This volume explores the development of political parties in nineteenth-century United States of America through an extensive analysis of the official statements by a party in an election, the party platforms, and their connection with political elites and voters. Platforms indicate how party leaders reconciled local, state, and national conflicts and articulated their electoral appeals to various constituencies by showing discussions of their respective policies. Thus, party platforms are a valuable vehicle to assess electoral strategy and party development.
By focusing on the platforms of the major political parties—Democrats, Whigs, and Republicans—at the state and national levels in presidential elections from 1840 to 1896, the author identifies three salient patterns. First, platforms reference economic policy more frequently and to a greater degree than other policy areas. Second, national policies are discussed more than state policies. And third, over time, the content of the platforms becomes more similar, reflecting the nationalization of the party system.
This examination of nineteenth-century American party platforms traces political party development as a dynamic process involving partisanship, the presentation of internally coherent and consistent messages to voters, and polarization, the existence of conflicting policy positions across parties.
Adam Silver is associate professor of political science at Emmanuel College.
Chapter 1: Parties, Platforms, and American Political Development
Chapter 2: Party Platforms
Chapter 3: Overall Findings
Chapter 4: Economics
Chapter 5: Statism
Chapter 6: Culture
Chapter 7: Government and Political Institutions
Chapter 8: Black Enslavement and Civil Rights
Chapter 9: Foreign Policy
Chapter 10: Labor
Silver adds to 19th-century American political history by exploring how elite politicians’ understanding of voter demands shaped the creation and presentation of politics in the US electoral system in 1840–96…. Silver draws heavily on contemporary newspapers and almanacs to assess state political platforms—a method that enables him to depict the time, place, and conditions under which the parties emphasized the subject proposals in their platforms…. Silver’s book will prove useful to scholars interested in politics in non-presidential election years and minor political parties. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.
In Partisanship and Polarization, Adam Silver presents an impressively detailed content analysis of national and state party platforms in the 19th century. Silver shows parties consistently used policy issues – including economic policies, the role of the state, and civil rights – to differentiate themselves from each other. And the results show that while state parties initially relied on regional variation in policies to appeal to voters, by the end of the period parties had nationalized – producing a uniform policy agenda at the national and state level. Meticulously researched, Partisanship and Polarization will be an invaluable source to scholars of political parties and American Political Development more broadly.
Partisanship and Polarization: American Party Platforms, 1840-1896 is a valuable contribution to the scholarship on party development in the United States. Silver deftly uses the major party platforms of this era to understand the complex relationships between the party elites who negotiate and craft platforms and the electorate to whom the platforms are designed to appeal, and who ultimately decide whether the party elites are successful in their ultimate goals of winning elections and exercising the power of government.
In this impressive book, Adam Silver draws upon a rich new data source to understand party development in the United States. Silver’s content analysis of state and national party platforms from 1840-1896 generates valuable insights into the dynamics of party competition in a pivotal era in American history.
Throughout the 19th century, political parties in America crafted increasingly national, increasingly adversarial coalitions. With thorough attention to nuance, Silver reveals, explores and explains the contours of this coalition building and maintenance through state and national party platforms.