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American Government

American Government
Stories of a Nation

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December 2016 | 800 pages | CQ Press
Real People. Real Stories. Real Politics.

Politics involves people, from many backgrounds, struggling to make their voices heard. Real people, telling their stories, reflect our ideals, choices, and collective experiences as a nation. In American Government: Stories of a Nation, author Scott Abernathy tunes in to these voices, showing how our diverse ideas shape the way we participate and behave, the laws we live by, and the challenges we face. Each chapter features real stories illustrating how the American political system is the product of strategies, calculations, and miscalculations of countless individuals.

Students learn the nuts and bolts of political science through these compelling stories. Learning concepts in context is a tested learning technique that works to help ideas stick. The key concepts are memorable because they are tied to real politics, where students see political action and political choices shaping how institutions advance or impede the fulfillment of fundamental ideas. Not only will all students see themselves reflected in the pages, but they will come to understand that they, too, are strategic players in American politics, with voices that matter. Curious how storytelling can boost learning in your classroom? Read a free whitepaper that explains the research.


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About the Author
1. American Political Stories: Claiming Rights, Demanding to be Heard
American Students Claim Their Rights  
People Matter! But So Do Ideas  
Drafting the Declaration of Independence: Affirming and Demanding Fundamental Rights  
The American Revolution: Ideals and Strategic Politics  
The American Radicals: From Ideas to Strategic Action to Political Institutions  
Institutions Matter, Too  
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’S Letter From Birmingham Jail  
Conclusion: The American Experiment, Continued, and You Are Part of It  
Chapter Review  
2. The Constitution of the United States: Practical Politics and a New Vision of Representative Government
James Madison’s Research Project: “The Fathers Were Practical Men”  
American Government Before the Constitution: The Articles of Confederation, Problems of National Authority, and Differences between the States  
The Constitutional Convention In Philadelphia: “Experience Must Be Our Only Guide”  
Details of the New Government  
Ratification: Federalists versus Antifederalists  
Conclusion: What Is the Constitution?  
Chapter Review  
3. Federalism: The Changing Boundaries Between the Nation and the States
Between State and Federal Law: Fighting for Access to Medical Marijuana  
American Federalism and the Constitution  
The Supreme Court Weighs In: Medical Marijuana And American Federalism  
The Development of American Federalism  
The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Nation on the Brink of Failure and Revolution in American Federalism  
New Deal Expansion  
Modern American Federalism: Expansion, Restriction, and State Resistance  
Conclusion: American Federalism Challenged, in Progress, and Undecided  
Chapter Review  
4. Civil Liberties: Building and Defending Fences
“From Russia With Love”: Edward Snowden: Traitor, Hero, or None of the Above  
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights: The Foundations for the Protections for Americans’ Civil Liberties  
Another Outlaw: Another Charge against the Government’s Infringements upon Civil Liberties  
Selective Incorporation: Applying the Bill of Rights to State Laws and Actions  
The First Amendment: “Congress Shall Make No Law”  
Other First Amendment Protections: Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition  
The Second Amendment: Firearms  
Criminal Rights  
The Last Two Amendments in the Bill of Rights: Setting the Larger Boundaries around the Power of the Federal Government  
Americans Claim Their Rights to Marriage Equality  
Conclusion: Fences Still under Construction  
Chapter Review  
5. Civil Rights: How Equal Is Equal?
Securing Rights For Those With Disabilities: Refusing to Be Called a “Fire Hazard”  
“Equal Justice Under Law”: Confronting a History of Segregation and Oppression  
The Naacp’s Judicial Assault On Legal Segregation  
Securing Civil Rights for American Women  
Complexity And Change in Americans’ Efforts to Secure Their Civil Rights  
Conclusion: Have Americans’ Civil Rights Been Secured?  
Chapter Review  
6. Political Participation: Carry That Weight
Shaping The Political Agenda: Testifying on the Problem of Sexual Violence and Firearms on College Campuses  
The Many Forms of Political Participation  
Mobilization and Pressure: Art and Protest as Tools of Social and Political Change  
Voting: Factors That Shape Electoral Participation  
Acting at a Very Local Level: Preventing Campus Sexual Assaults through Education and Distraction  
Young Americans: Political Participation and Nonparticipation in the Twenty-First Century  
Conclusion: Are Young Adult Americans Really Disconnected from the Political Process?  
Chapter Review  
7. Public Opinion: How Are Americans’ Voices Measured? Does it Matter?
The “Fergusons” of America: Differing Views on a Tragic Event  
What is Public Opinion?  
Shaping Public Opinion: The Battle over the “Fergusons”  
Measuring and Transmitting Public Opinion  
The Formation Of Political Attitudes: Exploring Political Socialization  
Ferguson and the Effects of Public Opinion on Democratic Representation  
Conclusion: The Meanings of Public Opinion  
Chapter Review  
