Authors’ Note

1. “158 Million Americans Told to Stay Home, but Trump Pledges to Keep It Short,” The Coronavirus Outbreak, New York Times, March 23, 2020,

2. Josh Mitchell and Josh Zumbrun, “Coronavirus-Triggered Downturn Could Cost FiveMillion U.S. Jobs,” Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2020,


1. Appreciation to Greg Orman for the idea of learned helplessness.


1. David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water,” commencement address at Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, May 21, 2005, audio and transcript available on Farnam Street,

2. The numbers are based on author analysis of data from 2019 Social Progress Index,

3. Mickey Edwards, The Parties Versus the People: How to Turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).

4. Use of the term “political-industrial complex” in US contexts appears in several prior works. See, for example, Gerald Sussman, Global Electioneering: Campaign Consulting, Communications, and Corporate Financing (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005); Gerald Sussman and Lawrence Galizio, “The Global Reproduction of American Politics,” Political Communication 20, no. 3 (July 2003): 309–328; and “Political-Industrial Complex,” Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1990, A14.

5. Robert Boatright traces the origins of the use of “to primary” to the rise of groups like the Club for Growth on the right and MoveOn.Org on the left in the mid-2000s, writing that: “During the 2004 and 2006 elections, a new word entered the American political lexicon: the verb ‘to primary,’ meaning to mount a primary campaign against an incumbent member of Congress … these incumbents were (often) criticized for being insufficiently partisan.” See Robert G. Boatright, Getting Primaried: The Changing Politics of Congressional Primary Challenges (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013).

6. In accordance with the emergence of the verb “to primary” in 2004, since then, ideological challenges have become increasingly common, reaching an apex of twenty-five in the 2014 election. In the six election cycles of the past decade (2006–2016), there were more ideological primary challenges (seventy-eight) than in the previous eighteen elections of the preceding three and a half decades (sixty-nine). As with other types of primary challenges, ideological challenges are rarely successful. Even among the “significant” ideological challenges (i.e., those primaries in which the incumbent received less than 75 percent of the vote), the challenger still only defeated the incumbent in 8 percent of races in the House of Representatives, for a total of twelve successful ideological primary challenges since 1970. Thus, while stories such as Eric Cantor’s defeat in the 2014 Republican primary capture national headlines, they are exceptional. However, looking at the time series of these successful challenges is revealing. Nine of the twelve successful challenges have taken place since 2006, showing that while successful ideological challenges are still rare, they are becoming more common and likely force incumbents to “outflank” their challengers on ideology. Almost all of this increase in primary challenges has come from the Republican Party. Data provided by Robert Boatright, analysis extended from “The 2014 Congressional Primaries in Context” to include the 2016 cycle (“The 2014 Congressional Primaries in Context,” paper presented September 30, 2014,

7. Samuel F. Toth, “The Political Duopoly: Antitrust Applicability to Political Parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates,” Case Western Reserve Law Review 64, no. 1 (2013).

8. For a more detailed explanation of the concept of industry structure, see Michael E. Porter, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (New York: Free Press, 1980). See also Michael E. Porter, “The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy,” Harvard Business Review, January 2008.

9. This phrase, “more choice, more voice, better results” builds on the “more choice, more voice” slogan created by Maine’s successful campaign for ranked-choice voting.

10. As brilliantly described by Yascha Mounk in The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

Chapter 1

1. “Washington’s Farewell Address 1796,” The Avalon Project, September 19, 1796,

2. “Founders Online: From Thomas Jefferson to Francis Hopkinson, 13 March 1789,” National Archives and Records Administration, March 13, 1789,

3. For a discussion on the importance of strong parties and democracy, see John H. Aldrich, Why Parties?: A Second Look (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Frances McCall Rosenbluth and Ian Shapiro, Responsible Parties: Saving Democracy from Itself (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018).

4. The early twentieth-century economist Joseph Schumpeter is often credited with first recognizing this analogy, relating parties to firms, voters to customers, votes to currency, and policies to products. See Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1942). For good recent summaries, see Ian Shapiro, The State of Democratic Theory (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2003), 50–77; Jeffrey Edward Green, The Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 171–177.

5. Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America: A Strategy for Reinvigorating Our Democracy,” Harvard Business School, September 2017,

6. We’re not suggesting bribery. To “pay” is not used literally.

7. Voters whose views are either “consistently conservative” or “consistently liberal” are significantly more likely to vote in primaries than those who are “mostly liberal,” “mixed,” or “mostly conservative.” Primary voters are not only more ideological, but often “very interested in politics.” For ideology/partisanship of primary voters as compared to average voters, see, e.g., Pew Research Center, “Political Polarization in the American Public,” June 10, 2014, accessed August 2017,; Seth J. Hill, “Institution of Nomination and the Policy Ideology of Primary Electorates,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 10, no. 4 (2015): 461–487; as well as Gary C. Jacobson, “The Electoral Origins of Polarized Politics: Evidence From the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study,” American Behavioral Scientist 56, no. 12 (2012): 1612–1630. For engagement with politics, see John Sides, Chris Tausanovitch, Lynn Vavreck, and Christopher Warshaw, “On the Representativeness of Primary Electorates,” working paper, June 2016, We note, however, that Sides et al. find only slight differences between the ideologies of primary and average voters.

8. Author analysis of data from Cook Political Report, “2016 House Election Results by Race Rating,” November 8, 2016,; Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, “House Ratings,” November 3, 2016,; and Daily Kos, “Election Outlook: 2016 Race Ratings,”, accessed March 2017. Estimates for Senate races were not consistent, and the average of the three estimates was used.

9. Data from Michael P. McDonald, “2016 and 2008 Presidential Nomination Contest Turnout Rates,” United States Elections Project, accessed March 2017, and

10. Rules governing closed primaries vary greatly between states. They take three basic forms: (1) Closed primaries limit voting only to registered party members, and voters must declare their party affiliation in advance, before arriving at the polling place. (2) Semi-closed primaries vary in how they treat unaffiliated voters. For example, some states allow the party to choose if nonmembers can vote; other states consider voting in a primary as a form of party registration. (3) In a caucus system, the state or political party arranges a meeting where participants vote by openly showing support for a candidate (for example, by raising hands or clustering into groups). Caucuses can be open or closed. According to FairVote, as of May 2016, Republicans held closed or semi-closed presidential primaries or caucuses in twenty-nine states, compared with twenty-six states for Democrats. For congressional races, Republicans and Democrats held twenty-six closed or semi-closed primaries. See “Closed Primary,” Annenberg Classroom, accessed March 2017,; National Conference of State Legislatures, “State Primary Election Types,” July 21, 2016,; D’Angelo Gore, “Caucus vs. Primary,”, April 8, 2008, For data on primary type by state, see “Presidential Primary or Caucus Type by State,” FairVote, accessed March 2017,

11. Author analysis based on data from “Health,” Center for Responsive Politics, accessed March 2017,

12. For an overview of rules related to these groups, see “Dark Money Basics,” Center for Responsive Politics, accessed August 2017,

13. Data from “Revolving Door: Former Members of the 114th Congress,” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed December 7, 2017,

14. Lee Drutman and Alexander Furnas constructed a data set of contract lobbyists (i.e., lobbyists who are not internal to one particular company). In 2012, 44 percent of active contract lobbyists were former government officials. This is up from 17.8 percent in 1998. See Lee Drutman and Alexander Furnas, “How Revolving Door Lobbyists Are Taking Over K Street,” Sunlight Foundation, January 22, 2014, The presence of revolvers, however, may be slightly overstated in these figures. Herschel and LaPira (2017) find that revolvers are much more likely to register than non-revolvers. See Thomas Herschel and Timothy LaPira, “How Many Lobbyists Are in Washington? Shadow Lobbying and the Gray Market for Policy Advocacy,” Interest Groups & Advocacy 6, no. 3 (2017): 199–214, doi: 10.1057/s41309-017-0024-y. These former government officials have a major impact on the success of lobbying. Baumgartner et al. (2009) finds that hiring “covered officials” (i.e., high-ranking government officials) as lobbyists is the only extra-governmental variable that systematically predicts lobbying success. See Frank Baumgartner et al., Lobbying and Policy Change: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Lazarus and McKay (2012) similarly find that universities that hire former government officials as lobbyists are more likely to get earmarks than those that do not: “Having one or more revolvers lobbying on a school’s behalf increases the predicted probability of receiving an earmarks by nearly 30 percent in 2002 and almost 35 percent in 2003.” See Jeffrey Lazarus and Amy Melissa McKay, “Consequences of the Revolving Door: Evaluating the Lobbying Success of Former Congressional Members and Staff” (paper presented at the Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, April 2012), doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2141416. For this reason, Blanes i Vidal et al. (2012) and Bertrand et al. (2011) find that revolving door lobbyists earn more than other lobbyists. See Jordi Blanes i Vidal, Mirko Draca, and Christian Fons-Rosen, “Revolving Door Lobbyists,” American Economic Review 102, no. 7 (2012): 3731–3748, doi: 10.1257/aer.102.7.3731; Marianne Bertrand, Matilde Bombardini, and Francesco Trebbi, “Is It Whom You Know or What You Know? An Empirical Assessment of the Lobbying Process” (NBER working paper 16765, 2011).

15. Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (September 2014), 564–581.

16. Nickerson and Rogers (2014) explain how campaign data analytics can yield key competitive advantages. They note that “campaign data analysts … develop predictive models that produce individual-level scores that predict citizens’ likelihoods of performing certain political behaviors, supporting candidates and issues, and responding to targeted interventions. The use of these scores has increased dramatically during the last few election cycles.” Further, they found that campaigns “use these [predictive] scores to target nearly every aspect of campaign outreach: door-to-door canvassing; direct mail; phone calls; email; television ad placement; social media outreach (like Facebook and Twitter); and even web page display.” The authors’ model shows that targeting persuasive communications at voters with a responsiveness score in the top quintile produces three times as many votes as would untargeted efforts. See David W. Nickerson and Todd Rogers, “Political Campaigns and Big Data,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, no. 2 (Spring 2014), 51–74.

17. For example, Comcast notes in its Form 10-K, “Advertising revenue [for its Cable Communications segment] increased 9.6 percent in 2016 primarily due to an increase in political advertising revenue. In 2015, advertising revenue had decreased 3.8 percent over the previous year, primarily due to a decrease in political advertising revenue.” See Comcast Corporation, December 31, 2016 Form 10-K (filed February 3, 2017).

18. For a discussion of connections between a polarizing electorate and the increasing influence of partisan news media, see Gary C. Jacobson, “Partisan Media and Electoral Polarization in 2012: Evidence from the American National Election Study,” in American Gridlock: The Sources, Character, and Impact of Political Polarization, edited by James A. Thurber and Antoine Yoshinaka (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 259–286. For an opposite perspective that argues that the polarization of the media is more of a symptom than a cause of our political problems, see Kevin Arceneaux and Martin Johnson, “More a Symptom Than a Cause: Polarization and Partisan News Media in America,” in American Gridlock, Cambridge University Press (2015).

19. Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, January 16, 1787, in The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 5, Correspondence 1786-1789, ed. Paul Leicester Ford (New York and London: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1904–1905),

20. Author Miller, (London) Observer, November 26, 1961.

21. See Adam Sheingate, Building a Business of Politics: The Rise of Political Consulting and the Transformation of American Democracy (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

22. David Dodson, a former CEO, experienced the duopoly’s power over suppliers firsthand when he challenged Senator John Barroso in the Republican Senate Primary in Wyoming in 2018: “When I tried to hire the law firm to which I’d directed millions of dollars in business while I was a chief executive, it turned me away, explaining that it could work only for Democrats. When I contacted a law firm known to serve Republicans, that firm told me it couldn’t work for a candidate running against an incumbent because it would put its entire practice at risk. As I tried to build an organization to run a credible primary challenge, this story repeated itself, whether I was recruiting campaign staff or a marketing firm.” See David Dodson, “Why Do We Let Political Parties Act Like Monopolies?” New York Times, May 20, 2019,

23. Jonathon Martin, “Republican Campaign Committee Pushes Back Against Conservative Group,” New York Times Blog, New York Times, November 1, 2013,

24. Laura Barron-Lopez, Zach Montellaro, Ben White, and David Brown, “New DCCC Chair Bustos Vows to Stay on Offense in 2020,” Politico, January 6, 2019,

25. Number of think tanks from James G. McGann, “2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” February 9, 2016, Budget estimate based on author analysis using the most recent revenue data available for US think tanks identified in table 7 in McGann. Revenue data are available for just sixty-four of the think tanks from McGann’s list, totaling more than $2 billion. Revenue data from Guidestar and annual reports.

26. Tevi Troy, “Devaluing the Think Tank,” National Affairs, Winter 2012,

27. For a list of leading US think tanks, see James G. McGann, “2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” February 9, 2016, Political orientation is identified through consultation of multiple sources, including James G. McGann, Think Tanks and Policy Advice in the United States (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007); Michael Dolny, “FAIR Study: Think Tank Spectrum 2012,” July 1, 2013,; and InsideGov, “Research Think Tanks,” accessed March 2017,

28. Author analysis, data from Brookings Institution, “Vital Statistics on Congress,”

29. Lee Drutman and Steven Teles, “Why Congress Relies on Lobbyists Instead of Thinking for Itself,” Atlantic, March 10, 2015,

30. “Lobbying Data Summary,” Center for Responsive Politics, accessed July 2017,

31. Ezra Klein, “Corporations Now Spend More Lobbying Congress Than Taxpayers Spend Funding Congress,” Vox, updated July 15, 2015,

32. Direct spending in the political industrial complex does not capture to the full extent the economic influence that politics has on other industries. Researchers have identified several types of “returns” associated with lobbying activity, such as federal tax savings, the enactment of more favorable regulations, delayed fraud detection for corporations, and the allotment of increased federal resources. We group such findings into six broad categories in the list below. While the list is not exhaustive, these studies collectively provide compelling evidence that lobbying is a financially effective mechanism to influence public policy.

