My dissertation, Sexuality Politics and Political Cleavage Development in the US and Canada, is a book project that traces the development of political cleavages on abortion and LGBT issues in the US and Canada between 1968 and 2018. Existing work points to cross-country differences in public opinion or political culture to explain why it took longer for partisan conflict on these issues to emerge in Canada. I argue instead for an organizational explanation. I focus on interest groups and political parties as key actors.
Through extensive primary source work, I show that organizations’ strategic decisions to either minimize or promote partisan division are crucial to explaining different paths of cleavage development in the US and Canada. These strategic decisions are based on how organizations perceive political opportunities and constraints. To support this argument, I draw on a range of materials, including restricted materials from private archives, interviews and oral histories, newspapers, public opinion polls, surveys of convention delegates, roll call voting records, party platforms, and observations from attending movement events.
This project contributes to our understanding of gender and sexuality politics in Canada as well as of party position change more broadly. I show that small, overlooked organizations are essential to understanding when and how Canadian political parties have polarized on issues of gender and sexuality. In this way, my dissertation speaks more broadly to the underappreciated role of interest groups in Canada politics (including in party politics) and to the transformation of Canadian parties over the past several decades from brokerage parties to more ideologically distinct parties.
This research received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Princeton’s Fund for Canadian Studies, and Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion.