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

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 8/3/2015
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Thinking About Political Reform: How to Fix, or Not Fix, American Government and Politics offers the most comprehensive and highly accessible analysis of reform proposals available. It treats both the causes and consequences of structural, procedural, and behavioral problems, assessing a wide variety of reform proposals from the perspectives of political science, economics, law, journalism, and politics.

Author John R. Johannes places reform proposals in the context of seven key standards for sound democratic government. He 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. Johannes reminds students that reforms in one area are bound to have consequences in others, thereby advocating a system-wide approach to reform and a wariness of ad hoc reforms prompted by political events.

Author Biography

John R. Johannes is Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. He is the author of To Serve the People: Congress and Constituency Service and Policy Innovation in Congress and coeditor of Money, Elections, and Democracy: Reforming Congressional Campaign Finance.

Table of Contents

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
Chapter 12. Unelected Policymakers
12.1 The Judiciary: Protector of or Threat to American Democracy?
12.2 The Executive Bureaucracy
Chapter 13. Conclusion: Thinking About Reform
13.1 The Lessons of Reform: What is Involved?
13.2 Is Reform Possible?
13.3 Conclusion

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