  1. Lobbying and Tax Savings from the American Jobs Creation Act
    1. Raquel Alexander, Stephen W. Mazza, and Susan Scholz, “Measuring Rates of Return on Lobbying Expenditures: An Empirical Case Study of Tax Breaks for Multinational Corporations,” Journal of Law and Politics (2009).
    2. Hui Chen, Katherine Gunny, and Karthik Ramanna, “Return on Political Investment in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004,” working paper 15-050, Harvard Business School, December 2014.
  2. Lobbying and Trade Policy
    1. Seung-Hyun Lee and Yoon-Suk Baik, “Corporate Lobbying in Antidumping Cases: Looking into the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act,” Journal of Business Ethics 96, no. 3 (October 2010).
    2. Patricia Tovar, “Lobbying Costs and Trade Policy,” Journal of International Economics 83 (2011).
    3. Karam Kang, “Policy Influence and Private Returns from Lobbying in the Energy Sector,” Review of Economic Studies 83 (2016).
  3. Lobbying and Legal Leeway (Fraud Detection, SEC Enforcement)
    1. Frank Yu and Xiaoyun Yu, “Corporate Lobbying and Fraud Detection,” Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis 46, no. 6 (2011).
    2. Maria M. Correia, “Political Connections and SEC Enforcement,” Journal of Accounting and Economics 57 (2014).
  4. Lobbying and Troubled Asset Relief Program Support
    1. Benjamin M. Blau, Tyler J. Brough, and Diana W. Thomas, “Corporate Lobbying, Political Connections, and the Bailout of Banks,” Journal of Banking & Finance 37 (2013).
    2. Ran Duchin and Denis Sosyura, “The Politics of Government Investment,” Journal of Financial Economics 106 (2012).
  5. Lobbying and the Public Sector (Education Institutions, Cities)
    1. John M. de Figueiredo and Brian S. Silverman, “Academic Earmarks and Returns to Lobbying,” Journal of Law & Economics 49, no. 2 (2006).
    2. Rebecca Goldstein and Hye Young You, “Cities as Lobbyists,” American Journal of Political Science (April 2017).
  6. Lobbying and the Energy Sector
    1. Karam Kang, “Policy Influence and Private Returns from Lobbying in the Energy Sector,” Review of Economic Studies (2016).

33. Total is for 2017–2018 cycle and includes Advisory Opinion 2014-12 (which allows separate contribution limits for national convention committees). Methodology from R. Sam Garrett, “Increased Campaign Contribution Limits in the FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations Law: Frequently Asked Questions,” Congressional Research Service, December 19, 2014, Updated contribution limits from “Contribution Limits for 2015–2016 Federal Elections,” Federal Election Commission, accessed March 2017,

34. The most significant new party since 1860, the Progressive Party (also known as the Bull Moose Party) dates back to the period from 1912 to 1916. It was founded by Teddy Roosevelt so that he could run for president after he lost the 1912 Republican nomination. The party successfully elected thirteen Representatives, but it disintegrated when most of its members rejoined the Republican Party. The Reform Party, the most recent party that achieved any electoral success, grew out of Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential candidacy in which he won 19 percent of the popular vote. The Reform Party lasted from 1992 to 2000, with its major success being the election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota in 1998. Today’s most significant third parties, the Libertarians and the Greens, each run numerous candidates every year, but they have yet to win a single congressional or gubernatorial campaign. See “Bull Moose Party,” Encyclopædia Britannica, July 12, 2015,; “Progressive (Bull Moose) Party (1912),” in Guide to U.S. Elections, 6th ed., vol. 1 (Washington: CQ Press, 2010); Reform Party National Committee, “About,” accessed March 2017,; CQ Voting and Elections Collection, “Third Party Results,” CQ Press Electronic Library, accessed March 2017.

35. John Laloggia, “Six Facts About U.S. Political Independents,” Pew Research Center, May 5, 2019,

36. Federal Election Commission, “Contribution Limits,” accessed February 3, 2020,

37. See, for example, Office of Commissioner Ann M. Ravel, “Dysfunction and Deadlock: The Enforcement Crisis at the Federal Election Commission Reveals the Unlikelihood of Draining the Swamp,” Federal Election Commission, February 2017,

38. Nicholas Confessore and Karen Yourish, “$2 Billion Worth of Free Media for Donald Trump,” New York Times, March 15, 2016,

39. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Address, Delivered January 17, 1961,” American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches, last updated February 18, 2017,

40. For example, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the total cost of elections during presidential cycles increased 60 percent from the 1999–2000 cycle to the 2015–2016 cycle, after adjusting for inflation. As noted by the Center for Responsive Politics, 2016 total cost projections include spending by PACs on overhead expenses, which are attributed to Congressional races. The total cost accounts for “all money spent by presidential candidates, Senate and House candidates, political parties, and independent interest groups trying to influence federal elections.” “Cost of Election,” The Center for Responsive Politics,, accessed February 2017.

41. For methodology, see Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America: A Strategy for Reinvigorating Our Democracy” (Boston: Harvard Business School, 2017): Appendix E.

42. These estimates are based on data from various sources. Federal election spending from the Federal Election Commission,, accessed March 2017, as well as select data from Center for Responsive Politics,, accessed March 2017. Lobbying data from Center for Responsive Politics, based on data from Senate Office of Public Records,, accessed March 2017. List of think tanks gathered from James G. McGann, “2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report,” TTCSP Global Go To Think Tank Index Reports, February 9, 2016, table 7. To gather political orientation of think tanks, we referenced multiple sources: James G. McCann, Think Tanks and Policy Advice in the United States (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007); FAIR Think Tank Spectrum Study 2012; and Revenue figures of think tanks from Guidestar/organization websites. Advertising revenue to the media from political shows based on author analysis of advertising revenue data provided by Kantar Media. To exclude political advertising from our list of political shows (to avoid double counting), we used data from Political TV Ad Archive,, accessed March 2017, and Erika Franklin Fowler, Travis N. Ridout, and Michael M. Franz, “Political Advertising in 2016: The Presidential Election as Outlier?” Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, February 22, 2017.

43. Estimate represents advertising revenue from political coverage on major television shows primarily covering politics. Based on author analysis of advertising revenue data provided by Kantar Media.

44. Total jobs reflects estimated number of registered lobbyists, employees of partisan/partisan-leaning think tanks, individuals earning at least $15,080 (annual earnings for a full-time federal minimum wage worker). “Major” consulting contracts defined as cumulative earnings of at least $50,000 in 2016. Lobbying jobs from Center for Responsive Politics,, accessed June 2017. Think tank jobs from Guidestar/annual reports. Campaign payrolls and consulting contracts from author analysis of Federal Election Commission data,, accessed July 2017. Registered lobbyists alone account for 11,170 jobs in 2016. See Center for Responsive Politics, Lobbying Database,, accessed August 2017.

45. For example, candidates for governor, legislature, and other state offices raised $2.2 billion in campaign contributions in 2018. If we add in all of the other channels of spending—lobbying, advertising, etc.—spending on state elections soars, demonstrating the magnitude of the politics industry. For details on state election spending, see Geoff Mulvihill, “AP: Political Money in State-Level Campaigns Exceeds $2B,” AP NEWS, Associated Press, November 1, 2018,

46. See, e.g., Tim LaPira, “How Much Lobbying Is There in Washington? It’s Double What You Think,” Sunlight Foundation, November 25, 2013, and Emma Baccellieri and Soo Rin Kim, “Boehner Joins the Not-Quite-a-Lobbyist Ranks,” Center for Responsive Politics, September 21, 2016.

47. See Leadership Now Project, “Democracy Market Analysis 1.0: Highlights, April 2019,”

48. Industry size determined by value added as a percentage of gross domestic product for “Government” [the combined value added from (a) federal and (b) state and local government] in 2016, versus nonaggregated Bureau of Economic Analysis industries. Data from Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP-by-Industry data, accessed August 2017; author analysis. Federal outlays data (FY 2016) from Congressional Budget Office, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2017 to 2027,” Budget Data, January 24, 2017,

Chapter 2

1. Samuel F. Toth, The Political Duopoly: Antitrust Applicability to Political Parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates, 64 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 239 (2013),

2. Brennan Center for Justice et al., “Deteriorating Democracy: How the Commission for Presidential Debates Undermines Democracy,” August 2004,

3. A separate commission at the Harvard University Institute of Politics led by Newton Minow came to a similar conclusion, see the Commission on Presidential Debates, Minow later became a vice chair for the commission.

See also Robert E. Hunter, Electing the President: A Program for Reform (Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, 1986),

4. Brennan Center for Justice et al., “Deteriorating Democracy.”

5. Hunter, Electing the President.

6. Phil Gailey, “Democrats and Republicans Form Panel to Hold Presidential Debates,” New York Times, February 19, 1987,

7. Brennan Center for Justice et al., “Deteriorating Democracy.”

8. Toth, The Political Duopoly,” 249.

9. George Farah, No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debate (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004).

10. Brennan Center for Justice et al., “Deteriorating Democracy.”

11. “Opinion: Fixing the Presidential Debates,” New York Times, September 18, 1996,

12. “About the CPD,” Commission on Presidential Debates, accessed November 2019,

13. Data presented as part of Level the Playing Field’s lawsuit. “The crux of the petition’s factual submissions consists of two reports that purport to show that CPD’s 15 percent threshold is designed to result in the exclusion of independent or third-party candidates. The first report, by Dr. Clifford Young, concludes that in order to reach a 15 percent threshold, a candidate must achieve name recognition among 60–80 percent of the population. The second, by Douglas Schoen, estimates that the cost to a third-party or independent candidate of achieving 60 percent name recognition would be over $266 million, including almost $120 million for paid media content production and dissemination, which the report concludes is not a reasonably reachable figure for a non-major-party candidate. Additionally, both the Young and Schoen reports conclude that polling in three-way races is inherently unreliable and not, therefore, an objective measure of the viability of third-party and independent candidates. In reaching their conclusions, both the Young and Schoen reports assert that third-party and independent candidates are disadvantaged by the fact that they do not benefit from a ‘party halo effect’ by which Democratic and Republican candidates—regardless of name recognition—may garner a minimum vote share in polling merely for being associated with a major party, in addition to benefitting from increased name recognition from media coverage of the major party primary season.” See

14. “Political Typology Reveals Deep Fissures on the Right and the Left,” Pew Research Center, October 24, 2017,

15. This illustrative example is provided by Mickey Edwards in “How to Turn Democrats and Republicans into Americans,” in Politics to the Extreme: American Political Institutions in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Scott A. Frisch and Sean Q. Kelly (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) 219–226.

See also Will Bunch, “The Backlash,” New York Times, September 13, 2010,

16. Jeff Zeleny, “G.O.P. Leaders Say Delaware Upset Damages Senate Hopes,” New York Times, September 14, 2010,

17. Ed Hornick, “Christine O’Donnell: From ‘witchcraft’ to Tea Party favorite,” CNN, October 13, 2010,

18. “O’Donnell Winning Tea Party, Losing Delaware,” Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, October 28, 2010,

19. Edwards, “How to Turn Democrats and Republicans into Americans,” in Politics to the Extreme, 219–226.

20. Mickey H. Edwards, “The Case for Transcending Partisanship,” Daedalus 142, no. 2 (2013): 84–94,

21. “Sore Loser Laws in the 50 States,” Ballotpedia, accessed November 2019,

22. This number is down slightly from forty-six after Washington (2004) and California (2011) adopted nonpartisan primaries. For details on the multiple forms of sore-loser laws and when states adopted them, see Barry C. Burden, Bradley M. Jones, and Michael S. Kang, “Sore Loser Laws and Congressional Polarization,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 39, no. 3 (August 2014): 299–325. Contrary to Burden et al. (2014), we do not categorize a nonpartisan primary as a form of sore-loser law.

23. See Troy K. Schneider, “Can’t Win for Losing,” New York Times, July 16, 2006,

24. “The Worst Ballot Access Laws in the United States,” FairVote, January 13, 2015,

25. Cantor was hardly a compromise-oriented politician. But as one analysis summarizes well: “Over the last few years, it became more apparent to Cantor that if he became Speaker of the House he’d need to work with Democrats to govern, while also presiding over a seemingly ungovernable GOP. He slowly evolved from Speaker John Boehner’s top rival into a more conciliatory conservative, willing to make deals, for example, on the debt ceiling. He also began devoting more time and energy to articulating conservative policy alternatives than most of his peers in the Republican conference … Cantor privately chastised tea partiers in his conference who fomented the 2013 government shutdown, came out in favor of restoring parts of the Voting Rights Act, and helped craft a watered-down DREAM Act that would provide a path to legalization for immigrants who came to the US illegally as children. But he seemed to do so with fairly little regard to how rock-ribbed conservative primary voters back home would react to these pragmatic gestures.” See David Wasserman, “What We Can Learn From Eric Cantor’s Defeat,” FiveThirtyEight, June 20, 2014, See also Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella, and David A. Fahrenthold, “Republican House Party Leader Eric Cantor Succumbs to Tea Party Challenge Eric Bratt,” Washington Post, June 11, 2014, For more on Cantor’s evolution see Ryan Lizza, “The House of Pain,” New Yorker, February 24, 2013,; Robert Costa, “Eric Cantor Attempts to Remake the House GOP Brand, and His Own,” Washington Post, March 24, 2014,; Jason Zengerle, “Eric Cantor’s America,” New York, September 30, 2011,

26. Cameron Easley, “America’s Most and Least Popular Governors: Q1 2018 Rankings,” Morning Consult, April 12, 2018,

27. Greg Orman, A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream (Austin, TX: Greenleaf Group Book Press, 2016), 61.

