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TEMPORAL PATTERNS IN AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT

130427

TEMPORAL  PATTERNS  IN  AMERICAN  POLITICAL  DEVELOPMENT

Histories of Futures

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DIMENSIONS OF POLITICS                                                            DIMENSIONS OF POSTS

Sectors: All                                                                                     Importance: *****

Level: National                                                                                Scope: USA only

Period: Mid run, Long run                                                               Process: Power politics

MAIN TOPIC: AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT                   Treatment: Background

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OVERVIEW:  PATTERNS

Linear

Cyclical

Transformative

OVERVIEW:  APPROACHES

Qualitative

Quantitative

Synthesis

LINEAR PATTERNS  1

Continuity  1.1

Change  1.2

Analytics  1.3

CYCLICAL PATTERNS   2

Waves  2.1

Change   2.2

Analytics   2.3

TRANSFORMATIVE  PATTERNS   3

Discontinuity   3.1

Transformation   3.2

Analytics  3.3

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SERIES

This Post is one in a Series sketching HISTORIES OF FUTURES of American politics. The  Series tries to identify processes that have run through most of American political history, continue today, and may well continue into the future.

This Post is the first of two on TEMPORAL patterns in American politics across its history. This Post analyzes the PATTERNS themselves. The second Post will trace the succession of three different REGIMES that so far have organized American politics.

Earlier Posts in this Series outlined the succession of American political GENERATIONS (030316, 100323), historical tensions within American political IDEOLOGY (130330, 130406) and subnational spatial formations (130413 REGIONS, 130420 LOCALITIES).

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TEMPORAL  PATTERNS  IN  AMERICAN  POLITICS

In recent decades, analysis of American politics has become more historical, while narratives of American political history have become more analytical. This is the first of two Posts reporting some of the exciting results. This Post, more analytical than narrative, addresses some preliminary general issues concerning  temporal PATTERNS in American politics.  The second Post,  more narrative than analytical, will trace the three successive political  REGIMES through which American politics has passed since about 1730. (For References on Patterns, please see SOURCES at the end of the text of this Post.)

None of this will be “history for history’s sake.” Instead, the goal is to provide tools for sharper understanding of current American politics. The fact that America has already passed through three political REGIMES raises the possibility that it could shift to a fourth. That raises the question whether what is at stake in current American politics is not just politicians and policies but also the possibility of  “regime shift.” Knowing that makes one better appreciate the importance of the stakes in current American politics and makes current politics more interesting to watch. Essentially, conservative Republicans would like to demolish the progressive Democratic New Deal.

Meanwhile, explicit consideration of temporal PATTERNS in American politics sharpens one’s tools for analysis of the present. It makes one aware of possibly wrong assumptions about continuity and stability or about directions of  development. All of us unconsciously make false assumptions about temporal patterns in social processes, often based on unfounded analogies with “systematic” natural phenomena in physics or biology. Such analogies to science are tempting, but at base politics is the unpredictable outcome of human struggle. All of the Patterns and Regimes in American Political Development have emerged from vigorous human political struggle over concrete human issues under particular human circumstances.

So, although we are looking for temporal patterns, we are mostly NOT looking for patterns that give an apparently scientific shape to politics from OUTSIDE (exogenously). We are looking mostly for temporal patterns that emerge from WITHIN politics itself (endogenously). For example, the USA’s successive Regimes have been different approaches to making the USA’s unwieldy 1787 Constitution work. Of course, the economic and other societal environments of politics DOES affect politics: providing enduring opportunities or imposing lasting constraints, generating periodic opportunities and challenges, and sometimes inflicting powerful one-off exogenous “shocks” (such as major economic depressions). Also, of course, politics affects its societal environments (for example, through major shocks such as wars). In principle we are interested in noting and modeling effects going both ways.  

OVERVIEW:  APPROACHES

Among recent political science approaches to American political history, we first note  qualitative ones, then quantitative ones, and finally efforts at synthesizing the two. (For References to these three approaches, please see SOURCES at the end of the text of this Post.)     

Qualitative approaches: American Political Development (APD)

In the past thirty years, “historical institutionalist” American political scientists have reconceptualized American political history as American Political Development (APD). 

So far, the APD approach has been mostly “qualitative”: thoughtful research, analysis, and comparison of major episodes in American political history. Although usually starting from particular episodes, APD has striven mightily to identify general characteristics of American political development as a whole, and has succeeded in doing so. We will note many of those general analytical characteristics (“analytics”) in the course of this Post.

