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Legacies of Losing in American Politics$
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Jeffrey K. Tulis and Nicole Mellow

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226515298

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226515465.001.0001

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Political Failure, and Success

Political Failure, and Success

Chapter:
(p.1) 1 Political Failure, and Success
Source:
Legacies of Losing in American Politics
Author(s):

Jeffrey K. Tulis

Nicole Mellow

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226515465.003.0001

American political history is almost always a story of winners. There are very few accounts of the losers in American politics, and the accounts that exist tend to describe losing as a lost opportunity for winning. This chapter introduces the stunning significance of major losers in American politics whose losses transformed themselves into successes over time. At the three crucial junctures in American political development—the Founding, Reconstruction, and the New Deal—the losers of those contests, the Anti-Federalists, Andrew Johnson, and Barry Goldwater respectively, were able to transform abject defeat into long-term policy and ideational success. Challenging two major synoptic accounts of American political development, this new interpretation forces a rethinking of the very notions of winning and losing, success and failure. The chapter explores the idea of reversal, that in some political contests it might be better to lose than to win and offers a new understanding of agency, by exploring how actions taken that may have led to immediate political loss may nonetheless facilitate the long term success of the losing political vision. This reconsideration of conventional political vocabulary may hold interest for an array of political scientists and to students of American political development.

Keywords:   Founding, Reconstruction, New Deal, Anti-Federalists, Andrew Johnson, Barry Goldwater, synoptic, reversal, agency, American political development

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