Brumer, S. (2022). Reaching the Fifty Nifty United States: The Four Eras of American Statehood Politics. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14418/wes01.1.2590
American statehood politics is the study of the structures and incentives that underline the creation of new states. It focuses on instances when states were added in service of political goals that are unrelated to the state in question. Because the US Senate guarantees all states two Senators, one potential unrelated goal could be shifting the balance of Congress. Indeed, much of the current statehood politics literature focuses on the theory of how and why American institutions like the Senate allowed statehood to become political. Much less attention has been paid to the history of how this politicization has manifested throughout American history. Current research in this area often focuses on specific moments, investigation questions like why there are two Dakotas. There is little to place the politicization of states in context with another. This thesis advances statehood politics by providing a holistic overview of its history. To do so, this thesis will show that statehood politics can be broken down into four distinct eras. Namely, they are the Antebellum Era; the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Post Reconstruction Era; the Post Civil War Era; and the Modern Era. Each era tells a discrete story about how often and why statehood was used as a tool to achieve unrelated political goals. Because partisanship emerges as a particularly important factor in the politicization of statehood, the four eras are defined in part by Congressional polarization. Exploring the history of statehood politics highlights the often-overlooked importance of this fundamental part of American federalism.