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Dominant Regimes and the Demise of Urban Democracy


Jessica Trounstine is assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544.


Theorists of democracy assert that government is held accountable and responsive to citizens through the electoral process. Elections can offer citizens representative government, but only when certain conditions are met. I provide evidence that when elections become uncompetitive for long periods of time and political coalitions establish dominant regimes the distribution of government benefits changes. Examining twentieth-century political patterns in nine of the United States' largest cities, I find that dominant regimes establish electoral control, then target core supporters and powerful interests at the expense of the larger community.