28. Lee Drutman, Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 31.

29. Russell Berman, “Cruz: Political ‘Tsunami’ Needed to Win Fight to Defund Obamacare,” The Hill, August 25, 2013,

30. For overview of the shutdown, see Walter J. Oleszek, “The Government Shutdown of 2013: A Perspective,” in Party and Procedure in the United States Congress, 2nd Edition, ed. Jacob Straus and Matthew Glassman (2017).

31. Leigh Ann Caldwell, “Architect of the Brink: Meet the Man behind the Government Shutdown,” CNN, updated October 1, 2013,

32. For full timeline, see Eric Krupke, “How We Got Here: A Shutdown Timeline,” National Public Radio, October 17, 2013,

33. Brad Plumer, “Absolutely Everything You Need to Know about How the Government Shutdown Will Work,” Washington Post, September 30, 2013,

34. Oleszek, “The Government Shutdown of 2013: A Perspective,” Party and Procedure in the United States Congress, 2nd Edition.

35. For an overview of the Hastert Rule, see Sarah A. Binder, “Oh 113th Congress Hastert Rule, We Hardly Knew Ye!” Brookings Institution, January 17, 2013,

36. Shushannah Walshe, “The Costs of the Government Shutdown,” ABC News, October 17, 2013,

37. For overviews of the evolution of the legislative machinery, see Kenneth Shepsle, “The Changing Textbook Congress,” in Can Government Govern? ed. John Chubb and Paul Peterson (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2010); David W. Rohde, Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Sam Rosenfeld, chapter 1 in The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Polarized Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Jeffrey Jenkins, “The Evolution of Party Leadership,” in The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress (2011); Barbara Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the U.S. Congress 5th Edition (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage CQ Press, 2016), chapter 6; Steven S. Smith, Party Influence in Congress (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Steven Smith and Gerald Gamm, “The Dynamics of Party Government In Congress,” in Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition, ed. Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer (Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2013); Barbara Sinclair, “The Dream Fulfilled? Party Development in Congress, 1950–2000,” in Responsible Partisanship? The Evolution of American Political Parties Since 1950, ed. John C. Green and Paul S. Hernson (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2002); John Aldrich and David Rohde, “Congressional Committees in a Partisan Era,” in Congress Reconsidered, 8th Edition, ed. Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer (Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2005); Nathan Monroe, Jason Roberts, and David Rhode, Why Not Parties? Party Effects in the United States Senate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Sean M. Theriault, Party Polarization in Congress (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Barbara Sinclair, Party Wars (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006); Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, “The House in a Time of Crisis,” in Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition, ed. Dodd and Oppenheimer (2013). Some, however, argue that the party’s power in Congress has not changed dramatically over time. This view is associated with the “Cartel Theory” detailed in Gary Cox and Matthew McCubbins, Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House, 2nd Edition (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

38. The term “Textbook Congress” is accredited to Shepsle, “The Changing Textbook Congress.

39. John H. Aldrich, Brittany N. Perry, and David W. Rhode, “Richard Fenno’s Theory of Congressional Committees and the Partisan Polarization of the House,” Congress Reconsidered, ed. Dodd and Oppenheimer (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2001).

40. A famous study of Congress summed up the minor role parties played during this period when insisting that “no theoretical treatment of the United States Congress that posits parties as analytical units will go very far. So we are left with individual congressmen, with 535 men and women rather than two parties, as units to be examined.” David Mayhew, The Electoral Connection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 27.

41. For the seminal work on congressional committees during this period, see Richard Fenno, Congressmen in Committees (1973). For a modern reassessment of Fenno’s work in light of recent polarization, see John H. Aldrich, Brittany N. Perry, and David W. Rhode, “Richard Fenno’s Theory of Congressional Committees and the Partisan Polarization of the House,” in Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition, 193–220. For an opposing account of the role of committees, distributional theories emphasize that the committee system was essentially a system of cross-jurisdictional bargaining and horse trading to pass policies popular with local constituents. See Barry R. Weingast and William J. Marshall, “The Industrial Organizations of Congress; Or Why Legislatures, Like Firms, Are Not Organized as a Market,” Journal of Political Economy (1988), 132–163; Barry R. Weingast, Kenneth A. Shepsle, and Christopher Johnsen, “The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics,” Journal of Political Economy (1981), 642–664; Christopher R. Berry and Anthony Fowler, “Cardinals or Clerics? Congressional Committees and the Distribution of Pork,” American Journal of Political Science (2015), 692–708. For a recent account of the positive role that the committee system played and the case for why committee power should once again be strengthened, see Kevin R. Kosar and Adam Chan, “A Case for Stronger Congressional Committees,” R Street Institute, 2016.

42. See David W. Rohde, Parties and Leaders in the Post Reform House (1991); John H. Aldrich, Why Parties? (1995); Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, “The House in a Time of Crisis,” Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition.

43. DSG background paper, “The Case for House Democratic Caucus Action against Rep. John Bell Williams and Rep. Albert W Watson” (December 1964). Quoted in Sam Rosenfeld, The Polarizers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

44. Shepsle, “The Changing Textbook Congress.” The frequency of party caucuses has since soared. See Richard Forgette, “Party Caucuses and Coordination: Assessing Caucus Activity and Party Effects,” Legislative Studies Quarterly (204), 407–430.

45. Marjorie Hunter, “Seniority System Revised,” New York Times, January 21, 1971.

46. Kevin R. Kosar and Adam Chan, “A Case for Stronger Congressional Committees,” R Street Policy Study No. 66, August 2016,

47. These messages got through the committee chairs, who changed their behavior in response. See Sara Brandes Cook and John R. Hibbing, “Congressional Reform and Party Discipline: The Effects of Changes in the Seniority System on Party Loyalty in the House of Representatives,” British Journal of Political Science 15 (1985), 207–226; Fiona M. Wright, “The Caucus Reelection Requirement and the Transformation of Committee Chairs,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 25 (2000), 469–480.

48. Walter Oleszek, “Speakers Reed, Cannon, and Gingrich: Catalysts of Institutional Change,” The Cannon Centenary Conference: The Changing Nature of the Speakership (Joint Commission on Printing, 2003).

49. Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, “The House in a Time of Crisis,” 29–31; C. Lawrence Evans and Walter J. Oleszek, Congress Under Fire: Reform Politics and the Republican Majority (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1997); Eric Shickler, Epilogue in Disjointed Pluralism: Institutional Innovation and the Development of the U.S. Congress (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

50. Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards, “The Big Lobotomy: How Republicans Made Congress Stupid,” Washington Monthly, June/July/August 2014,

51. For an overview of the demise of the Office of Technology Assessment, see Grant Tudor and Justin Warner, “The Congressional Futures Offices: A Modern Model for Science & Technology Expertise in Congress,” Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs (2019), 28–31.

52. Derek Willis, ProPublica, and Paul Kane, “How Congress Stopped Working,” ProPublica, November 5, 2018,

53. Thomas Spulak and George Crawford, “How to Fix Congress in One Step,” Politico, September 19, 2018,

54. McKay Coppins, “The Man Who Broke Politics,” Atlantic, October 17, 2018,; Alex Seitz-Wald, “How Newt Gingrich Crippled Congress,” Nation, January 30, 2012,

55. Ryan Grim and Aida Chávez, “Here’s How Much the Democratic Party Charges to Be on Each House Committee,” The Intercept, September 3, 2019,

56. For example, in 2007 Nancy Pelosi removed John Dingell as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee after his opposition in the race to become Speaker and disagreements over an energy bill. See David W. Rhode, Edward Stiglitz, and Barry Weingast, “Dynamic Theory of Congressional Organization,” Stanford working paper, February 17, 2013, A list of members of Congress facing party discipline can be found in Matthew Green and Briana Bee, “Keeping the Team Together: Explaining Party Discipline and Dissent in the U.S. Congress,” in Jacob Straus and Matthew Glassman, Party and Procedure in the United States Congress, 2nd Edition (2017), 48–49. Stiglitz and Weingast find that the frequency of partisan punishment appears to be increasingly common, although they acknowledge that this uptick in punishments could simply reflect the fact that recent punishments are better publicized. More often, representatives considered to be “disloyal” to the party are just bypassed altogether. Marge Roukema (R-NJ) was bypassed for the role of chair of the Financial Service Committee due to her willingness to break from the party line. In response, she retired from Congress in “grave disappointment.” Sam Theriault, Party Polarization in Congress (2008), 132. In Party Discipline in the U.S. House of Representatives (2015) Kathryn Pearson finds that the party Steering Committees do consider loyalty when determining which members will receive the limited number of committee transfers to more powerful and prestigious committees and when appointing committee chairs. Further, members who serve on the four most powerful and most sought-after committees—Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Rules, and Ways and Means—are typically more loyal to their party than members who do not serve on these committees. These results support the findings of Cox and McCubbins: “The statistical evidence is clear: more loyal members [as measured by loyalty in roll call votes] are more likely to transfer (and more likely to get better assignments as freshmen),” Legislative Leviathan, 170.

57. Chairs are no longer independent actors but often little more than puppets of the majority party. Dennis Hastert put it bluntly when he said: “The chairs will deliver on the leadership’s agenda because they know that if they fail, they won’t be chairs anymore.” See Cox and McCubbins, Legislative Leviathan, 232.

58. Eric Schickler and Kathryn Pearson, “The House Leadership in an Era of Partisan Warfare,” in Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition.

59. J. Lewallen, S. M. Theriault, and B. D. Jones, “Congressional Dysfunction: An Information Processing Perspective,” Regulation & Governance 10, no. 2 (2016): 179–190.

60. Data on the rise of post committee adjustments can be found in Barbara Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking: New Legislative Processes in the U.S. Congress, 5th Edition (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage CQ Press, 2016): 149. See Mark J. Oleszek, “Post-Committee Adjustment in the Contemporary House: The Use of Rules Committee Prints,” Jacob Straus and Matthew Glassman, Party and Procedure in the United States Congress, 2nd Edition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017), 109.

61. “In the late 1980s almost one in five major measures was not considered by a committee in the House. The frequency dropped to an average of about one in ten in the Congresses of the 1990s but then increased again to an average of one in five in the Congress from 2001 to 2006 and further to one in three in the period 2007–2014.” See Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking, 5th Edition, 18. Data on the increased frequency at which committees are bypassed can be found in Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking, 5th Edition, 151.

62. Sinclair, Unorthodox Lawmaking, 5th Edition, 20. This followed the example set by the Republicans when they took control of the House in 1995, when Gingrich created task forces to quickly pass the “Contract with America.”

63. Bill Pascrell Jr., “Why Is Congress So Dumb,” Washington Post, January 11, 2019,

James M. Curry and Frances E. Lee find that bills are increasingly developed outside of the committee process that defines traditional “regular order.” Interestingly, they find no connection between whether “regular order” is observed and the partisanship in passage votes. Based on interviews with 24 members of Congress and high-level Congressional staffers, they argue that this is because unorthodox bill development processes are used for reasons other than gaining partisan advantage, such as efficiency, secrecy, and flexibility. See James M. Curry and Frances E. Lee, “What Is Regular Order Worth? Partisan Lawmaking and Congressional Processes,” Journal of Politics (2018). This finding conflicts with conventional wisdom, as well as other empirical research. For example, see Laurel Harbridge, Is Bipartisanship Dead? Policy Agreement and Agenda-Setting in the House of Representatives (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Certainly, more research is required in this critical area.

64. Or, in the famous words of Bruce Oppenheimer, the Rules Committee is now an “arm of the leadership.” See Oppenheimer, “The Rules Committee: New Arm of Leadership in a Decentralized House,” Congress Reconsidered.

The legislative calendar has space for only a small fraction of the thousands of bills and amendments that have been introduced. In the 114th Congress, 5 percent of introduced bills/resolutions got a vote. See, accessed February 15, 2018. This gives the majority party leadership leverage over members. Legislators have particular local issues that are highly salient to their constituents. For reelection purposes, legislators also wish to be seen as political entrepreneurs. Their electoral success is therefore contingent on the majority leadership’s willingness to bring their bills and amendments to the floor. Pearson (2015) shows how the parties use this leverage point to extract partisan loyalty from their members. Only those who toe the party line receive these coveted legislative opportunities. See Kathryn Pearson, chapter 4 in Party Discipline in the U.S. House of Representatives (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2015).

65. Technically, members of Congress can bypass the Rules Committee through the use of a Discharge Petition. If 218 members sign a discharge petition, a bill is brought to the floor under the rules specified in the petition. Discharge petitions were created in 1910 as part of the so-called “Cannon Revolt,” discussed in chapter 4, and were instrumental in the passage of Civil Rights reform in the 1960s. However, parties do not tolerate members breaking ranks for these types of procedural votes, and successful discharge petitions are incredibly rare. In 1993, the discharge rules were changed to regularly publish the names all signatories of discharge petitions in the Congressional Record. See Clifford Krauss, “Public Mood Bolsters Effort to End House’s Secrecy Rule,” New York Times, September 13, 1993, Pearson finds that from then until 2012, just three discharge petitions that were opposed by the majority party leadership reached the 218-vote threshold. Of note is that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform in 2002 was one of these three bills. See Pearson, Party Discipline in the U.S. House of Representatives, 58. Of course, the mere threat of a discharge petition can force the majority party leadership’s hand, as we have seen recently with bills to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank and to force a vote on immigration reform. See; However, because discharge votes are seen as rebukes of the party leadership, members are reluctant to use this tool. Sara Binder reflects on the resistance to sign discharge petitions when writing “Majority party lawmakers are typically loath to sign discharge petitions that undercut the power of party and committee leaders. We see this more generally in lawmakers’ votes on procedural matters, which exhibit much higher levels of partisanship than votes on substance in both the House and Senate.” See “Governing from the Monkey Cage: Discharge Rule Edition,” Washington Post, October 4, 2013, Sean Theriault argues that members of Congress have become increasingly less willing to break with their parties on procedural votes since the 1970s, and that this is one of the major causes of the growing partisanship in final roll call votes. See Sean M. Theriault, Party Polarization in Congress (2008), 223. For more on discharge petitions, see For more on discharge petitions, see Kathryn Pearson and Eric Schickler, “Discharge Petitions, Agenda Control, and the Congressional Committee System, 1929–76,” The Journal of Politics (Oct, 2009), 1238–1256; Richard Beth, ‘‘The Discharge Rule in the House: Recent Use in Historical Context,’’ Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Report 97–856 (2003).

