Legacies of Losing in American Politics
JMC fellow Jeffrey Tulis and Nicole Mellow recently co-authored a book examining how losing parties have influenced the course of American political history.
About the book
American politics is typically a story about winners. The fading away of defeated politicians and political movements is a feature of American politics that ensures political stability and a peaceful transition of power. But American history has also been built on defeated candidates, failed presidents, and social movements that at pivotal moments did not dissipate as expected but instead persisted and eventually achieved success for the loser’s ideas and preferred policies.
With Legacies of Losing in American Politics, Jeffrey K. Tulis and Nicole Mellow rethink three pivotal moments in American political history: the founding, when anti-Federalists failed to stop the ratification of the Constitution; the aftermath of the Civil War, when President Andrew Johnson’s plan for restoring the South to the Union was defeated; and the 1964 presidential campaign, when Barry Goldwater’s challenge to the New Deal order was soundly defeated by Lyndon B. Johnson. In each of these cases, the very mechanisms that caused the initial failures facilitated their eventual success. After the dust of the immediate political defeat settled, these seemingly discredited ideas and programs disrupted political convention by prevailing, often subverting, and occasionally enhancing constitutional fidelity. Tulis and Mellow present a nuanced story of winning and losing and offer a new understanding of American political development as the interweaving of opposing ideas.
Jeffrey Tulis is a professor in government at the University of Texas at Austin. His interests bridge the fields of political theory and American politics, including more specifically, American political development, constitutional theory, political philosophy and the American presidency. His publications include The Presidency in the Constitutional Order (LSU, 1981; Transaction, 2010), The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton, 1987), The Constitutional Presidency (Johns Hopkins 2009), The Limits of Constitutional Democracy (Princeton, 2010) and recent journal articles and chapters on constitutional interpretation, the logic of political change, and the meaning of political success. Four collections of essays on The Rhetorical Presidency with responses by Tulis have been published, including a special double issue of Critical Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Politics and Society, (2007), where his book is described as “one of the two or three most important and perceptive works written by a political scientist in the twentieth century.”
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