Modern presidents are usually depicted as party "predators" who neglect their parties, exploit them for personal advantage, or undercut their organizational capacities. Challenging this view, Presidential Party Building demonstrates that every Republican president since Dwight D. Eisenhower worked to build his party into a more durable political organization while every Democratic president refused to do the same. Yet whether they supported their party or stood in its way, each president contributed to the distinctive organizational trajectories taken by the two parties in the modern era.
Unearthing new archival evidence, Daniel Galvin reveals that Republican presidents responded to their party's minority status by building its capacities to mobilize voters, recruit candidates, train activists, provide campaign services, and raise funds. From Eisenhower's "Modern Republicanism" to Richard Nixon's "New Majority" to George W. Bush's hopes for a partisan realignment, Republican presidents saw party building as a means of forging a new political majority in their image. Though they usually met with little success, their efforts made important contributions to the GOP's cumulative organizational development. Democratic presidents, in contrast, were primarily interested in exploiting the majority they inherited, not in building a new one. Until their majority disappeared during Bill Clinton's presidency, Democratic presidents eschewed party building and expressed indifference to the long-term effects of their actions.
Bringing these dynamics into sharp relief, Presidential Party Building offers profound new insights into presidential behavior, party organizational change, and modern American political development.
"Galvin's account of all this is disciplined and scholarly, with accordingly focused conclusions."--Charles Homans, Washington Monthly
"Conventional wisdom holds that US presidents make the most of the office by either focusing on reelection or building a personal legacy that historians will remember. Presidents are expected to be less interested in building their political parties. Galvin successfully challenges this simplification by demonstrating that Republican presidents since the New Deal consistently and energetically sought to strengthen the organizational capacity of the GOP, using the power of the office to further the goal of making the Republicans the new majority party. . . . The book is an important contribution to the literature on the presidency and offers a fine research design model for qualitative social scientists."--Choice
"In an exceptionally well-researched and beautifully written book, Daniel Galvin . . . fundamentally alters our understanding of presidents' contributions to the development of political parties. Presidential Party Building will likely become a classic in the field, both for its substantive contributions and for its conceptual and analytical innovations. . . . It will be tremendously illuminating for scholars of the presidency, party politics, American political development, and political organizations."--Jesse H. Rhodes, The Forum
"Students of presidential politics since 1960 will encounter important new findings in this book. Daniel Galvin's book explains in careful empirical detail the impact of post-1952 presidents upon their respective political parties. Galvin's method involves comparative case studies based on meticulous research of reliable sources. It is an impressive summary of the actual historical record of president-party interactions."--Steven E. Schier, Political Science Quarterly
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