Quantitative approaches: Congressional voting analysis (“CVA”)

Recently, other American political scientists have supplemented APD with more quantitative approaches. The 130406 Post on this Blog reported two of the most important of these, the somewhat quantitative work of John Gerring on the ideologies that American political parties have deployed in presidential campaigns, and the highly quantitative work of Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal on the ideological dimensions implicit in congressional roll call votes throughout American political history.This Post reports more detail of Poole and Rosenthal’s conclusions about the successive configurations of issues in American political history and the successive configurations of political parties that they have involved. (For convenience, I will label their “congressional voting analysis” approach “CVA”.)

Toward synthesis                             

Most recently, still other American political scientists have called for synthesizing qualitative and quantitative approaches. Admiring the insights achieved by quantitative research, they suggest that quantitative insights be assimilated into qualitative approaches and that CVA be recognized as a form of APD. For their part, mathematical researchers may be moving toward integrating their quantitative analyses with qualitative narratives of key episodes in American political history. Such a synthesis promises to bring unprecedented interest and depth, clarity and and precision to the analysis of American political development.  

OVERVIEW:  PATTERNS

It may seem presumptuous to speak of “patterns” in “history,” given how complicated history is. On the other hand, it is the mission of social science to identify general processes, which amounts to searching for historical SIGNIFICANCE. To NOT look for temporal patterns would be a failure of responsibility, imagination, and courage. American political history HAS involved distinct temporal patterns.  But none of them is simple, and there are many of them, so the overall picture is quite complex.

To start, it is convenient to sort temporal patterns into linear, cyclical, and transformative. These temporal patterns occur both in political organization itself and also in its societal environment. Both organization and environment concern, variously, military-political processes (Security) , political-economic processes (Economy), and socio-cultural processes (Identity).

Linear patterns

Linear patterns include sheer continuity, linear trends, and what we will call “linear analytics” – that is, the APD characteristics whose temporal shape happens to be linear. The most important CONTINUITY in American political history has been the sense among Americans of being “a people” who constitute a civil society. Second most important have been the basic “rules of the game” set down by the 1787 Constitution. Because those rules were basically unworkable, a third main continuity has been a constitutional “dualism” in which the Constitution has always been supplemented by “extra-constitutional” institutions to make it work (Valelly 2013). Descriptively, the most important overall TREND has been toward greater realization of the political ideals of freedom and equality articulated by the Founders. But that overall trend has been slow, halting, and occasionally reversed. (See for example Valelly 2004Two reconstructions.) Finally, the main LINEAR ANALYTICS are (1) the “layering” of old and new institutions on top of each other, (2) the complex “intercurrent” relations among these parts, and (3) “path dependence” in which the prior existence of certain institutions has constrained and informed the emergence of later ones. (Eversen-Vaelelly-Wiseman)

Cyclical patterns

Cyclical patterns include continuous waves, cyclical change, and “cyclical analytics.” Analogically, popular movements and institutional changes come in WAVES of different magnitudes leaving differing impacts. Descriptively, the most important cycle posited by late twentieth century American political science was the periodic REALIGNMENT of parties and voters through periodic “critical” elections. The main CYCLICAL ANALYTICS posited by APD and CVA are (1) inclusion versus exclusion or democratization versus de-democratization, (2) greater and lesser conflict or polarization, and (3) the related alternation between there being one main dimension along which most policy issues array, or two such dimensions. 

Transformative patterns

Transformative patterns include sheer discontinuity, transformative change, and “transformative analytics.”  DISCONTINUITY here means mostly “breakdown,” as in the 1850s and Civil War. TRANSFORMATIVE CHANGE sounds more upbeat, but the main point is that innovations in some institutions sometimes transform others – things do NOT stay the same, particularly during the periods of rapid economic and social transformation that the USA has undergone.  Finally are TRANSFORMATIVE ANALYTICS of successive degrees of generality. (1) Among the more specific is the idea of successive specific “regimes”: configurations of state-society relations that persist for long periods, almost a century. (2) A related but more general and flexible idea is that of “institutional orders”: multiple frames for ordering politics at multiple time-scales that overlap in kaleidoscopically changing patterns. (3) Most general is the idea of “massive recursion”: multiple powerful feedbacks between political organization and its environments that, cumulatively, can transform politics in ways that are dramatic but difficult to trace.   

The rest of this Post treats linear, cyclical, and transformative patterns in more detail. For each type, we proceed from common-sense description toward more analytical concepts.

