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Dynamics of American Political Parties


  • 42 b/w illus. 11 tables
  • Page extent: 256 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.37 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521708876)

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$33.99 (X)

In Dynamics of American Political Parties, Mark D. Brewer and Jeffrey M. Stonecash examine the process of gradual change that inexorably shapes and reshapes American politics. Parties and the politicians that comprise them seek control of government in order to implement their visions of proper public policy. To gain control parties need to win elections, and winning elections requires assembling an electoral coalition that is larger than that crafted by the opposition. Parties are always looking for opportunities to build such winning coalitions, and opportunities are always there, but they are rarely, if ever, without risk. Uncertainty rules and intra-party conflict rages as different factions and groups within the parties debate the proper course(s) of action and battle it out for control of the party. Parties can never be sure how their strategic maneuvers will play out, and, even when it appears that a certain strategy has been successful, party leaders are unclear about how long apparent success will last. Change unfolds slowly, in fits and starts.


1. Democracy, representation, and parties; 2. Overview: social change and shifting party bases; 3. Taking shape: party coalitions in the post-bellum nineteenth century; 4. Republican ascendancy and Democratic efforts to respond: 1896–1928; 5. New Deal dominance and struggles with internal diversity; 6. The Democratic drive to the great society; 7. Republicans: reasserting conservative principles and seeking a majority; 8. The Democratic struggle to respond; 9. George Bush and further polarization; 10. The 2008 election and its interpretation; 11. Parties and the pursuit of majorities.


“Mark D. Brewer and Jeffrey M. Stonecash have written an important book. It seeks to fill the rather large niche designed by James Sundquist with his Dynamics of the American Party System, and, like him, they provide a rather tight historical development from (in their case) the Civil War through the 2008 election. However, their work is actually richer than Sundquist’s. It is richer in theory, with a less rigid framework for understanding political dynamics (and a more plausible one, with lots of feedback, driven by uncertainty). It is also richer in substance, especially in tying the voter more firmly to these dynamics and in better integrating Congress and the presidency. All in all, this is a major achievement.”
– John Aldrich, Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science, Duke University

Dynamics of American Political Parties is a welcome addition to the literature on American national politics. By focusing on the efforts of Democratic and Republican politicians to manage complex changes to maximum advantage, Mark D. Brewer and Jeffery M. Stonecash succeed in giving readers a highly valuable overview of America’s two-party system.”
– Earl Black, Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Political Science, Rice University

“This book answers E. E. Shattsneider's famous question, ‘what does change look like?’ as it applies to the social bases of the major political parties in the United States. This cogent account puts party change in historical context and then brings it up to date, right down to ‘change’ among Democrats and Republicans in 2008.”
– John C. Green, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, University of Akron

“This book stands out for its clear appreciation of the historical foundations of the party system, the linkage of this history to contemporary party struggles and divisions, and its savvy and balanced account of current party politics. It is arguably a must-read for anyone who needs a cogent account of change and continuity in our party system.”
– John R. Petrocik, University of Missouri

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