AUTHOR'S NOTE: I thank my Tulane colleague, Mark Vail, for permittingme to borrow in this article from our ongoing collaborative project, presently a paper by the title “Bound by Ideas and Institutions: Comparing the US and UK Responses to the Fiscal Crisis.” I would also like to thank the other participants and audience members at the conference on Governing the United States in Polarized Times at the Rothermere American Institute of the University of Oxford. I am particularly grateful for the probing comments of George Edwards, who organized the conference, and Gary Gerstle, the Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at Oxford.
SYMPOSIUM ON GOVERNING IN POLARIZED TIMES
Making Stale Debates Fresh Again: The Defense of Ideology as a Regime Imperative
Article first published online: 24 OCT 2013
© 2013 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Special Issue: Symposium on Governing in Polarized Times
Volume 43, Issue 4, pages 753–774, December 2013
How to Cite
Langston, T. S. (2013), Making Stale Debates Fresh Again: The Defense of Ideology as a Regime Imperative. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 43: 753–774. doi: 10.1111/psq.12065
- Issue published online: 24 OCT 2013
- Article first published online: 24 OCT 2013
Upon taking office, President Barack Obama celebrated the apparent end of ideology in American politics. He celebrated too soon. Despite Obama's own disavowal of ideology, and the substantial continuities between his response to economic crisis and that of his Republican predecessor, ideology came roaring back into American public life in the remarkable 2009 Summer of Hate. Since then, anti-Statist crusaders on the right have forced the president, despite reelection, to the defensive, and presumably stale debates over the size of government and the sanctity of the market have once again figured prominently in national debate. This article explores the resurgence of anti-Statist ideology, arguing that the interventionist policies of Obama and George W. Bush constituted a regime crisis for the modern Republican Party and its allied extrapartisan institutions, which helps to explain the depth as well as breadth of recent efforts to reassert the relevance of free-market principles. Unlike Franklin Roosevelt, Obama's partisan forefather to whom he is frequently compared, Obama's freedom to maneuver has been seriously constrained by a network of “neoliberal” institutions and norms that was momentarily shaken, but not forsaken, in the financial crisis and ensuing recession.