8. The Media: New Technologies, Enduring Issues
Blogging From War: Soldiers as Journalists  
The Development of the American News Media  
Regulating the Media: Ownership and Content  
Merging News and Entertainment: Journalists as Celebrities  
How The Media Shape American Politics Today: Bias, Campaign Coverage, and the Power of the Media  
Conclusion: Comedians as Respected Journalists  
Chapter Review  
9. Political Parties: The Insurgents versus the Establishment
Two Presidential Candidates Shake Up The Field  
What are Parties, and What Do They Do?  
The Presidential Election of 2016: Bye Bye, Conventional Wisdom  
The Development of American Political Parties  
Conclusion: The Fallout  
Chapter Review  
10. Campaigns and Elections: Candidates and Voters in an Era of Demographic Change
Latino Outreach in the 2016 Election  
Elections and Democratic Representation  
Competing for Latino Votes in a Presidential Campaign: Capturing an Unrealized Potential  
The Politics of Presidential Elections  
California’s Twenty-Fourth Congressional District: A First-Timer Runs for the House of Representatives  
The Politics of Congressional Elections  
Conclusion: From Candidate to Officeholder  
Chapter Review  
11. Interest Groups and Social Movements: Collective Action, Power, and Representation
Blowing Bubbles With Houses: The Roots of a Financial Crisis  
A Nation of Joiners: Acting Collectively in American Representative Democracy  
Interest Groups Act on their Members’ Behalf: Responding to the Financial Crisis, Part I  
The Interest Group Landscape: Types and Tactics  
The Origins of a Social Movement?: Responding to the Financial Crisis, Part II  
Social Movements: Pinning Down their Existence, Success, and Failure  
Conclusion: Organizing for Change  
Chapter Review  
12. Congress: Representation, Organization, and Legislation
Women in Congress Today: Looking Around, Looking Back, and Looking Ahead  
The Constitution and Congress  
Stepping Up And Charting A Path To Congress  
The Politics of Congressional Elections  
The Organization of Congress  
“I’m Just a Bill”: The Legislative Process  
The Meanings and Challenges of Representation  
Conclusion: The Complexity of Representation  
Chapter Review  
13. The American Presidency: Individuals, Institutions, and Executive Power
The “Body” of Anwar Al-Awlaki: Presidential War-Making Power in the Twenty-First Century  
The Constitution and the American Presidency: A Vague Description of the Most Complicated Job in the World  
Testing The Limits Of Presidential Power During The American Civil War  
Individuals and the Development of Presidential Power  
The Modern Presidency in Context: Institutions and Informal Sources of Power  
The “Body” of Yaser Hamdi: The Supreme Court Restricts Presidential Power in the War on Terror  
Conclusion: The Paradox of Power  
Chapter Review  
14. The Federal Bureaucracy: Putting the Nation’s Laws into Effect
Hurricane Katrina: A National Crisis Places the Federal Bureaucracy under the Microscope  
Theories of Bureaucratic Organization  
The Development of the American Federal Bureaucracy  
The Structure of the Modern Federal Bureaucracy  
Federal Bureaucrats: Organizations, Tasks, and Oversight  
Handling the Bureaucracy: Control, Oversight, and Reform  
Conclusion: Another Devastating Hurricane, Another Federal Response  
Chapter Review  
15. The Federal Judiciary: Politics, Power, and the “Least Dangerous” Branch
The “Trial” of Sonia Sotomayor: Identity, Politics, and the Supreme Court  
The Constitution and the Federal Judiciary  
The “Trial” of John Marshall: The Establishment of Judicial Review  
The Federal Judiciary and the American Legal System  
Appointment to the Federal Judiciary  
The “Trial” of Robert Bork: Politics, Confirmation, and Constitutional Interpretation  
Judicial Review, Constitutional Interpretation, and Judicial Decision Making  
Conclusion: The “Trial” of Merrick Garland?  
Chapter Review  
16. Domestic Public Policy: The Politics of Promoting the General Welfare
Crisis and Reform in American Public Education: Unlikely Political Coalitions and Radical Solutions  
The Domestic Policymaking Process: Nothing Clean or Neat about it  
American Education Policy: Markets and Politics  
Health Care Policy: President Obama Takes on Health Care Reform with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  
Health Care Policy before the ACA  
Other Major Areas of Domestic Policy  
Conclusion: Domestic Policy and Representative Democracy  
Chapter Review  
17. Economic Policy: Representing Americans’ Financial Interests
Student Debt, Politics, And Crisis  
Fiscal Policy: Guiding the Nation’s Economy through Decisions on Spending and Taxation  
Seeking Solutions For The Student Debt Crisis: Individual Activism, Public Policy, and Representation  
Monetary Policy: The Federal Reserve System  
Student Debt: The Next Economic Bubble?  
Conclusion: Can Economic Policy Solve the Student Debt Problem?  
Chapter Review  
18. Foreign Policy: Advancing American Interests in an Uncertain and Changing World
The End And The Beginning Of History  
America in the World: From Founding to Present  
Spring, Winter, And Chaos in North Africa and the Middle East In The Twenty-First Century  
The Formation of American Foreign Policy: Multiple Players, Organizations, and Voices  
From Syria To North Texas: From War and Chaos to the Pursuit of the American Dream  
Conclusion: America in Progress  
Chapter Review  
Articles of Confederation
Declaration of Independence
Constitution of the United States
Federalist No. 10
Federalist No. 51
Political Party Affiliations in Congress and the Presidency, 1789–2017
Summary of Presidential Elections, 1789–2016


