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American Government

American Government
Stories of a Nation, Brief Edition

First Edition

January 2018 | 608 pages | CQ Press


“The Brief edition of American Government: Stories of a Nation outlines the crucial areas and helps guide students along to what they should know… I am confident this approach is what students are looking for.”

—Frank Fuller, Chestnut Hill College


American government is not just one story—it’s many stories. Our stories. And they are still being told.


In American Government: Stories of a Nation, author Scott Abernathy tunes in to the voices of America’s people, showing how diverse ideas throughout our nation’s history have shaped our political institutions, our identities, the way we participate and behave, the laws we live by, and the challenges we face. His storytelling approach brings the core concepts of government to life, making them meaningful and memorable, and allowing all students to see themselves reflected in the pages. For the new Brief Edition, Abernathy has carefully condensed and updated the content from the Full version, giving your students the information they need--and the stories they relate to--in a more concise, value-oriented package.


We want to hear students’ voices…


By telling us their story, your students can win $1,000. See all the details here:

Part I: Foundations
Chapter 1: Introduction: Americans Claim Their Rights
American Students Claim Their Rights  
American Political Culture is Built on a Set of Shared Ideas  
Political Ideas, Events, and Early Institutions Set the Stage for Revolution  
The Structure of Institutions Affects How Citizens Participate  
Conclusion: The American Experiment, Continued, and You Are Part of It  
Chapter 2: The Constitution of the United States: A New Vision of Representative Government
James Madison Plans for a Republic That Will Last  
The Confederal System Made Coordination Between the States Difficult  
Delegates Reach a Compromise at the Constitutional Convention  
Delegates Worked Out Details of the New Government  
Federalists and Antifederalists Fought Over Ratification  
Conclusion: The Motives of the Framers and the Effects of the Constitution are Still Being Debated  
Chapter 3: Federalism: The Changing Boundaries between the Nation and the States
The Fight for Access to Medical Marijuana Reveals Tensions Between State and Federal Law  
The Constitution Divides Power Between the Federal and State Levels  
The American Federal System Has Developed Over Time  
Modern American Federalism Remains Cooperative, But Faces Challenges  
Conclusion: The Evolution of American Federalism Continues  
Chapter 4: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: Building and Defending Fences
Americans Defend Their Right to Marriage Equality in a Test of Civil Liberties  
Civil Liberties Limit Government Intrusion  
The First Amendment Protects Religious Freedom  
The First Amendment Protects Free Expression of Political Beliefs  
The Second Amendment Today Applies to Personal Possession of Firearms  
Criminal Rights Are Secured Through Procedural Justice  
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments Set Limits to Federal Power  
Civil Rights Secure Americans' Equality Under Law  
Securing Civil Rights for American Women  
Conclusion: Fences Still under Construction  
Part II: Political Behavior and Mass Politics
Chapter 5: Public Opinion: How Are Americans’ Voices Measured?
Public Opinion May Be Moved By Important Events Like Ferguson  
Public Opinion Is the Sum Total of Individual Beliefs and Attitudes  
Public Opinion is Transmitted and Measured in Several Ways  
Political Attitudes Come From a Variety of Sources  
Ferguson and the Effects of Public Opinion on Democratic Representation  
Telling Stories with Data: Change in American Public Opinion after Ferguson  
Conclusion: The Meanings of Public Opinion  
Chapter 6: The Media: Truth. Power. and American Democracy
A Foreign Government’s Efforts to Influence an Election Through the Media Raises Questions about the Media’s Power  
The Evolution of American Media Shows that Issues of Power and Trustworthiness Are Not New  
Questions of Bias Challenge Americans’ Trust in the Media’s Objectivity  
Media Ownership and Content are Subject to Regulation  
The Power of the Media to Affect the Public Is Tested  
Conclusion: Navigating the News  
Chapter 7: Parties, Elections, and Participation: The Insurgents versus the Establishment
Trump and Sanders Shake Up The Field… and Conventional Wisdom About the Power of Parties  
Parties Organize, Signal, and Promote Policy Agendas  
American Political Parties Undergo Cycles of Change  
Elections and Campaigns Have Many Moving Parts  
Presidential and Congressional Elections: The Same, But Different  
Political Participation Takes Many Forms  
Conclusion: The Fallout  
Chapter 8: Interest Groups and Social Movements: Collective Action, Power, and Representation
A Housing Bubble Bursts…and Interest Groups Come Out  
Americans Face Challenges in Acting Collectively in a Representative Democracy  
Interest Groups Vary by Type and Tactic  
Occupy Wall Street Illustrates the Struggles, Successes, and Failures of Social Movements  
Conclusion: Organizing for Change, or to Prevent Change  
Part III: Institutions
Chapter 9: Congress: Representation, Organization, and Legislation
The Experience of Women in Congress Raises Issues of Representation  
The Constitution Defines Congress’s Shape and Powers  
Getting to Congress Involves Personal, Professional, Electoral, and Financial Factors  
Congress Is Organized Around Formal and Informal Rules  
The Legislative Process Is Complex by Design  
Members Represent Constituents by How They Act and Who They Are  
Conclusion: The Complexity of Representation  
Chapter 10: The American Presidency: Individuals, Institutions, and Executive Power
The Killing of an American Citizen Test the Limits of Presidential Powers  
The Constitution Outlines the Powers of the American Presidency  
The Powers of the Presidency Have Evolved Over Time  
Institutions and Other Informal Sources of Power Shape the Modern Executive Branch  
Conclusion: The Paradox of Power  
Chapter 11: The Federal Bureaucracy: Putting the Nation’s Laws into Effect
Hurricane Katrina Tests the Federal Bureaucracy  
Theories of Bureaucratic Organization Focus on Rules, People, and Tasks  
The Bureaucracy Has Developed in Response to Demands and Crises  
A Functioning Bureaucracy Depends Upon Effective Organization  
The Bureaucracy Is Constrained by Oversight and Reform  
Conclusion: Another Devastating Hurricane, Another Federal Response  
Chapter 12: The Federal Judiciary: Politics, Power, and the “Least Dangerous” Branch
The “Trial” of Sonia Sotomayor Highlights the Complexity of Judicial Decisionmaking  
The Constitution Casts the Judiciary as the Weakest Branch  
The “Trial” of John Marshall Established the Principle of Judicial Review  
The American Legal System Is Defined by Federalism  
Judicial Review Raises Questions of Constitutional Interpretation and Judicial Decision Making  
Conclusion: The “Trial” of Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch  
Part IV: Policy
Chapter 13: Public Policy: Promoting the General Welfare and Advancing Americans’ Interests
American Dreamers’ Futures Depend Upon Whether a Policy Will Continue  
Domestic Social Policies Safeguard Americans’ Welfare  
Economic Policy Protects Americans’ Financial Prospects  
Foreign Policy Advances Americans’ Interests Abroad  
From Syria to North Texas: From War and Chaos to the Pursuit of the American Dream  
Conclusion: America in Progress  

