The Marketplace of Democracy

Electoral Competition and American Politics

Since 1998, U.S. House incumbents have won a staggering 98 percent of their reelection races. Electoral competition is also low and in decline in most state and primary elections. The Marketplace of Democracy combines the resources of two eminent research organizations—the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute—to address the startling lack of competition in our democratic system. The contributors consider the historical development, legal background, and political aspects of a system that is supposed to be responsive and accountable yet for many is becoming stagnant, self-perpetuating, and tone-deaf. How did we get to this point, and what—if anything—should be done about it?

In The Marketplace of Democracy, top-tier political scholars also investigate the perceived lack of competition in arenas only previously speculated on, such as state legislative contests and congressional primaries. Michael McDonald, John Samples, and their colleagues analyze previous reform efforts such as direct primaries and term limits, and the effects they have had on electoral competition. They also examine current reform efforts in redistricting and campaign finance regulation, as well as the impact of third parties. In sum, what does all this tell us about what might be done to increase electoral competition?

Elections are the vehicles through which Americans choose who governs them, and the power of the ballot enables ordinary citizens to keep public officials accountable. This volume considers different policy options for increasing the competition needed to keep American politics vibrant, responsive, and democratic.


Brookings Forum: "The Marketplace of Democracy: A Groundbreaking Survey Explores Voter Attitudes About Electoral Competition and American Politics," October 27, 2006.

Podcast: "The Marketplace of Democracy: Electoral Competition and American Politics," a Capitol Hill briefing featuring Michael McDonald and John Samples, September 22, 2006.


Contributors: Stephen Ansolabehere (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), William D. Berry (Florida State University), Bruce Cain (University of California-Berkeley), Thomas M. Carsey (Florida State University), James G. Gimpel (University of Maryland), Tim Groseclose (University of California-Los Angeles), John Hanley (University of California-Berkeley), John mark Hansen (University of Chicago), Paul S. Herrnson (University of Maryland), Shigeo Hirano (Columbia University), Gary C. Jacobson (University of California-San Diego), Thad Kousser (University of California-San Diego), Frances E. Lee (University of Maryland), John C. Matsusaka (University of Southern California), Kenneth R. Mayer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Michael P. McDonald (Brookings Institution and George Mason University), Jeffrey Milyo (University of Missouri-Columbia), Richard G. Niemi (University of Rochester), Natheniel Persily (University of Pennsylvania Law School), Lynda W. Powell (University of Rochester), David Primo (University of Rochester), John Samples (Cato Institute), James M. Snyder Jr. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Timothy Werner (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Amanda Williams (University of Wisconsin-Madison).