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Critical Elections, Congressional Parties and Clusters of Policy Changes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 January 2009

Extract

Profound changes in American public policy have occurred only rarely and have been associated with ‘critical’ or ‘realigning’ elections in which ‘more or less profound readjustments occur in the relations of power within the community’. Since the appearance of V. O. Key's seminal articles on critical elections, an increasing number of political scientists have attributed great importance to such elections. Schatt-schneider views the structure of politics brought into being by critical elections as systems of action. Thus, during realignments, not only voting behavior but institutional roles and policy outputs undergo substantial change. Burnham, perhaps the most important analyst of realignment patterns, alleges the existence of an intimate relationship between realigning elections and ‘transformations in large clusters of policy’.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1978

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References

1 Key, V. O. Jr., ‘A Theory of Critical Elections’, Journal of Politics, XVII (1955), 318, p. 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 Key, , ‘A Theory of Critical Elections’Google Scholar, and Key, V. O. Jr., ‘Secular Realignment and the Party System’, Journal of Politics, XXI (1959), 198210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 Schattschneider, E. E., The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist';s View of Democracy in America (New York:.Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960), pp. 7896.Google Scholar

4 Burnham, Walter Dean, Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 1970), p. 10.Google Scholar This book is the most comprehensive work but see the exchange between Burnham, , Converse, Philip and Rusk, Jerrold, ‘Political Change in America’, American Political Science Review, LXVIII (1974), 1002–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 Burnham, , Critical Elections and the Mainsprings of American PoliticsGoogle Scholar; Key, , ‘A Theory of Critical Elections’Google Scholar and ‘Secular Realignment and the Party System’; and Sundquist, James L., Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1973).Google Scholar

6 Ginsberg, Benjamin, ‘Critical Elections and the Substance of Party Conflict: 1844–1968’, Midwest Journal of Political Science, XVI (1972), 603–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7 Burnham, Walter Dean, ‘The Changing Shape of the American Political Universe’, American Political Science Review, LIX (1965), 729CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Glad, Paul, McKinley, Bryan and the People (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1964).Google Scholar

8 Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr., The Coming of the New Deal (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1958)Google Scholar, and The Politics of Upheaval (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1960).Google Scholar

9 Huitt, Ralph, ‘Democratic Party Leadership in the Senate’, American Political Science Review, LV (1961), 333–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 Clausen, Aage, How Congressmen Decide: A Policy Focus (New York: St Martin's Press, 1973), pp. 231–2.Google Scholar

11 Huitt, , ‘Democratic Party Leadership in the Senate’.Google Scholar

12 Huitt, Ralph, ‘The Congressional Committee: A Case Study’, American Political Science Review, XLVIII (1954), 340–65, p. 341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 Huitt, , ‘The Congressional Committee’, p. 341.Google Scholar

14 Burnham, , Critical ElectionsGoogle Scholar; Burnham, , ‘The Changing Shape’Google Scholar; Glad, , McKinley, Bryan and the PeopleGoogle Scholar; Jones, Stanley L., The Presidential Election of 1896 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964)Google Scholar; Key, V. O. Jr., Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1967), pp. 232–6.Google Scholar

15 Burnham, , ‘Changing Shape’, p. 18, pp. 729.Google Scholar

16 Sundquist, , Dynamics of the Party System, p. 232–6.Google Scholar

17 Cited in Sundquist, , Dynamics of the Party System, p. 185.Google Scholar

18 Ginsberg, , ‘Critical Elections and the Substance of Party Conflict’, pp. 603–26.Google Scholar

19 White, William Allen, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Capricorn, 1965), p. 344Google Scholar; also cited in Sundquist, , Dynamics of The Party System, p., 172.Google Scholar

20 Sundquist, , Dynamics of the Party System, pp. 181–2.Google Scholar

21 Ginsberg, Benjamin, ‘Elections and Public Policy’, American Political Science Review, LXX (1976), 41–9, p. 49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