LINEAR PATTERNS   1

Among linear patterns, we begin with sheer continuity, then proceed to linear change, then conclude with some linear “analytics.”

Linear continuity  1.1

The simplest linear pattern is sheer continuity. In American political history, some enduring patterns that affect politics result from cultural legacies from Europe, particularly legacies brought by the original English settlers. These are so important that they are worth listing. Among sociocultural assumptions were the cultural superiority of Europeans to Native Americans and, for Europeans, visions of local religious self-government. Among military-political assumptions were (1) that Europeans had the right to displace Native Americans, (2) that European local affairs should be managed through contracting and voting, and (3) that elections should be held locally and decided by plurality (the one person who gets the most votes wins). Among economic assumptions were private ownership of property and a free market economy. This English legacy contained the origins of the co-development of representative democracy and capitalist economy. (Poole 2008 “Roots.”)

Other enduring patterns emerged from the adaptation of European legacies to American environments.  In successive periods, analogous configurations emerged among original inhabitants, early settlers, and later immigrants. Some patterns may even reflect the USA’s global geopolitical location: a large continent surrounded by oceans and far from other continents. Some enduring patterns reflect characteristics of America’s economy, particularly North America’s abundant resources. Almost unlimited natural resources greatly facilitated the development of democracy by minimizing distributional conflicts between key participants. (See Benjamin M. Friedman 2005     The moral consequences of economic growth. New York NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 570 pages.)

However, for American political development, the two most important enduring patterns have been political: the self-definition of Americans as a “people,” and the institutional design of the 1787 Constitution. Of these two, the earlier and more fundamental was the gradual emergence between 1607 and 1775 of a collective identity among settlers as “Americans,” making it relatively easy for “We the People” to decide to declare themselves independent in 1776. The 1787 Constitution has set the basic  “rules of the game” for American politics since 1789. Nevertheless, a main point of these two Posts (130427 and 130504) is that the Constitution is so vague as to permit much change over time within it and so flawed as to require supplementation by additional institutions. A main question these two Posts address is the extent to which there is any temporal patterning to those changes and supplements. 

Many Americans still emphasize the “perfection” of the 1787 Constitution as a template for representative democracy, even under modern conditions. Nevertheless, many political scientists have become increasingly and openly critical of the 1787 Constitution. Some emphasize that, to secure any agreement at all, the Founders papered over the profound issue of slavery, which eventually destroyed their constitutional design. Others argue that, slavery or no slavery, the Founder’s original design was simply unworkable: it relied too heavily on the politicians running the system being largely in agreement with each other, without strong divisions into factions or parties. That was unrealistic, as demonstrated by the fact that the Founders themselves fell into factions and soon organized parties. The Hamiltonian Federalists remained a mostly elite party but the Jeffersonian “Republicans” anticipated the mass parties that emerged in the 1820s. Paradoxically, mass parties turned out to be one way to make the Founder’s constitutional design work.

Thus an enduring characteristic of American politics (which deserves listing below among “linear analytics”) has beenconstitutional “dualism”: the supplementing of the original constitutional design with extra-constitutional institutions, a supplementation that began as soon as the constitution went into effect. Despite having a written Constitution whose basic design has persisted, American politics is NOT a lifeless MACHINE, like a sausage grinder, with FIXED parts that never change. In fact, every time anyone uses the grinder to make sausage, it “morphs” somewhat toward becoming a different machine. 

Some analysts (e.g., Mayhew) see some tendency in American politics toward STABILITY: after disruption,  the “system” “rights” itself. It would be comforting to think that that is the case and, if that were the case, that would be a strong form of continuity (albeit with some cyclical component). Certainly there has been a tendency of two parties to maintain competitiveness – if necessary, by returning to competitiveness after big defeats. There is also a tendency of some voters to switch to the opposition party after a long incumbency by the governing party. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that American politics constitutes a “system” with much tendency toward automatic self-maintenance. More likely, the American political “system” remains problematic, in doubt, even UNSTABLE, with little necessary or automatic tendency toward self-stabilization or self-preservation.

Linear change   1.2

Just as it is not a static machine, so also American politics is NOT a living ORGANISM that has “DEVELOPED” according to some predetermined genetic plan. Nevertheless, it is natural to think of American politics as having some inherent developmental tendencies. After all, the Founders stated ideals that they knew would take a long time to achieve (assuming they wanted to achieve them for more than themselves and their own descendants). Nevertheless, such development as has occurred has resulted from specific political struggles under specific circumstances, not from genetic preprogramming or from self-implementing general ideals.

