First to the Party: The Group Origins of Party Transformation
My dissertation shows how two marginal social groups - civil rights activists in the 1940s and religious conservatives in the 1980s - achieved many of their goals by becoming core players in a political party. In each case, the group faced opposition within its chosen party but allied with friendly partisans to marginalize opponents and nominate politicians committed to their priorities. Trying to influence office holders whom the groups had no hand in nominating proved ineffective: office holders would promise benefits but do nothing that displaced core supporters or median voters. Mobilizing nonpolitical groups for political purposes was the road to success. In both cases, marginal social groups rather than politicians drove the process, creating transformed parties that would stand up for rather than straddle the issues they cared about.