America's State Governments : A Critical Look at Disconnected Democracies book cover
1st Edition

America's State Governments
A Critical Look at Disconnected Democracies

ISBN 9780367468477
Published July 24, 2020 by Routledge
196 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This timely and important new work takes a critical look at government in the American states and illustrates the disconnect between state government institutions and their constituents. The text illuminates three basic political problems of state governments: weak constitutional and institutional foundations; a lack of civic engagement; and long histories of unchecked public corruption. In addition, the book explains why some states did and others did not respond promptly to the COVID-19 pandemic and examines America's long-standing problem of police and prosecutorial misconduct–providing a context for understanding the demonstrations and protests that rocked American cities in the summer of 2020. For students and citizens of state politics, the book concludes with a proposal aimed at civic literacy and action

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables



1 Introduction: Disconnected Democracies

2 State Constitutions

3 The States in the Federal System

4 State Governors

5 State Legislatures and Representative Government

6 State Justice Systems

7 Corruption in State and Municipal Government

8 Conclusion: What is to be Done?


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Jennifer Bachner is Director of the Program in Data Analytics and Policy at Johns Hopkins University.

 Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


Praise for America’s State Governments

"States play enormously important roles in the American federal system. But this fascinating account shows how short they fall in delivering equal access to democratic participation, effective policy in the public interest, or even basic justice, for both political and structural reasons. Entertainingly written and full of new data and eye-opening examples, this book shows how low citizen interest and knowledge, declining media coverage, institutional weakness, and insufficient ethics protections result in interest group dominance, unrepresentative policies, and sometimes outright corruption. A must-read for anyone interested in the state (no pun intended) of American governance."

-- Andrea Louise Campbell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"The major strength of this textbook is that it offers the freshest take on state politics in literally decades."

--Douglas Harris, Loyola University Maryland

"Engaging and analytically challenging."

--Ian J. Drake, Montclair State University

"Rather than focus on comparing states with one another—the dominant approach in state politics research and texts—this book emphasizes their overall role in the federal system and their commonalities. This is an interesting and compelling approach."

--Michael Berkman, Pennsylvania State University