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The State of Disunion

Regional Sources of Modern American Partisanship

Nicole Mellow

Publication Year: 2008

Why are some eras of American politics characterized by broad, bipartisan harmony and others by rancorous partisanship? In The State of Disunion, Nicole Mellow argues that these oscillations are a product of how the two major parties respond, or fail to respond, to the demands of regional constituents. While scholars have long believed that in the twentieth century the nation supplanted regions as the engine of American politics, Mellow uncovers a contrary dynamic. She shows the ways that the clashes and confluences of regional interests reconstruct the nation. By giving regions pride of place, The State of Disunion offers a compelling explanation of how America went from the consensus of the early post-World War II decades to a fractured, "red versus blue" country at the close of the twentieth century. According to Mellow, regions remain a vital consideration in electoral battles because they fuse material and ideological expectations of voters. This wide-ranging analysis of congressional battles over trade, welfare, and abortion since the 1960s demonstrates how regional economic, racial, and cultural divisions have configured national party building and today's legislative conflicts and how these divisions will continue to shape American politics for years to come. The State of Disunion broadens social scientists' understanding of American politics by displaying the conceptual insights of political geography combined with the rich tapestry of political history. Mellow offers a new way to comprehend the meaning and significance of American partisanship for our time and for the future.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

CONTENTS

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pp. v-

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. vii-viii

Many individuals contributed to the development of the ideas that are expressed in these pages, and I owe all of them a great debt for what they have taught me about politics. My deep gratitude goes to Peter Trubowitz and Walter Dean Burnham for nurturing my interest in political geography while I was a graduate student at the...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-12

THE 2000 U.S. presidential campaign began as a relatively forgettable season, not nearly as exciting as the parties’ respective primary seasons, but by its end it had become a drama that transfixed the nation—the world, really—for five weeks beyond election night. At its center were the major party candidates, Democrat Al Gore, the sitting vice president, and Republican George W. Bush, the governor of Texas. The voting on election night was...

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1 RECASTING REGION

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pp. 13-28

GEOGRAPHY HAS been both the promise and the challenge of American union since the founding. While advocates of the Constitution saw the size and diversity of the territory they proposed to incorporate as the best way to secure liberty, many were critical of the effort to create a strong centralized government that would displace the power of the individual states. Prominent among the skeptics was the anti-federalist Cato, who...

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2 REGIME CHANGE: FROM THE NEW DEAL STATE TO THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION

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pp. 29-45

FROM THE 1930s to the mid-1960s, the public philosophy of the New Deal Democratic Party defined American politics. National institutions reflected the ideas and served the key interests of the Democratic coalition. The regime produced Keynesian fiscal policy, the bureaucratic welfare state, a social contract between labor and capital, and containment of Soviet communism...

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3 SUN BELT RISING: GLOBALIZATION AND REGIONAL CHANGES ON TRADE POLICY

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pp. 46-81

INTENSE CONFLICT over tariffs and trade defined much of nineteenth-century regional and party politics, but after Franklin D. Roosevelt secured passage of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act in 1934 and with the rise of the Cold War, serious dispute receded and free trade became the norm. Following Roosevelt, New Deal Democrats continued to author the country’s free trade regime into the 1960s, and broad sections of both parties...

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4 CHANGE COMES TO THE COTTON BELT: RACE, REGION, AND THE POLITICS OF WELFARE POLICY

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pp. 82-130

IN 1996, the federal government terminated what had been the country’s premier program of cash assistance to poor families, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the origins of which rested in the Social Security legislation of the New Deal. The 1996 welfare reform legislation did away with the entitlement status of AFDC, instituting...

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5 THE POLITICAL RESURRECTION OF THE BIBLE BELT: RELIGION, MODERNIZATION, AND THE INTENSIFICATION OF ABORTION POLITICS

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pp. 131-163

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT’S 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, establishing a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion, brought the issue of abortion into the national political arena. The landmark decision also launched one of the most controversial political battles of the last thirty years. Related legislative proposals in Congress began immediately. The Court...

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6 A HOUSE DIVIDED: THE GEOGRAPHY OF PARTIES AND CONFLICT

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pp. 164-179

IN 1858, ABRAHAM LINCOLN famously described the country as “a house divided against itself.” The Civil War that began shortly thereafter was easily the period of the country’s greatest geographical strife. At the conclusion of the war, with the Union preserved and slavery abolished, the country was reborn in its “second founding.” Unsurprisingly,...

APPENDIX A. RESEARCH METHOD AND CASE SELECTION

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pp. 181-183

APPENDIX B. CONGRESSIONAL VOTE ANALYSIS

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pp. 184-187

NOTES

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pp. 189-222

INDEX

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pp. 223-228


E-ISBN-13: 9780801896460
E-ISBN-10: 0801896460
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801888168
Print-ISBN-10: 0801888166

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 20 line illustrations
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Political culture -- United States.
  • Political participation -- United States.
  • Opposition (Political science) -- United States.
  • Political parties -- United States.
  • Divided government -- United States.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 2001-2009.
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