66. David Hawkings, “Topic for Debate: Time to End Congressional Debates?,” Roll Call, January 4, 2018,

67. Interestingly, the Senate has experienced a similar level of polarization as the House, but parties in the Senate do not have the same level of control over the legislative machinery. The party’s agenda control is curtailed by Senate rules, which, for example, generally require that amendments cannot be restricted (i.e., no closed rules) and need not even be germane (do not have to be relevant to the proposed bill under consideration). See Steven Smith and Gerald Gamm, “The Dynamics of Party Government in Congress” in Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition. That’s not to say that the parties have not taken steps to solidify their power in the Senate over the past fifty years. See Nathan Monroe, Jason Roberts, and David W. Rhode, Why Not Parties?; Steven Smith, The Senate Syndrome: The Evolution of Procedural Warfare in the Modern US Senate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014).

68., accessed August 2017.

69. Wyden statement on Senate Floor on Republican tax plan Conference, December 6, 2017,

70. Vito J. Racanelli, “Lobbying Index Beats the Market,” Barron’s, April 27, 2018,

Chapter 3

1. Ideological preferences are based on roll-call votes. As Frances Lee explains, roll-call votes may not capture true ideological preferences for two major reasons. First, roll-call votes only capture votes on bills that make it to the House floor for a vote. As we will see, as the party leaderships have taken control of the legislative machinery in the past decades, they have systematically screened out bills that would break party unity and gain bipartisan support. This would tend to decrease the number of moderates we would expect to see in Congress, as measured by roll calls. Second, many votes today (like attempts to repeal and replace the ACA) are never going to be enacted. Representatives are not voting on public policy, but are voting on messaging. Nevertheless, the increased levels of party unity on these “show votes” still speaks to the strength of the parties and the dysfunctional nature of partisan competition today. See Frances E. Lee, “The 115th Congress and Challenges of Measuring Party Unity in a Polarized Era” (paper presented at the Dynamics of American Democracy conference, Brown University, November 14–15, 2018).

2. Many studies of congressional efficiency show a similar decline in laws enacted over time. However, these calculations usually include commemorative legislation. Commemorative laws have little meaningful effect on our daily lives. They often pertain to the naming of a building or the designation of a new holiday, like National Ice Cream Day. Since commemorative laws have little significant impact on the lives of American citizens, we took them out of the data set. We learned to distinguish between commemorative and noncommemorative laws when comparing congressional efficiency from Jonathan Lewallen, “You Better Find Something to Do: Lawmaking and Agenda Setting in a Centralized Congress,” (PhD diss., University of Texas Austin, 2017).

Some critics of this measurement of congressional efficiency highlight the increased average length of each bill passed by Congress. They point out that the total number of pages of statutes has actually increased over time. However, this increase can mainly be explained by the rise of omnibus bills, which combine several issues (often completely unrelated) into one large bill. Omnibus bills have been around since our nation’s founding, but they have become far more popular in the twenty-first century. These bills are popular, because they’re easier to pass. They are a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” kind of deal. They allow legislators to pass provisions that they support for subject A, while allowing their counterparts to pass provisions that they support for subject B. While this may seem like an efficient form of compromise, it’s not that simple. These bills are often incredibly long and are not presented to legislators with enough time to read them. For example, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 was 2,232 pages. Since legislators needed to pass it in order to avoid a government shutdown, they had to cram it through legislation. Because it was eventually unveiled less than twenty-four hours before legislators voted, the legislators did not read this important bill before voting on it, completely negating the point of our legislative process. Omnibus bills are a Band-Aid to Congress’s inability to compromise. For information about the number of laws and number of pages of laws passed over time, see Andrew J. Taylor, Congress: A Performance Appraisal (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2013), 145. For information on omnibus bills, see Glen S. Krutz, “Tactical Maneuvering on Omnibus Bills in Congress,” American Journal of Political Science 45, no. 1 (2001): 210–223.

See also Drew Desilver, “A Productivity Scorecard for the 115th Congress: More Laws Than Before, But Not More Substance,” Pew Research Center, January 25, 2019,

3. “In Interview, Outgoing House Speaker Ryan Says He Doesn’t See Himself Ever Running Again,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 11, 2018,

4. Data from “Public Trust in Government: 1958–2017,” Pew Research Center, May 3, 2017,

5. “Congress and the Public,” Gallup, November 12, 2019,

6. See Lee Drutman, William Galston, and Tod Lindberg, “Spoiler Alert: Why Americans’ Desires for a Third Party Are Unlikely to Come True,” Voter Study Group, September 2018,

7. Figures are annual averages calculated from Gallup poll survey on party affiliation. Response to question “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent?” accessed August 2018,

8. “Gallup Poll Social Series: Governance, Question 20,” Gallup, accessed October 2017, See also Lee Drutman, William Galston, and Tod Lindberg, “Spoiler Alert: Why Americans’ Desires for a Third Party Are Unlikely to Come True,” Voter Study Group, September 2018,

9. A similar point is made in Will Wilkinson, Brink Lindsey, Steven Teles, and Sam Hammond, “The Center Can Hold: Public Policy for an Age of Extremes,” Niskanen Center (2018).

10. Robert Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, “The Democratic Disconnect,” Journal of Democracy (2016); see also Yascha Mounk, The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018). Mounk argues that the diminishing support for democracy has manifested in populist politicians who attack the idea of liberal democracy. When answering how deconsolidation arose, Mounk points to the deleterious effects of social media and identity politics. Yet he also blames economic stagnation and the fact that the median income in America has remained flat since the 1980s. This poor economic performance has fundamentally changed the way citizens view politics, as the dream of steady progress has dimmed. This focus on the economic, rather than the cultural component, is disputed in Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, “Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash,” working paper RWP16-026, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge (2016).

11. “Hart-Cellar Act, which dismantled the national origins quota system, passed in a Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 320 to 70. Of the 262 Democratic representatives who voted, 202, or 77 percent, supported the bill. Of the 127 Republican representatives who voted, just 10, or 8 percent, opposed the bill. In other words, a full 92 percent of Republican representatives joined Democratic representatives in ending the national origins quota system.” Tom K. Wong, The Politics of Immigration (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

12. Wong, The Politics of Immigration. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) “passed in a Republican-controlled House by a vote of 370 to 37. Of the 226 Republican representatives who voted, 202, or 89 percent, supported the bill. Of the 180 Democratic representatives who voted, just 13, or 7 percent, opposed the bill. This means that a full 93 percent of Democratic representatives joined Republican representatives in passing IIRIRA.”

13. See Marc R. Rosenblum, “US Immigration Policy Since 9/11: Understanding the Stalemate over Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” Regional Migration Study Group, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (August 2011),

14. As the former governor of a border state, Bush made immigration a top priority in his 2000 campaign and pursued it aggressively in his first year in office before the attacks of 9/11 shifted focus abroad. Afghanistan and Iraq dominated the national debate for the next several years, but as his second term wound to a close, a door opened for one last immigration push. Immigration was a rare issue that did not cleanly split the parties. Coalitions cut across party lines, with conservative hawks partnering with liberal labor unions to advocate stricter enforcement and lower legal immigration levels, and Republican business leaders aligning with the Democratic base in support of a more open stance. See Rosenblum, “US Immigration Policy Since 9/11.”

15. The maverick John McCain and the liberal lion of the Senate Ted Kennedy introduced a bipartisan bill that dealt with all three pillars of comprehensive immigration reform—enhancing border security, creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, and retooling the visa system to increase skills-based immigration and expand opportunities for temporary workers. Overcoming initial resistance from Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, who were reluctant to give President Bush a major policy victory in the run-up to the midterms, the deal passed in the Senate with the backing of almost every Democrat and nearly half of Republicans. See Rosenblum, “US Immigration Policy Since 9/11”; Robert Draper, “The Democrats Have an Immigration Problem,” New York Times, October 10, 2018,

16. Wong, The Politics of Immigration.

17. Greg Orman, A Declaration of Independents: How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream (Austin, TX: Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016).

18. Obama proposed that the new merit-based system for green cards be sunset after five years—an idea popular with the Democratic base but toxic to Republicans aiming to increase the number of high-skilled workers. The amendment was rejected, but Obama was not spared by Kennedy, who reportedly scolded his young colleague: “You can’t come in here and undo everything!” See Jake Tapper, “Obama Pushing Immigration Action Today, Said to Have Hurt Effort in the Past,” CNN, November 24, 2014,

19. The amendment was proposed by North Dakota Senator Bryan Dorgan. Kennedy, knowing that the amendment’s passage would tank the bill, again attacked his fellow Democrat: “Who is the senator from North Dakota trying to fool?” See Orman, Declaration of Independents.

20. Greg Orman, “Debaters Should Press Biden on Killing Immigration Reform in ’07,” RealClearPolitics, October 14, 2019,

21. On the campaign trail, months after sinking the deal, Obama pledged he would push for immigration reform in his first year. See Orman, Declaration of Independents.

22. Republicans had hoped that next president would be Mitt Romney, but the 2012 elections did not go according to plan, in no small part because of Hispanic voters. Eight years earlier, George Bush won over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. This was a wakeup call for Republicans. In an autopsy after Romney’s defeat, the Republican National Committee insisted that to be viable nationally, Republicans must address their Latino deficit by embracing comprehensive immigration reform. With these directives, Senate Republicans partnered with Democrats to form a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” which made one more crack at comprehensive reform in 2013. Their proposal resembled past rounds of failed reform efforts, including a pathway to citizenship, increased border enforcement, and a streamlined legal immigration system. The bill’s fate was also recognizable. After passing in the Senate with the backing of every Democrat and fourteen Republicans, it stalled in the House where Speaker Boehner employed the Hastert rule, insisting that “to pass the House it’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of the majority of our [i.e., Republican] members.” While there was likely a majority in the chamber who would have supported the bill, it never came up for a vote in the House where Republicans were both fearful of primary challenges and skeptical of the RNC autopsy, embracing an alternative route for electoral success that focused not on broadening appeal but driving up support within the base. For more information on Boehner’s usage of the Hastert Rule, see Molly Hooper, “Boehner Commits to Hastert Rule on Immigration Reform,” Hill, June 18, 2013,

23. For example, see Adam Liptak and Michael D. Shear, “Supreme Court Tie Blocks Obama Immigration Plan,” New York Times, June 23, 2016,

24. Jynnah Radford, “Key Findings about U.S. Immigrants,” Pew Research Center, June 17, 2019,

25. Michael E. Porter et al., “A Recovery Squandered: The State of U.S. Competitiveness 2019,” Harvard Business School (2019).

26. For more detail and data, please see Michael E. Porter, Jan W. Rivkin, Mihir A. Desai, with Manjari Raman, “Problems Unresolved and a Nation Divided: The State of U.S. Competitiveness 2016,” Harvard Business School (2016).

27. Porter, Rivkin, Desai, with Raman, “Problems Unresolved and a Nation Divided.”

28. Michael E. Porter, “America Traded One Recession for a Far More Serious One,” Boston Globe, September 21, 2018,

29. See the 2019 Social Progress Index scorecard,

30. Marc F. Plattner, “Illiberal Democracy and the Struggle on the Right,” Journal of Democracy 30, no. 1 (2019): 5–19

31. For an overview of the history of social security, see Larry DeWitt, “Social Security Administration,” Social Security Administration Research, Statistics, and Policy Analysis, August 1, 2010,; and “Social Security,” Social Security History,

32. “Social Security,” Social Security History,

33. With the exception of Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, who did not vote. United States Senate. “Roll Call Vote 11th Congress – 1st Session,”

34. Tessa Berenson, “Reminder: The House Voted to Repeal Obamacare More Than 50 Times,” Time, March 24, 2017,

35. For a great analysis of show votes, see Frances Lee, Insecure Majorities: Congress and the Perpetual Campaign (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016).

36. Former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe put it best when she said, “Much of what occurs in Congress today is what is often called ‘political messaging.’ Rather than putting forward a plausible, realistic solution to a problem, members of both sides offer legislation that is designed to make a political statement. Specifically, the bill or amendment is drafted to make the opposing side look bad on an issue and is not intended to ever actually pass.” See Olympia Snow, “The Effect of Modern Partisanship on Legislative Effectiveness in the 112th Congress,” Harvard Journal on Legislation (2013): 27.

37. The only thing the Republicans were able to do was effectively eliminate the individual mandate as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

38. The Lead with Jake Tapper, “Republican Health Care Bill Failure,” CNN (March 24, 2017),

39. The discussion of Simpson-Bowles comes from Katherine M. Gehl and Michael E. Porter, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry Is Failing America: A Strategy for Reinvigorating Our Democracy,” Harvard Business School, September 2017.

40. US Senate, “The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,” December 2010,

41. National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, “The Moment of Truth,” December 2010,, emphasis added.

