A new book edited by Dr. David Ryden of the Hope College political science faculty examines the Supreme Court's "underappreciated significance" in shaping the political process in the United States.
"The U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process"
has been published by Georgetown University Press of
Baltimore, Md. The book considers the court's influence in
four general areas: electoral representation, political
parties, political reform and election law.
"The Court is extremely influential in molding the
nitty-gritty of real-world politics," Ryden writes. "With
regard to voting rights, district line drawing, funding of
campaigns, ballot access, patronage, and other aspects of
representation, the Court wields the ultimate check. Its
decisions bear directly on how well the system--and the
government it produces--rises to the challenge of
representing the panoply of voices and interests that
constitute our society."
As one example of the Court's influence, he cited
the current condition of campaign finance--marked by large
"soft money" donations by businesses, unions and the
wealthy--as the result of several Supreme Court decisions.
As another, he cited this season's Michigan Republican
presidential primary between George W. Bush and John McCain,
in which the ability to participate by voters who were not
registered as Republicans shaped the state party's selection
of its candidate.
According to Ryden, while individual Court actions
receive a great deal of attention, the Court's overall
impact has not been examined in a comprehensive way. "The
U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process" is intended to
prompt such thinking.
A total of 11 scholars of law or political science
have contributed chapters to the book. Ryden wrote three of
the 13 chapters, in addition to editing the volume.
Ryden is an associate professor of political
science and a Towsley Research Scholar at Hope, where he has
been a member of the faculty since 1994. He is also author
of the 1996 book "Representation in Crisis: The
Constitution, Interest Groups, and Political Parties," which
criticizes the Supreme Court's role in weakening political
parties in favor of group-oriented representation.
He completed his doctorate at The Catholic
University of America. He also holds a law degree from the
University of Minnesota, and practiced law full-time prior
to pursuing graduate work in American politics.