Expanding the political market framework to explain executive decision-making during the COVID-19 crisis
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The traditional political market framework (PMF) argues that elected officials respond to policy demands by adopting policy that furthers their goal of reelection. However, an emerging crisis can make this approach to decision-making challenging as the immediacy of response, the needs of the public, and technical expertise may conflict with reelection goals. This conflict can encourage elected officials to engage in blame avoidance by delegating policy-making powers to the bureaucracy. Utilizing a mixed methods approach to analyze state-level governor responses to COVID-19, this paper expands the PMF by capturing the influence of bureaucratic demands on elected official decisions to delegate or transfer power to the bureaucracy. We find evidence that bureaucratic expertise, under the right set of circumstances, influences policymaker decisions to delegate policymaking power. Lastly, we advocate for a renewed focus on democratic principles and the consequences of delegation for transparency, accountability, and social equity. In understanding the specific dynamics at play when bureaucrats and executives work to develop policy in crisis, practitioners may gain a better understanding of how to navigate difficult decisions. The specific executive orders across states are not particularly well-known, and providing evidence of the steps other states took to combat the crisis may prove useful to practitioners in the emergency management space. If practitioners have a more complete understanding of why policy is made and by what mechanisms, they may apply a focus on implementation strategies that are effective and relevant.