42. Author analysis of the widely used data set compiled by the Brookings Institution, “Vital Statistics on Congress,” January 9, 2017, tables 2-7 and 2-8,

Chapter 4

1. “Washington’s Farewell Address 1796,” The Avalon Project,

2. Joseph Stromberg, “The Real Birth of American Democracy,” Smithsonian, September 20, 2011,

3. Quotations on the Jefferson Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia,

4. “Waldorf-Astoria—Famous Dinners, Balls, and Guests, Yodelout! New York City History,”

5. This measure of polarization is based on roll call votes in Congress. While this is the most common method for measuring polarization, there are important limitations. First, from studying roll-call votes alone, it is difficult to distinguish between ideological polarization and partisan teamsmanship. Second, because this data does not capture changes to the legislative agenda over time, it is difficult to make comparisons across periods. There are, in fact, reasons to believe that the parties in the Gilded Age were not as ideologically polarized as they are today and that their divides were more often based on who would capture the spoils of government. See Hans Noel’s Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). Noting these limitations and caveats, however, the data still shows important parallels in the breakdown in compromise at the end of the nineteenth century and in the modern era.

6. W. Bernard Carlson writes that, “While one farm worker in 1820 could produce enough food to feed 4.1 people, by 1900 one farm worker could produce food for seven people. How did this remarkable change in food production take place? In the last half of the nineteenth century, Americans increased both the amount of land under cultivation as well as the number of machines used in farming.” See W. Bernard Carlson, “Industrialization and the Rise of Big Business,” in The Gilded Age: Perspectives on the Origins of Modern America, ed. Charles Calhoun (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007), 31.

7. See Richard White, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012); Joshua D. Wolff, Western Union and the Creation of the American Corporate Order, 1845–1893 (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

8. Alfred Chandler, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977), Ch. 7–11; Glenn Porter, The Rise of Big Business, 1860–1920 (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1992).

9. Naomi Lamoreaux, The Great Merger Movement in American Business, 1895–1904 (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Oliver Zunz, Making America Corporate, 1870–1920 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990); William Roy, Socializing Capital: The Rise of the Large Industrial Corporation in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).

10. See Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877–1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967).

11. Henry Adams wrote that “The American boy of 1854 stood nearer to the year 11 than to the year 1900.” See Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), 53.

12. “When the Constitution was ratified in 1788 only about 5 percent of the residents of the new nation lived in cities. Today, about 80 percent of the population lives in places defined as urban. Thus, a central theme of US history has been the transition from a rural, agrarian society to one that is highly urbanized. The latter third of the nineteenth century—years when the interrelated processes of urbanization, industrialization, and immigration reached high tide—was a key period in that transition … In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, the nation’s urban population defined as those living in places of 2,500 or more stood at 6.2 million, just under one-fifth of the total. By the end of the century 30 million urbanites constituted about two-fifths of the nation’s residents. Thus, in just forty years, the number of urban dwellers in the country had almost quintupled, and their proportion of the total population had doubled.” See Robert Barrow, “Urbanizing America,” in The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun.

Between 1870 and 1900 nearly 12 million people migrated to America. Historical Statistics of the United States (1975), 1:106. For overview of the immigrant experience, see Roger Daniels, “The Immigrant Experience in the Gilded Age,” chapter 4 in The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun. The percentage of foreign-born citizens has only recently returned to levels reached in the Gilded Age. See

13. Calhoun, The Gilded Age, 2.

14. See John Higham, chapters 3–4 in Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (Rutgers University Press, 2008); Steven Diner, chapter 3 in A Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era (New York: Hill and Wang, 1997).

15. Jean Pfaelzer, Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans (New York: Random House, 2007).

16. Eric Arnesen, “American Workers and the Labor Movement in the Late Nineteenth Century,” in The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun; Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson, chapter 7 in Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality Since 1700 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016); Neil Irvin Painter,Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877–1919 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989), xix-xxviii.

17. Michael McGerr, chapter 1 in A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870–1920 (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

18. Estimations differ, but the consensus is that growth was strong throughout the period. See Thomas C. Cochran and William Miller, The Age of Enterprise: A Social History of Industrial America (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 230. N. S. Balke and R. J. Gordon, “The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence,” Journal of Political Economy 97.1, 38–92; Christina D. Romer, “The Prewar Business Cycle Reconsidered: New Estimates of Gross National Product, 1869–1908,” Journal of Political Economy 97.1, 1–37.

19. Arnesen, “American Workers and the Labor Movement in the Late Nineteenth Century,” The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun, 55–56.

20. Robert Cherny, American Politics in the Gilded Age: 1868–1900 (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997), 60.

21. John Lewis and Archie E. Allen, “Black Voter Registration Efforts in the South,” Notre Dame Law Review 48, no. 1 (October 1972).

22. B. E. H., and J. J. K., Jr. “Federal Protection of Negro Voting Rights,” Virginia Law Review 51, no. 6 (1965): 1051–213,

23. C. Vann Woodward, Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of 1877 and the End of Reconstruction (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

24. Cherny insists: “from the 1830s through the 1890s, political parties dominated American political decision making to a greater extent than ever before or since. Parties firmly controlled virtually all access to public office, all aspects of elections, and all aspects of policy-making.” See Cherny, American Politics in the Gilded Age, 5.

25. Diner writes that “[g]overnment, which according to American ideals should represent the will of the people, appeared a captive of special interests.” See Diner, A Very Different Age, 5. See also Cherny, American Politics in the Gilded Age.

26. The Pendleton Act of 1883 began to wind down the patronage system with the first steps to create a career civil service for federal government.

27. David D. Kirkpatrick, “Does Corporate Money Lead to Political Corruption?” January 23, 2010,

28. In 1904, for example, corporations donated 73 percent of Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign funds. See Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life (New York: Vintage Books, 2002), 265.

29. As historian James L. Baughman explained: “Before the Civil War, parties actually subsidized the operations of many newspapers. Sometimes directly, sometimes through government printing contracts. In many cases, the subsidies were indirect and unknown to readers. Editors or their reporters worked part time for state legislators or members of Congress. Some of these relationships continued late in the 19th century.” See James L.Baughman, “The Fall and Rise of Partisan Journalism,” University of Wisconsin Center for Journalism Ethics, April 20, 2011,

30. Mark Wahlgren Summers, Party Games: Getting, Keeping, and Using Power in Gilded Age Politics (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 75; Cherny, American Politics in the Gilded Age, 11; Tim Groeling and Matthew Baum, “Partisan News Before Fox: Newspaper Partisanship and Partisan Polarization, 1881–1972,” working paper, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, 2013,

31. Worth Robert Miller, “The Lost World of Gilded Age Politics,” in The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 49–67; Calhoun, The Gilded Age, 254.

32. In fact, historians often point to the 1896 election as a pivotal point in American history, when politics was nationalized as the businessman and chairman of the Republican National Committee created a strong national organization that strengthened the centralized party apparatus. Sidney Milkis and Anthony Sparacino, “Pivotal Elections,” in, A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, ed. Christopher McKnight Nichols and Nancy Unger (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2017).

33. According to Richard McCormick, “As organizations and as objects of loyalty, the major parties enjoyed their golden age during the last three decades of the nineteenth century. Although only loosely coordinated at the national level, the Democrats and Republicans each boasted awesome machines in localities where they were competitive, and on election days they shepherded enthusiastic and committed followers to the polls.” See Richard McCormick, The Party Period and Public Policy: American Politics from the Age of Jackson to the Progressive Era, 171.

34. Worth Robert Miller, “Farmers and Third-Party Politics,” chapter 13 in The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun.

35. Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 103.

36. Summers, Party Games, 131–132.

37. Alan Ware, The American Direct Primary—Party Institutionalization and Transformation in the United States (New York; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

38. Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 31; Steven S. Smith and Gerald Gamm, “The Dynamics of Party Government in Congress,” in Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition, ed. Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013), 172–182; David W. Brady, Congressional Voting in a Partisan Era: A Study of the McKinley Houses (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1973); Eric Shickler, chapter 2 in Disjointed Pluralism: Institutional Innovation and the Development of the U.S. Congress (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

39. Congressional Record, April 22, 1880, 2661. Quoted in Gary Cox and Matthew McCubbins, “Legislative Leviathan Revisited,” University of California working paper,

40. Summers, Party Games, chapter 2.

41. Cherny, American Politics in the Gilded Age, chapter 2.

42. Summers writes that “The republic was always at stake. This heightened, apocalyptic sense was one by-product of the political carnival.” Summers, Party Games, 4.

43. See Mann and Ornstein, The Broken Branch, chapter 2.

44. This “spoils system” was central to political competition throughout the Gilded Age, even as it wound down after the Pendleton Act of 1883 that laid the foundation for a career civil service. See Francis Fukuyama, chapter 10 in Political Order and Political Decay (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).

45. Charles Calhoun argues that while legislative action was certainly restricted due to partisan divides, a good amount of real policy solutions were passed during this period. Additionally, Calhoun argues it is improper to apply current standards to a Gilded Age government that was not yet a modern, regulatory state. See The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun. For more on the development of anti-trust law see Wayne Collins, “Trusts and the Origins of Antitrust Legislation,” Fordham Law Review (New York: Fordham University School of Law, 2013); William Letwin, “Congress and the Sherman Antitrust Law: 1887–1890,” The University of Chicago Law Review (Chicago: The Law School, The University of Chicago, 1956).

46. Arnesen writes: “Workers living through this period of economic transformation must have felt as if they were riding a roller coaster in slow motion. The economy grew in fits and starts in the late nineteenth century. The United States faced two major economic depressions—from 1873 to 1877 and from 1893 to 1897—and in each crisis, unemployment rose to over 16 percent while substantial numbers of workers faced widespread underemployment and reduced wages. In an era before state-sponsored unemployment insurance or other benefits, losing one’s job could mean being deprived of the means to survive.” Arnesen, “American Workers and the Labor Movement in the Late Nineteenth Century,” in The Gilded Age, Calhoun, 56.

47. Worth Robert Miller, “Farmers and Third-Party Politics,” in chapter 13, The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun et al.

48. Arnesen writes that “The closing decades of the nineteenth century were marked by a degree of class conflict, much of it violent, as great as any in the industrialized world. During the 1880s, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States experienced almost ten thousand strikes and lockouts. In 1886 alone, a year that earned the title the ‘great upheaval,’ roughly seven hundred thousand workers either went out on strike or were locked out by their employers. Even larger numbers would participate in the titanic clashes of the early 1890s.” See Arnesen, “American Workers and the Labor Movement in the Late Nineteenth Century,” in The Gilded Age, ed. Calhoun.

49. After early progress with the Common School Movement before the Civil War, it wasn’t until the Progressive Era that we saw a renewed push for anti-child labor laws and mandatory public education. This would eventually culminate in the High School Movement. See Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, The Race between Education and Technology (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008); James Marten, Children and Youth during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era: Volume Two (New York: NYU Press, 2014).

50. At the time, these conditions were exposed in the work of Jacob Riis. See Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives (New York: C. Scribners Sons, 1890). For a more recent assessment, see Sean Dennis Cashman, America in the Gilded Age, 3rd Edition (New York: New York University Press, 1993), 146-150. A shocking statistic that highlights the poor social performance is the fact that Pittsburg had among the highest rates of typhoid in the world. See Arthur Link and Richard McCormick, Progressivism (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 1983), 29.

51. It is fitting that the era began with the takedown of Boss Tweed, who along with his Tammany Hall Allies embezzled millions of dollars from New York City. See “‘Boss Tweed,’” New York Times, March 27, 2005, But it didn’t end there.

52. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (New York: Popular Edition, 1927), 294.

53. This section has benefited from the gracious advice and guidance of David Moss, Nancy Unger, Peter Levine, Robert Johnston, Jack Santucci, Maureen Flanagan, Walter Nugent, and Hahrie Han.

54. In championing the spirit of the Progressive movement, we are not blind to its shortcomings. Aspects of the Progressive movement were stained by prejudices, with reformers suppressing racial and ethnic minorities in the name of “good government.” Many within the movement viewed the working class with either indifference or disdain and sought ways to control and limit the voices of average Americans. In promoting the public good and stamping out corruption, the Progressives at times deconstructed systems (like the urban “machines”) that facilitated widespread political participation, especially by poor and immigrant communities. And some Progressive reforms, like partisan primaries, have had pernicious unintended consequences, as we have discussed. Yet by focusing narrowly on these deficiencies or limitations, much of the existing literature has overlooked a larger, and vitally important lesson that the Progressives can teach us today: We the people are not powerless. We control our democracy. We can change the rules of the game to deliver different outcomes. That is the Progressive legacy we must inherit.

Flanagan writes that “Progressives did not seek to overturn capitalism. They sought to revitalize a democratic promise of justice and equality and to move the country into a modern Progressive future by eliminating or at least ameliorating capitalism’s worst excesses. They wanted to replace an individualistic, competitive society with a more cooperative, democratic one. They sought to bring a measure of social justice for all people, to eliminate political corruption, and to rebalance the relationship among business, labor, and consumers by introducing economic regulation.” Maureen A. Flanagan, “Progressives and Progressivism in an Era of Reform,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia on American History (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016). For more on the origins of the movement, see Link and McCormick, Progressivism, Part One.

55. After detailing the political machines in several cities, Lincoln Steffens’s 1904 book The Shame of the Cities (New York: S. S. McClure, 1904) declared that even more to blame than the political bosses were the members of the public who benefitted from the corruption and, more shameful still, those who did not benefit but remained apathetic, complacent, or cynical.

For more, see Frank Norris, The Octopus: A Story of California (Leipzig, Germany: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1901); Ida Tarbell, The History of the Standard Oil Company (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1901); Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (New York: Doubleday, 1904); Lincoln Steffens, The Shame of the Cities (Bloomingdale, IL: McClure, Philips, and Co, 1904); David Graham Phillips, “The Treason of the Senate,”Cosmopolitan, 1906. Link and McCormick write that “Progressivism cannot be understood without seeing how the masses of Americans perceived and responded to such events. Widely circulated magazines gave people everywhere the sordid facts of corruption and carried the clamor for reform into every city, village, and county.” Link and McCormick, Progressivism, 9.

