1st Edition

American Public Policy Federal Domestic Policy Achievements and Failures, 1901 to 2022

By Dennis W. Johnson Copyright 2023
    538 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    538 Pages 41 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This is a sweeping narrative of American domestic public policy—its triumphs, struggles, and failures over the past 120 years. In a larger sense, it is a reflection on how the United States has grown and matured, faced challenges and opportunities, and how its federal leaders and policymakers have responded or failed to confront pressing problems. Moreover, American Public Policy addresses the hurdles and challenges that still lie ahead.

    Four critical questions are posed and answered. First, what were the most significant adversities endured by the American people? Second, what were the landmark domestic policies crafted by the president, enacted by Congress, or issued in Supreme Court decisions? Third, what did they fail to do? Finally, how well have federal policymakers met the key challenges facing America: income inequality, racism, financial crises, terrorist attacks, climate change, gun violence, and other pressures? And what do we still need to do?

    This book reaches out to students of public policy, American government, US history, and contemporary affairs, as well as to citizens, journalists, and policy practitioners.



    Chapter 1 The Progressive Era Begins: 1901-1912

    Chapter 2 Success and Backlash of Progressive Policy: 1913-1920

    Chapter 3 The Return to "Normalcy" and the Onset of the Depression: 1921-1932

    Chapter 4 The New Deal: 1933-1941


    Chapter 5 War, Recovery and Readjustment: 1941-1952

    Chapter 6 America at Midcentury: 1953-1960

    Chapter 7 The New Frontier and Great Society: 1961-1968

    Chapter 8 Watergate, Distrust and Malaise: 1969-1980


    Chapter 9 Conversative Dominance: 1981-1992

    Chapter 10 Coming Into the Twenty-first Century: 1993-2000

    Chapter 11 Vulnerable America: 2001-2008

    Chapter 12 Polarized America: 2009-2016

    Chapter 13 Democracy Challenged: 2017-2022


    Dennis W. Johnson is Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University. He has written six books (with several second and third editions) and edited four others. Most relevant to this current book is The Laws That Shaped America (Routledge, 2009), which focused on fifteen laws—from the Northwest Ordinance (1789) to the Voting Rights Act (1965) and the National Environmental Policy Act (1970)—which were foundational in the shaping of American life.

    Over the course of thirty-five years of teaching, writing, and research, Johnson has focused on American government and domestic public policy. He has been the Director of the Masters in Legislative Affairs program and Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at GWU.

    Throughout the years, he has taught both graduate and undergraduate courses on public policy, executive–legislative relations, federal budget-making policy, energy and environmental policy, the presidency, and American national government.

    Praise for American Public Policy

    "Dennis Johnson has written a brilliant policy history that will withstand the test of time: sweeping in scope, honest in its findings, and an essential primer for marking gains and losses as new policies arrive and old policies seek renewal. It will be the key reference work for decades to come."
    Paul C. Light, New York University

    "Professor Dennis Johnson has written an outstanding historical analysis of over ninety national landmark domestic policies crafted by the president and enacted by Congress and over sixty Supreme Court decisions from the beginning of the twentieth century through Biden’s first year in office. It provides a unique and definitive overview of the most significant domestic policies, how they were formulated and implemented, and whether they were successful or not. This should be required reading for anyone studying American public policy."
    James A. Thurber, American University

    "American Public Policy is essential for political scientists, historians, and policy wonks. It has everything a student of public policy is looking for – broad coverage yet incredible detail, historical context with modern relevance, and much more. This book represents one of the most comprehensive accounts of public policy there is. It tracks policy development – including the societal circumstances that bring about policy change – as well as what the policies meant. While attention to what went right with public policy is important, the attention to policy failures sets this book apart; it fits the adage that we learn more from our failures than our successes. In short, Dennis Johnson has delivered another outstanding volume."
    David Dulio, Oakland University

    "Dennis Johnson’s American Public Policy is a sweeping retelling of the high points – and low points – of our country’s efforts to make policies that embody the American dream.  This is an engaging book that should be read by those with no familiarity with policy history and for those who thought they knew it all. Johnson reminds us that our government has often stood in its own way of achieving justice for all – the long road to real child labor laws, states denying funds to public schools trying to integrate – making the case that the American story is as messy now as it has always been."
    Robin Kolodny, Temple University