The governing cycle and the dynamics of new majority formation
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In this dissertation I advance a new, regime style, governing cycle theory to account for the constitutional origins and political dynamics of new majority formation. It is these periodic attempts to reorder politics and overcome conditions of entropy that I argue best account for the broad contours of American political development. Using a historical institutional approach, I argue that the U.S. Constitution’s durable separation of powers design interacts with America’s two party system to unintentionally structure political conflict in ways that makes it almost impossible for anyone to address the inevitable build up of entropy in the political system. Recurrently, this challenges partisan leaders to renew politics via the formation of a new governing majority. Partisan leaders accomplish this goal by completing three tasks: 1) shifting the main axis of partisan conflict; 2) assembling a new majority coalition that allows for effective control of federal governing institutions; and, 3) locking-in partisan priorities and advantage through institutionalization of a new governing regime. Through case study analysis, I demonstrate that the dynamics of new governing majority formation can play out in either a straightforward or a protracted manner depending on whether or not partisan leaders initially succeed or fail to accomplish these tasks. This leads to new interpretations of the crucial “System of 1896” and “Reagan Revolution” cases, which allows me to argue for the superiority of my new cyclical theory and to conclude that the governing cycle contains the American polity’s best opportunity to reorder and revitalize itself.