This critical thinking approach to American government challenges students to evaluate the quality of democracy in America today within a unique framework that offers a holistic view of our system. This unique text challenges students to think critically about American government and politics through the use of two compelling organizational themes. The first theme, "Using the Democracy Standard," asks students to evaluate the health and vitality of American democracy today against a democratic ideal that is carefully defined in the first chapter, and revisited at the beginning and end of each subsequent chapter. The text's second theme, "Using the Framework," offers students a tool for examining the political process at a variety of levels--from structural factors to political linkages, government institutions, and government policies--to help them consider how the interactions of these factors affect what government does (or doesn't) do.Both themes are revisited in each chapter, as well as woven throughout the narrative, and highlighted in new marginal critical thinking questions that challenge students to consider the impact of governmental policies and processes on democracy, and vice-versa. The ninth edition of this best-selling text will be updated throughout with the results of the 2008 Presidential and Congressional election results and the latest political issues and events, as well as deeper discussions of social and economic policy and political parties and participation.