Even to the extent that definite tendencies did exist, they did not necessarily develop continuously or at an even pace.  For example, democratization of voting to include most white males proceeded much faster in the early 1800s than the Founders had anticipated, as the USA unexpectedly acquired new territories and rather quickly admitted them as new states. Conversely, extending the vote to women and blacks took a remarkably long time. There was even an inverse relationship between the two, since white women were eventually brought into the electorate in the early 1900s in part to offset blacks and immigrants. The extension to blacks in the 1860s after the Civil War was actually reversed by the 1890s and had to be done over again in the 1960s. Valelly’s analysis of these “two Reconstructions” illustrates both the capacity of public government and private associations to define and protect rights, but also the delays and setbacks in that process. (Richard M. Valelly 2004.The two reconstructions: The struggle for Black enfranchisement. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press, 330 pages.)

Some linear trends are obvious and well-known. As regards political INSTITUTIONS, during sthe colonial period, initial predominance of localities gradually gave way to whole states. Under the 1787 Constitution, initial state predominance eventually yielded to increasing federal (national) dominance. Or, as APD has put it, “delocalization” within a federal system (Everson-Valelly-Wiseman). At the national level, institutionally, initial predominance of congress has gradually yielded to increasing prominence of the presidency and bureaucracy. The judiciary has gradually achieved a larger role than expected by the Founders, mostly because the legislature and executive have chosen to duck some issues and have the judiciary raise and decide them instead. The judicialization of politics has involved the unanticipated institution of “judicial review” and the rise of adversarial legalism. In the organization of civil society, a somewhat de-democratizing trend has been from widespread federated mass civic organizations to professional elite advocacy concentrated in Washington. This has made it harder to enact some kinds of legislation (such as gun control and climate control) that enjoy broad public support but do not have mass organizations demanding them. Such de-democratization has aggravated the disengagement of the public from active on-going participation. (Theda Skocpol 2003. Diminished democracy: From membership to management in American civic life. Norman OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 366 pages.)

Meanwhile, the societal environment for political organization has its own patterns.  Overall, the ECONOMY has become more developed and prosperous, which has facilitated increasing democracy. But, overall, the economy has also become more complex, more unequal, and more globalized, which has inhibited political democracy and induced political polarization.  TECHNOLOGY has progressed, particularly in transportation and communications, facilitating and accelerating political interactions (not necessarily for the better, as in the acceleration of news). SOCIETY has become more differentiated, making for a livelier politics but also one increasingly compartmentalized into separate virtual worlds. CULTURE has become only somewhat more secular; religion remains remarkably influential.

Linear analytics   1.3

To conclude our consideration of linear patterns, we turn to linear characteristics identified by APD and CVA. 

Layering. Arguably the most important general characteristic is that, although over time American political development has involved a succession of regimes, those regimes have been only partly SUCCESSIVE. They have also been partly CUMULATIVE: later regimes have piled on top of the earlier ones, many elements of which have remained. The result is not so much a political “system” as a hodge-podge. The simplest kind of example is old and new versions of the same institution, such as the modest  “traditional”  presidency and the activist “modern” presidency.

“Intercurrence.” A second general characteristic may really be an aspect of “layering” but is nevertheless worth singling out on its own. What is the relationship between the diverse institutions and policy domains that have been “layered”? The answer is that they partly mesh with each other, partly remain independent of each other, and partly clash with each other. A major example concerns the relationship between old and new organizations for articulating and aggregating interests: between the OLD residual role of parties (a role left over from the party-centered Mass Democracy of the 1800s) and the NEW roles played within Populist Technocracy of the late 2000s by new institutions such as interest groups and advocacy groups, the media and public opinion polling. An example within the original constitution might be what has been called the  “loose coupling” of the internal structures of Senate and House.

Path dependence. An important linear temporal characteristic of American political development is what economic historians call “path dependence.” Existing institutions constrain and inform emerging institutions. It matters where you start from. Along the way, it matters that some things happen and not others (precluding some future developments and opening up others). That was the point of the book that launched the new subfield of American Political Development, Stephen Skowronek’s 1982 examination of efforts in the late 1800s and early 1900s to strengthen the USA national state. That effort had to occur within the existing regime of “courts and parties” and therefore was strongly affected by them. Nevertheless, path dependence is not absolute: A country that starts down one path CAN switch to another, but usually at greater cost (particularly in turmoil) than would have occurred if the country simply continued down its previous path.

