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Throughout the contest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, politicians and voters alike worried that the outcome might depend on the preferences of unelected superdelegates. This concern threw into relief the prevailing notion that—such unusually competitive cases notwithstanding—people, rather than parties, should and do control presidential nominations. But for the past several decades, The Party Decides shows, unelected insiders in both major parties have effectively selected candidates long before citizens reached the ballot box. Tracing the evolution of presidential nominations since the 1790s, this volume demonstrates how party insiders have sought since America’s founding to control nominations as a means of getting what they want from government. Contrary to the common view that the party reforms of the 1970s gave voters more power, the authors contend that the most consequential contests remain the candidates’ fights for prominent endorsements and the support of various interest groups and state party leaders. These invisible primaries produce frontrunners long before most voters start paying attention, profoundly influencing final election outcomes and investing parties with far more nominating power than is generally recognized.
Throughout the contest for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, politicians and voters alike worried that the outcome might depend on the preferences of unelected superdelegates. This concern threw into relief the prevailing notion that—such unusually competitive cases notwithstanding—people, rather than parties, should and do control presidential nominations. But for the past several decades, The Party Decides shows, unelected insiders in both major parties have effectively selected candidates long before citizens reached the ballot box. Tracing the evolution of presidential nominations since the 1790s, this volume demonstrates how party insiders have sought since America’s founding to control nominations as a means of getting what they want from government. Contrary to the common view that the party reforms of the 1970s gave voters more power, the authors contend that the most consequential contests remain the candidates’ fights for prominent endorsements and the support of various interest groups and state party leaders. These invisible primaries produce frontrunners long before most voters start paying attention, profoundly influencing final election outcomes and investing parties with far more nominating power than is generally recognized.
Newton Minow’s long engagement with the world of television began nearly fifty years ago when President Kennedy appointed him chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. As its head, Minow would famously dub TV a “vast wasteland,” thus inaugurating a career dedicated to reforming television to better serve the public interest. Since then, he has been chairman of PBS and on the board of CBS and elsewhere, but his most lasting contribution remains his leadership on televised presidential debates. He was assistant counsel to Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson when Stevenson first proposed the idea of the debates in 1960; he served as cochair of the presidential debates in 1976 and 1980; and he helped create and is currently vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has organized the debates for the last two decades. Written with longtime collaborator Craig LaMay, this fascinating history offers readers for the first time a genuinely inside look into the origins of the presidential debates and the many battles—both legal and personal—that have determined who has been allowed to debate and under what circumstances. The authors do not dismiss the criticism of the presidential debates in recent years but do come down solidly in favor of them, arguing that they are one of the great accomplishments of modern American electoral politics. As they remind us, the debates were once unique in the democratic world, are now emulated across the globe, and they offer the public the only real chance to see the candidates speak in direct response to one another in a discussion of major social, economic, and foreign policy issues. Looking to the challenges posed by third-party candidates and the emergence of new media such as YouTube, Minow and LaMay ultimately make recommendations for the future, calling for the debates to become less formal, with candidates allowed to question each other and citizens allowed to question candidates directly. They also explore the many ways in which the Internet might serve to broaden the debates’ appeal and informative power. Whether it’s Clinton or Obama vs. McCain, Inside the Presidential Debates will be welcomed in 2008 by anyone interested in where this crucial part of our democracy is headed—and how it got there.
Is American politics "ideological," or relatively consensual? Do the American parties differ from one another and, if so, how? Party Ideologies in America, 1828-1996 is a synthetic history and analysis of the ideologies of the major American parties from the early nineteenth century to the present. It is the only book currently in print that attempts such a broad treatment of the subject and that is empirically grounded.
The exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, F. Scott Fitzgeralds' third book, The Great Gatsby (1925), stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the "first step" American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised "the charm and beauty of the writing," as well as Fitzgerald's sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald's "best work" thus far. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance, and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.
Examining the development of the process of presidential selection from the founding of the republic to the present day, James Ceaser contends that many of the major purposes of the selection system as it was formerly understood have been ignored by current reformers and modern scholars. In an attempt to reverse this trend, Professor Ceaser discusses the theories of selection offered by leading American statesmen from the Founders and Thomas Jefferson to Martin Van Buren and Woodrow Wilson. From these theories he identifies a set of criteria for a sound selection system that he then uses to analyze and evaluate the recent changes in the selection process. Five normative functions of a presidential selection system comprise the author's criteria: it should minimize the harmful effects of ambitious contenders for the office, promote responsible executive leadership and power, help secure an able president, ensure a legitimate accession, and provide for an appropriate amount of choice and change. Professor Ceaser finds that the present system is characterized by weak parties and candidate-centered campaigns that lead to the problems of "image" politics and demagogic leadership appeals. He therefore argues for a more republican selection system in which political parties would be strengthened to serve as a restraining force on popular authority, public opinion, and individual aspirations for executive power.
Since its first appearance fifteen years ago, Why Parties? has become essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the nature of American political parties. In the interim, the party system has undergone some radical changes. In this landmark book, now rewritten for the new millennium, John H. Aldrich goes beyond the clamor of arguments over whether American political parties are in resurgence or decline and undertakes a wholesale reexamination of the foundations of the American party system. Surveying critical episodes in the development of American political parties—from their formation in the 1790s to the Civil War—Aldrich shows how they serve to combat three fundamental problems of democracy: how to regulate the number of people seeking public office, how to mobilize voters, and how to achieve and maintain the majorities needed to accomplish goals once in office. Aldrich brings this innovative account up to the present by looking at the profound changes in the character of political parties since World War II, especially in light of ongoing contemporary transformations, including the rise of the Republican Party in the South, and what those changes accomplish, such as the Obama Health Care plan. Finally, Why Parties? A Second Look offers a fuller consideration of party systems in general, especially the two-party system in the United States, and explains why this system is necessary for effective democracy.

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