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The Presidents Politics Made

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2011


At one time, political science greatly influenced the writing of American history. Pioneers of “the new political history” brought critical elections theory, roll-call analysis, the idea of party systems, and a model of ethno-cultural voting to bear on the Jacksonian era, the problem of the coming of the Civil War, Gilded Age politics, and Progressivism in ways that permanently altered interpretation. The influence of political science is not very great now. Political history itself shriveled before the New Social History. Massive energies were applied to writing the history of people who could not vote during most or all of the nineteenth century. The old political models soon had a nonbehaviorist rival, born and bred within the discipline of history itself, the idea of a persistent and transforming “republican ideology,” first and most powerfully described by Bernard Bailyn in 1967. Even within political history, the old models of voting behavior borrowed from political science left an implausible and unsatisfying gulf between voting and platform, political behavior and belief, practice and ideology. The disciplines turned inward again.

Copyright © The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 1996

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2. See Lacy K. Ford's review of David F. Ericson, The Shaping of American Liberalism: The Debates over Ratification, Nullification, and Slavery, and Greenstone, J. David, The Lincoln Persuasion: Remaking American Liberalism in the Journal of Southern History 61 (February 1995): 136–38Google Scholar. Sorauf, Francis J. in Political Science: An Informal Overview (Columbus, Oh., 1965)Google Scholar stated that “as political science has moved into a closer alliance with the social and behavioral sciences … historical studies have found less favor than they did earlier” (34).

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7. Ibid., 1:420.

8. Ibid., 4:190.

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10. Holt, “Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Union,” 124.

11. Ibid., 114.

12. Holt (114) does say that Lincoln “had to worry about winning statewide pluralities,” but he nowhere factors the state-by-state approach dictated by that into his consideration of the effects of tailoring policies for a “national electorate.”

13. Holt, “Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Union,” 115.

14. I included Pennsylvania despite the greater than one percent margin in favor of the congressional average because Lincoln's vote exceeded the median, surely the more significant figure in a calculation dealing with different congressional districts rather than the margin of all victorious Republicans per state.

15. Basler, Collected Works of Lincoln, 8:46.

16. Ibid., 6:328.

17. Holt, “Abraham Lincoln and the Politics of Union,” 117.

18. Ibid., 117–18.

19. Paludan, Philip S., The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln (Lawrence, Kans., 1994)Google Scholar, and Clements, Kendrick A., The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson (Lawrence, Kan., 1992).Google Scholar

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