Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Second Advisor

Edward Scott Adler

Third Advisor

Mark Pittenger


The historic Democratic Party-organized labor alliance, created during the New Deal and strengthened during the postwar era, has become increasingly strained. Scholars of various disciplines have identified causal mechanisms for this decay, focusing on the role that the Party, neoliberal ideology and labor unions have played in facilitating this decline. Rather than select the most salient explanation or promote an alternative causal mechanism, I argue that these factors are all the result of an inevitable social conflict underlying the alliance. By synthesizing the different casual mechanisms, I illustrate how these factors reinforce each other and develop an understanding of the antagonistic social constructs precipitating this conflict. As opposed to the result of economic shifts or policy changes, I argue that the collapse of the alliance was caused by the disparity between labor’s working class goals and the bourgeois expectations of Democratic Party. I conclude by arguing that continued cooperation within the party system constitutes an existential crisis for unions, and that the labor movement must seek a political strategy without the Democratic Party in order to prevent the subversion of its ideological and social foundations.