The American Direct Primary: Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the North

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This book rejects conventional accounts of how, and why, American political parties differ form those in other democracies. It focuses on the introduction of that most distinctive of American party devices, the direct primary, and argues that primaries resulted from a process of party institutionalization initiated by party elites. Thus, it overturns the widely accepted view that, between 1902 and 1915, direct primaries were imposed on the parties by antiparty reformers intent on weakening them. An examination of particular northern states shows that often the direct primary was not controversial, and only occasionally did it involve confrontation between party "regulars" and their opponents. Rather, the impetus for direct nominations initially came from attempts within the parties to subject previously informal procedures to formal rules. However, it proved impossible to reform the older caucus-convention system effectively, and party elites then turned to the direct primary - a device that already had become more common in rural counties in the late nineteenth century.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a very important book...a nuanced, informative study that should be read by all those interested in American political parties, American political development, the Progressive era, and comparative parties." Political Science Quarterly

"A must-read for those interested in American parties and elections. Essential." Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521109727
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
1 Patterns of Social Division and/or Political Ideology 2
2 Political Culture 5
3 Governmental Decentralization 12
4 Explaining the Rise of the Direct Primary 15
5 North and South 18
6 Institutionalization of the Parties 20
7 Organization of the Book 25
2 The Catalytic Effect of Ballot Reform 31
1 The Adoption of the Australian Ballot 31
2 Informal Procedures and the Problems of Scale 32
3 Reformers' Promotion of the Australian Ballot 39
4 Variants of the Australian Ballot in the United States 41
5 The Positions of Reformers and Parties in Relation to the Type of Ballot Used 43
6 The Weakness of Opposition to the Australian Ballot 45
7 Success and Failure for Antiparty Reformers 47
8 Ballot Reform and Interparty Competition 51
3 Legal Control of Party Activity 57
1 Candidate Selection in the Nineteenth Century 57
2 The Problems with the Caucus-Convention System 63
3 The Impact of the Australian Ballot 77
4 The 1898 National Conference 81
5 Why Legal Controls over Parties were Introduced 84
6 Did Legal Control Turn Parties into Public Utilities? 90
4 The Spread of Direct Nominations 95
1 The Rising Popularity of the Crawford County System 97
2 The Rural and Midwestern Base of Direct Elections 100
3 The Impact of the Southern Experience 102
4 Direct Nominations Move to the City: Cleveland 105
5 Statewide Legislation and the Direct Primary: Kentucky 108
6 The Legally Mandated Direct Primary in Minneapolis, 1899 110
7 The States Convert to Direct Primaries, 1903-1915 117
8 Insurgency and Party Reform in Wisconsin 124
5 Reformers versus Urban Machines? 131
1 Massachusetts 132
2 Pennsylvania 138
3 Missouri 145
4 Illinois 150
5 New York 154
6 The Impact of Party Competition 162
1 Competition in the United States before the Mid-1890s 163
2 Party Competition after the Mid-1890s 168
3 Why the Democrats were Disadvantaged 176
4 Changes in Party Competition and the Rise of the Direct Primary 178
5 Competition as a Stimulant to Nomination Reform 180
6 Party Competition and Political Exclusion: Southern New England 183
7 Political Reform and the Direct Primary in Connecticut 189
7 Explaining an "Irrational" Reform 196
1 The Constraint Imposed by Public Opinion 199
2 Reformers and the Invention of a "Solution" 203
3 Consensus over the Direct Primary: The Case of New Jersey 211
4 Could the Parties Have Done More to Protect Themselves? 214
8 Reaction and Aftermath 227
1 Reaction Against the Direct Primary 227
2 The State of the Parties in 1930 231
3 The Delayed Impact of the Direct Primary 242
4 Changes in the Direct Primary Since the 1920s 246
5 The Direct Primary and the Presidential Primary 248
9 Conclusions 255
Index 265
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