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Law and the Polarization of American Politics

39 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2009 Last revised: 11 Jan 2011

Stephen E. Gottlieb

Albany Law School


Changes in American law have played a major role in creating the partisan environment that many denounce. These changes have involved parallel trends in the law of political campaigns and elections and the law of mass communications. The collective impact of these changes has not been appreciated. This article brings these developments together and identifies their collective impact.

The article demonstrates how legal regulation shaped the centrism of the mid-twentieth century and regulatory shifts in media and election law shaped the partisanship of recent decades. Sensible proposals will not and should not bring the naive centrism of earlier decades back. But they might curb the excesses of contemporary politics.

Keywords: politics, political campaigns, elections, mass communication, centrism, election law

Suggested Citation

Gottlieb, Stephen E., Law and the Polarization of American Politics. Georgia State University Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 339, 2009; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 9. Available at SSRN:

Stephen E. Gottlieb (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-445-2348 (Phone)

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