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American Political Culture and Ideology

John Locke, "The Second Treatise," from Two Treatises of Government (1690)
"The great and chief end therefore, of Mens uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the Preservation of their Property."

Alexis De Tocqueville, from Democracy in America (1835)
"The people reign in the American political world as the Deity does in the universe."

Robert N. Bellah et al., "Individualism," from Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (University of California Press, 1985)
"Individualism lies at the very core of American culture."

Patrick Henry, from "Give Me Liberty of Give Me Death!" (1775)
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!—¬I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

The Constitutional Foundation of American Government

James Madison, from Federalist, Nos. 47, 48, and 51 (1788)
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Charles A. Beard, from An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (Macmillan, 1935)
"The overwhelming majority of members, at least five-sixths, were immediately, directly, and personally interested in the outcome of their labors at Philadelphia, and were to a greater or less extent economic beneficiaries from the adoption of the Constitution."

Gordon S. Wood, from "The Intellectual Origins of the American Constitution," National Forum: The Phi Kappa Phi Journal (Fall 1984)
"[T]hey were men intensely interested in ideas and especially concerned with making theoretical sense of what they were doing. They were participants in a rich, dynamic political culture that helped determine the nature of the Constitution they created."

The Evolution of American Federalism

John Marshall, from McCulloch v. Maryland, U.S. Supreme Court (1819)
"If any one proposition could command the universal assent of mankind, we might expect it would be this: that the government of the Union, though limited in its powers, is supreme within its sphere of action."

Samuel H. Beer, from "Federalism, Nationalism, and Democracy in America," American Political Science Review (March 1978)
"What is interesting about American federalism today is not its particular allocation of functions or powers between levels of government, but rather what it is adding to our national system of representation."

Governors' Council, from "Reforming Waivers: The Governors' Council Perspective on Federalism Today," Bipartisan Policy Center (2013)
"It has become clear that states need more flexibility to pursue their coverage and benefit goals in this program, while effectively managing costs."

Alice M. Rivlin, "The Dream, the Reality, and Some Solutions," from Reviving the American Dream: The Economy, the States and the Federal Government (Brookings Institution, 1992)
"A first step is to reexamine that peculiarly American institution, federalism. The current confusion of responsibilities between federal and state government is undermining confidence in government and impeding the implementation of policies needed to restore a healthy economy. Sorting out the roles more clearly could break the logjam, help both levels function more effectively, and improve both domestic and foreign policy."

Civil Liberties

John Stuart Mill, "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion," from On Liberty (1859)
"If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."

Hugo L. Black, from Gideon v. Wainwright, U.S. Supreme Court (1963)
"Not only these precedents but also reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth."

Anthony M. Kennedy et al., from Lee v. Weisman, U.S. Supreme Court (1992)
"In this atmosphere the state-imposed character of an invocation and benediction by clergy selected by the school combine to make the prayer a state-sanctioned religious exercise in which the student was left with no alternative but to submit."

Harry A. Blackmun, from Roe v. Wade, U.S. Supreme Court (1973)
"This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."

Civil Rights

Sandra Day O'Connor, from Majority Opinion, Grutter v. Bollinger, U.S. Supreme Court, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)
"...[I]n the context of individualized consideration of the possible diversity contributions of each applicant, the Law School's race-conscious admissions program does not unduly harm nonminority applicants."

Terry H. Anderson, from The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action (Oxford University Press, 2004)
"Narrowly tailored affirmative action policies were constitutional only if they could withstand strict scrutiny, and in education, only as one of many factors to bring out a diverse student body."

Hugo L. Black, from Korematsu v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court (1944)
"Compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens from their homes, except under circumstances of direst emergency and peril, is inconsistent with our basic governmental institution. But when under conditions of modern warfare our shores are threatened by hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the threatened danger."

Otis H. Stephens, Jr. from Presidential Power, Judicial Deference, and the Status of Detainees in an Age of Terrorism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
"After 9/11, however, the emphasis changed abruptly, and the procedural rules associated with criminal trials began to yield claims of military exigency in the war on terrorism."

Interest Groups

James Madison, from Federalist, No. 10 (1788)
"Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction."

Burdett A. Loomis and Allan J. Cigler, from "The Changing Nature of Interest Group Politics," in Burdett A. Loomis and Allan J. Cigler, eds., Interest Group Politics, 5th ed. (CQ Press, 1998)
"From James Madison to Madison Avenue, political interests have played a central role in American politics. But this great continuity in our political experience has been matched by the ambivalence with which citizens, politicians, and scholars have approached interest groups."

Political Parties

Larry Sabato, from "New Campaign Techniques and the American Party System," in Vernon Bogdanor, ed., Parties and Democracy in Britain and America (Praeger, 1984)
"The growth of political consultancy and the development of advanced campaign techniques were combined with the new election finance laws that hurt the parties, favored the prospering consultants, and encouraged the mushrooming of party-rivaling political action committees."

James L. Sundquist, from "Strengthening the National Parties," in A. James Reichley, ed., Elections American Style (Brookings Institution, 1987)
"Political parties have always occupied an ambiguous position in American public life. They are profoundly mistrusted—yet accepted. Their constant maneuvering for petty advantage is reviled and ridiculed, but millions of people call themselves either Democrats or Republicans and cherish the ideals of their party with a religious fervor."

