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Pivotal Politics Symposium

November 7, 2017 @ 8:30 am - 1:30 pm

Politicians and pundits alike have complained that the divided governments of the last decades have led to legislative gridlock. Not so, argues Keith Krehbiel, who advances in Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U.S. Lawmaking the provocative theory that divided government actually has little effect on legislative productivity. Gridlock is in fact the order of the day, occurring even when the same party controls the legislative and executive branches.

Meticulously researched and anchored to real politics, Krehbiel argues that the pivotal vote on a piece of legislation is not the one that gives a bill a simple majority, but the vote that allows its supporters to override a possible presidential veto or to put a halt to a filibuster. This theory of pivots also explains why, when bills are passed, winning coalitions usually are bipartisan and supermajority sized.

Offering an incisive account of when gridlock is overcome and showing that political parties are less important in legislative-executive politics than previously thought, Pivotal Politics remakes our understanding of American lawmaking. 

Focus of the symposium: Pivotal Politics was first published in 1998, and it has had considerable influence in shaping the field of American Politics.  Symposium participants will ask: how well, after almost 20 years, has the theory held up?  Does a focus on pivotal votes in Congress still help explain the lawmaking process?  How do data, methodological, and theoretical advances in political science over the last two decades shape how we view pivotal politics today?  And to what degree will the theory continue to have influence in the future?

Keith Krehbiel is the Edward B. Rust Professor of Political Science at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where he has taught courses on foundations of political economy, legislative politics, business-government relations, and ethics since 1986. He specializes in political institutions and has published two books and dozens of articles on U.S. politics and governmental processes. Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U.S. Lawmaking received both the Fenno Prize (for best book on legislative politics) and the Neustadt Prize (for best book on the presidency) from the APSA.


November 7, 2017
8:30 am - 1:30 pm
Event Category:


Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall
650 Childs Way, Room 308, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Los Angeles, CA 90089 US
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Bedrosian Center on Governance and Office of the Provost
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Bedrosian Center