant philosophical and moral principles of the day. But, in fact, these two views belong together; the Founders’ interests were rein- forced by their principles. The convention that drafted the American Constitution was chiefly organized b y the N ew E ngland mer chants and southern planters. Although the delegates r epresenting these gr oups did not all hope to pr ofit personally from an increase in the value of their securities, as Beard would have it, they did hope to benefit in the br oadest political and economic sense b y breaking the po wer of their radical foes and establishing a system of go vernment more compatible with their long-term economic and political interests. Thus, the framers sought to create a new government capable of promoting commerce and protecting property from radical state legislatures and populist forces hostile to the interests of the commercial and propertied classes.

The Great Compromise The proponents of a new government fired their opening shot on M ay 29, 1787, when E dmund Randolph of Virginia offered a r esolution that proposed corrections and enlargements in the Ar ticles of Confederation. The proposal, reflecting the strong influence of James Madison, was no simple motion; rather, it provided for an entirely new government.

The portion of Randolph ’s motion that became most contr oversial was called the Virginia Plan. This plan provided for a system of r epresentation in the national legislature based upon the population of each state or the proportion of each state’s revenue contribution to the national government or both. (Randolph also pro- posed a second chamber of the legislature, to be elected by the members of the first chamber.) Since the states v aried enormously in siz e and w ealth, the Virginia Plan was heavily biased in favor of the large states.

While the convention was debating the Virginia Plan, opposition to it began to mount as more delegates arrived in Philadelphia. William Paterson of New Jersey introduced a ne w r esolution kno wn as the New Jersey Plan, which called for equal state r epresentation in the national legislatur e r egardless of population. I ts main proponents were delegates from the less populous states, including D elaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, and N ew York, who asser ted that the mor e populous states, such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Georgia, would dominate the ne w go vernment if r epresentation w ere determined b y population. The smaller states argued that each state should be equally represented in the ne w regime regardless of the state’s population.

The issue of representation was one that thr eatened to wr eck the entir e consti- tutional enterprise. D elegates conferred, factions maneuv ered, and tempers flared. James Wilson of P ennsylvania told the small-state delegates that if they wanted to disr upt the union, they should go ahead. The separation, he said, could “never happen on better gr ounds.” S mall-state delegates w ere equally blunt. G unning Bedford of Delaware declared that the small states might, if for ced, look elsewhere for friends. “The large states,” he said, “dare not dissolve the confederation. I f they do the small ones will find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith, who will take them by the hand and do them justice.” These sentiments were widely shared.

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The union, as Luther Martin of Maryland put it, was “ on the verge of dissolution, scarcely held together by the strength of a hair.”12

The outcome of this debate was the Connecticut Compromise, also kno wn as the Great Compromise. Under the terms of this compromise, in the first chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, the representatives would be apportioned according to the population in each state. This, of course, was what delegates from the large states had sought. But in the second chamber , the Senate, each state would hav e equal representa- tion regardless of its population; this provision addressed the concerns of the small states. This compromise was not immediately satisfactory to all the delegates. Indeed, two of the most vocal members of the small-state faction, J ohn Lansing and R obert Yates of N ew York, were so incensed by the concession that their colleagues had made to the large-state forces that they stormed out of the convention. In the end, however, most of the delegates preferred compromise to the breakup of the Union, and the plan was accepted.

The Question of Slavery: The Three-Fifths Compromise Many of the conflicts that emerged during the Constitutional Conv ention were reflections of the funda- mental differences between the slave and the nonslave states—differences that pitted the southern planters against New England merchants. This was one example of the conflict that would later almost destroy the Republic.

