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Political Opposition in the United States

  • Nelson W. Polsby

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SURELY IN THE MANUFACTURE OF VARIETIES OF PEACEABLE AND legitimate political opposition the American political system leads the world, and from a comparative perspective the United States is therefore extremely atypical. This essay will review briefly some of the more familiar ways in which political opposition in the United States is expressed and encouraged, will consider some of the consequences for a political system so rich in opportunities for opposition, and in conclusion will discuss changes in patterns of opposition over the last 30 years.

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1 James Madison, Federalist Papers, 10, ‘The…causes of faction cannot be removed and… relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects’.

2 US Constitution, Article V: ‘… no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate’.

3 See Kurland, Philip B., Watergate and the Constitution, Chicago, III., University of Chicago Press, 1978.

4 US Constitution, Article I, Section 3. ‘Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law’.

5 See Berger, Raoul, Impeachment, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1973.

6 Neustadt, Richard, Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents, New York, Free Press, 1990, p. 29.

7 Morton Grodzins., ‘Centralization and Decentralization in the American Federal System’, in Goldwin, Robert A. (ed.), A Nation of States: Essays on the American Federal System by Morton Grodzins (and others), Chicago, Ill., Rand McNally, 1963, p. 3.

8 The classic statement is Truman, , ‘Federalism and the Party System’, in MacMahon, Arthur W. David, B. (ed.), Federalism: Mature and Emergent, New York, Doubleday, 1955, pp. 115–36.

9 Most recently, Timmons, v. Twin Cities New Party, 73 F.3d 196, reversed by Supreme Court on 28 04 1997 , Docket No. 951608.

10 Rae, Douglas W., The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1967.

11 Behr, Steven J. Rosenstone, , Lazarus, Roy L. and Edward, H., Third Parties in America: Citizen Response to Major Party Failure, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1984.

12 Greenstone, J. David, Labor in American Politics, New York, Knopf, 1969; Acheson, Dean, A Democrat Looks at His Party, New York, Harper, 1955.

13 US Constitution, First Amendment: ‘Congress shall make no law… abridging… the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances’.

14 Bennett, Stephen Earl and Resnick, David, ‘The Implications of Nonvoting for Democracy in the US’, American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 34, 08 1990, pp. 771801; Wolfinger, , Glass, Raymond E. and Squire, Peverill David, P., ‘Predictors of Electoral Turnout An International Comparison’, Policy Studies Review, Vol. 9, Spring, 1990, pp. 551–74; Miller, Arthur H., ‘Political Issues and Trust in Government: 1964’, and Jack Citrin., ‘Comment’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 6B, 09 1974, pp. 951–88.

15 Polsby, Nelson W., Political Innovation in America: The Politics of Policy Initiation, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1984.

16 Polsby, Nelson W., Consequences of Party Reform, New York, Oxford University Press, 1983.

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Political Opposition in the United States

  • Nelson W. Polsby

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