The Gift of Gridlock: Divided Government, Bureaucratic Autonomy, and the Politics of Rulemaking in the American States
Scholars of American politics debate the consequences of polarized and divided government on lawmaking, but have largely neglected the impact of institutional conflict on the policy outputs of the bureaucracy. We argue that gridlock empowers bureaucrats, as conflict in lawmaking creates opportunities and demands for civil servants to pursue policy goals through rulemaking.
To explore these dynamics, we draw upon a comprehensive dataset of over 150,000 proposed and adopted rules issued by U.S. state agencies from 1994 through 2009. This allows us to model aggregate and policy-specific changes in rulemaking over time. Our focus on the states contributes to a fuller understanding of the way governments manage policymaking during times of political conflict, as we find that the volume of state rulemaking increases during divided government.
Graeme Boushey is associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, where he teaches courses in American politics, public policy, and California politics. He is a core faculty member in the Master in Public Policy (MPP) program, and an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Democracy.