Brief but thorough overview of the origins of America’s political system.
Debut author Thomas takes the stance that the American political system is broken, though not hopelessly so. Deadlock in Congress and the polarization of the political process led the author to accept the popular sentiment that our law-making process is at a serious impasse. Thomas identifies a number of factors affecting the modern political process, including excessive contributions by corporations and special interest groups, changes in media that have surpassed the imaginations of the Constitution’s framers, and an entrenched two-party system with almost no room for compromise or additional voices. He hopes to help find answers to these problems by understanding where the process came from. To this end, the author begins with a lengthy and detailed exploration of the history behind the American political process, in both theory and practice. In doing so, he focuses on three major areas. First, Thomas reviews the origins of American democracy, from the earliest influences of Western democracy (the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, etc.) to the American Revolution and the Articles of Confederation. Second, he delves into the Federalist Papers to find the Founding Fathers’ ideas about the structure of American federal government. Third, he looks at the five eras of party systems that have marked the history of the nation. Thomas finally attempts to provide answers to the problems America faces, with such diverse advice as allowing only registered voters to make campaign contributions and stressing compromise over mere minority rule. Thomas’ work is a compelling review of American political history in an easy-to-read form; a comprehensive set of appendices also aids the reader. However, he would do well to add more analysis to his research. How do the Federalist Papers set the stage for the American political landscape of today, for instance? He hints at answers but doesn’t thoroughly address these findings.
Interesting historical review but light on conclusions.