Two experienced analysts blend history, political science, and up-to-date information to bring readers current with American politics in the age of the Internet.
Rare is the book that takes the long view, looks ahead to a forthcoming election campaign, yet doesn't lose itself in pundit-like prognostication or journalistic fluff. In contrast to most political scientists, White (Catholic University) and Shea (Allegheny College) begin with the beginning of American government in the 1790s and maintain the historical thread of their argument throughout. With a light touch and many illustrative anecdotes, they show how a system of strong parties has given way to weak ones. With unusual balance, they deftly review the hole we've dug ourselves into with campaign financing and the difficulties we face in climbing out. They analyze the causes of the increasingly tenuous links between parties and candidates and the paradox that, as parties grow stronger (which the authors argue they recently have), people move away from politics. And they show that, despite our Jeffersonian affection for local rule, it is Alexander Hamilton's vision of powerful, president-centered government organized around parties structured from the top down that has triumphed. What makes this study essential as well as authoritative is its timeliness. Thoroughly up-to-date, it shows how computers and the World Wide Web are beginning to transform politics, though the results can only faintly be made out. White and Shea are wise enough to provide what they know without telling readers what to think, which is precisely why their account is so useful.
A model book of practical political science, the best guide imaginable to our political situation in the months before the 2000 elections.