56. See Link and McCormick, Progressivism.

57. Link and McCormick write that “It is not surprising that reformers of the late nineteenth century had little to do with one another. Their protests and programs had in common neither cause nor objective; each addressed a single problem. Few reform movements were based upon and understanding of the fundamental economic and social process of this time.” Link and McCormick, Progressivism, 16. By contrast, Progressivism was a national movement that spanned social and class groups. Walter Lippmann wrote in 1921 that “An American will endure almost any insult except the charge that he is not progressive.” Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Harcourt, 1922), 71. There is much debate over who the leaders of the Progressive movement were, and what motivated their efforts. See David Kennedy, “Overview: The Progressive Era,” The Historian 37, no. 3 (1975): 453–468. The traditional “progressive view” is that the reformers were a broad coalition that worked to expand democracy, wrestling control from special interests who exploited government for their own private gain. See Benjamin Parke DeWitt, The Progressive Movement (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1915). In the 1950s a competing view, which rose to prominence with Richard Hofstadter’s book The Age of Reform, held that the Progressive movement was led by a reactionary upper class who suffered “status anxiety,” as their preeminence was challenged by business tycoons and party bosses. Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR (New York: Vintage, 1955). Others insist that the Progressive Era was led not by a reactionary old guard, but by the middle class that industrialization produced.

This emergent class sought to build an effective state, equipped with professional and scientific expertise. Samuel P. Hays, The Response to Industrialism: 1885–1914 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957); Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order: 1877–1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967). This diversity in the movement has even led some to question whether Progressivism should be viewed as a unified movement at all. See Daniel T. Rodgers, “In Search of Progressivism,” Reviews in American History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), 113–132; Peter G. Filene, “An Obituary for ‘The Progressive Movement,’” American Quarterly (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970), 20-34; John D. Buenker, “The Progressive Era: A Search for Synthesis,” in Eileen Tamura, Americanization, Acculturation, and Ethnic Identity (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994). However, Peter Levine does identify a common theme in the movement, writing that “The word progressive, as used around the turn of the century, was so ambiguous as to be virtually indefinable. However, practically all self-described progressives shared at least one commitment. They believed that there was a ‘national interest’ or ‘public good’ superior to special interest and market outcomes.” Peter Levine, The New Progressive Era (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000), 18.

58. Robert Putnam, chapter 23 in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001); Gerald Gamm and Robert Putnam, “The Growth of Voluntary Association in America, 1840–1940.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History (1999), 551–557; Theda Skocpol, How Americans Became Civic (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1990); Richard McCormick, “Public Life in Industrial America, 1877, 1917” in Eric Foner, chapter 5 in The New American History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997).

59. Robert Putnam reflects on this transition when writing, “[g]enerally speaking, the wave began in the last third of the nineteenth century with organizations (like fraternal and cultural groups) focused primarily on the private concerns of their members, including leisure and self-help. In the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century these associations (and new ones spawned in that period gradually turned their attention to community issues and eventually to political reform. The earlier, inward-oriented phase of creating social networks paved the way for the later, outward-oriented phase of political action.” Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 399.

60. Internal divisions have led some to argue it that there were actually many—not one unified—progressive movements, or to do away with the progressive concept entirely. See Peter Filene, “An Obituary for ‘The Progressive Movement.’” American Quarterly, 20–34; Daniel T. Rodgers, “In Search of Progressivism,” Reviews in American History (1982), 113–132; Maureen Flanagan, America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivism: 1890s-1920 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

61. This new ballot system was first advocated in 1882 by the Philadelphia Reform Association. Eldon Cobb Evans, A History of the Australian Ballot System in the United States (1917), 18. It was then endorsed in 1886 by New York mayoral candidate Henry George and his United Labor Party. Sarah Henry, Progressivism and Democracy: Electoral Reform in the United States, 1888–1919, 40. Success came quickly. Spurred by public outrage over vote buying, the first breakthrough was in the city of Louisville in 1888. Greatly impressed with the reform, one Louisville local reported later that year that, “‘the election of last Tuesday was the first municipal election I have ever known which was not bought outright. As a matter of fact no attempts at bribery were made.’” David Moss et al., “An Australian Ballot for California?” (Harvard Business School paper, 2017). Ballot reform in Massachusetts was promoted by a diverse group. A Boston elite hoped it would bring order to elections and rein in corrupt party machines. Frank Foster’s Boston Central Labor Union viewed it as a way to ensure better representation for workers. Connections within state government were critical to their success. H. H. Sprague, a member of the leading Boston “Dutch Treat” Club reform group, ran for and was elected to the state Senate and became chairman of the committee on election law. Another member of the Club, Richard Henry Danna III, was a central figure in Massachusetts politics and longtime reform champion. Dana crafted the ballot legislation that passed through both chambers with large majorities in May 1888. See Henry, Progressivism and Democracy, chapter 6.

62. Ware, The American Direct Primary, 31.

63. Ballot reform was not without its flaws. It was supported and exploited by many reformers as a way to restrict voting, serving as a literacy test that disenfranchised many immigrants and poorer voters. The duopoly also crafted ballot access rules to raise the barriers for third parties. While the adoption of the Australian Ballot restrained the party’s ability to buy support and restrict vote-splitting (supporting candidates from more than one party), it also led to the disenfranchisement of millions of less-educated Americans, and allowed the parties to create restrictive ballot access rules that suppressed new forms of competition. David Moss writes that “the distinctive ballots that previously had been printed by each political party were replaced with uniform, state-printed ‘Australian ballots,’ which voters who could not read English often had difficulty using. As a consequence, many Americans who had the right to vote stopped voting or voted less often. In presidential elections, voter participation fell from around 75–80 percent in the 1880s to 1890s to about 60 percent in 1916.” See David Moss, “Chapter 13: The Battle over the Initiative and Referendum in Massachusetts (1918)” in Democracy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017); Henry reflects this point when writing “The original proposers quickly became disillusioned with ballot reform as a cure-all, complaining that it was too easily manipulated by machine politicians, who rewrote the provisions of legislation so as to discourage third parties, hampered fusion candidates by prohibiting names appearing in more than one party column, and raised the requirements for having parties appear on the official ballot at all. By the early twentieth century, critics had become outspoken on the adverse effects of such new form on third-party voters, and some had begun to accuse the instigators of the reform of deliberately plotting the disfranchisement of poorer voters, much as historians of a later generation would do.” See Henry, Progressivism and Democracy, 43. See also Ware, The American Direct Primary.

64. The passage of the new ballot in Massachusetts quickly became the model for the rest of the country. Evans (1917) writes that this group was eventually able to infiltrate the legislature when “one of the members of the ‘Dutch Treat’, Mr. H. H. Sprague, was elected to the State Senate and was made chairman of a committee on election law. Encouraged by these favorable signs, the club drafted a bill which was presented by Mr. Sprague. Mr. Hayes lent his support to the bill introduced by Mr. Sprague, a large number of petitions for the bill were received, and on May 29, 1888, the law was enacted.” Eldon Cobb Evans, A History of the Australian Ballot System in the United States (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Library, 1917), 19. Ware (2002) writes that: “By 1893, thirty-one of the thirty-three non-southern states had adopted some variant of the Australian ballot law, and by 1893 the two remaining states (Iowa and Kansas) had followed suit.” Ware, The American Direct Primary, 32.

65. The Australian Ballot remains the system we use to cast our ballots today. Many have rightly noted that ballot reform was sometimes exploited during the Progressive movement for partisan gain or to restrict the voting rights of African Americans, immigrants, and the poor. Such practices must be condemned. But despite its misuses, it did clean up elections and prove that reform was possible.

66. Merriam and Overacker write that “The direct primary was established in the United States as a protest against the unrepresentative character of the old-time convention. The abuses of the delegate system had produced widespread dissatisfaction and a general feeling that the nominating conventions did not reasonably reflect the will of the party. It was believed that the conventions were in many cases controlled by political bosses, and further that these bosses were either controlled by greedy and selfish industrial interests.” See Charles Edward Merriam and Louise Overacker, Primary Elections (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1928).

67. Previously, because the parties themselves printed their own ballots, they were not officially recognized as playing a role in the democratic processes. However, with the Australian Ballot, the government now controlled ballot access, and the parties had to petition to have their nominees included. In exchange for the privilege of having their candidates automatically included on the ballot, the major political parties entered a new relationship with government in which they were not treated like other organizations in civil society. Instead, the government regulated the parties’ internal operations. This would become immediately important with the primary reform movement that followed quickly on the heels of ballot reform. The Democratic Mayor of Boston Josiah Quince reflected this second point when writing, “ … this question of caucus reform has arisen directly and logically out of the adoption of the Australian Ballot … I think that today most of us, at least, see that it [the Australian Ballot] logically involves, leads to, and requires, first, the recognition, and second, the regulation of the political party, or of the convention, or of the caucus; it was the right of any citizen, or any number of citizens, to print a ballot and to present any nominations which he or they saw fit at the polls. But under the Australian Ballot system it is different; the State is obliged to recognize the existence of the political party and of political machinery; and the recognition of this inevitably and logically leads up to the regulation of the practices of political parties, of their conventions and of their caucuses.” Ware, The American Direct Primary, 79. In the decade from 1890–1899, a number of states adopted binding laws, including statutes dictating when conventions should be held, how they should be structured, and what it meant to be a member of a party. These laws were implemented first at the municipal level, in major cities such as Boston, New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, and San Francisco. The reforms then ascended to the state level. By the turn of the century, about two-thirds of states had enacted some form of primary law. Merriam and Overacker, chapter 3, in Primary Elections.

68. Ware, The American Direct Primary, 81.

69. Ware, The American Direct Primary, 124. There are two conflicting theories explaining the success of primary reform in the early 1900s. The traditional view, articulated in Merriam and Overacker (1928), is that the rapid spread of direct primaries was a triumph of reformers overcoming party bosses. A revisionist view, posited in Ware (2002), argues that reforms were not achieved in spite of the parties’ best efforts, but rather because the parties made the calculation that the convention system, built for an era of local politics, was too unruly for an industrial society. Lawrence et al. (2013) tests these theories by studying the strength of party machines in the states where primary reform was first achieved and finds that anti-party pressure better explained the data. Many Progressive reforms—including primary reform—were first achieved in Western states, where the party machines were weakest. This is a trend that also holds for the adoption of the initiative and referendum. Eric Lawrence et al., “The Adoption of Direct Primaries in the United States,” Party Politics 19, no. 1 (2013).

70. J. W. Sullivan, Direct Legislation by the Citizenship through the Initiative and Referendum (University of California Libraries, 1893).

71. One leading member of the Direct Legislation League, William Simon U’ren, championed Sullivan’s agenda in Oregon with the creation of the Joint Committee on Direct Legislation. The Joint Committee won the backing of farmers and workers and helped elect U’ren to the Oregon state legislature in 1896 as a member of the Populist Party. Yet in office, U’ren was frustrated and unable to pass his agenda.

So he shifted strategy. Rather than bundling structural reform with controversial policies, U’ren split from the Populists. As he separated himself from party politics, he continued to use his government connections to create a broad reform coalition. His new Nonpartisan Direct Legislation League, formed in 1898, framed I&R as a neutral reform. It was neither pro-business nor pro-labor, not pro-Democrat or pro-Republican—just pro-democracy. With this unifying message, I&R gained support from not only Oregon Federation of Labor and the Federated Trade Council, but also local middle managers and business owners, as well as major newspapers. In 1902, U’ren, became a national figure when Oregon adopted I&R, which passed through the legislature and was approved by the electorate in a vote of 62,024 to 5,668. See Moss, “Chapter 13”; Henry, Progressivism and Democracy, Part Two.

72. John Matsusaka, State Initiative & Referendum Institute, However, it is worth noting that unlike the other reforms, the adoption of the initiative and referendum was almost exclusively a Western phenomenon, with nineteen of the twenty-two states who had adopted I&R prior to 1920 west of the Mississippi. Thomas Goebel, “‘A Case of Democratic Contagion’: Direct Democracy in the American West, 1890–1920,” Pacific Historical Review 66, no. 2 (1997). This is likely because Eastern states had much stronger party machines that were able to prevent the spread of I&R. Even in states like Massachusetts that did adopt I&R, it was a long, protracted battle. It was only in 1917, after I&R efforts had been rebuffed for over two decades, that the reform passed through a constitutional convention. Moss, “Chapter 13.”

73. David Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot Initiative Revolution (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989), 25.

74. Tolbert finds: “From 1904–1994, voters approved fifty-eight initiatives in the areas of political reform and government organization. Progressive Era political reforms included the Australian (or long) ballot, home rule for local governments and municipalities, secret ballot, manager-council system, nonpartisan local elections, insulation of judges from political pressure, direct primary, direct election of US Senators, women’s suffrage … The initiative process was first used to establish nomination of candidates through primary elections in Arkansas, Maine, Montana, Oregon and South Dakota.” Caroline J. Tolbert, “Direct Democracy as a Catalyst for 21st Century Political Reform”; Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers.

75. No bill was even reported out of committee in the House until 1888. Zachary Clopton and Steven Art, “The Meaning of the Seventeenth Amendment and a Century of State Defiance,” Northwestern University Law Review 107, no. 3 (2015).