More than 90 percent of the country’s slaves resided in five states—Georgia, Maryland, North Car olina, S outh Car olina, and Virginia—where they accounted for 30 per cent of the total population. I n some places, slaves outnumbered nonslaves by as many as 10 to 1. F or the Constitution to embody any principle of national supr emacy, some basic decisions would have to be made about the place of slav ery in the general scheme. James Madison observed, “It seemed now to be pr etty well understood that the r eal difference of interests lay, not between the large and small but betw een the northern and southern states. The institution of slavery and its consequences formed the line of discrimination.”13

The issue of slavery was the most difficult one faced by the framers, and it nearly destroyed the Union. Although some delegates believed slavery to be morally wrong, an evil and oppr essive institution that made a mocker y of the ideals and v alues espoused in the Constitution, morality was not the issue that caused the framers to support or oppose the Three-Fifths Compromise. Whatever they thought of the institution of slav ery, most delegates fr om the nor thern states opposed counting slaves in the distribution of congr essional seats. James Wilson of Pennsylvania, for example, argued that if slav es w ere citiz ens, they should be tr eated and counted like other citizens. If, on the other hand, they were property, then why should not other forms of property be counted toward the apportionment of representatives? But southern delegates made it clear that if the northerners refused to give in, they would nev er agr ee to the ne w go vernment. William R. D avie of N orth Car olina heatedly asserted that the people of North Carolina would never enter the Union if slaves were not counted as part of the basis for representation. Without such agree- ment, he asserted ominously, “the business was at an end.” Even southerners such as Edmund Randolph of Virginia, who conceded that slavery was immoral, insisted on including slaves in the allocation of congr essional seats. E ventually the N orth and South compromised on the issue of slavery and representation. Indeed, northerners

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even agreed to permit a continuation of the odious slave trade until 1808 in order to keep the South in the Union. Eventually, the disparate interests of the North and the South could no longer be reconciled, and a bloody civil war was the result.

Northerners and southerners ev entually r eached agr eement thr ough the Three- Fifths Compromise. The seats in the House of R epresentatives would be appor tioned according to a “population” in which only thr ee-fifths of slaves would be counted. The slaves would not be allo wed to v ote, of course; but the number of r epresenta- tives would be apportioned accordingly.

The Constitution Created Both Bold Powers and Sharp Limits on Power

The political significance of the Great Compromise and the Three-Fifths Compromise was to r einforce the unity of the mer cantile and planter forces that sought to cr eate a ne w government. The Great Compromise reassured those in both gr oups who

Despite the Founders’ emphasis on liberty, the new Constitution allowed slavery. In this 1792 painting, Liberty Displaying the Arts and Sciences, the books, instruments, and classical columns at the left contrast with the kneeling slaves at the right—illustrating the divide between America’s rhetoric of liberty and equality and the realities of slavery.

Explain how the Constitution attempted to improve America’s governance, and outline the major institutions established by the Constitution

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feared that this ne w governmental framework would r educe the impor tance of their own local or regional influence. The Three-Fifths Compromise temporarily defused the riv alry betw een the mer chants and planters. Their unity secured, members of the alliance suppor ting the establishment of a ne w government moved to fashion a constitutional framework consistent with their economic and political interests.

In particular, the framers sought a new government that, first, would be strong enough to pr omote commerce and pr otect property from radical state legislatur es such as Rhode I sland’s. This became the constitutional basis for national control over commerce and finance and for the establishment of national judicial supremacy and the effort to construct a strong presidency. (See Table 2.1 for a comparison of the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution.) S econd, the framers sought to prevent what they saw as the threat posed by the “excessive democracy” of the state and national go vernments under the Ar ticles of Confederation. This led to such constitutional principles as a bicameral legislature (a legislativ e assembly composed of two chambers or houses), checks and balances (mechanisms thr ough which each branch of go vernment is able to par ticipate in and influence the activities of the other branches), stagger ed terms in office with longer terms for senators, and indirect election (selection of the pr esident not b y v oters dir ectly but b y an electoral college; senators also were chosen indirectly, by state legislatures). Third, the framers, lacking the power to force the states or the public at large to accept the ne w form of go vernment, sought to identify principles that would help to secure suppor t. This became the basis of the constitutional provision for dir ect popular election of r epresentatives and, subsequently , for the addition of the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791; they ensure certain rights and liber ties to the people). F inally, the framers wanted to be certain that the go vernment they cr eated did not pose an ev en greater threat to its citizens’ liberties and property rights than did the radical state legislatur es they feared and despised. To prevent the new government from abusing its power, the framers incorporated principles such as the separation of powers (the division of go vernmental po wer among sev eral institutions that must cooperate in de cision-making) and federalism (a system of go vernment in which po wer is divided, b y a constitution, betw een a central go vernment and r egional govern- ments) into the Constitution.


