The Hollow Parties: The Many Pasts and Disordered Present of American Party Politics

Princeton Univ. (Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives). May 2024. 448p. ISBN 9780691248554. $35. POL SCI
What sets this book apart from others about American political parties is its sense of urgency. Schlozman (political science, Johns Hopkins Univ.; When Movements Anchor Parties) and Rosenfeld (political science, Colgate Univ.; The Polarizers) offer a historic perspective of the present-day political dysfunction. They track the changing nature of political parties, from the early-1800s Jacksonian period to the rampant right-wing populism of today’s Republican Party, and chart the demise of the New Deal alignments in the 1970s and the subsequent increase in polarization within the Democratic Party. These trends resulted in parties becoming hollowed out and replaced by networks of special-interest groups, which the book calls “party blobs.” Six kinds of party alignments form the historic framework of the book: accommodationist, anti-party, pro-capital, policy reform, radical, and populist. (The book’s focus is on national parties as opposed to local politics.) The major political figures and movements within each group are discussed in rich detail and documented in nearly 100 pages of notes. Schlozman and Rosenfeld argue forcefully for a resurgence of robust parties to get U.S. politics back on track.
VERDICT A work of impressive scholarship. Will appeal to readers seeking to understand the unraveling of U.S. politics.
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