The Demise of the American Convention System, 1880–1911
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- Author: John F. Reynolds, University of Texas, San Antonio
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During the nineteenth century American political parties selected their candidates for elective offices in conventions. Around 1910 most states established a system of direct primaries whereby the voters selected their parties' nominees for public office. This book examines the transition from the indirect to the direct primary, as well as its implications for American politics. It offers a systematic analysis of the convention system in four states (New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado and California) and the legislative history of the regulation of political parties during the Progressive Era. It argues that the major political parties themselves were chiefly responsible for doing away with the nominating convention. Candidates played a pivotal role in inaugurating the new nominating system as they became more open and aggressive in pursuit of their parties' nominations. The convention system was never designed to withstand the pressures exerted on it by a more competitive nominating process.Read more
- Reverses the conventional view of the relationship between institutional changes (the direct primary) and political behavior (the candidate-centered campaign)
- Makes extensive use of primary source material (newspapers, letters, government documents) as well as statistical analysis
- Documents the workings of the largely neglected convention system of nominating candidates for elective office
Reviews & endorsements
Impressively researched, analytically sophisticated, persuasively argued, this book revises much of what scholars have believed about American political parties and political reform around the turn of the twentieth century. By carefully examining the interaction between party structures and political candidates, John Reynolds clarifies the evolution of nominating practices from the convention system to the direct primary and more broadly illuminates the disputed relationship between behavioral and institutional changes in American politics. Both historians and political scientists will welcome this fresh and provocative work. Peter H. Argersinger, Southern Illinois UniversitySee more reviews
John Reynolds's book is of central importance for all political scientists and historians who are interested in party development. A richly detailed study of how the nomination process was transformed at the state level in the late 19th century, it shows that the origins of a candidate-centered style of politics in America are much older than many scholars have believed them to be. It is a book that should be read widely and it will deserve all the praise that will surely come its way. Alan Ware, Oxford University
"A most informative political and historical analysis." - Choice
"An important study that adds considerably to our knowledge of party practices and party organization between 1880 and 1911."
R. Hal Williams, The Journal of American History
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- Date Published: November 2006
- format: Adobe eBook Reader
- isbn: 9780511247880
- availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
Table of Contents
2. The search for harmony
3. Emergence of the hustling candidate
4. Coping with competition
5. The pivot of reform
6. The direct primary in the reform tradition.
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