Presidents, Parties, and the State: A Party System Perspective on Democratic Regulatory Choice, 1884-1936

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Dominant theories of regulatory choice privilege the goals and actions of district-oriented legislators and organized groups. Presidents, Parties, and the State challenges this conventional frame, placing presidential elections and national party leaders at the center of American regulatory state development. Long the "out-party" in national polities, the Democratic party of Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt confronted a severe political quandary, one that pitted long-term ideological commitments against short-term electoral opportunities. In short, Democrats were forced to choose between enacting the regulatory agenda of their traditional party base or legislating the programs of voting blocs deemed pivotal to the consolidation of national party power. Coalition-building imperatives drove Democratic leaders to embrace the latter alternative, prompting legislative intervention to secure outcomes consistent with national party needs. In the end, the electoral logic that fueled Democratic choice proved consequential for the trajectory of American state development. For, under the pressure to build a new majority party, an agrarian party with long-standing antistatist and antimonopoly commitments turned its governing power to the buildup of national administrative power and the consolidation of corporate capitalism.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Scott James combines impeccable historiography with first-rate political analysis to discover the brass ring of turn of the century American congressional politics--winning control of the presidency. This thoroughly political, highly strategic account offers a convincing rationale for understanding this critical era of America's political development." Samuel Kernell, University of California, San Diego

"...sensitivity to contingency makes James' study excellent history as well as important political science...It is this careful attention to historical context and individual action that makes this fresh "perspective" on policy history so valuable in comparison with more rigid institutionalist and rational-choice approaches to the subject." James J. Connelly, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"James resolves a great paradox in American state development, explaining why a rabidly anti-state party chose to use its moments in power to help build the state. His analysis of strategic imperatives facing the Democrats in the presidential elections of the industrial era opens onto a synthetic reinterpretation of considerable range and power." Stephen Skowronek, Yale University

"In Presidents, Parties and the State, Scott James offers a fresh, original, and convincing account of the development of some of the central parts of the progressive regulatory project. Neither a group-based nor new institutional account can adequately explain the passage of the Interstate Commerce Act, the creation of the Federal Trade Commission, or the politics of the Public Utility Holding Companies Act. Instead, a party systems perspective is needed, one that focuses on the attempt to form and hold national majorities, one that gives agency and leadership to the president, and one that, along the way, explains major changes of direction in party politics. It is an achievement to be able to say something so bold and persuasive about so important -- and heavily studied -- a period." John H. Aldrich, Duke University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521030021
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/2/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Parties, Presidential Elections, and Regulatory Choice - A Party System Perspective 1
2 Swing States, Business Mugwumps, and the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 36
3 The Progressive Party Vote and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 123
4 Progressive Republicans and the "Death Sentence" for Public Utility Holding Companies During America's Second New Deal 200
5 Conclusion: Parties and the American Regulatory State 267
Bibliography 283
Index 303
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