Electoral Politics

V. O. Key, Jr., "The Voice of the People: An Echo," from The Responsible Electorate: Rationality in Presidential Voting, 1936–1960 (Harvard University Press, 1966)
"The perverse and unorthodox argument of this little book is that voters are not fools. To be sure, many individual voters act in odd ways indeed; yet in the large the electorate behaves about as rationally and responsibly as we should expect, given the clarity of the alternatives presented to it and the character of the information available to it."

Walter Dean Burnham, from Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics (W. W. Norton, 1970)
"The critical realignment is characteristically associated with short-lived but very intense disruptions of traditional patterns of voting behavior. Majority parties become minorities; politics which was once competitive becomes noncompetitive or, alternately, hitherto one-party areas now become arenas of intense partisan competition; and large blocks of the active electorate—minorities, to be sure, but perhaps involving as much as a fifth to a third of the voters—shift their partisan allegiance."

Russ Feingold, from "The Money Crisis," Stanford Law Review (2012)
"...[W]hen the groups created by Citizens United dominate our elections with hundreds of millions of dollars of unregulated money, many may begin to believe that the average participant's small contribution is irrelevant, and that the average person's vote is grossly outweighed by the gigantic contributions now allowed."

The Media and Public Opinion

Michael Parenti, from "From Cronkite's Complaint to Orwell's Oversight," Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media (St. Martin's Press, 1986)
"By focusing on 'human interest' trivia, on contest rather than content, the media make it difficult for the public to give intelligent expression to political life and to mobilize around the issues. Thus the media have—intentionally or not—a conservative effect on public discourse."


David R. Mayhew, "The Electoral Incentive," from Congress: The Electoral Connection (Yale University Press, 1974)
"Whether they are safe or marginal, cautious or audacious, congressmen must constantly engage in activities related to reelection."

Lee Hamilton, from "Why is Congress So Partisan?" Center on Congress at Indiana University (2007)
"In the intensely partisan atmosphere that reigns today on Capitol Hill, it is much less common for two legislators to pursue their beliefs with such intensity of purpose, yet remain fast friends or work together when their interests coincide."

The Presidency

Clinton Rossiter, "The Powers of the Presidency." from The American Presidency, 2nd ed. (Harcourt, Brace, 1960)
"Chief of State, Chief Executive, Commander in Chief, Chief Diplomat, Chief Legislator—these functions make up the strictly constitutional burden of the President. As Mr. Truman himself allowed in several of his folksy sermons on the Presidency, they form an aggregate of power that would have made Caesar or Genghis Khan or Napoleon bite his nails with envy."

Barack Obama, from "Inaugural Address by President Barack Obama" Office of the Press Secretary (2013)
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal— is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."

The Bureaucracy

Hugh Heclo, "Political Executives: A Government of Strangers," from A Government of Strangers: Executive Politics in Washington (Brookings Institution, 1977)
"With a degree of certainty rare in social science, political executives can be predicted to be disproportionately white, male, urban, affluent, middle-aged, well educated at prestige schools, and pursuers of high-status white-collar careers. They are unlikely to be female, nonwhite, wage-earning, from a small town, or possessors of average educational and social credentials."

James Q. Wilson, "Bureaucracy and the Public Interest," from Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It (Basic Books, 1989)
"To do better we have to deregulate the government. If deregulation of a market makes sense because it liberates the entrepreneurial energies of its members, then it is possible that deregulating the public sector also may help energize it."

The Judiciary

John Marshall, from Marbury v. Madison, U.S. Supreme Court (1803)
"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule. If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each."

Bruce Ragsdale, from "Judicial Independence and the Federal Courts," Federal Judicial Center (2006)
"Underlying the debates on judicial independence have been basic questions about the proper balance of Congress's authority to define the court system and the need to protect a judge's ability to reach decisions independent of political pressure. The debates have also addressed the extent to which the judiciary should be independent of popular opinion in a system of government where all power is based on the consent of the governed. Other debates have raised the need for safeguards for judicial in— dependence in addition to those provided by the Constitution."

Duncan Stewart, from "Resolved: United States Supreme Court Justices Should Be Subject to Term Limits," Original Work (2013)
"The judicial branch checks the executive and legislative because it is not up for re-election. It is insulated from both public opinion and politics."

Domestic Public Policy Making

Haynes Johnson and David S. Broder, "Lessons: Lost Opportunities," from The System: The American Way of Politics at the Breaking Point (Little Brown, 1996)
"As Paul Starr, the Princeton scholar and author who played a major part in designing the Clinton health care reform, ruefully said later, 'The collapse of health care reform in the first two years of the Clinton administration will go down as one of the great lost political opportunities in American history."'

American Foreign Policy

Samuel P. Huntington, from "The Erosion of American National Interests," Foreign Affairs (September/October 1997)
"In case after case, country after country, the dictates of commercialism have prevailed over other purposes including human rights, democracy, alliance relationships, maintaining the balance of power, technology export controls, and other strategic and political considerations described by one administration official as 'stratocrap and globaloney.'"

Stanley Hoffman, from "The Crisis of Liberal Internationalism," Foreign Policy (Spring 1995)
"Communism is dead, but is the other great postwar ideology, liberal internationalism, also dying?"