CYCLICAL PATTERNS   2

Among cyclical patterns, we will distinguish continuous waves, cyclical change, and “cyclical analytics.”

Continuous waves   2.1   Despite this author’s strictures above against misleading natural metaphors, there IS one cyclical metaphor that this author finds useful, that of WAVES. A wave begins as a pulse of energy traveling through the open sea that eventually nears land.  As the sea floor rises, so does that water.  The bottom of the water in contact with the rising sea floor slows down while the top of the wave continues moving at its original speed. Eventually the upper water overshoots the lower, and the wave “breaks,” toppling forward, lowering the crest of the wave, and eventually smoothing out the sea. Usually this leaves everything largely as before. However, ocean waves themselves come in cycles, periodically including bigger  ones that leave bigger impacts.  All of this is a rather good analogy for political impulses passing through large populations, eventually meeting increasing resistance from below, overshooting themselves and collapsing, leaving behind lesser or greater impact, depending on the magnitude of the popular movement.

Cyclical change  2.2

On the side of political organization, as well-known, late twentieth century American political science posited a cycle of periodic realignment of issues and parties through “critical elections” (1828, 1860, 1898, 1932). Parties have risen and fallen as the coalitions of social forces supporting them have changed in response to changes in the societal environment. (See James L. Sundquist 1983 Dynamics of the party system : Alignment and realignment of political parties in the United States. Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 466 pages. Revised edition. Original edition 1975.)

Evidently different analysts of changes in party systems have slightly different levels of analysis in mind (even the same author in different writings, such as earlier and later Keith Poole.) If you define “party system” in terms of the particular parties involved, then if an old party disappears and is replaced by a new party, that constitutes a transition from one party system to another. At that level, the USA has had several party systems.  Major examples of such transitions are those in the early 1800s from Federalists to Whigs and from Whigs to Republicans.

It is worth noting that the demise of both Federalists and Whigs involved difficulties of representing their main – mostly Northeastern – constituency. The Federalists were discredited by their over-association with Northeastern economic interests that opposed the War of 1812. The Whigs were discredited by their association with national compromises over slavery, a practice that had become increasingly unacceptable to Northeasterners. In both cases, new parties arose to better represent old issues and cleavages.

If you define “party system” in terms of the particular configuration of issues and cleavages involved, and if an old party is replaced by a new party representing essentially the same configuration, then you could regard that as a continuation of the old party system. A new party system would emerge only if an old set of issues and cleavages were replaced by a new set.

(The same would be true if you defined party system, not in terms of specific issues and cleavages, but  in terms of the NUMBER and/or DEFINITION of the general issue DIMENSIONS involved.)

Again, the societal environments of political organization display relevant patterns of their own.

MILITARILY, there certainly has been alternation between WAR and PEACE, though probably more because of idiosyncratic external-internal conjunctures than because of any inner cyclical dynamic (Peter Trubowitz 2011 Politics and strategy: Partisan ambition and American statecraft. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 185 pages).  A major influence on politics have been ECONOMIC cycles of “boom and bust.”  Some cycles were smaller and shorter (1837, 1873, 1907), some larger and longer (1880s, 1930s, 2010s). In terms of social demography and intellectual history, there MAY have been some “cycling” among the types of GENERATIONS that have staffed American politics, particularly CIVIC versus IDEALIST generations (Straus and Howe 1992 Generations – see Posts 130316 and 130323).

Cyclical analytics   2.3

Both historical institutionalists (APD) and quantitative analysts (CVA) have discovered significant cyclical patterns in American political development. Here we mention also some classic ideas of Huntington and others. Some of these cycles are closely related but nevertheless worth distinguishing.

Institutionalization-participation cycle. Huntington’s classic dimensions of political order provide a powerful general rubric for analyzing American political development. For example, one can regard the 1776 American Revolution as an upsurge in Participation and the 1787 American Constitution as a successful attempt to design Institutions to accommodate and contain that Participation. The1820s Jacksonian Revolution was another upsurge in Participation, ingeniously Institutionalized through mass political parties (1820s-1840s). However, those parties soon suffered much political decay, leading to breakdown and Civil War. Thus the changing relationship between institutionalization and participation produces the related Huntington cycle ofpolitical development and political decay. Some now refer to this as an alternation between mobilization and stability. Closely related may be an inclusion-exclusion cycle, which amounts todemocratization and de-democratization. As noted above, African-Americans provide the main example: first exclusion from politics, then inclusion, then re-exclusion, then re-inclusion.

