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American History Essays: The Effects on American Politics from the Election of 1912

The idea of progress presupposes that the end result is superior to the point of departure, but contemporary liberals are generally wary of expressing any sense of the superiority of the West, whether intellectually, politically, or in any other way. They are therefore disinclined to support any foreign policy venture that contributes to the strength of America or of the West.

Surprisingly, although Progressivism, supplemented by the more recent liberalism, has transformed America in some respects, the Founders' approach to politics is still alive in some areas of American life. One has merely to attend a jury trial over a murder, rape, robbery, or theft in a state court to see the older system of the rule of law at work. Perhaps this is one reason why America seems so conservative to the rest of the Western world. Among ordinary Americans, as opposed to the political, academic, professional, and entertainment elites, there is still a strong attachment to property rights, self-reliance, and heterosexual marriage; a wariness of university-certified "experts"; and an unapologetic willingness to use armed forces in defense of their country.

Most obviously, the roots of the liberalism with which we are familiar lie in the Progressive Era. It is not hard to see the connections between the eight features of Progressivism that I have just sketched and later developments. This is true not only for the New Deal period of Franklin Roosevelt, but above all for the major institutional and policy changes that were initiated between 1965 and 1975. Whether one regards the transformation of American politics over the past century as good or bad, the foundations of that transformation were laid in the Progressive Era. Today's liberals, or the teachers of today's liberals, learned to reject the principles of the founding from their teachers, the Progressives.

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Yet in recent years the very institutions that are meant to provide models for new democracies have come to seem outdated and dysfunctional in established ones. The United States has become a byword for gridlock, so obsessed with partisan point-scoring that it has come to the verge of defaulting on its debts twice in the past two years. Its democracy is also corrupted by gerrymandering, the practice of drawing constituency boundaries to entrench the power of incumbents. This encourages extremism, because politicians have to appeal only to the party faithful, and in effect disenfranchises large numbers of voters. And money talks louder than ever in American politics. Thousands of lobbyists (more than 20 for every member of Congress) add to the length and complexity of legislation, the better to smuggle in special privileges. All this creates the impression that American democracy is for sale and that the rich have more power than the poor, even as lobbyists and donors insist that political expenditure is an exercise in free speech. The result is that America’s image—and by extension that of democracy itself—has taken a terrible battering.

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The prosecution of the war was marred by considerable bungling and mismanagement. This was partly due to the nature of the republic. The nation was too young and immature – and its government too feeble and inexperienced – to prosecute a major war efficiently. Politics also played a part. Federalists vigorously opposed the conflict, and so too did some Republicans. Even those who supported the war feuded among themselves and never displayed the sort of patriotic enthusiasm that has been so evident in other American wars. The advocates of war appeared to support the conflict more with their heads than their hearts, and more with their hearts than their purses. As a result, efforts to raise men and money lagged far behind need.
Despite the bungling and half-hearted support that characterized this conflict, the War of 1812 was not without its stirring moments and splendid victories. American success at the Thames in the Northwest, the victories at Chippewa and Fort Erie on the Niagara front, the rousing defense of Baltimore in the Chesapeake, and the crushing defeat of the British at New Orleans – all these showed that with proper leadership and training American fighting men could hold their own against the well-drilled and battle-hardened regulars of Great Britain. Similarly, the naval victories on the northern lakes and the high seas and the success of privateers around the globe demonstrated that, given the right odds, the nation’s armed ships matched up well against even the vaunted and seemingly invincible Mistress of the Seas.

American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United …

Yet as the New York Times , during his years as a contributor to the Freeman in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sanders often wrote about sexual norms, as he presented a broader critique of repressive cultural forces that he believed were driving many Americans literally insane. His early writings reflect a political worldview rooted in the fad psychology and anti-capitalist rhetoric of the era and infused with a libertarianesque critique of state power. Sanders feared that the erosion of individual freedom—via compulsory education, sexual repression, and, yes, fluoridated water—began at birth. And, he postulated, authoritarianism might even cause cancer.

With the post-crisis stimulus winding down, politicians must now confront the difficult trade-offs they avoided during years of steady growth and easy credit. But persuading voters to adapt to a new age of austerity will not prove popular at the ballot box. Slow growth and tight budgets will provoke conflict as interest groups compete for limited resources. To make matters worse, this competition is taking place as Western populations are ageing. Older people have always been better at getting their voices heard than younger ones, voting in greater numbers and organising pressure groups like America’s mighty AARP. They will increasingly have absolute numbers on their side. Many democracies now face a fight between past and future, between inherited entitlements and future investment.

Debating Democracy's Discontent: Essays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan Abstract

American Digest - WHEN in the course of human …

Indeed, modern liberals do often defend Social Security in those terms. But in fact, FDR knew the American political system well enough to rely on other than altruistic impulses to preserve Social Security past the New Deal. The fact that it's based on the myth of individual accounts -- the myth that Social Security is only returning to me what I put in -- is what has made this part of the 20th century's liberal project almost completely unassailable politically. As FDR intended, Social Security endures because it draws as much on self-interested individualism as on self-forgetting community-mindedness.


In contrast to most of modern American political history, partisan control of our national elective institutions has been unusually tenuous during the past several decades. This essay series argues that the ideologically sorted parties that contest elections today face strong internal pressures to overreach, by which I mean emphasizing issues and …

The Progressive system managed to gain a foothold in American politics only when it made major compromises with the Founders' constitutionalism. The best example is the Social Security system: Had the Progressives managed to install a "pure," community-minded system, it would have been an altruistic transfer of wealth from the rich to the vulnerable aged in the name of preserving the sense of national oneness or national community. It would have reflected the enduring Progressive conviction that we're all in this together -- all part of one national family, as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo once put it.