In Article I, Sections 1–7, the Constitution provides for a Congress consisting of two chambers: a House of Representatives and a Senate. Members of the House of Representatives were given two-year terms in office and were to be elected dir ectly by the people. M embers of the S enate w ere to be appointed b y the state legisla – tures (this was changed in 1913 by the Seventeenth Amendment, which instituted direct election of senators) for six-y ear terms. These terms were stagger ed so that the appointments of one-thir d of the senators would expir e ev ery two y ears. The Constitution assigned somewhat different tasks to the House and Senate. Although the approval of each body was required for the enactment of a law, the Senate alone

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was given the po wer to ratify tr eaties and appr ove presidential appointments. The House, on the other hand, was given the sole power to originate revenue bills.

The structure of the legislativ e branch r eflected the framers’ major goals. The House of Representatives was designed to be directly responsible to the people in order to encourage popular consent for the ne w Constitution and to help enhance the po wer of the ne w go vernment. A t the same time, to guar d against “ excessive democracy,” the Constitution checks the po wer of the H ouse of R epresentatives


Executive branch none President of the United States

Judiciary no federal court system. Judiciary exists only at state level.

Federal judiciary headed by the Supreme Court

Legislature Unicameral legislature with equal representation for each state. Delegates to the Congress of the Confederation were appointed by the states.

Bicameral legislature consisting of Senate and House of representatives. Each state is represented by two senators, while apportionment in the House is based on state population. Senators are chosen by the state legislatures (changed to popular election in 1913) and House members by popular election.

Fiscal and economic powers

The national government is dependent upon the states to collect taxes. The states are free to coin their own money, print paper money, and sign commercial treaties with foreign governments.

Congress given the power to levy taxes, coin money, and regulate commerce. States prohibited from coining money or entering into treaties with other nations.

Military The national government is dependent upon state militias and cannot form an army during peacetime.

The national government is authorized to maintain an army and navy.

Legal supremacy State constitutions and state law are supreme.

national Constitution and national law are supreme.

Constitutional amendment

Must be agreed upon by all states.

Must be agreed upon by three- fourths of the states.


Comparing the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution

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with that of the S enate, whose members w ere to be appointed b y the states for long terms rather than elected directly by the people. The purpose of this provision, accord- ing to Alexander Hamilton, was to avoid “an unqualified complaisance to every sud- den breeze of passion, or to ev ery transient impulse which the people may r eceive.”14 Staggered terms of ser vice in the Senate, moreover, were intended to make that body even more resistant to popular pr essure. Since only one-thir d of the senators would be selected at any giv en time, the composition of the institution would be pr otected from changes in popular preferences transmitted by the state legislatures. This would prevent what James Madison called “mutability in the public councils arising fr om a rapid succession of new members.”15 Thus, the structure of the legislative branch was designed to contribute to go vernmental power, to pr omote popular consent for the new government, and at the same time to place limits on the popular political currents that many of the framers saw as a radical threat to the economic and social order.

The issues of power and consent w ere important throughout the Constitution. Section 8 of Ar ticle I specifically listed the powers of Congr ess, which include the authority to collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, declare war, and main- tain an army and navy. By granting Congress these powers, the framers indicated very clearly that they intended the new government to be far more powerful than its pre- decessor. At the same time, by defining the new government’s most important pow- ers as belonging to Congress, the framers sought to promote popular acceptance of this critical change by reassuring citizens that their views would be fully represented whenever the government exercised its new powers.

As a fur ther guarantee to the people that the ne w go vernment would pose no threat to them, the Constitution seems to say that any po wers not listed ar e not granted at all. Specific powers granted to Congress in the Constitution are expressed powers. But the framers intended to cr eate an activ e and po werful government, so they also included the necessar y and proper clause, sometimes kno wn as the elastic clause, which declar ed that Congr ess could write laws needed to carr y out its expressed powers. This clause indicated that the expressed powers could be broadly interpreted as a source of strength for the national government, not a limitation on it. In response to the charge that they intended to give the national government too much po wer, the framers adopted language in the Tenth Amendment stipulating that powers not specifically granted by the Constitution to the federal go vernment were reserved to the states or to the people. As we will see in Chapter 3, the resulting tension between the elastic clause and the Tenth Amendment has been at the hear t of constitutional struggles between federal and state powers.


