Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 3, 2013

What Americanists Don’t Know About American Politics

Andrew L. Roberts
From the journal The Forum

Abstract

This paper follows Noel’s 2010 attempt to introduce journalists and practitioners to findings from professional political science which are relevant to the interpretive challenge of American politics but with which they may not be familiar. It extends his work by focusing on comparative politics this time – the domestic politics of foreign countries – and it argues that American politics might be interpreted differently if it were analyzed through the lens of comparison.


Corresponding author: Andrew L. Roberts, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA

  1. 1

    Party discipline is also very high. Representatives follow the orders of their party leaders.

  2. 2

    The system is somewhat deceptive, because it appears that there is a powerful opposition, for example, when you watch Prime Minister’s Question Time on CSPAN. In fact, this is mainly a show, where the opposition tries to embarrass the government and sway public opinion but has little real power to hinder the government’s agenda.

  3. 3

    Noel 2010 makes a similar point. I add here an explanation of how extra parties form, the second part of Duverger’s law.

  4. 4

    For arguments that the electoral law is epiphenomenal and that parties cause the electoral law, see Colomer (2005).

  5. 5

    It should be emphasized that this logic applies to individual districts, not to the system as a whole. Each district should feature contests between two parties, but that does not mean that they are the same two parties in each district.

  6. 6

    Other effects include weakening the personal bond between representatives and their constituents, making politics more nationalized (rather than localized), and strengthening political parties.

  7. 7

    Note that just about every presidency from Johnson to Bush II ended in failure and arguably should have been terminated prematurely.

  8. 8

    This should be appealing to those who support bipartisanship.

  9. 9

    I ignore other ways based on central planning because of their evident failures in running advanced economies, but they have seen some success in developing states, though at considerable costs.

  10. 10

    The US along with the UK, by contrast, are known as “liberal market economies.” There is a small growth industry in describing other so-called varieties of capitalism.

  11. 11

    For a compendium of differences, see Karabel and Laurison 2011.

  12. 12

    Powell (2000) finds a similar result. Expanding the comparison to middle-income states makes the US look even more typical.

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Published Online: 2013-08-03
Published in Print: 2013-07-01

©2013 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston