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AMERICA’S THREE REGIMES (PART THREE)

130518

AMERICA’S  THREE   REGIMES  (PART  THREE) 

1930-2030,  POPULIST  TECHNOCRACY

Histories of Futures

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DIMENSIONS OF POLITICS                     DIMENSIONS OF POSTS

Sectors: All                                                Importance: ****

Level: National                                          Scope: USA only

Period: Long run                                       Process: Power politics

MAIN TOPIC:  APD                                    Treatment: Background

(American Political Development)

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1930-2030,  POPULIST  TECHNOCRACY

SUPRANATIONAL

NATIONAL

SUBNATIONAL

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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 on Populist Technocracy (1930-2030) is the third of three on REGIMES in American history. The first (130504) introduced the concept and America’s first regime, an Elite Republic (1730-1830). The second (130511) continued the story with Mass Democracy (1830-1930).

Earlier Posts in this Series outlined American political GENERATIONS (030316, 100323), tensions in American IDEOLOGY (130330, 130406), subnational REGIONS (130413) and LOCALITIES (130420), and TEMPORAL PATTERNS in American Political Development.

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SOURCES

Like the two previous Posts, this one draws heavily on historian Morton Keller 2007America’s three regimes. New York NY: Oxford University Press, 336 pages. There are many other fine histories of American politics, but Keller’s is particularly analytical in dividing American political development into three different “regimes”: Three different sets of relationships between state and society. Keller is at pains to refute economic-determinist and radically critical interpretations of American political history, emphasizing instead the autonomous role of political culture and the self-correcting nature of American politics. 

The Post also draws heavily on research – both qualitative and quantitative – from the relatively new political science subfield of American Political Development.  We particularly emphasize the pathbreaking quantitative work of Keith Poole and his associates. Many of their analyses of congressional rollcall votes are available on Poole’s website www.voteview.com. Poole is certainly neither an economic determinist nor a political radical, but he does emphasize the interaction between economics and politics and he does note economic excesses and political breakdowns.

Scholars of American Political Development are beginning to integrate qualitative historical narrative and quantitative empirical analysis. Such a synthesis promises to bring unprecedented interest and depth, clarity and and precision to the analysis of American political development.  

See Keith T. Poole 2008 “The roots of the polarization of modern U.S. politics.”  Also Eversen-Valelly-Wiseman “NOMINATE and American political history: A primer.” Both are unpublished PDFs on Poole’s site under Research: Working papers.   

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AMERICA’S  THREE  REGIMES  (PART  THREE)

1930-2030, POPULIST TECHNOCRACY 

“1930" stands for the ROOSEVELT REVOLUTION in which presidential leadership greatly expanded the role of the national bureaucracy, in both external security and internal programs. This regime subperiodizes at about 1980, the beginning of reaction against the regime itself, in the form of the Reagan Revolution against the allegedly excessive BUREAUCRACY and REGULATION of the New Deal and Great Society. “2030" stands for the possibility of some eventual shift to some other regime. As of the 2010s, supporters and opponents of Big Government continue to struggle over how far to shrink it.

From 1830 to 1930, Mass Democracy was a regime in which Parties monopolized the interaction between state and society and in which Parties dominated most aspects of governance. Since then, the essence of the shift to Populist Technocracy has been the addition to the old Party-based regime of many new channels for interaction between state and society: Experts and judges, interests and advocacy, media and polling, lawyers and activists.  All of these channels are highly organized and staffed by expert professionals, hence TECHNOCRATIC. All of them claim to speak on behalf of “the people,” hence POPULIST. (“Populist Technocracy” is an only slight variant on Keller’s “Populist Bureaucracy,” and indeed simply highlights themes of Expertise that he develops, so we will write as though he used both labels.)

Looking ahead, what would constitute a shift away from this regime toward a new one? Almost certainly not the disappearance of any of these new ways to run government, which have become indispensable. Nor would shrinkage in the sheer size of government necessarily constitute a new regime. In characterizing previous regime shifts, Keller emphasizes shift in ethos: from elite to democratic in the 1820s shift from Elite Republic to Mass Democracy (72-78) and from exclusionary to inclusionary in the 1930s shift from Mass Democracy to Populist Technocracy (209-211). So, what might be decisive in a shift away from Populist Technocracy would be a shift to a different ethos, a different definition of the obligations and entitlements of citizenship, perhaps accompanying a different role for the USA in the world.

In fact, such a shift has already been underway for a decade or so. Domestically, a main theme is the “responsibilization” that shifts risks from government to individuals (accompanied by external USA decline, relative to rising new powers.) To the extent that Republicans succeed in shrinking or privatizing  government programs such as retirement pensions and medical insurance, presumably that will be accompanied by new rationales. Then presumably the technocrats in the new regime will articulate new versions of what  “the people” allegedly want. Or perhaps what may characterize a new regime will be less basic consensus and more bald confrontation.

In any case, it is instructive to read partisan political debates in the 2010s as arguments, not just over which programs should have their funding cut by how much, or over which party can claim what accomplishments for the next election, but indeed over how far and how fast to proceed with regime shift. The main point of this series of three Posts on Regimes has been that, in the course of American political development, regime shifts have occurred in the past, could be underway in the present, and might be completed in the not-so-distant future.        

SUPRANATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

A key characteristic of America’s third political regime has been the USA’s return to involvement with the outside world.

An important new history of the origins of the New Deal (and, in effect, also the rest of subsequent Populist Technocracy) has placed the 1930s and 1940s squarely in their supranational context: geopolitical challenges to American security, the global economic depression, and the global challenge to the ideology of liberal democracy from fascist and communist regimes. As the title of this new book implies, such exceptional challenges created a politics that revolved around FEAR. Moreover, as the subtitle implies, this formative period originated many of the political capacities and limits that still define the early 2000s. (See Ira Katznelson 2013 Fear itself: The New Deal and the origins of our time. New York NY:  Liveright, 720 pages.)

As Katznelson explains, the challenges that the 1930s and 1940s faced are analogous in many ways to the challenges that the 2000s and 2010s face: military insecurity, economic volatility, and global religious zealotry. Although current challenges are not as severe, the analogy raises the tantalizing question of whether they might again prove formative of a new American regime. Again, that is the question that this whole series of Posts on American regimes is intended to raise.  (For the analogy between the mid-1900s and early 2000s, see Katzelson’s two-page precis of his book on a www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org.)     

During the 1930-2030 period, the USA’s supranational environment has varied greatly. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were genuine and acute external threats – geopolitical, economic, and ideological – to USA national security. The USA responded with vigor and success. At other times,  such as since the end of the Cold War about 1990, there has been no basic  external military threat, giving USA leaders a choice between retrenchment or expansion. American external policy has depended not only on the degree of external threat but also on whether the political coalition supporting the president preferred to spend money on internal social programs (Democrats) or external military buildup (Republicans), as Trubowitz 2011 explains. (See Peter Trubowitz 2011 Politics and strategy: Partisan ambition and American statecraft. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 185 pages.)

Thus in the 1930s Democrat Roosevelt temporized about addressing still-not-imminent foreign  geopolitical threats because the USA faced such grave internal economic crisis (Trubowitz 64-74). Much later Democrat Clinton looked for excuses to under-use USA power, limiting himself to only selective external interventions. Republican Bush (the younger) seized  excuses to expand USA power, eschewing diplomacy and invading not only Afghanistan but also Iraq. Democrat Obama initiated retrenchment, withdrawing from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Clinton, Obama has relied increasingly on selective strikes from the air (145-150).

As part of the supranational environment of our three regimes, in this series of Posts we have been drawing on Martin Shefter’s sketch of the historical relationship between external American geopolitics and internal party organization. However, in his account too, although supranational involvements are formative, they are not entirely determinative. The national level plays a strong role in defining external involvements, in deciding the direction of national state-building, and in managing subnational issues. In turn, subnational interests play their own role in channeling national responses to supranational challenges. (See  Martin Shefter’s 2002 chapter “War, trade and U.S. party politics” in Ira Katzenson and Martin Shefter eds. 2002Shaped by war and trade: International influences on American political development. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 113-133 (372 pages).

Shefter divides our 1930-2030 period into three subperiods. In the first,from the 1940s through 1960s, USA supranational involvement primarily concerned SECURITY. Demands of external security continued the push toward Big Government begun by demands of internal economy in the 1930s. In the face of existential threats, American External Grand Strategy was run by a relatively autonomous national security elite, usually receiving bipartisan support from congress (129). Shefter notes that bipartisanism extended beyond specific issues to what one might call an overall Internal Grand Strategy: compromising on domestic disputes that might threaten national harmony (123), the theme that Katznelson develops. One might even hazard that this muting of domestic conflicts facilitated Keller’s regime of Populist Technocracy, allowing the appearance of consensus on basic issues that permitted Technocrats to speak for the People. (Keller too emphases the continuity between internal depression and external war in propelling the development of Populist Technocracy, 218-219. Also the role of ostensibly external issues as discourses for debating internal developments, 222-223 and 247-248.)

Shefter notes the close coincidence of the rise of USA global “empire” and the rise of the “imperial” presidency (121-124). The 1787 Constitution authorized the president to conduct foreign policy, but under congressional legislation and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Much of the growth in unilateral executive power over f oreign affairs was therefore “extra-constitutional” (even though “constitutional” in the sense of reflecting basic consensus that stronger presidential leadership was needed). However, Shefter is careful to note that national response to supranational trends was not automatic: again, presidents played an active role in creating the supranational situations they faced and in designing the policies they adopted to cope with them.  Domestically, among supporters of a strong presidency and strong foreign policy were internationalist firms and those with careers in the military or in defense industry careers (many of them southerners).

In the second of Shefter’s three subperiods, from 1968 to 1992, international developments undermined Cold War consensus and shifted national political power from Democrats to Republicans (Shefter 124-126). Kennedy and Johnson had interpreted containment as requiring intervention in Vietnam, which alienated dovish Democrats, even as hawkish Democrats became Republican. WWII had moved many blacks from south to north, where Democrats now sought their vote by supporting black civil rights, which destroyed the Democrats’ longstanding coalition between northern liberals and southern conservatives. Interactions with the global economy propelled domestic USA prosperity, provided consumers with cheap goods, and weakened labor unions, all of which benefitted Republicans. 

In the third of Shefter’s three subperiods, the 1990s and 2000s, the end of the Cold War reoriented USA supranational involvements from SECURITY to ECONOMY & IDENTITY: from military concerns toward commercial and ethnocultural concerns (Shefter 126-130). Under less security threat, the USA could rely much less on alliances with authoritarian regimes that required compromising on human rights. International economics became more important, not least the USA’s economic and fiscal synergy with the PRC. Economic interests and economic channels for expressing them diversified. Meanwhile, inadvertent relaxation of USA immigration policy strengthened the presence of diverse ethnic groups within American politics. As Shefter notes, many of these groups took on a transnational character, “disaporas” operating across national boundaries and influencing American national elections.

Under less security threat, evidently the USA could also indulge in sharper internal divisions: the end of the Cold War coincided with the intensification of partisan polarization within American politics. One manifestation of this was unorthodox new modes of political conduct relying on scandals and character assassination (something about which Shefter coauthored a fine book, Politics by other means).

NATIONAL ORGANIZATION

We must now return to the beginning of the 1930 to 2030 period to view its development from the perspective of the national level.

Building on the Progressive reaction against parties in favor of experts, in the 1930s a new regime emerged of stronger BUREAUCRACIES and increasingly POPULIST elections, increasingly centered on PRESIDENTS. The bureaucracies that emerged were TECHNOCRACIES: staffed by expert professional elites with their own  way of REGULATING things (or deregulating them). Keller stresses the slowness with which this new regime emerged: despite the gravity of both external and internal crises, they only slowly displaced the old partyist institutions and ideologies (212-218). Moreover, to the extent that the New Deal headed in radical directions in the early 1930s, it consolidated around more moderate positions in the late 1930s (214-215). 

Under Populist Technocracy, the center of political gravity shifts to the executive branch. As Populist Technocracy later developed, presidents struggled to control burgeoning bureaucracies in the security, economic, and social sectors by centralizing functions within the presidency itself. The presidency did finally succeed in establishing more bureaucratic control over the military, through a National Security Council and related White House staffing and procedures. The presidency also institutionalized some guidance of the economy, in a Council of Economic Advisers and related White House staffing and procedures. However, all this made the presidency itself larger, more complex, and more controversial. It also made the presidency increasingly difficult to manage, an increasingly hard task for even the most talented human being (Valelly 2013, 21).

The congress deliberately DELEGATED many functions, not only to the president and line agencies, but also to independent regulatory bodies, ostensibly autonomous in performing their mandated roles, but ultimately still under congressional oversight. Despite congress’ authorization, much of this too was somewhat extra-constitutional. In the late 1900s and early 2000s, it is quite extraordinary the extent to which the Federal Reserve, for example, makes the most basic decisions about government economic policy apparently independent of both president and congress. Nevertheless, as congress is increasingly reminding “The Fed,” a “principal” can always revoke delegations of power to an “agent” and retract them to the principal herself.  The threat of possible retraction is enough to keep even ostensibly independent agencies fairly in line. However. An actual retraction is not likely, because congress would then become responsible for economic policy, exactly what it avoids by having delegated economic decision-making to The Fed. This is a particularly oblique relationship between Populism and Technocracy, but not uncharacteristic of the regime.  

As mentioned at the beginning of this Post, the shift from partyist Mass Democracy to  Populist Technocracy involved the ADDITION to the old party-based regime of MANY new channels for interaction between state and society: experts and judges, interests and advocacy, media and polling, lawyers and activists. All of these are highly organized and staffed by expert professionals, hence TECHNOCRATIC. All of them claim to speak on behalf of "the people," hence POPULIST.

As mentioned, the prominence of EXPERTS represented the (partial) triumph of Progressivism over partyism – not only within government but also immediately outside it, particularly in Think Tanks. The increasing power of JUDGES also reflected a respect for expertise: originally just legal but also, increasingly, sociological. (This arrogation of power by liberal judges would backfire on progressives after the 1980s when conservative judges began exercising the same policy-making prerogatives.)  INTERESTS had always been present, but now increasingly dealt with bureaucracies directly, rather than indirectly through party channels. Private-regarding interests were now joined by an expanding array of elite ADVOCATES for various public-spirited causes – another form of Populist Technocracy. Similarly, the professional MEDIA claim to be speaking both to and for “the public.” Professional polling of public opinion all the more so. As government became more complex, LAWYERS became indispensable for establishing and defending “rights” to protection from government regulation or to benefits from government programs. ACTIVISTS kept populist pressure on these technocratic processes.

(For Keller on experts and advocates in the Great Society, see 224-227 and 245-247, on experts later in Think Tanks also 274-275). For the prominent role of judges, see 227-230 and 237-294. Keller’s treatment of the Populist Technocratic presidency emphasizes its dependence on Media and Public Opinion rather than on Party as in the previous Mass Democratic regime. He regards any presidential aspirations to imperial autonomy as basically frustrated. 232-234. Similarly, though individual Members of Congress might become more entrenched and autonomous, Keller concludes  that, as an institution, congress has become increasingly atomized and polarized congress and has found it difficult to assert itself within Populist Technocracy. Similarly also, the would-be imperial judiciary -- increasingly encased in its own technocratic cocoon of rival constitutional doctrines –  provoked populist backlash, 237-241. On Media and Advocacy Groups, see 270-274.)

Populist Technocracy has involved an endemic argument ofbig government versus small government, which is also an argument over whom government should serve. As Keller puts it, the shift from Mass Democracy to Populist Technocracy involved only by a switch from an exclusionary to an inclusionary ethos, but also by the extension of government social programs to groups the government had never previously reached (213). Moreover, public policy was no longer exclusively economic, meeting the demands of economic interests. Instead, public policy expanded to address myriad ideological, generational and cultural issues raised by myriad advocacy groups and social movements. Policy shifted from comprehensive public programs delivering benefits according to universal standards to more specific measures tailored to meet the “rights” of particular groups. (245-253)

However, “A broad consensus of popular support gave way to a divisive, populist politics of southern white and northern ethnic and working-class hostility on one side and a coalition of white liberals and blacks on the other.” (248).  Moreover, Keller emphasizes the “unintended consequences” of many progressive policies that make conservatives – and even moderate Democrats – wish to revise some of those policies. (254-258)

The Reagan Revolution succeeded in establishing some ideological preference for less rather than more government. But it did not succeed in shrinking the actual size of government. In the 2010s, the battle continues between those who want to perfect and use New Deal government (the more liberal Democrats) and those who want to demolish it (ultra-conservative Republicans). Evidently the main options include muddling along amid continuing fights between Big and Small, or inventing a successful new Small Government model, or even revising the 1787 Constitution itself.

SUBNATIONAL CLEAVAGES

One might think that the “national” New Deal displaced subnational levels of government. In fact, however, Populist Technocracy eventually strengthened state government. The New Deal, like the Great Society and some Obama reforms, was to a significant extent implemented through the states. This strengthened the interdependence, both fiscal and administrative, between national and subnational levels. However, while states flourished, cities floundered, and suburbs remained in flux (Keller 242-245).

As above, the story of the emergence of the New Deal is usually told in terms of leadership by progressive presidents (Roosevelt, Johnson). Katznelson, however, shifts the focus to party politics within the legislature, in effect also shifting the focus from national to subnational levels. It was congress that had to actually enact relevant laws and congress within which conservative Southerners exercised much power. After having been put aside as live political issues in the late 1800s, racial issues arose again during the New Deal and Second World War, even though only accidentally and incidentally. Roosevelt deliberately avoided racial issues, exactly to avoid alienating southern Democrats. But the issue did arise tangentially over such matters as establishing a minimum wage for agricultural workers, abolishing poll taxes, and ameliorating treatment of blacks in the armed forces. The national effects of this subnational issue were profound: effects on partisan alignments, on national  policies, and on national regime-building.

The 1940s through 1960s displayed the lowest degree of polarization between the two parties in congress during American political history. This is the era that gave most Americans the idea that policy-making in the USA is normally “bipartisan.” Unfortunately, the low polarization and high fluidity in the 1940s to 1960s was an exception. On the one hand, as in the 1850s, the divide on racial issues between North and South became salient, heightening tensions between the northern and southern wings of the Democratic party. On the other hand, unlike during the 1850s, external threats enabled Democratic  leaders to hold the two wings (and the country) together.

The result was what some refer to as a “three party period”: Republicans, northern Democrats, and southern Democrats. (Some even discern four parties by distinguishing between liberal and conservative Republicans.) As Poole explains, all possible combinations of the three “parties” occurred: Northern and southern Democrats voted together to organize control of congress and to distribute the resulting political  “spoils.”  Southern Democrats and Republicans voted together as conservatives on economic issues and on many social issues. Northern Democrats and liberal Republicans voted together on issues of civil rights for blacks.

Katznelson’s new account of the shaping of the New Deal shows how consequential the “three party” arrangement was, particularly the pivotal role played in that arrangement by southern Democrats. They enjoyed particular influence in congress, not only because of their position within the three-party triangle, but also because the one-party South gave them long tenures in office that gave them the seniority within congress necessary to dominate key committees and manipulate legislative procedures. In Katznelson’s account the cooperation of southern Democrats was crucial to the Democrats’ ability to respond to the challenges of the Great Depression and World War. However, the price of that cooperation was that the response had to be limited to policies acceptable to southern Democrats. As a result, the New Deal and the new post-war national security state (AKA Populist Technocracy) were much more conservative – politically, economically, ideologically – than they otherwise might have been.

Katznelson argues that, if they were to accomplish anything, liberal leaders – northern Democrats, liberal Republicans – had little choice but to compromise with southern Democrats. Moreover, the accomplishment of preserving liberal democracy later validated those compromises. Liberalism even eventually did succeed in undermining the racial discrimination that southern Democrats had tried to preserve. Nevertheless, Katznelson’s account reveals another analogy between the 1930s-1940s and the 2000s-2010s: it is still white Southerns who remain hostile to adapting the USA to current external and internal challenges. Now the South provides an electoral  base not for Democrats but for Republicans. But the South continues to veto progressive policies that it doesn’t like, such as cuts in defense and control of guns, national promotion and regulation of the economy, and accommodation of immigration and alternative lifestyles.          

Three ofPoole’s graphics illustrate the party system in the 1930-2030 period, two from his “Roots” paper and one from the home page of his website www.voteview.org. The first (Figure 7, page 33) shows the ideal positions of Representatives in 1947-1948.  This is at the height of the “three party” configuration. The major, horizontal dimension is economic. However, there is a significant vertical North-South dimension over Civil Rights for blacks. Republicans are clustered to the lower-right (for civil rights and against government intervention in the economy). Democrats are clustered to the upper left (against civil rights and for government intervention in the economy). Within the Democratic cluster, southern Democrats occupy an independent subcluster toward the top (against civil rights), northern democrats a cluster toward the bottom (for civil rights). Except for a few Democrats scattered in the middle, the gap between Republicans and Democrats is quite wide, and the split between them at about a forty-five degree angle, reflecting the salience of both horizontal and vertical dimensions.

The graphic on Poole’s home page comes from the very end of the three-party period, just before the South begins moving into the Republican party. In 1968 the Senate voted on whether or not to terminate debate on whether the ultra-liberal nominee (Abe Fortas) of ultra-liberal president Lyndon Johnson should become chief justice of the Supreme Court. What Poole shows here are not senators but their states (two instances of each). Those for and against the motion are divided by a forty-five degree line. Most southern states are to the upper left (conservative on both race and economics).  Both northern and southern states and both Democrats and Republicans are divided on both dimensions. I have not seen Poole comments on that Figure, but I assume he likes it because it shows just about the last moment in American history when politics was two-dimensional (with low polarization), before it began moving toward one-dimensional (with high polarization).

After that, as Lyndon Johnson anticipated, the regions realigned so that most conservatives became Republicans while most progressives remained Democrats. Moreover, in response to 1960s political turmoil, “liberalism” experienced an extraordinary decline in mass popularity. Evidently this occured because of the association of liberalism with urban unrest and with the extension of social benefits from the “deserving” white working class to the “undeserving” urban black underclass. 

(See the time series on mass ideology assembled in Christopher Ellis and James A. Stimson 2012 Ideology in America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 206 pages.)

The parties themselves reorganized, shifting from partyist to populist methods of selecting their candidates for office: through “primary” elections in which (mostly) party members chose among the alternatives. As well known, the result was to shift the power of selection away from the center and toward the extremes, since moderate partisans tend not to participate in primary elections, which therefore are dominated by extremists. This is particularly so because primary contests tend to become a contest to see who is more extreme. Candidate extremism becomes even more pronounced when the national resources of committed extremists can be mobilized behind the most extreme candidates (perhaps the elite-technocratic side of this ostensibly mass-populist device). (For Keller on the adaptation and  revival of parties, see 275-280. He forthrightly notes that in a Populist Technocratic regime one might expect destabilizing third parties, but they did not appear – something to be further explained, 278.)            

By around 2000, a “second Gilded Age” had emerged, producing even greater economic inequality accompanied by even stronger partisan polarization in congress than in the 1890s. Poole’s other figure in “Roots” from the 1930-2030 period (Figure 8, page 35) shows the swing from low to high polarization by the early 2000s, among representatives in 2003-2004. As in the 1890s, this figure is dominated by left-right economic polarization on economic issues, with a wide gap – and no overlap – between the two parties. With the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s, racial-rights issues largely disappeared, no longer strongly dividing southern Democrats from Northern Democrats. (Besides which, most conservative southerners became Republicans.) As Poole explains, race- related issues such as welfare and Medicaid now became largely questions of ECONOMIC redistribution, aligning with the main horizontal economic dimension. The minor vertical dimension now became slight differences in regional views on values and life-style issues such as abortion and gay marriage. On such issues, southerners and midwesterners (and ruralites) are more conservative, northerners and coastal westerners (and urbanites) more progressive.

Finally let us plumb the depths of subnational levels, down to public opinion and individual voters. Chris Elis and James Stimson’s important 2007 book on American ideology (Cambridge) provides further insight into interaction between the national and subnational levels within Populist Technocracy. Indeed, one might regard their book itself as a sort of apotheosis of Populist Technocracy, bringing extraordinary insight into popular attitudes through extraordinarily deft technical analysis. As Valelly points out, under Populist Technocracy (not his term) the availability of accurate and continuous polling adds a new mechanism of accountability to democracy. The masses may be uninformed, inarticulate, or confused but, despite that, pollsters contrive to get them to speak continuously and authoritatively.  (See the discussion of Elis and Stimson in Post 130406).

On the one hand, national events strongly influence public attitudes toward ideology. During liberal administrations, the public “policy mood” swings toward conservatism, and visa versa. Presumably the public sees what the new incumbents’ policies entail and begin registering their demurrals. Actually, no actual swing in public ideology is necessary: because of the “amplification” of popular partisan differences through primaries, politicians are usually either further to the left or further to the right than the public that elects them. So, after each change in the party that governs the country,   the public tends to pull the new administration back toward the center (or to vote for the opposite party in the next election). It also matters what ideological positions national leaders endorse. Endorsement by national leaders often legitimates ideological conclusions to which the public was beginning to come.  Finally, it matters how national elites – including the media and pollsters  – “frame”  policy issues.

On the other hand, members of the public “frame” their own ideological identifications for themselves, particularly in terms of their own religious and cultural commitments. As Elis and Stimson explain, when you ask the public what POLICIES it wants, the public as a whole prefers liberal policies: not necessarily just benefits for themselves, but evidently a principled commitment to generous government social programs. When you ask the public with what IDEOLOGY it identifies, the public as a whole identifies itself as conservative. To the public that is a statement not about government policy but about what kind of person people consider themselves to be. Most Americans respect American traditions and values. They express that by identifying themselves as “conservative.” So American politics has, so to speak, one foot in national policy and one foot in subnational identities.

Finally, down at the level of the individual, we should recall how Elis and Stimson analyze the interplay of policy preference and ideological identification within individuals. Perhaps a quarter of the public does not identify with any ideology. Among those who do so identify, about a quarter identifies with liberalism, consistent with their preference for liberal policies. Perhaps a tenth prefers conservative policies, consistent with its conservative identity. Almost no one identifies with conservatism but prefers liberal policies. But about a quarter of identifiers consider themselves conservative but prefer liberal policies – usually both liberal economic polices and liberal social policies. Elis and Stimson argue that these people are not confused, or moderate, or independent. Instead their “conflicted conservatism” is a principled stand. Nevertheless, open to both liberal and conservative appeals, these conflicted conservatives are pivotal swing voters. So the final point: they may prove pivotal to whether or not the USA eventually  “shifts” from Populist Technocracy to some new type of regime.

Like this Post, Keller thinks one should address the possibility of a shift from Populist Technocracy to some new regime. Unlike this Post, Keller does not think such a shift is yet underway. He regards volatility of public opinion as characteristic of Populist Technocracy rather than as indicating any “realignment” toward a new regime (278).    

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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)

Variables

Cycles

Generations

Regime shift

Transformations

Regime change

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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