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12 - Conclusion: Madison Upside Down

The Policy Roots of Our Polarized Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2014

Paul Pierson
University of California, Berkeley
Jeffery A. Jenkins
University of Virginia
Sidney M. Milkis
University of Virginia
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This book’s core theme is the centrality of policy contestation to modern American politics. Of course, policy has always been of tremendous importance. Contests for political office matter because the winners get to exercise (within constitutional limits) authority, allocating value among competing claimants. Throughout the nation’s history, core political conflicts have been organized around competing views on policy. Yet Orren and Skowronek are right to stress the distinctive focus on policy as a marker of contemporary politics, and the contributors to this volume rightly follow that lead.

The valuable contributions to this volume explore aspects of this transformation in some of the key policy sectors of modern governance. In this chapter, I take a step back from the narratives of individual policy areas to consider the broad consequences of this transformation – in particular its connection to the emergence of intense partisan contestation. As the chapters in this volume make clear, each policy area has its own distinctive features. Taken as a whole, however, they can help us see how the rise of the “policy state” has altered our politics in fundamental ways.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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