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American Government

American Government
Stories of a Nation, Brief Edition

December 2017 | 600 pages | CQ Press


“The Brief edition of American Government: Stories of a Nation outlines the crucial areas and helps guide students along to what they should know… I am confident this approach is what students are looking for.”

—Frank Fuller, Chestnut Hill College


American government is not just one story—it’s many stories. Our stories. And they are still being told.


In American Government: Stories of a Nation, author Scott Abernathy tunes in to the voices of America’s people, showing how diverse ideas throughout our nation’s history have shaped our political institutions, our identities, the way we participate and behave, the laws we live by, and the challenges we face. His storytelling approach brings the core concepts of government to life, making them meaningful and memorable, and allowing all students to see themselves reflected in the pages. For the new Brief Edition, Abernathy has carefully condensed and updated the content from the Full version, giving your students the information they need--and the stories they relate to--in a more concise, value-oriented package. Curious how storytelling can boost learning in your classroom? Read a free whitepaper that explains the research.


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Looking for the AP® Edition? Learn more about the brief text specifically tailored for the new AP® framework and exam.
About the Author
1. American Political Stories: Claiming Rights, Demanding to Be Heard
American Students Claim Their Rights

American Political Culture Is Built on a Set of Shared Ideas

Politics and Political Action Set the Stage for Revolution

The Structure of Institutions Affects How Citizens Participate

Conclusion: The American Experiment, Continued, and You Are Part of It

Chapter Review

2. The Constitution of the United States: A New Vision of Representative Government
James Madison Plans for a Republic That Will Last

The Confederal System Made Coordination between the States Difficult

Delegates Reach a Compromise at the Constitutional Convention

Delegates Worked Out Details of the New Government

Federalists and Anti-Federalists Fought over Ratification

Conclusion: The Motives of the Framers and the Effects of the Constitution Are Still Being Debated

Chapter Review

3. Federalism: The Changing Boundaries between the Nation and the States
The Fight for Access to Medical Marijuana Reveals Tensions between State and Federal Law

The Constitution Divides Power between the Nation and the States

The American Federal System Has Developed over Time

Modern American Federalism Remains Cooperative but Faces Challenges

Conclusion: The Evolution of American Federalism Continues

Chapter Review

4. Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: Building and Defending Fences
Americans Defend Their Right to Marriage Equality in a Test of Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties Limit Government Intrustion

The First Amendment Protects Religious Freedom

The First Amendment Protects Free Expression of Political Beliefs

The Second Amendment Today Applies to Personal Possession of Firearms

Criminal Rights Are Secured through Procedural Justice

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments Set Limits to Federal Power

Civil Rights Secure Americans’ Equality under Law

Securing Civil Rights for American Women

Conclusion: Fences Still under Construction

Chapter Review

5. Public Opinion: How Are Americans’ Voices Measured, and Do They Matter?
Public Opinion May Be Moved by Important Events Like Ferguson

Public Opinion Is the Sum Total of Individual Beliefs and Attitudes

Public Opinion Is Transmitted and Measured in Several Ways

Political Attitudes Come from a Variety of Sources

Ferguson and the Effects of Public Opinion on Democratic Representation

Conclusion: The Meanings of Public Opinion

Chapter Review

6. The Media: Truth, Power, and American Democracy
A Foreign Government’s Efforts to Influence an Election through the Media Raises Questions about the Media’s Power

The Evolution of American Media Shows That Issues of Power and Trustworthiness Are Not New

Questions of Bias Challenge Americans’ Trust in the Media’s Objectivity

Media Ownership and Content Are Subject to Regulation

The Power of the Media to Affect the Public Is Tested

Conclusion: Navigating the News

Chapter Review

7. Parties, Elections, and Participation: The Insurgents versus the Establishment
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Shake Up the Field . . . and Conventional Wisdom about the Power of Parties

Parties Organize, Signal, and Promote Policy Agendas

American Political Parties Undergo Cycles of Change

Elections and Campaigns Have Many Moving Parts

Presidential and Congressional Elections: The Same but Different

Political Participation Takes Many Forms

Conclusion: The Fallout

Chapter Review

8. Interest Groups and Social Movements: Collective Action, Power, and Representation
A Housing Bubble Bursts . . . and Interest Groups Pop Out

Americans Face Challenges in Acting Collectively in a Representative Democracy

Occupy Wall Street Illustrates the Struggles, Successes, and Failures of Social Movements

Conclusion: Organizing for Change or to Prevent Change

Chapter Review

9. Congress: Representation, Organization, and Legislation
The Experience of Women in Congress Raises Issues of Representation

The Constitution Defines Congress’s Shape and Powers

Getting to Congress Involves Personal, Professional, Electoral, and Financial Factors

Congress Is Organized around Formal and Informal Rules

The Legislative Process Is Complex by Design

Members Represent Constitutents by How They Act and Who They Are

Conclusion: The Complexity of Representation

Chapter Review

10. The American Presidency: Individuals, Institutions, and Executive Power
The Killing of an American Citizen Tests the Limits of Presidential Powers

The Constitution Outlines the Powers of the American Presidency

The Powers of the Presidency Have Evolved over Time

Institutions and Other Informal Sources of Power Shape the Modern Executive Branch

Conclusion: The Paradox of Power

Chapter Review

11. The Federal Bureaucracy: Putting the Nation’s Laws into Effect
Hurricane Katrina Tests the Federal Bureaucracy

Theories of Bureaucratic Organization Focus on Rules, People, and Tasks

The Bureaucracy Has Developed in Response to Demands and Crises

A Functioning Bureaucracy Depends upon Effective Organization

The Bureaucracy Is Constrained by Oversight and Reform

Conclusion: Another Devastating Hurricane, Another Federal Response

Chapter Review

12. The Federal Judiciary: Politics, Power, and the “Least Dangerous” Branch
The “Trial” of Sonia Sotomayor Highlights the Complexity of Judicial Decision Making

The Constitution Casts the Judiciary as the Weakest Branch

The “Trial” of John Marshall Established the Principle of Judicial Review

The American Legal System Is Defined by Federalism

Judicial Review Raises Questions of Constitutional Interpretation and Judicial Decision Making

Conclusion: The “Trials” of Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch

Chapter Review

13. Public Policy: Promoting the General Welfare and Advancing Americans’ Interests
American Dreamers’ Futures Depend upon Whether a Policy Will Continue

Domestic Social Policies Safeguard Americans’ Welfare

Economic Policy Protects Americans’ Financial Prospects

Foreign Policy Advances Americans’ Interests Abroad

From Syria to North Texas: From War and Chaos to the Pursuit of the American Dream

Conclusion: America in Progress

Chapter Review

Declaration of Independence

Articles of Confederation

Constitution of the United States

Federalist No. 10

Federalist No. 51

Political Party Affiliations in Congress and the Presidency, 1789–2017

Summary of Presidential Elections, 1789–2016



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    “The Brief edition of American Government: Stories of a Nation outlines the crucial areas and helps guide students along to what they should know… I am confident this approach is what students are looking for.”

    Frank Fuller
    Chestnut Hill College

    “Abernathy’s text distinguishes itself through the combination of historical references and contemporary examples.”

    James Ronan
    Rowan University

    “One of the most readable texts I’ve read; good for non-majors who aren’t interested in tons of theory, but don’t want to be talked down to.”

    William Housel
    Northwestern Louisiana State University

    “Well written and timely… The stories feel natural, not strained or forced.”

    Thomas Baldino
    Wilkes University