Conflict-consensus cycle. Another classic Huntington theme was the relationship in American politics between harmony and disharmony. Certainly it is worth identifying the overall level of conflict and consensus at particular times, quite apart from the particular issues at stake. Closely related is apolarization-depolarization cycle, which focuses specifically on the degree of overlap (or absence of overlap) between the general ideological positions of either parties or publics.(See Samuel P. Huntington 1981. American politics: The promise of disharmony. Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 1981, 303 pages. Also Poole 2008 “Roots.”)

“Low dimension” cycle. This is closely related to polarization-depolarization, but identifies the “deep” causes: the number of independent dimensions along which parties and publics construe issues as falling. As reported in Post 030413, arguably among the most profound findings of recent quantitative analysis is that American political history has involved a slow cycle between one and two dimensions, hence “low dimensionality.” Moreover, for most of American political history, one dimension has dominated overwhelmingly. That dimension has been defined in the first instance by the issue of the extent to which government should or should not intervene in the economy. That dimension has been so strong and convenient that it has usually assimilated most other issues to it. When all issues are concentrated on one dimension, parties are likely to “polarize” along that dimension.

A party also has the option of trying to activate a second dimension, usually hoping to use it to split the opposing party. Therefore usually the first, major or “functional-economic” dimension has been accompanied by a second, minor or “regional-cultural” dimension. Whatever one’s attitude toward the particular regional issues involved (usually the South trying to protect its traditions), the presence of a second dimension has somewhat moderated potential polarization between sides on the first dimension. Evidently political systems have great difficulty dealing with more than two dimensions, so it is fortunate that – with the disastrous exception of the 1850s, leading to Civil War – American politics has always been “low dimensional.”

There is at least one temporal analytic that has become popular with political scientists that one could classify as either cyclical or transformative:“punctuated equilbrium.”  Borrowed from evolutionary biology, the idea is that things appear to remain the same for long periods of time (equilibrium), but actually small changes are accumulating and eventually these express themselves in a brief burst of transformation (punctuation). One might also regard the periodic constructing and deconstructing of regimes as a cycle. However, given that the point of identifying regimes is to highlight their differences, we will classify that under transformative patterns.

TRANSFORMATIVE  PATTERNS   3

To some extent, American politics has experienced discontinuities or transformations.

What patterns one identifies depends on the substantive matters one investigates and the analytical level at which one chooses to investigate them.

Discontinuities   3.1   It is worth beginning with the idea of sheer discontinuity:  basically, “breakdowns” either in a particular aspect of politics (such as the party system) or in the political system as a whole. Most Americans consider their political system a success and so do think of their politics as ever having “broken down.” Nevertheless  –  “at some level” – it certainly did break down at least once, in the 1850s and ensuing Civil War. One could claim that then “the system worked” in the sense that the North was able to conquer the South and restore the Union. Nevertheless, presumably the Founder themselves would have regarded the Civil War as a breakdown of their 1787 Constitution, given that they intended that Constitution to operate peacefully. Depending on one’s choice of “level,” American politics may have come close to breaking down at other times too, as in the bitterly contested election of 1800, before norms of party competition had emerged.  

It is worth going into the crucial Civil War episode a little more deeply. From the 1820s through the 1840s, nation-wide mass parties had helped damp down divisive issues such as slavery. However, by 1850s the existing  party system of Democrats versus Whigs was suffering some organizational decay, particularly among Whigs. Moreover, new issues arose, ranging from supranational issues such as further territorial expansion and immigration, to national issues such as slavery and the admission of new territories, to diverse subnational movements for abolition and suffrage, temperance and spirituality. This multitude of divisive issues proved too much for the weakened existing system to manage. Entrepreneurial new parties arose, such as the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic American party. The most successful new party was the Republicans, who raised the issue of slavery in order to displace the Whigs and divide the Democrats, who had been the usual majority party from the 1820s through 1850s. The Republican gambit succeeded, establishing the Republicans as the usual majority party from the 1860s through the 1920s. However, the Republican gambit also caused Constitutional breakdown and the near-destruction of the USA.