The Articles of Confederation had not pr ovided for an ex ecutive branch, and the framers vie wed this as a sour ce of w eakness, so the Constitution pr ovides for the establishment of the pr esidency in Ar ticle II. As H amilton commented, the pr esi- dential ar ticle aimed to ward “ energy in the E xecutive.” I t did so in an effort to overcome the natural tendency to ward stalemate that was built into the bicameral

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legislature as w ell as into the separation of po wers among the thr ee branches. The Constitution affords the president a measure of independence from the people and from the other branches of government—particularly the Congress.

In line with the framers ’ goal of incr eased po wer to the national go vernment, the pr esident is granted the unconditional po wer to r eceive ambassadors fr om other countries—this amounts to the po wer to “ recognize” other countries—as w ell as the power to negotiate treaties, although their acceptance requires the approval of two-thirds of the Senate. The president is also given the unconditional right to grant r eprieves and pardons, except in cases of impeachment, and the powers to appoint major departmental personnel, to convene Congress in special session, and to veto congressional enactments. The veto power is formidable, but it is not absolute, since Congr ess can override it by a two-thirds vote, reflecting the framers’ concern with checks and balances.

The framers hoped to create a pr esidency that would make the federal go vern- ment rather than the states the agency capable of timely and decisive action to deal with public issues and pr oblems. At the same time, ho wever, the framers sought to help the presidency withstand excessively democratic pressures by creating a system of indirect rather than direct election through an electoral college.


In establishing the judicial branch in Article III, the Constitution reflects the fram- ers’ pr eoccupation with nationalizing go vernmental po wer and checking radical democratic impulses while pr eventing the ne w national government from interfer- ing with liberty and property.

Under the provisions of Article III, the framers created a court that was to be literally a supr eme cour t of the U nited S tates and not mer ely the highest cour t of the na – tional government. The most important expression of this intention was granting the Supreme Court the power to resolve any conflicts that might emerge between federal and state laws. In particular, the Supreme Court is given the right to determine whether a power is exclusive to the national government, concurrent with the states, or exclusive to the states. In addition, the Supreme Court is assigned jurisdiction over controversies between citizens of different states. The long-term significance of this provision was that as the country developed a national economy, it came to rely increasingly on the federal judiciary, rather than on the state courts, for the resolution of disputes.

Federal judges ar e giv en lifetime appointments in or der to pr otect them fr om popular politics and fr om inter ference by the other branches. This, however, does not mean that the judiciar y remains totally impar tial to political considerations or to the other branches, for the president is to appoint the judges and the Senate to approve the appointments. Congr ess also has the po wer to cr eate inferior (lo wer) courts, change the jurisdiction of the federal cour ts, add or subtract federal judges, and even change the size of the Supreme Court.

No explicit mention is made in the Constitution of judicial review, the po wer of the cour ts to r eview and, if necessar y, declare actions of the legislativ e and ex ecu- tive branches inv alid or unconstitutional. The Supreme Cour t asser ted this po wer

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in Marbury v. M adison (1803). 16 I ts assumption of this po wer, as w e shall see in Chapter 12, was based not on the Constitution itself but on the politics of later decades and the membership of the Court.


Various provisions in the Constitution addr ess the framers ’ concern with national unity and po wer, including Ar ticle IV ’s provisions for comity (r eciprocity) among states and among citizens of all states. Each state is pr ohibited from discriminating against the citizens of other states in favor of its own citizens, and the Supreme Court is charged with deciding in each case whether a state has discriminated against goods or people fr om another state. The Constitution restricts the po wer of the states in favor of ensuring enough po wer to the national go vernment to giv e the countr y a free-flowing national economy.

