America’s Three Regimes: A New Political History, by Morton Keller
How is it that a nation changes its regime? It is the author’s belief that America has had three regimes over the course of its political history and that the shift between these regimes has been notable, and also that these regimes have struggled to deal with various aspects of the political life of Americans. If slavery and economic development were problems for American for a long period, and if deference is so remote in the historical sense that few people remember it as important in history, then it is impossible to ignore the nature of the contemporary regime of populism and bureaucracy. If you have an interest in the regimes that underlie political trends, this book is certainly one that is easy to enjoy and appreciate and I have to say that I liked and enjoyed reading this book. The author doesn’t try to predict what will happen in the future and given the problems of our contemporary days, that is probably for the best. We are definitely in a crisis relating to the tension between bureaucracy and populism, and it is unclear what exactly is on the other side of that crisis, whether it is a new regime or simply what the author considers a new polity.
This particular book is about 300 pages long and is divided in four parts and twelve chapters. The author begins with acknowledgements and an introduction that discusses and introduces the regimes of America’s political history. After that there is a discussion of the deferential-republican regime that was brought over with the colonists from the British politics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (I), discussing old ways and new (1), the Republican nature of the American Revolution (2) and the transition from factions to parties (3). After that the author discusses the democratic polity during the antebellum period where the party-democratic regime got started in the Age of Jackson (II), with chapters discussing the culture of Democratic party politics (4), the governing of a democratic polity (5), and the crisis that involved slavery and sectionalism (6). This is followed by a discussion of the industrial polity of the party-democratic regime that lasted until the Great Depression (III), with chapters on the politicos (7) and their power, the state of parties and courts (8) that took place starting in the late 19th century, and the progressive interlude towards the end of this period (9). The last part of the book then discusses the contemporary populist-bureaucratic regime that is often politely viewed as the deep state and its opponents (IV), with chapters discussing the rise of this regime in the Great Depression (10), the relationship between bureaucracy and democracy (11), and the tension between populism and party (12), after which the author gives an epilogue about demographic trends and notes and an index.,
Why should we care about the regimes that a nation has? What is it that governments are supposed to do in the first place? They are supposed to serve the interests of the people. These interests and the people vary widely based on perspective. And governments have not always done a good job at serving those people who did not benefit them and whose interests were not the interests of the elites themselves. And to some extent that is still the case even now, as there are people who do not feel well-served by politics of deference, by crony politics, by bureaucracy, populism, or anything else for that matter. To some extent, regimes serve people based on the sort of communication and regard and mutual benefit that rests between people and those who seek to use that base of support as a means of gaining or maintaining political power. And America’s history with regards to politics has been a very competitive one, where there is some serious question about the nature of the trends that we deal with and what they look like in a world that appears to be in a continual state of disagreement and crisis.