Transformative change    3.2

The change in 1776 from colony to INDEPENDENCE was fundamental (though not so absolute as to permit one to neglect continuities between colonial and post-colonial politics). The change from Confederacy (1781-1789) to FEDERATION (1789-) was also fundamental (though the 1787 Constitution still somewhat reflected the Confederacy). After 1787, the Constitution evolved through different PERIODS, though what those periods were and how to characterize them remain controversial. A relatively modest descriptive observation about the transformation of political organization concerns how certain political practices within one set of political institutions can transform others. For example, presidential leadership has recast parties.  Presidential primaries and television  broadcasting too have recast parties. (Eversen-Valelly-Wiseman)

Meanwhile, again, the societal environment of political organization has undergone its own transformations. Transformations in GEOPOLITICAL environment were crucial: first great vulnerability until about 1815 (end of the Napoleonic wars in Europe followed by de facto detente with Britain), then relative invulnerability until the mid-1900s, finally increasing involvement in global politics, even domestic exposure to threats (atomic, terrorist).  Fundamental ECONOMIC shifts have occurred: first from local premodern agriculture (until 1830s), then to national industrial manufacturing (by 1890s), and finally to international trade in services (by 2000s). Fundamental DEMOGRAPHIC shifts have occurred: first from largely white Protestant western and northern Europeans (early 1800s) to other Europeans (late 1800s), then toward non-Europeans (late 1900s), and currently toward a society in which former “minorities” will constitute a majority (by mid-2000s).

Transformative analytics.   3.3

As usual we conclude with analytics from recent political science.

Successive regimes. Despite the undoubted fact of continuous change, some institutional elements do nevertheless periodically gell into something persistent enough to call a “regime,” meaning a characteristic relationship between state and society. Arguably the best book of this genre is Morton Keller’s 2007 America’s three regimes. The first of Keller’s regimes is Deferential-Republican (which I refer to as Elite Republic). One can date its origins in colonial politics back to at least about 1730. The second Keller regime is Party-Democratic (which I refer to as Mass Democracy). It dates from about 1830. The third is Populist Bureaucratic (which I refer to as Populist Technocracy). Its construction began around 1930. The “shifts” from one regime to the next were “transformative” in the sense of shifting reliance from one set of “bridges and buffers” between state and society to another set. 

Keller does not put it this way, but arguably each of these regimes adapted the unworkable 1787 Constitution to its times. Illustrating Valelly’s theme of “constitutional dualism,” each of these regimes supplemented the Constitution with “extra-constitutional” supports. In the case of the Elite Republic, the supplement was the elite FOUNDERS themselves. In the case of Mass Democracy, the supplement was the MASS PARTIES that American politicians invented in the 1820s. In the case of Populist Technocracy, the supplement was various forms of BUREAUCRACY: the growing national Bureaucracy itself, the numerous extra-constitutional organizations in the politics surrounding those bureaucracies (interest groups and advocacy groups), and additional “contextual” bureaucratic organizations (such as the media and public opinion polling). 

Briefly resuming our discussion of continuity and discontinuity from above, the USA remained a PARTY regime so long as SOME set of parties mainly played the role of “bridging and buffering” between state and society, regardless of exactly what set of issues and cleavages defined the parties. Even if the system – party, regime, even Constitution – broke down, one could regard the party regime as continuing if the parties managed to restore it, as Keller argues they did after the Civil War. America’s three regimes are the subject of the second Post in this pair (130504). Keller repays study, but is even more rewarding if read in conjunction with other recent work, both qualitative and quantitative. That is what this pair of Posts (130427 and 130504) try to do.

“Institutional orders.”  There is an idea that operates at about the same “macro” level as regimes but is more general and flexible. That is the concept of  “institutional orders.”  In effect the argument is that the 1787 Constitution is not the only large framework organizing American politics. There are several – perhaps even many – such frameworks, operating at different scales. Each addresses different aspects of politics, each operates somewhat independently of the others, each on its own time scale. The result is continuingly kaleidoscopic change in the overall pattern. (The notion of “institutional orders” was introduced in Stephen Skowronek 1982. See elaborations in, for example, Robert C. Lieberman 2002 “Ideas., institutions, and political order: Explaining institutional change APSR 96,4 (December) 697-712. Also “Desmond S. King and Rogers M. Smith 2005 “Racial orders in American political development” APSR 99,1 (February) 75-92.) 

