At no time in our political history is a reappraisal of our party system more vital than when we face a national election. Then- often only then- the people become more aware of what parties mean. In the main, the American party may be weak as an agent of decision and power, playing down principles and playing up accommodation. But through the pages of this book, one becomes aware of the positive influences through our history, the value to the American political and social scene, the functions, particularly those that are characteristically American. The two major parties are the focus of attention; third parties have come and gone- though this is not necessarily and permanently true. Their values go farther than nominations, campaigns, elections and appointments. Their differences are closely analyzed- and the importance of these differences appraised. Their successes and failures are charted. The apathy of the American public both in voting and in taking an active part is undeniable -- and perhaps the very reading of a book such as this should help us all realize why participation is a challenge and responsibility, why we cannot criticize the shortcomings -- and sit back and do nothing. Behind the Constitution stand the people; there we must seek out the peculiar qualities of American parties. A book for thoughtful consideration, for extensive use in study of politics- but a book that not many average readers will seek out for themselves.