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History matters. America's past is present in all aspects of the contemporary political system. Cal Jillson uses political development and the dynamics of change as a tool to help students understand how politics works now-and how institutions, participation, and policies have evolved over time to produce this political environment. Going one step further, Jillson helps students think critically about how American democracy might evolve further, focusing in every chapter on reform and further change. These revisions make the Seventh Edition better than ever: The latest details on all aspects of American politics, including the 2012 elections, keep students current Coverage of Obama's full first term and heightened polarization in Congress help students see the importance of institutional development A renewed emphasis throughout on the importance of race, ethnicity, and gender in the development of American politics helps students understand the full picture of political participation. In a streamlined presentation, Jillson delivers a concise and engaging narrative to help students understand the complexities and importance of American politics. Along the way, several pedagogical features foster critical thinking and analysis: New! "Struggling towards Democracy" discussion questions to provoke both critical thinking and class discussion on the most relevant issues "The Constitution Today" chapter opening vignettes illustrate the importance of conflicting views on constitutional principles Key terms defined in the margins on the page where they appear help students study important concepts Focus questions at the beginning of every chapter highlight the central learning objectives for students to look for, and marginal notes throughout the chapter indicate the relevant discussions for addressing these questions Colorful figures and charts help students visualize important information "Let's Compare" boxes analyze how functions of government and political participation work in other countries. "Pro & Con" boxes bring to life a central debate in each chapter, from questions over campaign finance, bias in the media, and the balance between the president and Congress in war making, to judicial activism and restraint, gay marriage, and equitable taxes. Timelines in every chapter gives students an at-a-glance reference to important stages in historical development. End-of-chapter summaries, suggested readings, and web resources help students master the material and guide them to further critical investigation of important concepts and topics.