76. University of Chicago Law Professor David Strauss writes that “At most, the (Seventeenth) Amendment served to mop up outliers that were few in number and would probably have fallen into line before long.” Strauss links this to a larger point about constitutional amendments. Reviewing the other Constitutional Amendments of the Progressive Era—the Sixteenth which authorized an income tax, the Eighteenth which inaugurated prohibition, and the Nineteenth which extended the franchise to women—Strauss generalizes the point above, writing: “Notwithstanding all the attention that constitutional amendments receive, however, our constitutional order would look little different if a formal amendment process did not exist. At least since the first few decades of the Republic, constitutional amendments have not been an important means by which the Constitution, in practice, has changed. Many changes have come about without amendments. In some instances, even though amendments were rejected, the law changed in the way the failed amendments sought. Several amendments that were thought to be important in fact had little effect until society changed by other means. Other amendments did little more than ratify changes that had already come about in other ways. If this thesis is correct, it suggests that precedents and other traditions are often as important as the text of the amended Constitution; that political activity, in general, should not focus on proposed constitutional amendments; and that American constitutional law is best seen as the result of a complex, evolutionary process, rather than of discrete, self-consciously political acts by a sovereign People.” David Strauss, “The Irrelevance of Constitutional Amendments,” Harvard Law Review (2001).

77. Moss, Democracy, “Chapter 13.”

78. In 1901, Oregon held the first “primary” for the Senate in which voters could express their preferences. The parties initially ignored the results, and state legislators picked the candidate of their choosing. Led by William Simon U’ren, however, reformers passed a ballot measure in 1904 that required candidates for the state legislature to pledge whether or not they would respect the results of the Senate primary. A candidate’s stance was required to appear next to their name on the ballot. Faced with growing public pressure, almost all candidates agreed to respect the primaries, which became popular elections for the Senate in everything but name. In 1908 Oregon citizens solidified the process by passing another ballot measure making the campaign pledges binding. Henry, Progressivism and Democracy, Part Two.

79. Caroline J. Tolbert, “Direct Democracy as a Catalyst for 21st Century Political Reform,” Political Science Quarterly (September 2003).

80. Jeffrey Jenkins, “The Evolution of Party Leadership,” The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress (2011); Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, “The House in a Time of Crisis: Economic Turmoil and Partisan Upheaval,” in Congress Reconsidered, 10th Edition, ed. Dodd and Oppenheimer, 28.

81. Kenneth Shepsle, “The Changing Textbook Congress,” in John Chubb and Paul Peterson, Can Government Govern? (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1989).

82. Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer, “The House in a Time of Crisis,” in Congress Reconsidered 10th Edition, ed. Lawrence Dodd and Bruce Oppenheimer.

83. Robert E. Mutch, Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), chapters 1–2.

84. Mutch, Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform, chapters 3–4.

85. Capturing the magnitude of the change to the industry structure, in 1910 William Allen White wrote that “to have told the campaign managers of ’84 or ’88 that within a quarter of century the whole nation would be voting by secret ballot, the candidates nominated in two-thirds of the American states by a direct vote of the people, without the intervention of conventions or caucuses, and that further than that every dollar spent by a candidate or by a party committee would have to be publicly accounted for, would have set … the managers of those days cackling in derision until they were black in the face.” William Allen White, The Old Order Changeth (CreateSpace Publishing, 1910), 241.

86. For example, see David Huyssen, Progressive Inequality (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).

87. Attributed to Henry Luce in 1941, the term “American Century” connotes a period of American dominance, in which America led the world politically, economically, and culturally.

88. “World Exports as Percentage of Gross World Product,” Global Policy Forum, archived from the original on July 12, 2008,

89. United States Census Bureau, The Foreign-Born Population in the United States,

90. Jynnah Radford, “Key Findings About U.S. Immigrants,” Pew Research Center, June 17, 2019,

91. “The Effects of Immigration on the United States Economy,” Penn Wharton University of Pennsylvania, June 27, 2016,

Chapter 5

1. Jason D. Olson and Omar H. Ali, “A Quiet Revolution: The Early Successes of California’s Top Two Nonpartisan Primary,” Open Primaries, August, 2015,

2. Louis Jacobson, “The Six Most Dysfunctional State Governments,” National Journal, July 13, 2009.

3. Charles Munger Jr., “California’s Top-Two Primary: A Successful Reform” (paper presented the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, February 22, 2019),

4. The top-two primary yielded eighty same-party general elections in California, for the Assembly, state Senate, and US House of Representatives combined, in the general elections of 2012, 2014, and 2016. Of these same-party district elections, twenty-two saw the reelection of incumbents running against a token opponent of their own party. The remaining fifty-eight were highly competitive: a total of $205 million was spent in those contests; ten incumbents were defeated. In contrast, over the not three but five election cycles from 2002 to 2010, when there were partisan primaries, an incumbent lost to a member of his or her own party in one race for the Assembly, one race for the state Senate, and one race for the US House, for a decade total of three. See The Lucy Burns Institute similarly found a jump in the competitiveness of California races after the reform was implemented. See Carl Klarner, “Democracy in Decline: The Collapse of the ‘Close Race’ in State Legislatures,” Lucy Burns Institute, May 6, 2015,

5. Taryn Luna, “State Legislature’s Approval Rating Hits 50 Percent,” Sacramento Bee, September 28, 2016,

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ro Khanna, “Don’t Listen to the Establishment Critics. California’s Open Primary Works,” Washington Post, June 18, 2018,

7. Nancy Lavin and Rich Robinson, “John McCain Understood How Ranked Choice Voting Strengthens Our Democracy,” FairVote, August 27, 2018,

8. Sarah John and Andrew Douglas, “Candidate Civility and Voter Engagement in Seven Cities with Ranked Choice Voting,” National Civic Review 106, no. 1 (2017): 25–29.

9. Denise Munro Robb, “The Effects on Democracy of Instant Runoff Voting” (PhD diss., University of California Irvine, 2011).

10. Lee Drutman, Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

11. Robert Pear, “If Only Laws Were Like Sausages,” New York Times, December 4, 2010,

12. Mike Gallagher, “How to Salvage Congress,” Atlantic, November 13, 2018,

13. See Judy Schneider, Christopher M. Davis, and Betsy Palmer, “Reorganization of the House of Representatives: Modern Reform Efforts,” CRS Report for Congress, 2003; Congressional Institute, “Joint Committees on the Organization of Congress: A Short History,” October 15, 2015; Donald R. Wolfensberger, “A Brief History of Congressional Reform Efforts,” February, 2013; Casey Burgat, “Congressional Reorganization Acts,” R Street Institute, 2018; Lee Drutman and Kevin R. Kosar, “The Other Biggest Problem in Washington,” New York Times, September 11, 2018,

14. In April of 1946, one national survey found that only 14 percent of the electorate thought Congress was doing a “good job.” See Donald R. Matthews, “American Political Science and Congressional Reform,” The Reorganization of Congress: A Report of the Committee on Congress of the American Political Science Association (Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press, 1945).

15. Matthews, “American Political Science and Congressional Reform,” 92–93.

16. The Reorganization of Congress: A Report of the Committee on Congress of the American Political Science Association (Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press, 1945), 10.

17. The Reorganization of Congress, 4.

18. The Reorganization of Congress.

19. Matthews, “American Political Science and Congressional Reform,” 95–98.

20. H. R. 18. 70th Cong., Sec. 2 (February 19, 1945).

21. Roger H. Davidson, “The Advent of the Modern Congress,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 15, no. 3 (August 1990): 365–370.

22. Davidson, “The Advent of the Modern Congress,” 365.

Chapter 6

1. “New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann,” 285 U.S. 262, 311 (1932) (Brandeis, J., dissenting).

2. For congressional elections, legislators in Washington, DC, could vote to change the electoral system across the country with a federal law. In the 115th Congress (2017–2018), Representative Donald Breyer of Virginia proposed a bill called the “Fair Representation Act” that would implement ranked-choice voting for all congressional races, and Representative John Delaney of Maryland introduced the “Open Our Democracy Act,” which would create top-two primaries in all congressional races. In addition to those top priority political innovations, a dozen bills proposed in this congressional session took on gerrymandering, while many more tackled the issue of money in politics. Some innovative proposals were also offered to restructure the legislative machinery to make it more open to deliberation and compromise, and to retool the FEC to turn it into a real regulator. So far, however, these bills have made little progress in a Congress beholden to the duopoly. But once we begin to see progress in enough states, it is possible that Congress would vote to expand these innovations to the entire nation for congressional elections.

3. See John Matsusaka, “State-by-State List of Initiative and Referendum Provisions,” Initiative & Referendum Institute,

4. Twenty-one states have both ballot initiatives and referenda. Two states—Maryland and New Mexico—have referenda, but not initiatives. In these two states, citizens cannot totally bypass politicians to pass political innovations. See Initiative & Referendum Institute, “State-by-State List of Initiative and Referendum Provisions,”

5. “Movement by State,” Open Primaries,; “2019 Legislation Advancing Ranked Choice Voting,” FairVote,

6. In addition to California and Washington, which are covered in this section, Nebraska and Louisiana also have some adopted some version of top-two primaries. Nebraska uses top-two primaries for its nonpartisan state legislature (discussed below). Louisiana, meanwhile, has a runoff election structure that is very similar to top-two. In the “primary,” voters can select their favorite candidate, regardless of party. Unlike top-two, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in this round, he or she is declared the winner. But if no candidate receives a majority, as with top-two, the two candidates who received the most votes proceed to the “general election” round.

In 2019, Marcia Morey (D-NC), Zack Hawkins (D-NC), and Ray Russell (D-NC) all sponsored a bill for the General Assembly of North Carolina to “establish a process for Top Four Open Primary and three elections and to appropriate funds for that purpose.” This bill also includes a provision for the usage of ranked-choice voting in general elections. See Senator Chris Rothfuss proposed a similar bill for Wyoming in January 2019. This bill proposed the use of ranked-choice voting in primary elections to select the top four candidates to move on to the general election. The bill also proposed using ranked-choice voting for the remaining candidates in the general election. See

7. The blanket primary was spurred by support from the Washington State Grange, which sponsored a successful initiative in 1935. “History of Washington State Primary Systems,”; “Initiative 872,” Spokesman-Review, July 1, 2009,

8. A federal district court initially ruled that Washington’s blanket primary was constitutional in 2002. The parties then appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit, which found that the blanket primary was unconstitutional because it violated the rights of free association. The State of Washington and the Grange then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, but in February 2004 the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which meant that the Ninth Circuit decision declaring the blanket primary unconstitutional stood. “History of Washington State Primary Systems,” accessed November 2019,

9. Secretary of State Sam Reed first introduced the idea of the top-two to the legislature in the 2001 session and, with the help of the Grange’s lobbying efforts, he was able to create a coalition of Democratic and Republican legislators to support the bill. While the bill survived the Senate, the Speaker of the House ultimately refused to call a vote on the measure. Sam Reed, telephone conversation with author, April, 2019.

10. Reed, telephone conversation with author.

11. Following the gubernatorial veto, the ballot initiative campaign entered into full force. Secretary Reed held a press conference with key legislators from both parties and the Grange, where they announced the top-two initiative. Reed, telephone conversation with author. That same week, the Grange launched its first wave of statewide radio advertising campaign condemning the governor and encouraging voters to sign Initiative 872 petitions. In June 2004, Initiative 872 qualified for the November ballot with 308,402 valid signatures. See On November 2, 2004, voters approve Initiative 872 and Washington becomes the first state to adopt a top-two primary system for congressional and state-level elections,

12. Susan Gilmore, “Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Washington State Top-Two Primary,” Seattle Times, March 18, 2008,

13. Eric McGhee, “Political Reform and Moderation in California’s Legislature,” Public Policy Institute of California, May 2018,

14. Phillip Reese, “California Legislators Rarely Break from Party Line in Floor Votes,” Sacramento Bee, October 11, 2012.

15. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ro Khanna, “Don’t Listen to the Establishment Critics. California’s Open Primary Works,” Washington Post, June 18, 2018,

16. “Grading the States 2005: A Look Inside,” Government Performance Project, Pew Charitable Trust, 2004–2006,

17. “Californians and Their Government,” Public Policy Institute of California, March 2010.

18. Schwarzenegger and Khanna, “Don’t Listen to the Establishment Critics.”

19. Jason D. Olson and Omar H. Ali, “A Quiet Revolution: The Early Successes of California’s Top Two Nonpartisan Primary,” OpenPrimaries, August 2015,

20. Olson and Ali, “A Quiet Revolution.”

21. “California Proposition 62, ‘Modified Blanket’ Primaries Act (2004),”,_%22Modified_Blanket%22_Primaries_Act_(2004).

22. Christopher Caen, “The Consequences of California’s Top-Two Primary,” Atlantic, December 29, 2015,

23. “The Unforgivable State,” Economist, February 19, 2009,

24. Jesse McKinley, “Calif. Voting Change Could Signal Big Political Shift,” New York Times, June 9, 2010,

25. “USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times California Poll,” USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2018,

26. See The Lucy Burns Institute similarly found a jump in the competitiveness of California races after the reform was implemented. See Carl Klarner, “Democracy in Decline: The Collapse of the ‘Close Race’ in State Legislatures,” Lucy Burns Institute, May 6, 2015,

27. In 34 percent of competitive same-party general elections, the winning candidate in the top-two primary would not have a partisan primary in the old primary system,

28. Olson and Ali, “A Quiet Revolution.”

29. Christian Grose, “Political Reforms in California Are Associated with Less Ideological Extreme State Legislators.” The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) finds that while “both Democrats and Republicans in other states have been polarizing … The fact that California’s representatives have not moved closer to the poles or have moved slightly in a more moderate direction stands out.” See Eric McGhee and Boris Shor similarly find a small increase in moderation in the California state legislature in recent years. See Eric McGhee and Boris Shor, “Has the Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?” Perspectives on Politics 15, no. 4 (2017): 1053–1066.

