Making Parties Safe for Democracy: Political Development and the Lineage of Legitimate Party Opposition in the United States


ACLS Fellowship Program


Government and Legal Studies


America’s founders fully expected that political parties would form in a free society; they were far less certain, however, that parties, once formed, would peaceably transfer power one to the other. How did the expectation that parties would reliably transfer power emerge? The standard explanation assumes that the idea of a party system gained ground as the polity became more democratic. This study makes the case that the idea of a party system was most fully realized when the federal government secured a monopoly over the exercise of violence, laying to rest the danger that party opposition might lead to a secessionist crisis or civil war.