Shafer divides the modern world into four distinct periods: the High New Deal (1932–1938), the Late New Deal (1939–1968), the Era of Divided Government (1969–1992), and the Era of Partisan Volatility (1993–2016). Each period is characterized by a different arrangement of the same key factors: party balance, ideological polarization, issue conflict, and the policy-making process that goes with them.
The American Political Pattern shows how these factors are in turn shaped by permanent aspects of the US Constitution, most especially the separation of powers and federalism, while their alignment is simultaneously influenced by the external demands for governmental action that arise in each period, including those derived from economic currents, major wars, and social movements. Analyzing these periods, Shafer sets the terms for understanding the structure and dynamics of politics in our own turbulent time. Placing the current political world in its historical and evolutionary framework, while illuminating major influences on American politics over time, his book explains where this modern world came from, why it endures, and how it might change yet again.
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