The framers’ concern with national supremacy was also expressed in Article VI, in the supremacy clause, which pr ovides that national laws and tr eaties “shall be the supreme Law of the Land” and superior to all laws adopted by any state or any subdivi- sion. This means that states are expected to respect all laws made under the “Authority of the United States.” The supremacy clause also binds the officials of all state and local governments as well as the federal government to take an oath of office to support the national Constitution. This means that every action taken by the U.S. Congress has to be applied within each state as though the action were in fact state law.


The Constitution establishes procedures for its o wn revision in Ar ticle V. Its provi- sions are so difficult that the document has been successfully amended only 17 times since 1791, when the first 10 amendments were adopted. Thousands of other amend- ments have been proposed in Congress, but fewer than 40 of them hav e even come close to fulfilling the Constitution’s requirement of a two-thirds vote in Congress.


The rules for the ratification of the Constitution are set for th in Ar ticle VII. Nine of the 13 states have to ratify, or agree to, the terms in order for the Constitution to be formally adopted.


As we have indicated, although the framers sought to create a powerful national government, they also wanted to guar d against possible misuse of that po wer. To that end, the framers incorporated two key principles into the Constitution: the

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separation of po wers and federalism. A thir d set of limitations, the B ill of Rights, was added to the Constitution in the form of 10 amendments pr oposed b y the first Congress and ratified by the states in 1791. Most of the framers had thought a Bill of Rights to be unnecessar y but accepted the idea during the debates o ver the Constitution’s ratification.

The Separation of Powers No principle of politics was more widely shared at the time of the 1787 F ounding than the principle that po wer must be used to balance power. As mentioned earlier in the chapter , M ontesquieu believ ed that this balance was an indispensable defense against tyranny . H is writings, especially his major work, The Spirit of the Laws , “were taken as political gospel ” at the P hiladel- phia convention.17 Although the principle of the separation of po wers is not expli – citly stated in the Constitution, the entir e structure of the national go vernment is built precisely on Article I (the legislature), Article II (the executive), and Article III (the judiciary; see Figure 2.1).

However, separation of powers is nothing but mere words on parchment without a method to maintain that separation. The method became known by the popular label


The Separation of Powers

Enforces laws

Commander in chief of armed forces

Makes foreign treaties

Proposes laws

Appoints Supreme Court justices and federal

court judges

Pardons those convicted in federal court

Passes federal laws

Controls federal appropriations

Approves treaties and presidential


Regulates interstate commerce

Establishes lower court system

Decides constitutionality of laws

Reviews lower court decisions

Decides cases involving disputes between states


49C O n S T I T U T I O n C r E AT E D B O L D P O W E r S A n D S H A r P L I M I T S O n P O W E r

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“checks and balances” (see Figure 2.2). Each branch is giv en not only its own powers but also some po wer over the other two branches. Among the most familiar checks and balances are the president’s veto as a po wer over Congress and Congress’s power over the president through its control of appointments to high executive posts and to the judiciary. Congress also has power over the president with its control of appropri- ations (the spending of go vernment money) and the right of appr oval of treaties (by the Senate). The judiciary has the power of judicial review over the other two branches.

Another impor tant featur e of the separation of po wers is the principle of giving each of the branches a distinctly different constituency. Theorists such as Montesquieu called this a “ mixed regime,” with the pr esident chosen indir ectly by electors, the House by popular vote, the Senate (originally) by state legislature, and the judiciar y by presidential appointment. B y these means, the occupants of each branch would tend to dev elop very different outlooks on ho w to go vern, different definitions of the public interest, and different alliances with private interests.

Federalism Compared to the confederation principle of the Ar ticles of Confede – ration, federalism was a step to ward greater centralization of po wer. The delegates


