9th Edition

Approaching Democracy American Government in Times of Challenge

    846 Pages 155 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    846 Pages 155 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    From unsubstantiated 2020 election fraud claims and the storming of the US Capitol to the rampage of COVID-19 and racial injustice, this book covers the foundations, institutions, and processes of "the great American experiment" with a clear and resonant theme: Democracy cannot be taken for granted, whether at home or internationally, and eternal vigilance (along with civic intelligence) is required to protect it. Approaching Democracy provides students with a framework to analyze the structure, process, and action of US government, institutions, and social movements. It also invites comparison with other countries. This globalizing perspective gives students an understanding of issues of governance and challenges to democracy here and elsewhere. At a moment of growing domestic terrorism, political hyper-partisanship, populism, identity politics, and governmental dysfunction, there is no better time to bring Approaching Democracy--a textbook based on Vaclav Havel’s powerful metaphor of democracy as an ideal and the American experiment as the closest approach to it--to a new generation of political science undergraduate students.


    • Two new authors, Nadia E. Brown and Sarah Allen Gershon, who bring refreshing intellectual and diverse perspectives to the text.
    • Includes the tumultuous political context surrounding the Trump presidency, the 2020 elections, the 116th Congress, the Supreme Court, the COVID-19 crisis, and the fight for social and racial justice. 
    • Figures and tables reflect the latest available data and surveys.
    • Two new features--Diversity and Democracy, highlighting the experiences of America’s diverse social groups and the role of identity politicsand Discussion Questions at the end of each chapter, assessing critical thinking skills.
    • Critical contemporary events are explored throughout the book, including the attempted coup following the 2020 elections, the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, protests in American cities that come to the epicenter of America’s approach to democracy, the changes in the Supreme Court and the federal court system, the growth of LGBTQ+ legal rights, and the alteration in American Federalism. New and updated data on public attitudes toward police brutality, DACA, voter suppression, healthcare, and the global climate movement are also covered.


    About the Authors

    Part I Foundations of American Democracy

    1. Approaching Democracy

    2. The Founding and the Constitution


    Part II Institutions of American Democracy

    4. Congress

    5. The Presidency

    6. The Judiciary

    7. The Bureaucracy

    Part III Processes of American Democracy

    8. Public Opinion

    9. Political Parties

    10. Participation, Voting, and Elections

    11. Interest Groups

    12. The Media

    Part IV Liberties and Rights in American Democracies

    13. Civil Liberties

    14. Civil Rights and Political Equality

    Part V Policy Making in American Democracy

    15. Domestic and Economic Policy

    16. Foreign Policy


    APPENDIX 1: Introducing the Concept of Approaching Democracy

    APPENDIX 2: Presidents and Congresses, 1789–January 2021

    APPENDIX 3: Supreme Court Justices

    APPENDIX 4: The Declaration of Independence

    APPENDIX 5: The United States Constitution

    APPENDIX 6: The Federalist, No. 10, James Madison

    APPENDIX 7: The Federalist, No. 51, James Madison




    Larry Berman is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, and former Founding Dean of the Honors College at Georgia State University.

    Bruce Allen Murphy is the Fred Morgan Kirby Professor of Civil Rights in the Department of Government and Law at Lafayette College.

    Nadia E. Brown is a University Faculty Scholar and Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at Purdue University and as of July 2021, Professor of Government and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown University.

    Sarah Allen Gershon is Associate Professor of Political Science and holds the Ray and John Uttenhove WomenLead professorship at Georgia State University.

    Praise for Approaching Democracy, Ninth Edition

    "The argument that the nation is (or at least should be) moving steadily forward toward a governing ideal resonates with me and my students, and I appreciate that the authors use the notion of ‘approaching democracy’ as the textbook’s organizing theme. The underlying premise is that a gap exists between where we currently are as a nation and where we aspire ultimately to be. Through comprehensive explorations of federal- and state- level politics, elite-level decision making and mass-level activism, domestic and foreign policy, and more, the authors bring this ideals-vs.-reality gap into sharper relief. Is the gap growing or holding steady? If growing, is it because the ‘reality’ of American democracy is backsliding, or because the ‘ideal’ is shifting, or both? The authors invite readers to grapple with these and related questions.

    "Discussions of current social and political developments (e.g., the pandemic, the economic collapse, the Black Lives Matter protests, the 2020 presidential election cycle, etc.) are welcomed additions to this important book. I was also pleased to see that the study of politics and social identity are now prominently featured. After all, the ongoing quests for universal freedom—those taken up, for example, by women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with different abilities, and members of LGBTQ communities—play a major role in pushing an oftentimes reluctant country closer to its ideal."

    --Ray Block Jr., The Pennsylvania State University

    "Approaching Democracy presents the foundations of American politics situated in the context of our unique moment in time. The authors weave together centuries-old concepts underlying American democracy with the consequential and controversial debates that are unfolding today before students’ eyes."

    --Samara Klar, University of Arizona

    "The 9th edition of Approaching Democracy is a heartily recommended addition to any introduction to American Government course due to its effective and comprehensive coverage of the institutions and structural elements that make up American democracy as well as its stimulating engagement of current developments and contemporary controversies. Its overarching theme of American politics as a dynamic process where the country is approaching democracy to varying degrees during its history is a compelling and thought-provoking enterprise that successfully connects each chapter into a coherent whole and will necessarily stimulate and improve critical thinking skills of students… Approaching Democracy effectively examines both substantive and analytical considerations related to identity politics and those increasingly significant aspects of American life. Approaching Democracy is a wonderfully accessible book for lower division college students that will assuredly engage them at the same time it maintains an appropriately rigorous level of scholarly insight and discourse for an introductory course." 

    --Stephen R. Routh, Stanislaus State University

    "This volume is innovative for its approach to the study of American democracy. Features that encourage critical reflections on American exceptionalism and compel readers to place themselves at the center of civic debates facilitate active learning and foster engaged citizenship. This is the right text for our political times when inviting students into the process could not be more critical for democracy."

    --Anna Mitchell Mahoney, Tulane University

    "I heartily endorse the 9th edition of Approaching Democracy. The book has an interesting overarching idea. The idea is that democracy is an ideal as much as a system of government. The book explores the ‘paradox of democracy’—namely, that there is a tug-of-war between majority rule (procedural democracy) and minority rights (principled democracy). The battle of political values--order, freedom, and equality--is explained in an interesting way. I have used earlier editions of this textbook and my students at both a community college and California State University found the book interesting, well- written and organized for introductory courses in American Government."

    --Richard G. Randall, Merced College

    "The new edition of Approaching Democracy continues to be well-written at an appropriate level for introductory students. Students find its many in-text resources very useful and professors find that referring to key documents like the US Constitution helps in clarifying important points."

    --Kwame Badu Antwi-Boasiako, Stephen F. Austin State University

    "The core theme of Approaching Democracy, that the US political system must honestly and vigorously strive to improve its democracy, is all the more relevant in the post-Trump era. Students will find the emphasis on critical challenges to democracy and a new commitment to equality and inclusion an engaging way to study the US political system."

    --Roger P. Rose, University of Minnesota, Morris

    "Approaching Democracy is a well written and accessible book that addresses many of the contemporary challenges to the American democratic experiment. These challenges are not just presented in a vacuum, but rather through a comparative perspective to better assess the evolution of this experiment. Furthermore, given some of the most salient and important issues of the day, the increased focus on diversity and identity in the content and narrative of the material is a welcomed and much needed perspective that puts into better view the continual push and pull struggle of American democracy."

    --Stella M. Rouse, University of Maryland