Thinking About Political Reform: How to Fix, or Not Fix, American Government and Politics

ISBN : 9780199937998

John Johannes
328 Pages
158 x 236 mm
Pub date
Oct 2015
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Thinking About Political Reform is the only genuinely comprehensive book on reforming American government and politics available to students and instructors. Covering elections, institutions, political processes, and behavior, it invites readers to go beyond the "what" of government and politics that typically is covered in both introductory and advanced American government courses to consider "what's wrong", "why", "so what", and "what if" questions, encouraging them to examine the failures and flaws of the governing process and to ponder potential solutions and their likely consequences. In addressing issues from the role of citizens to elections to the three branches of government, it treats both the causes and consequences of structural, procedural, and behavioral problems, offering a variety of common and sometimes not so common reform proposals that are assessed from the perspectives of political science, economics, law, journalism, and politics. The book asks readers to ground their thinking about reform in seven criteria or standards that should characterize sound democratic government in the United States, pointing out that such criteria are not always compatible and urging readers to prioritize their values before attacking reform issues. Throughout, it applies those standards and an up-to-date review of the scholarly literature and current events to the reform agenda, suggesting several approaches to evaluate, for example, the tensions between Congress and the presidency, election systems, or political parties. Each chapter offers readers specific questions to help them formulate their own views on reform and reminds them that reforms are linked; what is done to one process or institution has consequences for others. The final chapter suggests how reform might occur but cautions that ad hoc reforms are unlikely to solve underlying problems - or could make them worse - and that, ultimately, reformers have to know which values and criteria they think are most important and then ask two questions: which of the two elective institutions - Congress or the presidency - should be dominant, and what sort of political party and electoral system best fits that choice? Unlike other reform books that focus on selected political institutions or the electoral process, Thinking About Reform covers American government from soup to nuts, providing in one highly readable volume the most complete, integrated, and current analysis of reform proposals and their consequences available today. The book complements all standard textbook treatments of American politics and can stand alone as the core for a course on political reform.


Part One: Introduction: How to Think About Reform
Chapter 1. A Framework for Reform
1.1 Reforms: What and Why?
1.2 Guiding Principles
1.3 Goals, Values, and Criteria for Evaluating Institutions
1.4 The Need for Limits and Controls: Safety
1.5 Goals, Values, and Criteria for Evaluating Popular Sovereignty
1.6 Complications
1.7 How to Think About Reform
Questions to Consider
Chapter 2. Radical Reform
2.1 Parliamentary Government in Washington - With or Without a King?
2.2 A Flag Without Fifty Stars? - Unitary Government Rather than Federalism
2.3 Implications
Questions to Consider
Part Two: A Focus on Participation, Representation, Responsiveness, and Accountability
Chapter 3. The People's Role
3.1 The Problem: Low Turnout and Participation
3.2 Enhancing Participation: Problems and Reforms
3.3 Securing the Vote
3.4 Conclusion
Questions to Consider
Chapter 4. Election Processes and Systems
4.1 Basic Electoral Rules
4.2 Reforming Electoral Rules
4.3 Direct Democracy
4.4 Alternatives
4.5 Conclusion
Questions to Consider
Chapter 5. Political Parties
5.1 What Parties Can Do
5.2 What Kind of Parties?
5.3 Reforms
5.4 Alternatives and Prospects
5.5 Conclusion
Questions to Consider
Chapter 6. Choosing the Candidates: Nominations
6.1 Caucuses and Conventions: Congress
6.2 Primary Elections
6.3 Which Are Better: Conventions or Primaries?
6.4 Presidential Nominations
6.5 Reforms
6.6 Conclusion
Questions to Consider
Chapter 7. Campaigns and Campaign Finance
7.1 The Problem: Campaign Messages
7.2 Debates
7.3 The Media Sometimes is the Message
7.4 Competition
7.5 Let's Buy an Election - Campaign Finance
7.6 Reforms
7.7 Conclusion and Prospects
Part Three: Government Institutions and Policymaking
Chapter 8. How to Think about the Policy Makers
8.1 A Framework for Analyzing Reforms
Chapter 9. Congress
9.1 What's Wrong with Congress?
9.2 Blame the Members
9.3 Structures Cause Problems
9.4 Committees and Subcommittees Bring Complexity
9.5 The Parties
9.6 Procedures - How Does Anything Get Done?
9.7 Fixing the Problems: Reforming Congress
9.8 Are Reforms Possible?
Questions to Consider
Chapter 10. The Presidency
10.1 The Matter of Power
10.2 Accountability: Hiring and Firing Presidents
10.3 The Electoral College
10.4 The Two Term Limit
10.5 Effectiveness in Governing the Executive Branch
Questions to Consider
Chapter 11. President, Congress, and the Policy Process
11.1 Problems of Shared Policymaking Call for Reforms
11.2 Improving Fiscal Policy and the Budget Process
11.3 Reforming National Security Policymaking
11.4 Solving Governmental Deadlock
Questions to Consider
Chapter 12. Unelected Policymakers
12.1 The Judiciary: Protector of or Threat to American Democracy?
12.2 The Executive Bureaucracy
Questions to Consider
Part Four: Conclusion: Issues and Prospects
Chapter 13. Conclusion - Thinking About Reform
13.1 The Lessons of Reform: What is Involved?
13.2 Is Reform Possible?
13.3 Conclusion
Questions to Consider
Part Four: Conclusion

About the author: 

Dr. John (Jack) Johannes received a B.S., summa cum laude, from Marquette University, in Mathematics and Political Science, and the A.M. and Ph.D. in political science from Harvard. He joined the Marquette faculty in 1970, progressing to the rank of Professor of Political Science in 1984. Before coming to Villanova as Vice President for Academic Affairs (1995-2010), he chaired the Political Science Department at Marquette (1980-88), was the founding Executive Director of Marquette's Bradley Institute for Democracy and Public Values (1986-88), and served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1988-93). He was a visiting professor at Harvard in the summers of 1972, 1976, and 1984. ; Dr. Johannes served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Political Science (1982 85) and Legislative Studies Quarterly (1983-86) and was a member of the Executive Council of the Midwest Political Science Association. He has served as a member of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the Wisconsin Legislative Council's Committee on Campaign Finance Reform, and the Radnor (Pa.) Commission on Charter Review; and currently is a commissioner of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.; Professor Johannes has lectured at the London School of Economics, Rice University, the University of Nebraska, and Arcadia University, and received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Association, the Everett Dirksen Center for the Study of Congressional Leadership, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

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