“The Brief edition of American Government: Stories of a Nation outlines the crucial areas and helps guide students along to what they should know… I am confident this approach is what students are looking for.”

Frank Fuller
Chestnut Hill College

“Abernathy’s text distinguishes itself through the combination of historical references and contemporary examples.”

James Ronan
Rowan University

“One of the most readable texts I’ve read; good for non-majors who aren’t interested in tons of theory, but don’t want to be talked down to.”

William Housel
Northwestern Louisiana State University

“Well written and timely… The stories feel natural, not strained or forced.”

Thomas Baldino
Wilkes University
Key features


  • Each chapter begins with a compelling story about real people that illuminates a central issue or problem the chapter will deal with, bringing those concepts to life. Abernathy picks up threads of those stories throughout the chapter, seamlessly integrating the narrative into the core content.
  • Learning objectives at the start of each chapter guide students through their studies and are tied to features throughout the chapter to ensure those objectives are met.
  • Chapter overviews in the opener of each chapter help students to focus on core content and make connections to the chapter narratives.
  • Bulleted reminders are placed at the start of each section, helping students easily identify which learning objectives are being addressed.  
  • Every section ends with a “What Have I Learned?” quiz that allows students to self-test on the content as they go.
  • “Telling Stories with Data” features in each chapter invite students to approach data as critical interpreters of their political world.
  • Chapter Reviews at the end of each chapter are tied to the learning objectives and keyed to each of the major sections, distilling key points students will need to remember and glossary terms to be sure to understand.
  • Appendices include the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Federalist Nos. 10 and 51, Part Affiliation in Congress and the Presidency, and a Summary of Presidential Elections.

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ISBN: 9781544307367