Checks and Balances




Legislative over Judicial Can change size of federal court

system and the number of Supreme Court justices

Can propose constitutional amendments

Can reject Supreme Court nominees

Can impeach and remove federal judges

Legislative over Executive Can override presidential veto

Can impeach and remove president

Can reject president’s appointments and refuse to ratify treaties

Can conduct investigations into president’s actions

Can refuse to pass laws or to provide funding that president


Judicial over Executive Can declare executive actions


Power to issue warrants

Chief justice presides over impeachment of president

Judicial over Legislative

Can declare laws unconstitutional

Chief justice presides over Senate during hearing to impeach

the president

Executive over Legislative Can veto acts of Congress

Can call Congress into a special session

Carries out, and thereby interprets, laws passed by Congress

Vice president casts tie-breaking vote in the Senate

Executive over Judicial Nominates Supreme Court


Nominates federal judges

Can pardon those convicted in federal court

Can refuse to enforce Court decisions

50 C H A P T E R 2 T H E F O U n D I n G A n D T H E C O n S T I T U T I O n

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agreed that they needed to place mor e po wer at the national lev el, without com – pletely undermining the po wer of the state go vernments. Thus, they devised a sys- tem of two sovereigns—the states and the nation—with the hope that competition between the two would be an effective limitation on the power of both.

The Bill of Rights Late in the Philadelphia convention of 1787, a motion was made to include a list of citizens’ rights in the Constitution. After a brief debate in which hardly a wor d was said in its fav or and only one speech was made against it, the motion was almost unanimously defeated. M ost delegates sincer ely believ ed that since the federal go vernment was alr eady limited to its expr essed po wers, fur ther protection of citiz ens was not needed. The delegates argued that the states should adopt bills of rights because their gr eater po wers needed gr eater limitations. B ut almost immediately after the Constitution was ratified, there was a mo vement to adopt a national bill of rights. This is why the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791, comprises the first 10 amendments to the Constitution rather than being part of the body of it. ( We will hav e a good deal mor e to say about the B ill of Rights in Chapter 4.)

Ratification of the Constitution Was Difficult

The first hurdle facing the pr oposed Constitution was ratification by state conventions of delegates elected b y the people of each state. This struggle

for ratification was carried out in 13 separate campaigns. Each involved different people, moved at a different pace, and was influenced by local and national con- siderations. Two sides faced off throughout the states, however; the two sides called themselves Federalists and Antifederalists (see Table 2.2).

The Federalists (who mor e accurately should hav e called themselv es “N ational- ists” but who took their name to appear to follo w in the R evolutionary tradition) supported the constitution proposed at the American Constitutional Convention of 1787 and preferred a strong national government. The Antifederalists favored strong state governments and a w eak national go vernment and opposed the document produced at the Constitutional Convention. They preferred a federal system of gov- ernment that was decentraliz ed; they took their name b y default, in r eaction to their better-organiz ed opponents. The Federalists w ere united in their suppor t of the Constitution, while the Antifederalists were divided over possible alternatives to the Constitution.

During the str uggle o ver ratification of the Constitution, Americans argued about great political principles. How much power should the national go vernment be giv en? What safeguar ds would most likely pr event the abuse of po wer? What institutional arrangements could best ensure adequate representation for all Ameri- cans? Was tyranny to be feared more from the many or from the few?

Present the controversies involved in the struggle for ratification

51r AT I F I C AT I O n O F T H E C O n S T I T U T I O n W A S D I F F I C U LT

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During the ratification struggle, thousands of essays, speeches, pamphlets, and let- ters were written in support of and in opposition to the proposed Constitution. The best-known pieces suppor ting ratification of the Constitution were the 85 essays written, under the name of “P ublius,” b y Alexander H amilton, J ames M adison, and John Jay between the fall of 1787 and the spring of 1788—known today as the Federalist Papers. They not only defended the principles of the Constitution but also sought to dispel fears of a strong national authority. The Antifederalists published essays of their own, arguing that the new Constitution betrayed the Revolution and was a step toward monarchy. Among the best of the Antifederalist wor ks were the essays, usually attributed to N ew York Supreme Cour t justice R obert Yates, that were written under the name of “Brutus” and published in the New York Journal at the same time the Federalist Papers appeared. The Antifederalist view was also ably presented in the pamphlets and letters written b y a former delegate to the Con – tinental Congress and futur e U.S. senator , Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, using the pen name “The Federal Farmer.” These essays highlight the major differences of opinion betw een F ederalists and Antifederalists. F ederalists appealed to basic principles of government in support of their nationalist vision. Antifederalists cited equally fundamental precepts to support their vision of a looser confederacy of small republics. Three areas of disagreement were representation, majority tyranny, and governmental power.


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