Each presidential election in the United States sees the candidates making the same argument in mobilizing their supporters: “This election,” they say, “is the most important of our generation.” In 2016, Hillary Clinton took this argument as far as it could go: voting for her was a vote to preserve Barack Obama’s legacy; voting for Donald Trump was nothing less than a vote to destroy the United States.
Interviewed by The Nation just following the election, Stephen Skowronek, a professor of political science at Yale, presented a more nuanced version of these moments. In his eyes, the history of the presidency is divided into broad political regimes, each dominated by a certain ideology. The end of the nineteenth century, for example, was ruled by the Whig laissez-faire ideology. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 began another, more liberal regime organized around the new institutions of the New Deal. Since 1980, we’ve seen the regime in which the conservative revolution dominated.