The American Political Party System
A Reference Handbook
by Michael C. LeMay
June 2017, 368pp, 6 x 9
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-5411-8
$66, £51, 58€, A91
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eBook Available: 978-1-4408-5412-5
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For some, the 2016 election has revealed inherent flaws in the American political system, including the reliance on superdelegates, skewed media coverage, and dubious campaign financing.

What historical factors transformed American politics into the institution we know today? This in-depth look at America's party system traces its efficacy, sustainability, and popularity through six influential presidencies spanning 1790 to the present day.

Did President Obama’s election serve as the impetus to the development of a seventh political party system? This compelling text sheds light on the American political process as seen through the lens of six pivotal presidencies that shaped America’s culture, politics, and society and considers how our current president may be the latest transformative leader in this lineage. Covering two centuries of politics, the work offers insight into the American political machine and reveals how and why the two-party system became so dominant in American politics. Topics include the media’s focus on the horse-race aspect of elections, the declining importance of party identification, and the impact of the geographical split that results in swing-states and gerrymandered districts.

The work begins by dividing 200 years of politics into 6 periods influenced by a transformative president and discussing the profile of the party system in each era. The next section presents essays contributed by activists across a myriad of political parties and profiles leading political actors and organizations. The final section includes tables, primary source documents, reference lists, a detailed glossary, and a timeline of the development of American political parties that help elucidate the text and show the role political parties have played throughout history.


  • Theorizes how the presidencies of Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, McKinley, FDR, and Ronald Reagan marked the beginning of a new political party system at the time and considers how Obama's election might signal the latest transformation
  • Contains essays that explain how political beliefs affect party identification, examine each party's platform on national security issues, and identify the effects the Trump campaign has on the Republican Party
  • Features 15 primary documents including excerpts from the Federalist Papers and relevant sections of the U.S. Constitution
  • Includes maps, bar and line graphs, and pie charts to illustrate key elements of the party system
Michael LeMay, PhD, is professor emeritus at California State University, San Bernardino, where he chaired the department of political science. In addition to journal articles, book reviews, and essays, his published works include ABC-CLIO's Global Pandemic Threats: A Reference Handbook; Illegal Immigration: A Reference Handbook, Second Edition; and Doctors at the Borders: Immigration and the Rise of Public Health. LeMay has received numerous awards as a teacher, university administrator, and author. He received his master's degree from the University of Minnesota and his doctorate from the University of Minnesota.


Outstanding Academic Title, 2017—Choice, January 1, 2018


"The well-organized historical, contemporary, and comparative data and resources provide background and insight for understanding past and recent presidential elections, including all aspects of 2016."—Booklist, September 27, 2017

"This work belongs at every reference desk; it is a veritable treasure trove of resources. Summing Up: Essential. All readership levels."—Choice, November 1, 2017

"Overall the book is quite thorough and comprehensive . . . it is a strong reference source."—School Library Connection, January 1, 2018

"For lower division students or those needing a primer on the foundations of our electoral process, this volume will be of great use. The significant reference lists will allow novices to seek out further resources to expand their understanding of this key aspect of our democracy."—ARBAonline, November 1, 2017

"Belongs on the shelves of public, high school, and two-year and four-year academic libraries, and it is an excellent value at its price."—Reference & User Services Quarterly, March 1, 2018

Contemporary World Issues

This award-winning series offers comprehensive, one-volume reference handbooks on important topics related to health, education, the environment, and social and ethical issues.

24-hour cable news. Millions of internet sites. Information overload. How can we sort through the information? Assess the analyses? Trust the sources?

A world of questions demands a library of answers. Contemporary World Issues covers the controversial topics that students, readers, and citizens want to read about, write about, and know more about.


Subject coverage spans six main categories:

  • Criminal Justice
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Each volume offers a rich array of resources:
  • A background and history essay that provides essential context and grounding for further study
  • A balanced summary of ongoing controversies and proposed solutions that show numerous paths for further research on pressing, contemporary questions
  • A forum of authoritative perspective essays by experts, offering a broad spectrum of arguments on the issues
  • Carefully selected annotated documents, tables, and graphs that support statistical literacy and investigation of primary sources
  • A chronology of events, legislation, and movements that place events in sequence and draw connections between them
  • Annotated lists of print, web, and multimedia resources that power the next steps for in-depth research
  • Profiles of key players and organizations
  • A glossary of key terms
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