America’s Democratic Revolutions

Historical victories over dominating factions & prospects for a democratic future

Chapters

1. Democracy in America
Part I: Factions & parties in American democratization
2. Dominating & democratizing factions in the political parties
3. Factions in party realignments, 1840-2020
4. Factions in public opinion, 1935-2020
5. Historical mechanisms behind America’s democratic revolutions
Part II: Views on democratizing America today
6. Public views & changing minds
7. Practitioners’ views on democratization
8. Making a democratic future

Summary: This book aims to broadly trace the history of American democratization and its future prospects, focused on the interplay of groups and parties and the mechanisms they use to achieve their aims.

American society has always been comprised of dominating and democratizing factions, each of which fight either to retain & expand the illegitimate predominance of dominant groups (race, religion, sex, & class) or which fight to democratize the United States toward equal representation & equal rights for all.

Dominating factions are portions of dominant groups & likeminded allies that seek to retain the social, economic, & political dominance of their group, often by rallying against democracy in a particular identity domain. Democratizing factions tend to be far more diverse, comprising activists from marginalized groups as well as allies from a broad cross-section of society.

Factions of both types tend to be most successful when they win influence within political parties. Thus, studying alignments of dominating and democratizing factions within parties is essential to understanding the ebb of flow of American democracy in the past, & prospects and paths for democratization ahead.

Chapter 2 fleshes out this theory of dominating and democratizing factions in parties and their relation to American democracy. Chapter 3 traces factional (re)alignments and their democratic implications from 1840 to the present with a content analysis of party campaign platforms, concluding with all dominating factions aligned within today’s Republican Party. Chapter 4 follows factional alignments in public opinion surveys from the 1930s to the present, finding significant but fainter factional distinctions in the mass public, as we’d expect among a relatively less attentive public.

Chapter 5 reviews historical mechanisms for American democratization in federal, state, and local governments, ranging from routine policies in areas like local policing practices to law-making, and from constitutional interpretation to wholesale reconstitution through popular sovereignty, as with America’s first two constitutions. The chapter also considers the historical roles of organized movements, interest groups, & parties influencing government.

The rest of the book focuses on democratizing the U.S. today and in decades to come. Chapter 6 documents public support for equalizing votes and rights in ways alternately mundane and sweeping, and it experimentally tests how these preliminary views respond to persuasive efforts. Chapter 7 surveys and interviews political practitioners on their democratization views—not just preferences, but also their practical perceptions of whether, when, & how many forms of democratization can be achieved. Both chapters assess public & practitioner support for various democratizing mechanisms in the future, plus practitioner perceptions of what it will take to successfully implement each of the mechanisms.

Chapter 8 concludes with a review of arguments & evidence and a final appeal to continue the centuries-long project of democratizing America.