All Alabama elections are colorful, but the 1986 gubernatorial contest may trump them all for its sheer strangeness
With the retirement of an aging and ill George Wallace, both the issues and candidates contending for the office were able to set the course of Alabama politics for generations to follow. Whereas the Wallace regimes were particular to Alabama, and the gubernatorial campaign was conducted in a partial vacuum with his absence, Alabama also experienced a wave of partisan realignment. A once solidly Democratic South was undergoing a tectonic political shift as white voters in large numbers abandoned their traditional Democratic political home for the revived Republicans, a party shaped in many respects by the Wallace presidential bids of 1968 and 1972 and the Reagan revolution of the 1980s.
Alabama's own Democratic Party contributed to this massive shift with self-destructive campaign behavior that disgusted many of its traditional voters who wound up staying home or voting for a little-known Republican. From the gubernatorial election of 1986 came the shaky balance between the two parties that exists today.
After Wallace recollects and analyzes how these shifts occurred, citing extensive newspaper coverage from the time as well as personal observations and poll data collected by the authors. This volume is certain to be a valuable work for any political scientist, especially those with an interest in Alabama or southern politics.
In Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform, Jamie L. Carson and Jason M. Roberts present an original study of U.S. congressional elections and electoral institutions for 1872-1944 from a contemporary political science perspective. Using data on late nineteenth and early twentieth century congressional elections, the authors test the applicability in a historical context of modern political science theories, assess the effects of institutional reforms, and identify the factors that shape the competitiveness of elections. They present several key findings: the strategic politicians theory is applicable in an era without candidate-centered campaigns; there was an incumbency advantage prior to the full development of candidate-centered campaigns; institutional reforms have had a significant effect on elections; and the degree of electoral competition frequently correlates with elected officials' responsiveness to citizens.
Most people believe that large corporations wield enormous political power when they lobby for policies as a cohesive bloc. With this controversial book, Mark A. Smith sets conventional wisdom on its head. In a systematic analysis of postwar lawmaking, Smith reveals that business loses in legislative battles unless it has public backing. This surprising conclusion holds because the types of issues that lead businesses to band together—such as tax rates, air pollution, and product liability—also receive the most media attention. The ensuing debates give citizens the information they need to hold their representatives accountable and make elections a choice between contrasting policy programs.
Rather than succumbing to corporate America, Smith argues, representatives paradoxically become more responsive to their constituents when facing a united corporate front. Corporations gain the most influence over legislation when they work with organizations such as think tanks to shape Americans' beliefs about what government should and should not do.
Social scientists and campaign strategists approach voting behavior from opposite poles. Reconciling these camps through a merger of statistics and election experience, The American Political Landscape presents a full-scale analysis of U.S. electoral politics over the last quarter-century. It explains how factors not usually considered hard data, such as personal attitudes and preferences, interact to produce an indisputably solid result: the final tally of votes.
While pundits boil down elections to a stark choice between Democrat and Republican, Byron Shafer and Richard Spady explore the further significance of not voting at all. Voters can and do form coalitions around specific issues, so that simple party identification does not determine voter turnout or ballot choices. Deploying a method that maps political attitudes from 1984 to 2008, the authors describe an electorate in flux. As an old order organized around economic values ceded ground to a new one in which cultural values enjoy equal prominence, persisting links between social backgrounds and political values have tended to empty the ideological center while increasing the clout of the ideologically committed.
The American Voter Revisited
Michael S. Lewis-Beck, William G. Jacoby, Helmut Norpoth, and Herbert F. Weisberg University of Michigan Press, 2008 Library of Congress JK1967.A834 2008 | Dewey Decimal 324.60973
Today we are politically polarized as never before. The presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 will be remembered as two of the most contentious political events in American history. Yet despite the recent election upheaval, The American Voter Revisited discovers that voter behavior has been remarkably consistent over the last half century. And if the authors are correct in their predictions, 2008 will show just how reliably the American voter weighs in, election after election.
The American Voter Revisited re-creates the outstanding 1960 classic The American Voter---which was based on the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956---following the same format, theory, and mode of analysis as the original. In this new volume, the authors test the ideas and methods of the original against presidential election surveys from 2000 and 2004. Surprisingly, the contemporary American voter is found to behave politically much like voters of the 1950s.
"Simply essential. For generations, serious students of American politics have kept The American Voter right on their desk. Now, everyone will keep The American Voter Revisited right next to it."
---Larry J. Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of A More Perfect Constitution
"The American Voter Revisited is destined to be the definitive volume on American electoral behavior for decades. It is a timely book for 2008, with in-depth analyses of the 2000 and 2004 elections updating and extending the findings of the original The American Voter. It is also quite accessible, making it ideal for graduate students as well as advanced undergrads."
---Andrew E. Smith, Director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center
"A theoretically faithful, empirically innovative, comprehensive update of the original classic."
---Sam Popkin, Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego
Michael S. Lewis-Beck is F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of Iowa. William G. Jacoby is Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. Helmut Norpoth is Professor of Political Science at Stony Brook University. Herbert F. Weisberg is Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University.
"Jones and McDermott restore meaning to democratic responsibility by finding that public evaluations affect Congress. In contrast to the popular depiction of the representatives controlling the represented
rampant in the political science literature, Jones and McDermott show that the people are in control, determining not only the direction of policy in Congress, but also who stays, who retires, and who faces difficult reelection efforts. This book makes an important correction to our understanding of how Congress operates."
---Sean M. Theriault, University of Texas at Austin
Voters may not know the details of specific policies, but they have a general sense of how well Congress serves their own interests; and astute politicians pay attention to public approval ratings. When the majority party is unpopular, as during the 2008 election, both voters and politicians take a hand in reconfiguring the House and the Senate. Voters throw hard-line party members out of office while candidates who continue to run under the party banner distance themselves from party ideology. In this way, public approval directly affects policy shifts as well as turnovers at election time. Contrary to the common view of Congress as an insulated institution, Jones and McDermott argue that Congress is indeed responsive to the people of the United States.
David R. Jones is Professor of Political Science at Baruch College, City University of New York.
Monika L. McDermott is Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University.