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    • Comprehensive, downloadable, easy-to-use Media Guide in the Coursepack for every video resource, listing the chapter to which the video content is tied, matching learning objective(s), a helpful description of the video content, and assessment questions
    • Topics in American Government videos, which discuss foundational concepts in the text.
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“Abernathy's American Government: Stories of a Nation is a text which effectively uses a narrative approach to present both the nuts and bolts of how government works in America, as well as weaving that content into the fabric of students' lives. Students are drawn into the stories, would find them compelling and interesting, and would want to learn more. It would excite students about government in America, which is a virtue in and of itself, as often students find the subject boring or politics as unrelated to their lives. This narrative structure better demonstrates to students that politics are vital and important to them, embeds the content into their minds, and engages them in critical thinking and questioning. A welcome addition to the field.”

Jeneen Hobby
Cleveland State University

“I think this approach is amazing.”

Karen McCurdy
Georgia Southern University

“The book has ‘energy’. It engages the student while providing the fundamentals of American Government.”

Patricia Bodelson
St. Cloud State University

“A refreshing change of pace.”

Kevin Davis
North Central Texas College

“Well-written, detailed, comprehensive.”

Richardson Dilworth
Drexel University

“A very comprehensive American government text that seeks, identifies and accomplishes the task of understanding American government and its associated principles in a clear and cogent manner.”

Frederick Gordon
Columbus State University

“The student is treated as a serious reader without pretentious jargon.”

Greg Granger
Northwestern State University of Louisiana

“This narrative-style textbook functions as a powerful medium of learning, development, and transformation. It will help our students improve their critical thinking skills.”

Homer Guevara
Northwest Vista College

“Very timely, readable, and thorough.”

Therese M. Hammond
Penn State Lehigh Valley

“This book not only conveys important information about how the U.S. political system works, but is actually enjoyable to read.”

Melissa Merry
University of Louisville
Key features
  • Carefully selected stories about real people who have influenced American government —that students will want to read and engage with—offer the perfect way to bring concepts to life and make the core concepts both relevant and memorable.
  • Telling Stories with Data and Telling Stories with Images both present data and photos to encourage students to be more informed and critical interpreters of the political world and help them connect that material to their own lives.
  • Telling Other Stories present counter-narratives to the central voices in each chapter, sometimes challenging conventional wisdom, but always providing students will a fuller picture of the material at hand.
  • Connecting to... boxes link the narratives to the core political science content, explaining to students why the stories are presented to engage them with a fuller understanding of the material than they would find in a standard textbook.
  • What Have I Learned? offers a traditional assessment method to gauge student comprehension, ensure that terms and definitions are understood, and that students are connecting that learning to broader questions and understandings.
  • Chapter Review provides a study aid for students to master the chapter goals, organized around the learning objectives and including chapter summary points, connections to the stories, critical thinking questions for discussion, and key terms. 

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