Massive recursion.  Perhaps the most general concept to emerge from recent qualitative and quantitative work on American political development is what I will call “recursion” (feedback).  Qualitatively, Paul Pierson has emphasized the power and complexity of the reactions that policies provoke from society (2004, Politics in time: History, institutions, and social analysis.  Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 196 pages). In that spirit, APD has noted the “policy feedback that recasts the terms of participation and civic status” (Everson-Valelly-Wiseman). In his teaching materials on the political economy of American development, Poole has recently emphasized the “massive ripple effects” of economic innovation and entrepreneurship on the development of political institutions and policy issues.  

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SOURCES

Qualitative approaches.American Political Development (APD). The founder of this school in political science was Stephen Skowronek in a 1982 book examining American state-building in the late 1800s and early 1900s: Building a new American state”: The expansion of national administrative capacities, 1877-1920. New York NY: Cambridge University Press, 389 pages. For a more recent overview of general issues, see Karen Orren and Stephen Skowronek 2004. The search for American political development. New York NY: Cambridge University Press, 233 pages. For the developing literature, see the journalStudies in American political development (since 1986). Historians too are producing important analytical history. The favorite in these two Posts is Morton Keller 2007 America’s three regimes. New York NY: Oxford Univrsity Press, 336 pages. For younger historians pioneering new analytical approaches to American political history, see Julian E. Zelizer ed. 2012 Governing America: The revival of political history. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 416 pages.

Quantitative approaches.  Some of the recent work of Keith Poole and his associates in analyzing roll call votes across the entire history of the American congress is available on his www.voteview.com home page (or just Search him at University of California, San Diego). The initial presentation was Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal 1997 Congress : A political-economic history of roll call voting. New York NY: Oxford University Press, 297 pages.             The second addition appeared as Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal 2007Ideology & Congress. New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers, 344 pages.

Toward synthesis: A quantitative analyst providing qualitative analysis is Keith T. Poole2008 “The roots of the polarization of modern U. S. politics,” unpublished paper available on Poole’s www.voteview.comwebsite at the University of California, San Diego, under Research: Working Papers. Also helpful and also on that site are Poole’s teaching materials, particularly from recent courses at the University of Georgia. A fine article pleading for the synthesis of qualitative and quantitative approaches to American political development is Everson-Valelly-Wiseman [no date]  “NOMINATE and American political development: A primer.’ Evidently not yet published, it is available both on Voteview.com and on Valelly’s home page (just Search him at Swathmore). That essay notes characteristics already discovered by the qualitative school and argues for including characteristics discovered by the qualitative school. Also moving toward synthesis (albeit only implicitly and distantly) is Valelly 2013American politics: A very short introduction. New York NY: Oxford University Press, 136 pages.

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THE SCHEME OF THIS BLOG

DIMENSIONS OF POSTS

Importance of Post: ***** Big development. **** Small development. *** Continuing trend.

Scope of  Post:  USA only. USA-PRC. USA-other.

Type of Process:  Elite power struggle. Elite policy politics. Mass participation.

Type of Treatment:  Current commentary. Comprehensive background. Academic analysis.

DIMENSIONS OF POLITICS

Policy  Sectors:  Security. Economy. Identity

Spatial  Levels:  Supranational. National. Subnational

Temporal  Periods:  Shortrun. Midrun. Longrun

STANDARD  TOPIC  TAGS (BIAOQIAN)

SECURITY

Defense

Diplomacy

Intelligence

Presidency (national security team)

Homeland security

State coercion: Police & Prisons

Citizen violence: Collective riots & Individual harm

ECONOMY

Climate change

Trade & Investment

Fiscal policy

Macroeconomy

Energy & Environment

Business

Employment & Income

IDENTITY

Propaganda

Immigration

Ideology

Race & Ethnicity

Gender & Age

Moral regulation

Alternative lifestyles

SUPRANATIONAL

Global

United Nations

International regimes

Subglobal regions

Major foreign powers

Neighboring countries

Cross-border regions

NATIONAL

Legislative

Executive

Judicial

Parties

Interest groups

Media

Public opinion

SUBNATIONAL

Subnational regions

States

Metropolitan regions

Cities

Counties

Communities & Associations

Citizen participation (elections, activism)

SHORTRUN (Current dynamics)

This week

Past few weeks

Next few weeks

Past few months

Next few months

Past few years

Next few years

MIDRUN (Foreseeable future)

Regime shift

Regime change

Trends

Cycles

Discontinuities

Variables

Parameters

LONGRUN (History, evolution)

American political development

Comparative political development

Longrun economic growth

Longrun social history

Longrun cultural change

Major civilizations

Human evolution

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