Regina Wagner and Byron E. Shafer, “The Trump Presidency and the Structure of Modern American Politics.” Journal Article

The Trump Presidency and the Structure of Modern American Politics

Regina Wagner (University of Alabama) and Byron E. Shafer (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

Perspectives on Politics (Volume 17, issue 2 (expected June 2019) Online Publication: October 29th 2018


How much of politics is specific to its actors and how much is the reflection of an established structure is a perennial concern of political analysts, one that becomes especially intense with the candidacy and then the presidency of Donald Trump. In order to have a template for assigning the outcomes of politics to structure rather than idiosyncrasy, we begin with party balance, ideological polarization, substantive content, and a resulting process of policy-making drawn from the immediate postwar period. The analysis then jumps forward with that same template to the modern world, dropping first the Trump candidacy and then the Trump presidency into this framework. What emerges is a modern electoral world with increased prospects for what might be called off-diagonal candidacies and a policy-making process that gathers Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump together as the modern presidents.