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During every election cycle, political observers generate a seemingly limitless supply of theories, opinions, and predictions. Unfortunately, many of these assertions oversimplify complex subjects or overhype the latest political fads. Inevitably, some misinformation becomes part of the conventional wisdom about American elections. The objective of Conventional Wisdom and American Elections: Exploding Myths, Exploring Misconceptions is to bring clarity to several of these subjects.
For example, it is now commonplace for commentators to emphasize the negative tactics and practices of the campaigns of presidential candidates. In 2016, some commentators suggested that the presidential campaign was the “nastiest” ever, with the campaigns of President Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and their supporters, going to “new extremes” of negativity. However, these claims are not new. Dating as far back as the presidential election of 1800, critics of Thomas Jefferson stated that his potential victory would bring about legal prostitution and the burning of the Bible. In 1824, opponents of Andrew Jackson charged that he was a murderer and that his wife was a bigamist. Perhaps most scurrilous of all, Jackson’s opponents even accused his dead mother of being a prostitute.
In total, Conventional Wisdom and American Elections identifies eleven widely held myths and misconceptions about elections in the United States. The conclusions drawn throughout the book are based on the most current political science research. In some instances, the literature is clear in debunking popular myths about American elections. On other issues, research findings are more mixed. In either case, Conventional Wisdom and American Elections clarifies the issues so that readers can discern between those in which scholars have largely resolved and those in which honest debate remains.
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