22 Fenno, Richard, The Power of the Purse (Boston: Little, Brown, 1966), pp. 226–7.Google Scholar

23 Huitt, , ‘Congressional Committee: A Case Study’; and Jewell, Malcolm E. and Patterson, Samuel C., The Legislative Process in the United States (New York: Random House, 1966), pp. 442–9.Google Scholar

24 While it is certainly true that as an institution the House in the 1890s differed from the House in the 1930s, committees were already well defined and important. In fact Woodrow Wilson called congressional government committee government. Thus turnover on committees was an important component of the system. For an analysis of the House as an institution in the 1890s see Brady, David W., Congressional Voting in a Partisan Era: A Comparison of the McKinley Houses to the Modern House (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1973).Google Scholar For the influence of the Speaker on committees see fn. 26.

25 For data on turnover in recent Houses see Fenno, Richard, Congressmen in Committees (Boston: Little, Brown, 1973).Google Scholar

26 The committee system in the 1890s was centralized under the Speaker who had power to appoint committees. Thus seniority norms were more likely to be violated during this era. However the Speaker's power to appoint in violation of seniority cannot account for a large portion of either the committee or committee leadership turnover. The two major papers on seniority in the House, Michael Abram and Joseph Cooper, ‘The Rise of Seniority in the House of Representatives’, Polity, 1 (1969), 52–85 and Polsby, Nelson et al. , ‘The Growth of the Seniority System in the U.S. House of Representatives’, American Political Science Review, LXIII (1969), 787807CrossRefGoogle Scholar, both show a lower level of seniority violation than could account for the turnover in committee membership. For example, Abram and Cooper say that on major committees only two seniority violations occurred in the 55th House. Polsby et al., show that Speaker Reed followed seniority on thirty-six of fifty-two committee appointments and of the sixteen violations eleven were compensated. Both these figures are far too low to account for the 80 per cent turnover.

27 The same analysis was run over the minority party members of the two committees and the partisan predispositions of these members increased.

28 The term ‘party leadership’ is intended to include the President as well as House leaders.

29 Clausen, , How Congressmen DecideGoogle Scholar, Chaps, 1 and 2 for the technique to determine issue domains. Product moment correlation was chosen to test the hypotheses because the correlation model assumes strong monotonicity and independence as the null value condition. See Weisberg, Herbert, ‘Models of Statistical Relationships’, American Political Science Review, LXVIII (1974), 1638–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Moreover in each case reported below regression analysis was run on the same variables to corroborate whether or not real change had taken place. The unstan-dardized Bs in each case changed in the same direction as did the correlation coefficients.

30 Jones, Charles O., ‘Inter-Party Competition for Congressional Seats’, Western Political Quarterly, XVII (1964), 461–76Google Scholar; Hasbrouck, Paul, Party Government in the House of Representatives (New York: Macmillan, 1927), Chap. 9.Google Scholar

31 Ranney, Austin and Kendall, Willmoore, ‘The American Party Systems’, American Political Science Review, XLVIII (1954), 477–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Pfeiffer, David G., ‘The Measurement of Inter-Party Competition and Systemic Stability’, American Political Science Review, LXI (1967), 457–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar Both measures developed in these articles are based on arrays of data which are time based.

32 Clausen, , How Congressmen Decide, pp. 231–2.Google Scholar

33 Brady, David W. and Lynn, Naomi, ‘Switched-Seat Congressional Districts: Their Effect on Party Voting and Public Policy’, American Journal of Political Science, LXVII (1973), 528–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Fischel, Jeff, Party and Opposition: Congressional Challengers in American Politics (New York: David McKay, 1973), pp. 162–4.Google Scholar

34 Brady, David W., Cooper, Joseph and Hurley, Pat, ‘An Analysis of the Decline of Party Voting in the U.S. House of Representatives: 50th to 90th Houses’ (unpublished manuscript, 1976).Google Scholar

35 Ginsberg, , ‘Critical Elections and the Substance of Party Conflict’.Google Scholar

36 There have been other instances when new majorities and a new president came to Washington, e.g. Eisenhower in 1953. However, in each of these instances Ginsberg's content analysis of issue differences between parties shows little ideological difference between parties.

30
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