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Opportunities and Constraints on Mayoral Behavior: A Historical‐Institutional Approach

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A theoretical perspective that situates mayoral behavior within broader patterns of partisan competition is asserted here as a more satisfying explanatory framework for mayoral leadership than rival theories that focus on personality. Behavior is structured by the mayor's relationship toward the regime in power. Mayors are either affiliated or independent of the regime, and regimes are either strong or weak. Four leadership postures result, and case studies are used to demonstrate the robustness of the approach. Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley (1954–76) practiced reconstructive politics by modernizing the city's Democrat political machine. Atlanta mayor Andrew Young (1982–90) practiced the politics of articulation by upholding the commitments of the city's African‐American electoral coalition. New York City mayor David Dinkins (1990–93) practiced disjunctive politics when the liberal order to which he was faithful suffered a crisis of legitimacy. Finally, Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich (1977–79) practiced preemptive politics by challenging the robust regime of party regulars and bankers in his city with little success.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: College of Staten Island, CUNY

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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