Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2023


While the platonic ideal of Democracy holds that government should be conducted in the interest of the people, in reality, various incentives motivate the creation of legislation. Electoral success is the most notable of these incentives, a goal that any politician who desires political influence must achieve. As legislators engage in the policymaking process, the realities of attaining and sustaining power through elections forces politicians to consider the needs of special interest groups and partisan success, rather than material concerns about the distribution of scarce resources, when crafting legislation. My research examines conflicts over trade policy in the post-Civil War era that preceded the “great debate” over tariffs in the election of 1888, and considers how electoral politics influenced policymakers. From my research, I gleaned numerous valuable insights regarding the relationship between elections and policy making, leading me to conclude that elections did not distort the influence of interest groups but rather made politicians more receptive to the views of their constituents. My research additionally provided an account of how voters balance considerations. Contrary to expectations, my study indicated that in this election, voters were more motivated by reactions to past legislation rather than expectations of future legislation.



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