Why have conservative movements gained in U.S. policy over the last few decades, while progressive ones have lost ground? I outline policy advances by conservative movements, which are puzzling, because they are unpopular, opposed by progressive movements, and draw inferior mainstream news coverage. I argue that these policy advances and setbacks are due mainly to transformations in political institutional contexts surrounding movements. Party relationships have been more effective for conservative movements because the Republican Party has rejected democratic political norms and has moved further right, promoted stronger identity formation, and allied with less conflictual policy demanders than Democrats. These effects are amplified because U.S. electoral institutions allow Republicans to rule without winning majorities of voters. In combination with these conditions, longstanding institutional political features hinder the passage of national legislation, which progressive movements require, while granting Republican officials control over legislative processes even when they are out of power. Conservative movements and Republicans also benefit enormously from a partisan media machine, with nothing equivalent for progressive movements and Democrats.

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