The Congress

Greenwood. (Student Guides to American Government and Politics). Jun. 2021. 158p. ISBN 9781440873744. $40. REF
In this engaging, history-centered, but up-to-date work, Malecha (political science, Univ. of Portland, OR) and Reagan (political science, Ball State Univ., IN) expertly explain the inner workings and history of the U.S. Congress. An important introduction illustrates the problem of unequal senatorial representation and briefly chronicles the evolution of the U.S. government. Comprehensive coverage includes a compact history of the institution (the work is especially strong on the Federalist/anti-Federalist divide and political polarization) and its composition, structure, legislative operations, and relations with the parties and the executive and the judiciary branches. An essential conclusion considers future challenges: the filibuster, partisanship, and the shift to presidential power, but not the fundamental antidemocratic issue of unequal congressional representation. A list of standing committees and 50-odd recommended readings increase the scope. The treatment of political and electoral tactics in pursuit of reelection, policy enactment, or power is impressively cogent and evenhanded. Many specific historical and contemporary examples are cited; occasional repetition reinforces the authors’ points. Effective organization, thorough sourcing, wide range, concise chapter conclusions, and lucid expression make this book a standout.
VERDICT Undoubtedly, today’s students need to understand Congress; this slim, detailed, accessible volume is an excellent start for readers from high school up.
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