30. Schwarzenegger and Khanna, “Don’t Listen to the Establishment Critics”; Li Zhou, “Washington Has a Top-Two Primary. Here’s How It Works,” Vox, August 7, 2018,

31. Zhou, “Washington Has a Top-Two Primary.”

32. Adam Nagourney, “California Sees Gridlock Ease in Governing,” New York Times, October 18, 2013,

33. “California Top-Four Primary Initiative (2018),” Ballotpedia,; “FairVote California,” FairVote,

34. Marina Villeneuve, “AP EXPLAINS: Maine Tries Ranked-Choice Voting,” U.S. News, June 11, 2018,

35. Jessie Scanlon, “Could Maine’s New Ranked-Choice Voting Change American Elections?” Boston Globe Magazine, October 17, 2018,

36. Editorial Board, “Ranked-Choice Voting Unlikely to Gain Traction in Maine,” Sun Journal, November 11, 2010,

37. “Spotlight: Maine,” FairVote,

38. Howard Dean, “Howard Dean: How to Move Beyond the Two-Party System,” New York Times, October 7, 2016,

39. “Portland: Ranked Choice Voting in Portland, Maine,” FairVote,; Matt Dunlap radio interview, 100.5 WLOB News Talk Maine, September 15, 2017,

40. “Spotlight: Maine,” FairVote,

41. Colin Woodard, “Maine’s Radical Democratic Experiment,” Politico Magazine, March 27, 2018,

42. “Timeline of Ranked Choice Voting in Maine,” FairVote,

43. Larry Diamond, “How to Reverse the Degradation of Our Politics,” American Interest, November 10, 2017,

44. Larry Diamond, “A Victory for Democratic Reform,” American Interest, June 15, 2018,

45. Cara McCormick, interview by author, May 2019.

46. Diamond, “A Victory for Democratic Reform.”

47. Edward D. Murphy and Peter McGuire, “As Mainers Vote in First Ranked-Choice Election, LePage Says He ‘Probably’ Won’t Certify Referendum Results,” Press Herald, June 12, 2018,

48. “Enough’s Enough,” Ellsworth American, May 9, 2018,

49. Dennis Hoey, “Oscar Winner Jennifer Lawrence Lends Support to Ranked-Choice Voting,” Press Herald, June 7, 2018,

50. “Maine Question 1, Ranked-Choice Voting Delayed Enactment and Automatic Repeal Referendum (June 2018),” Ballotpedia,,_Ranked-Choice_Voting_Delayed_Enactment_and_Automatic_Repeal_Referendum_(June_2018).

51. Larry Diamond, “A New Age of Reform,” American Interest, November 16, 2018,

52. “Maine Gov. Signs Off on Congressional Race Results, But Calls the Election ‘Stolen,’” CBS News, December 28, 2018,

53. Diamond, “How to Reverse the Degradation of Our Politics.”

54. As of 2019, seven states—Maine, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico—contain cities that have already implemented ranked-choice voting for municipal elections. On top of this, another four states—Florida, Michigan, Oregon, and Tennessee—contain cities that have adopted but not yet implemented ranked-choice voting for municipal elections. In 2018, Utah passed a pilot program that allows municipalities to use ranked-choice voting for 2019 elections (participating cities: Cottonwood Heights, Lehi City, Payson City, Vineyard City, and West Jordan City). See, “Ranked Choice Voting,” Ballotpedia, accessed April 2019,

55. Iowa and Nevada plan to allow early voters to use it, while Hawaii, Alaska, Kansas, and Wyoming plan to allow all voters to use it. “Where Ranked Choice Voting Is Used,” FairVote,

56. See USC Price, “Terminate Gerrymandering: Engineering Victories in Michigan, Colorado, Utah, Missouri and Ohio,” YouTube, January 15, 2019,

57. David Brooks, “The Localist Revolution,” New York Times, July 19, 2018,

58. Roger Davidson, “The Advent of the Modern Congress: The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946,” Legislative Studies Quarterly 15, no. 3 (1990): 360.

59. Paul Kane, “Against the Odds, Select Committee Aims to Push Congress into the 21st Century,” The Washington Post, May 25, 2019,

60. John F. Kennedy, chapter 8, in Profiles in Courage (1956). In his autobiography (1945), George Norris recounts his dismay for the “autocratic power that the rules of the House gave to the Speaker.” In Norris’s first meeting on the House Committee on Public Grounds and Buildings, he learned—and could not understand why—the Speaker had the power to decide whether or not the committee could draft an omnibus public building bill: “Then, right then, I believe the light dawned upon me and I began to see for the first time that the Republican party was subject to influences similar to those that I believed controlled the Democratic party; and soon I learned there was no difference between the parties in this respect. Both of them were machine-controlled, and the Democratic and Republican machines often worked in perfect harmony and brotherly love.” See George Norris, Fighting Liberal: The Autobiography of George W. Norris (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 96.

61. Momentum toward Nebraska’s one-branch legislature stemmed in large part from progressive ideals that required “adapting the machinery of state government to social and economic change.” See John P. Senning, The One-House Legislature (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1937), 42.

62. In 1915, a Nebraskan joint legislative committee led by Rep. John N. Norton—which had investigated how to align political reform with progressive ideals—advanced a recommendation for a unicameral legislature, but no action was taken. Legislative proposals for a unicameral legislature, advanced by Norton and others, further failed in 1917, at Nebraska’s 1919–1920 constitutional convention, and in 1923, 1925, and 1933. However, the public appetite for structural change grew after the 1933 session “fumbled badly on tax legislation, liquor regulations, and reapportionment” and failed to an appropriations bill. See James R. Rogers, “Judicial Review Standards in Unicameral Legislative Systems: A Positive Theoretic and Historical Analysis,” Creighton Law Review 33 (1999) 69–70; Nebraska Legislature, “Inside Our Nation’s Only Unicameral,” (2018) 13; Charlyne Berens, One House: The Unicameral’s Progressive Vision for Nebraska (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005).

63. Seth Masket and Boris Shor, “Polarization without Parties: Term Limits and Legislative Partisanship in Nebraska’s Unicameral Legislature,” State Politics & Policy Quarterly (2014).

64. Berens, One House, 36; Senning, The One-House Legislature.

65. Berens, One House; Senning, The One-House Legislature. A poll taken in fall of 1934 by the American Legislators’ Association found that the majority (i.e., over 50 percent) of the following groups were against one-house legislatures: Nebraska Representatives, United States Representatives, State Senators, United States Senators, American Bankers Associations, State Representatives, American Bar Association members, Nebraska Senators, newspaper editors, and business executives. In majority support of one-house legislatures were: American Association of University Women, American Foundation of Labor, League of Women Voters, Government Research Association, American Political Science Association. See “Two Houses—or One?” State Government, 207–208, as cited in Unicameralism in Practice: The Nebraska Legislative System, compiled by Harrison Boyd Summers, vol. 11, no. 5 (1937).

66. Minnesota had a nonpartisan legislature from 1913 until 1973. Unlike Nebraska, Minnesota’s adoption of the nonpartisan ballot was not the result of a grassroots movement. Rather, it was the initiative of the state legislators. Interestingly, the adoption of this system in Minnesota was somewhat of an accident. In 1913, there was a legislative proposal to require nonpartisan elections in municipal and judicial elections, a common proposal throughout the Progressive states in the early twentieth century. A. J. Rockne, leading a group of conservative Republicans, attempted to kill the bill by attaching a poison-pill amendment mandating nonpartisanship in state legislative elections, as well. Much to their surprise, it passed. Despite the nonpartisan intentions behind the bill, two dominant ideological factions—the Liberals and Conservatives—had formed in the state legislature by the late 1930s. Seth Masket argues that organized interests outside of the chamber served to maintain the legislative caucuses. Consequently, Minnesota’s nonpartisan legislative machinery did not last long, and the shift back to party balloting in 1973 was merely a “formality.” See Seth E. Masket, The Inevitable Party: Why Attempts to Kill the Party System Fail and How They Weaken Democracy (New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 84–104. It is likely that the different outcomes in Nebraska and Minnesota can be attributed to the different ways in which their nonpartisan legislatures were established. In Nebraska, it was a multiyear, public campaign. In Minnesota, it was rapid and largely contained within the confines of the state legislature. The lesson might be that such a monumental reform requires time, transparency, and public support.

67. Despite nonpartisan election processes, elected officials still have a Democrat or Republican affiliation, which voters can ascertain through other means. Seth Masket of University of Denver and Boris Shor of Georgetown University, for example, note: Newspaper and online coverage of campaigns often refers explicitly to the party affiliations of the candidates, and researchers and political activists can readily learn this information from the media, from state legislative voter records, and from a roster published by the state government. See Masket and Shor, “Polarization without Parties,” 4.

68. As noted by Masket: “There is no official majority or minority caucus in the legislature (known popularly as the Unicam), nor are there whips or party leaders. The Speaker is elected by his colleagues through a secret ballot, as are the chairs of all the standing committees.” See Masket and Shor, “Polarization without Parties,” 4.

69. Michael Dulaney, “Committee Structure of the Nebraska Legislature,” Nebraska Council of School Administrators, accessed February 10, 2018,

70. Kim Robak, the 35th Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska, said that “the Speaker does not owe the political party loyalty; rather, the Speaker owes allegiance to the members as a whole.” See Kim Robak, “The Nebraska Unicameral and Its Lasting Benefits,” Nebraska Law Review 76 (1997).

71. Lincoln Star, January 5, 1937, as cited in Berens, One House, 45.

72. Studies examining roll call voting in Nebraska consistently fail to find partisan underpinnings. Welch and Carlson identify a “randomness” in voting behavior by Nebraska legislators in a study of Nebraska’s roll call vote, with a notable decline in the relationship between party and roll call voting after 1947, relative to 1927 (when the legislature was partisan) and 1937 (when most members had previously served in the partisan legislature). Data from Eric H. Carlson and Susan Welch, “The Impact of Party on Voting Behavior in the Nebraska Legislature,” in Nonpartisanship in the Legislative Process, John C. Comer and James B. Johnson (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1978), as cited in John C. Comer, “The Nebraska Nonpartisan Legislature: An Evaluation,” State & Local Government Review 12, no. 3 (1980), 101. In their examination of at least mildly contentious roll calls in 1999–2000, Wright and Schaffner reaffirm that “Nebraska legislators vote with each other across issues almost at random.” See Gerald C. Wright and Brian F. Schaffner, “The Influence of Party: Evidence from the State Legislatures,” American Political Science Review 96, no. 2 (2002), 374. Again, using mildly contentious roll calls in 1999–2000, Schaffner found that “members of Nebraska’s parties are dispersed throughout the ideological space, with the distributions of both parties almost entirely overlapping.” See Brian F. Schaffner, “Political Parties and the Representativeness of Legislative Committees,” Legislative Studies Quarterly XXXII, no. 3 (August 2007), 489. However, Shor and McCarty captured state legislative roll call votes from 1993 through 2013 and found that the Nebraska legislature is not uniquely ideologically un-polarized, though it was in the mid-1990s. See Masket and Shor, “Polarization without Parties,” 5. This is likely related to the imposition of term limits starting in 2000. The law resulted in the forced retirement of a large cohort of incumbents in 2006, when the law first became effective. The parties exploited the cohort of forced retired legislators in 2006 to recruit, train, and fund candidates that will likely adhere to the party agenda.

73. Masket and Shor, “Polarization without Parties,” 6–10.

74. These outcomes have recently deteriorated due to the misguided implementation of term limits. Masket and Shor found that a Nebraska initiative that limited state legislators to two consecutive four-year terms, which passed in 2000, has had a major impact on polarization in the Unicameral. The law resulted in the forced retirement of a large cohort of incumbents in 2006, when the law first became effective. The parties exploited the cohort of forced retired legislators in 2006 to recruit, train, and fund candidates that will likely adhere to the party agenda. As a result, while the Nebraska state legislature was one of the least polarized in the country in the mid-1990s, it has now moved toward the middle of the pack (although it is still below average). See Masket and Shor, “Polarization without Parties.”

75. “Unicameral Update,” accessed February 25, 2018,

76. Mark Berman, “Nebraska Lawmakers Abolish the Death Penalty, Narrowly Overriding Governor’s Veto,” Washington Post, May 27, 2015,

77. “Nebraska Lawmakers Override Veto to Allow Undocumented to State License,” Fox News, April 12, 2016,

78. Press Release, Nebraska State Legislature, accessed February 2018,

79. We already see a great deal of energy around the idea of reengineering the legislative machinery in Washington. In addition to the Problem Solvers, there is now a bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which was spurred by Issue One and the Harvard Negotiation Project’s multiyear Rebuild Congress Initiative. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s “Congress That Works” project has devised a set of recommendations for how Congress can revamp its rules to become more efficient and effective. Other groups, including the R Street Institute and the Congressional Institute, are also actively working to promote structural innovation in Congress.

80. Nancy C. Unger, “Passive Citizenship Is Not Enough,” Origins, March 29, 2007,

81. “Liberty Medal Ceremony,” CNN, October 16, 2017,


1. State spending excludes federal transfers. State spending (FY 2017) from National Association of State Budget Officers, State Expenditure Report (Washington: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2018), “Archive of State Expenditure Report,” National Association of State Budget Officers, accessed June 2019,; author analysis (excludes spending of federal funds by states). Federal outlays data (FY 2017) from Congressional Budget Office, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2017 to 2027,” January 24, 2017, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2017 to 2027,” Congressional Budget Office, January 24, 2017,; author analysis.

2. Melinda Gates, “The Best Investment America Can Make,” CNN, April 20, 2017,

3. Seema Chowdhry, “Bill and Melinda Gates: The World Needs to Adapt to What’s Happening and What We Know Is Coming,” livemint, February 14, 2018,

4. David G. Crane, “Tithe to Democracy—Donate to Well-Meaning Candidates,” SFGATE, May 17, 2014,

5. Crane, “Tithe to Democracy.”

6. “Benjamin Franklin: Founding Father Quote,” Founding Father Quotes,

7. Suzy Platt, ed., “Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations Requested from the Congressional Research Service,” in Washington: Library of Congress, 1989, no. 1593, via, accessed March 2017,

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